Seeing the year out in style

So much has happened since early December, the year went out on a real high!
photo: E. Butler
photo: E. Butler
Right at the beginning of December, Matotea reaffirmed her talent as orero (a Polynesian orator) by winning her high school's competition, against all the other classes! She really is quite a girl.
photo: E. Butler

Viriamu also made a splash, on the cover of Hana Hou, Hawaiian Air's inflight magazine, accompanied by a fabulous travel diary about the Austral Islands inside, written by the very talented and charming Shannon, from Maui. Wonderful publicity for the small pensions (family-run guesthouses) here! All illustrated by amazing photos taken by another very talented lady, Elyse. She kindly gave us a copy of this picture below along with others. So beautiful!

photo: E. Butler copyrighted 

As for me, I was sent on my first press assignment - covering the christening of an airplane in Rurutu for the Air Tahiti Magazine!
photo: H. Henot
Tapuata or the "sacred cloud" is an ATR 72-600, named after a place in Avera, Rurutu.

A big deal for our small island!
Then it was our turn to get on a plane, as we finally got to go on our long awaited and much deserved holiday - off to NZ! Scandalously skipping the school Christmas celebrations, no sunglasses-wearing, bike riding bronzed Santa for Amai and 'Mana this year!


Mato's birthday

What Matotea wanted most in the world for her 11th birthday was to swim with whales! Well that could be tricky elsewhere, but here it's easy enough, though mid-October is getting towards the end of the season!

So, off we went, it took a while to find them, and the girls went through excitement, to boredom to disappointment...
... until at last, off the coast, right in front of our home, we saw a mother and calf, we had to be patient, but Matotea was a star, and leapt right in as soon as she was able, Heimana was less happy in the water (well it was her first time swimming outside the reef, and I have to admit it was rather cool for my liking), but anyway it was a success... 
Matotea wants to go back next year!


Island Blues

Photo: Uschi Ringleb
At the beginning of September we made our biannual trip to Tahiti for the salon du tourisme. It was the usual social whirl with a bit of paper chasing, searching for this spare part and stocking up on luxuries. It was too good to be true, our cargo boat, the Tuhaa Pae, scheduled to arrive in Tahiti a few days before (laden with my jams) would leave the day after us - laden with goodies for the guesthouse, but, just like the best laid plans of mice and men...

The boat managed to break its rudder and has been out of service since! After a couple of weeks we were served by a small boat belonging to the local authorities, but with minimum supplies, some food for the stores, gas for heaters and cooking, as well as fuel! Things got pretty crazy, with people queuing to buy gas cylinders, within hours the shops were completely emptied - no rice, milk, sugar, flour, you name it!

Then a couple of weeks later the Mareva Nui a cargo boat that serves the Tuamotus helped us out, bringing a lot of our things, at last! Including the tiles, counter tops and new sink for my kitchen, hurrah.....but three of the containers of food were spoiled by a diesel leak, so there was still very little in the stores. What a cruel twist of fate!

Finally, yet another boat rotation was put in place to replace the spoiled food, using a boat belonging to the Territory. The news on the street, the Tuhaa Pae should finally be back in service, and leaving on November 4th.

It'll be a big relief for the stores here, though honestly, while a lot was made of the problems (particularly in Tubuai  where they ran out of chlorine to treat the tap water, and bottled water ran out too), we actually have enough to eat with fish, coconuts and taro, so besides taking cold showers and driving around a little less, we survived! it's not that long ago that the islands were plied by schooners, an even more irregular service.

If anything, it's a wake-up call to inspire me to keep going with the veggie garden, which I've actually been neglecting recently, though we have been eating salad, greens, tomatoes, christophene, squash, courgette, spring onions, herbs and string beans from there, as well as a few small carrots. Just got to keep at it!


The long holidays!

It seemed like they were going to yawn out in front of us forever, back in July, but in the end the long holidays were over in a flash, a colorful and fun flash.
There were the sights and sounds of the heiva. Amaiterai "oohed and aahed" over the fireworks, won more plastic toys at the the "duck pond" than we could every really need or want.

Matotea our Rurutu allstar, danced and weaved and declamed her way through it all, winning the competition for the best market bag and making headlines, presenting orero (Polynesian orator) and dancing with the dance school's group!

Heimana turned eight, another year, another cake!
Viriamu's horse cruised home easily in first place at the heiva race.

The kids enjoyed new friends, hiking, baking cupcakes and making sand mermaid tails on our favourite beach. And then it was over....
Mato started highschool and Heimana and Amai went up a class.

Now we're staring down another busy week of school holidays, the infamous week in September. It's always chock-a-block here in Rurutu, being school holidays and whale season. This year the season is a bumper one, so at least the guests will be happy, the pressure for there to be whales is fairly intense, though at the moment there are some twenty or more whales around the island on a daily basis. Which is a lot, for our tiny island!


Winter break

I've been neglecting the blog recently - let's call it a winter break. A combination of the cold weather laying us low with coughs and flu over the past couple of weeks, general busyness and the new garden sucking my spare time.
The girls have been preparing the school 'mini-heiva', here they are in costume with little bro' who just wanted to be in on the action too. Now with the long 'winter' holidays looming, the girls are rehearsing for the dance school performance.

It was also school photo time, so here they are, the changing faces....Matotea's last photo, next year it's high school.
Mother's day also passed, the girls wrote me both gushing poems, and I got lots of hugs so I felt truly pampered! In turn they got to go to the Mother's day bash with their aunties - Matotea won a fabulous hat.....which she promptly sold - she's trying to raise funds for the heiva! The girls are also being apprenticed in weaving by their tattie Dorianne, with an eye to selling their creations at the heiva's arts center, Matotea is even considering participating in the weaving competitions, for the prizes - an entrepreneurial spirit that I find admirable! Even if it is just to use to buy popcorn at the heiva.

In the garden, we have moved from pig tilling to brute force, the men put up a fence and dug out some paths, turning the beds. I've followed up filling the paths with gravel and starting to plant out some veggies and mulch. It's become a slightly obsessive thing, I can't believe how excited I am about it, it's silly really. Just hope we actually get some harvest, I have already got some string beans and christophene climbing up the chicken wire, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in, with borders of greens and lettuce inter planted with onions, garlic and scallions, and a host of other seeds to plant.

I will try and be more diligent with the blog, and there'll be plenty of news to report with the upcoming heiva festivities...







May holidays

The kids were home last week, so to keep busy went for a short hike to a nearby cave...
...Rurutu is riddled with them. Great places to search for hidden treasure.
A legacy of its geological history, the island was secondarily uplifted, so the established coral reef was lifted dry out of the ocean, forming coral cliffs, that over time have been eroded to form a host of caves, some with beautiful formations, like this one.



Full moon gardening

I'm getting interested in the garden again. Here in Tahiti different moon phases have been traditionally used for planting, harvesting and fishing. Back in Europe also, agricultural practices followed the moon, supposedly linked with the effects caused by the varying gravitational pull (affecting the availability of water) and the amount of moonlight. It sounds interesting, worth a try (anything that can improve my mediocre gardening is worth a shot!). May's full moon was on the 10th.
It was also Vesak or Buddha full moon. A festival that celebrates the life of buddha. It seemed like an appropriate moment to initiate the first stage of my new mandala garden project (this is a permaculture concept, a round garden with keyhole paths that form a 'mandala' , an aesthetically pleasing and practical way of growing veggies)

Hopefully it'll inspire us to eat more fresh produce....
The first step is to get one of our pigs to thoroughly dig and fertilize the garden for us, then we'll definitely need to put a fence in, what with the chooks, piglets and especially our puppy, Maui (named after the Tahitian demi-god, and who has wreaked havoc on the salad seedlings I dutifully planted out after the full moon, in a beautiful layered mulched bed, dug and filled by my own fair hands).... I'll get some more seeds started once the moon is right again! 


VE Day

May 8th was yet another May bank holiday (there are 3 different holiday weekends and a week of school holidays here in May), this one marks the end of the second world war in Europe, VE day. In 2017, it also marked a victory for Europe, with the election of Emmanuel Macron as French President the day before.


The reason behind it all!

The Hokulea, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe first launched in 1975, arrived in Tahiti, at Point Venus in Mahina, on April 14th, (the same place that Cook first weighed anchor, as well as the first missionaries). On its way back home to Hawaii after an almost three year long circumnavigation of the globe, along with its sister canoe Hikianalia. Just recently they have been visiting the marae Taputapuatea in Raiatea, an exceptional sacred complex, which is currently under consideration as a UNESCO heritage site, and is considered to be an epicenter for Polynesian colonisations and traditional voyaging.
Along with the Fa'afaite, these modern day voyaging canoes represent a new and exciting era of cultural renewal in Polynesia, it is a truly emotional experience to see them under sail.
I'm sorry not to have been in Mahina to greet them, but the images we have seen are quite beautiful. The Hokulea's website is great with pictures and stories from Mahina and across the globe here.

The reason behind this world tour, beyond an impressive feat of traditional navigation, is to share a message of ocean stewardship, protect the oceans for future generations. Large marine reserves, such as the Papahānaumokuākea reserve  in northwestern Hawaii (one of the largest marine reserves in the world) or our Rahui Nui no Tuhaa Pae, here in the Australs have an important role to play.


Our little porkers

One of Viriamu's sows has just had her first litter. He is very proud, he had one of his friends lend him a boar for the occasion, his friend's pig is much admired for its long body, and the piglets, apparently resemble dad. I'm no pig-breeder but they are very cute!
It always makes me giggle to think about our pigs. At secondary school we were made to take a career aptitude test, I remember being a bit put out to find that pig-farming came in high on my suggestions list (along with fish farmer too as I seem to remember), I think it was my love of the outdoors and aspirations to become a vet or scientist. Anyway, it turns out it's not so far from the truth after all!