Happy Thanksgiving

Author: Sarah
Date: Nov 25, 2016, 7am Solomon Islands
Location: 10 12 S - 166 18 E
Conditions: 8-10kts ENE, calm anchorage with overcast skies and a bar of 1006

Our Thanksgiving this year left us all feeling full. The morning was spent cleaning the boat and cooking. Turns out all those young coconuts that the locals gift us for drinking leave a nasty sap stain on the gelcoat that is a bugger to get off. We also spent some time digging out treasured items from the bilge that I'd hidden away for just this holiday - a jar of cranberry sauce and a packet of traditional stuffing mix that I'd bought in Port Vila, Vanuatu months ago.

The rest of the meal came together beautifully, and completely coincidentally. It happens that the Solomon Islanders' gardens are plentiful with green beans, and we have eaten green beans in curry, stir fry, vegetable soup, goulash, or as a side dish almost every day since we've been here. So, naturally, the washed beans in the fridge were paired with a can of Campbell's condensed Cream of Mushroom soup (handed down from a fellow cruising American family when they sold their boat - thanks Family Circus!!) to make the ever-traditional Green Bean Casserole (without the crunchy French's onions - I know, I know, Believe me, they were missed as the crunchy topping!) The gardens here are also overflowing with pumpkins - pumpkin pie, CHECK! Although we have been given some sweet potatoes, I decided to save that menu item for next time because I absolutely couldn't make sweet potatoes without those massive marshmallows, all crispy and browned on top! I do have my standards, you know. There are loads of pigs around here, but not a turkey to be found, so Mark pulled our last chicken breasts from New Zealand out of the freezer and thawed them in the sink while we went ashore to visit the village.

We are still in the Reef Islands of the Solomon Islands, one of the most remote, least-visited places we've dropped the hook so far. The people here are genuinely curious about the boat, and many just paddle around in their canoes trying to take in every detail. Because few boats have been here, they aren't aware of the proper etiquette. So we've had to gently tell folks that they cannot simply climb aboard uninvited and we are careful to not be ostentatious with our trading in order to set reasonable expectations for any future yachts that may venture here.

Alice and her family came out to visit in their canoe, and made sure we knew that we were welcome to come ashore to see the village and let the kids play. When we arrived, they were there to greet us, grabbing the children to squeeze them and lay wet kisses on their cheeks much to their embarrassment. One young girl held a bird resembling a pigeon in her hand, obviously a pet, as it's leg was tethered to a strand of fabric. She hid behind a tree, shy and giggly, when I asked her her name. I wondered if she'd seen white children before.

The ladies guided us to a place where they'd laid down woven mats and set a table with drinking coconuts and a tray of snacks - banana chips, sweet potato fries, and plantain strips all fried in coconut oil - delicious! Mark set to work on diagnosing a radio that needed fixing while the kids kicked the soccer ball back and forth that we'd brought for the village children. I sat on the mat for a while asking the ladies about their families and the local school. The students must walk nearly 2 hours to the school, which means many of them don't attend at all or only for a short time. They asked about living on the boat and about where we came from. One woman, Ellen, Father David's wife, spoke and understood English quite well, having left school after 6th grade. She said she has learned by talking with any English-speaking people she meets, and asked if I'd like to take a walk with her to see the rest of the village. It turned out to be a wonderful conversation, swapping information about our lives, cultures, and beliefs.

As we came back to the boat to heat up and enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner, the connections between our experience ashore and that of the Pilgrims back in the 1600's struck me. Here we are, having sailed to an unknown land, seeing people so unlike us in their appearance and lifestyle. Yet sharing what we have with each other and learning from them how to prepare local foods. There was no football, no turkey, no sweet potato casserole, but this was a Thanksgiving more like that first Thanksgiving than any other we've celebrated. And we were all full of thankfulness for new friendships, for our family, for a beautiful new place to learn about, and for deep-fried banana chips and the taste of cranberry sauce to remind us of home.


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