The house that Viriamu built

Our guesthouse and home was built by my husband Viriamu, pretty much single-handedly. It's a beautiful big house, set in a magnificent coconut grove, complete with the family marae at the back (a Polynesian sacred site) and white sand beach with sunset up front. Since moving to Rurutu we've been tackling a lot of maintenance work, that hadn't really been attended to for the past five years or so. I've also been trying to make the place a bit more my own. Most people are pretty incredulous when we first tell them that Viriamu actually built the house, it's true he has the appearance of a very simple-natured person, he's not had much of a schooling, but he's definitely got the smarts, just not necessarily in the conventional sense. Of course, he'd be just as happy living in his little corrugated tin shed as here in the house, but he has really good taste and whatsmore is a marvel at rigging things up using just what he's got to hand. Most of the furniture and fittings are coconut, or other local wood, and we try to keep in with the Polynesian flavour as much as possible, while also catering to the comfort of our visitors. At the moment we've been focusing on the living/dining room area, which for me was a bit dark and austere, lacking comfort - Tahitians like Viriamu just don't really believe in the need for it. The concept of a sofa that you actually sit on (rather than dress up with Christmas decorations and stare at), has not really caught on with Viriamu's family! So, it was a struggle but I managed to get Viriamu to agree to buying a bamboo corner sofa, it took more than three months from ordering to arrival on the cargo boat, but now it's actually here it has turned out to be so enormous that we have had to seriously re-model the rest of our living room to accommodate it. All in all I think it ties in OK with the rest of the decor and the kids have been just LOVING IT! Tuati and Iro were begging me to let them sleep on the sofa, 'cause they reckoned it was even better than the bed.

I'm still trying to work with the furnishings to get something I like. I've been making leaf-print cushion covers for a while now and really liking the results, but I need a throw or something to cover up the completely impractical (albeit washable) cream seat covers.......and some more side cushions, the citrus greens give the required lift, but now I want to work on some curtains, the lace affairs that we have now are pretty horrendous.

We've also been juggling around wall decorations, our rather unusual oil-painting (painted for Viriamu by an Italian family who stayed with him some years back) looks good above the sofa, but left a gaping void the other side of the room above our enormous coconut and Hibiscus dining table. So, we made a wall-light using the trunk of a tree-fern, we have several kicking around here.

Last year we put in the corner cubby, closing off a superfluous door into one of the guest rooms, an addition which I love (I'm keen to develop our library a bit more), but which desperately needs a novel lighting solution, I'm trying to get his mum to weave something in niau (coconut-leaf fibres).

I'm also hoping to start collecting art pieces and curios from around the islands, to start adding a bit more character. I already absolutely love our shell 'chandeliers' from the Tuamotus, as well as our local poi-pounders, Moorean bamboo lamp and a beautiful Balinese whale batik that my parents bought for us.

It's so much fun working with the house, it's just a question of finding the time to get everything finished! We're not done yet, but I'm liking the progress that we're making.


Second time around

Being pregnant again is fun, but very different from the first time around. Quite simply because it's not my first time around - so there's none of the anxiety or fear of the unknown, I know that I can make it through childbirth and that I'll be a 'good enough' parent, we've pretty much winged it with Matotea, and I think she's turning out OK. It's hard to describe, I'm not quite jaded, but I know all the disruption and change that a new baby brings, I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm ready for it, but I know more of what to expect. That said, it's not as if I'm the seasoned mother - not like my mother-in-law who successfully delivered eight babies in a little over eight years and seems to have been happy to do that! I frankly don't know how she managed, physically I know it's possible, but emotionally I don't think I'd be able to cope, I already struggle with the changes that one baby brings - I feel like I should devote my time to her, but then I already feel that I don't have enough time for me, so part of me wonders what it will be like with a second! This probably sounds selfish, and well it probably is, but I don't think I'm alone in feeling this.

I don't suppose that any two pregnancies feel exactly the same and this time it is a little different. I'm a couple of years older and over thirty now, I have a two year-old girl who needs my love and assurance and a considerable amount of chasing around the place, at the same time as being pregnant. This time there's no time for the yoga and meditation that I enjoyed the first time around. Another alarming difference is the rate at which my stomach has grown, I know that the second is supposed to go out quickly, and it certainly has, but at five months I already feel like I did with Matotea at around seven! This one is also a real wriggler, from around 12 weeks I have been able to feel some movement, now I'm getting a constant nudging and kicking. The baby was so lively that the doctor was having trouble doing his morpho exam at my last checkup, we still don't know if it's a boy or a girl, the cord was in the way and well there was just too much fidgeting to make much out. Viriamu has his heart set on a boy, I don't mind, as long as it's healthy and happy, but I also have a feeling that it's a boy, they're supposed to be more active and they also often show more than girls......but I guess we'll have to wait and see to be sure....
Now I just have to wait until early July, when I get to be 'medically evacuated' to Tahiti, to await labor - I'm not really looking forward to all the disruption that will involve and I also know that the hospital system in Tahiti won't allow me to give birth in the way that I would choose. It was a shock to me when I first discovered how medical birth is, pregnancy is a pathology here in French Polynesia - the doctor that visits Rurutu every two months has been unable to find anything wrong with the baby, despite all his efforts. He has a really awful bed-side presence, making me feel like a piece of meat, I don't doubt that he sees many hundreds of pregnant ladies every year, but there's room for some compassion, the idea of sharing something as intimate as a birth with him or any of the other doctors I have seen in Tahiti makes me recoil. With Matotea I chose the most liberal ob-gyn that I could find, but even then the idea of giving birth in any position other than stirrups was out of the question. I happened to give birth on a sunday night and had to wait to deliver the baby until the doctor showed up (he looked none too happy to be called out on a sunday evening - and I for one was also less than amused to have to wait for him, after all there were no complications and in the end I was the one doing the work here). I was also less than happy that they took Matotea away from me for her first health check within minutes of birth, maybe they do not understand the stress that this causes a new mother, there really is no reason why they could not do this in the delivery room in my presence. I was told by the midwife not to make noise during the delivery, as I was frightening the other mothers and my choice not to use pain medication was questioned several times. Despite this I did feel like this last birth went as well as it could, but it was despite the health care system and not thanks to it, I was constantly having to defend my right to give birth the way I wanted. Fortunately I have a friend who is a doula, and having her present was valuable in reminding me that wanting to give birth as naturally as possible wasn't something completely crazy. At the moment I'm enjoying reading Birthing from Within and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, two wonderfully inspiring books for the pregnant woman and I'm feeling truly empowered, I hope that I will be more able to defend my rights this time. If I get my way, and if there are no contraindications, I will try to give birth in Moorea, the maternity ward there is overseen by a wonderful team of midwives and I know that, given my options, this is by far the best choice for me. Home birth is practically impossible here (even if I lived in Tahiti) there are no independent midwives here that could do this , though of course it would be my preference.


Where did february go?

It's been a while since I've had enough time to collect my thoughts here on the blog. I'm just trying to figure out where all this time has gone. The grandparents came to visit in mid-january and Matotea had A LOT of fun, training them up to do her bidding. Her english has really come on apace, it's just amazing how she just soaks up information at the moment, it's often hard to figure out exactly what she wants, but she is just getting better and better at expressing herself.

With the grandparents here, came a whole new set of learning-experiences...


.....she learned to appreciate classical music (particularly when she was allowed to borrow grandma's MP3 player),
She ate lots of cake and ice-cream, as well as finding a taste for grandma's tonic water and grandma's special cereal!

She spent some serious time on the beach......

With the grandparents came a stream of presents, including a large collection of old childrens programs, that were enjoyed as much if not more by the GPs than by Mato, though she is pretty partial to the Clangers.

But as the saying goes all good things must come to an end, and so eventually we had to wave goodbye, even if we did get to go on an aeroplane all the way to Tahiti together first!

What else is new? Well, in this past few months Matotea has graduated seamlessly from nappies to grown up undies, just like that, without so much as a bed-wetting phase, in between. She really is getting to be a big girl now........which is good because we're expecting another one - that will appear, I am reliably told by my rather dour obstetrician, on the 1st of August, though I personally have a feeling he/she will make her debut a little earlier than that.....

We've also started to produce and sell our own jams, we're still taking baby steps, but at the 'Salon de Tourisme' in Tahiti this year, Viriamu sold 46 jars of the stuff, so I'm feeling buoyed up by that! The business also seems to be going well, it looks like it will be a good year for us, despite the global economic woes, and the more immediate tourism 'crash' in Tahiti. There are some advantages to living on a small island isolated in the central Pacific!