Mola Village, Reef Islands
When we picked up anchor and moved to another portion of the Reef Islands, we were pretty ‘villaged’ out, meaning we’d been spending a lot of time trading, fixing, teaching, and tok-tokking. It is such a privilege and adventure to come to these far-away places and see such remote communities who welcome us with open arms, but it can be overwhelming and exhausting, too. It is pressure, knowing we are representing a community of cruisers and possibly forming ideas and assumptions in
We try to smile at each canoe that comes along offering more shells or coconuts or snake beans to trade (even though we’ve had to throw so many papayas overboard after dark, because we can’t eat it all fast enough!) When they come to trade and are not asking for something without offering something in return, then we want to honor that effort, so even though we’re turning orange from all the pawpaw, we still trade for a notebook or a pen or bath soap because we have what they need and it isn’t a lot, is it?
Trading is just plain tricky. But we try to do right by them and by those who may come after us. We won’t please everyone, but we will do the best we can.
|Party on Beach|
|Building forts with driftwood|
|Playing games with village kids|
But we haven’t done well this time. It was clear today when our family went to shore in two villages. In one village, a teacher, Lily, said she’d heard about my game day with the kids and was so excited that I’d finally come back to say hello! She walked with me and we talked about our travels and about her life. She kept saying how lucky I was to see so much of the world and seemed genuinely interested in my story. While we talked, another woman brought a bowl full of namembo, the breadfruit pieces they preserve here by drying and then eat plain or by dunking it in their tea to reconstitute it. She smiled broadly when I tasted it and liked it, and hurried back to her hut to fetch more for me to take back to the boat. I said we’d munch on them tomorrow while we sailed to Santa Ana. The ladies were surprised. “You are leaving tomorrow???” they asked. And I regretted not giving them more of my time.
In the other village, we sat with Alice and Hutley. Alice is a woman who paddled out with her family and the 2nd chief, Winston, on the day we arrived. She boldly asked to come aboard and see our home, which kind of rubbed us the wrong way right off the bat. They came aboard and I showed them around on deck. I know they wanted to see inside, too, but Mark and I had already decided to keep the inside off-limits for various reasons. Instead, we talked in the cockpit for a while and she made sure we knew that we could come to the village any time we wanted to come! They were so excited to have ships in their lagoon! I realized that they didn’t know quite how to act or what the etiquette was, and I should have explained it to them for future reference, but how?
We promised to come into the village later in the afternoon, and when we arrived, she humbled me with her hospitality. She had snacks (fried banana chips, sweet potato fries, fried plantains) and fresh coconuts ready for all of us and woven mats set out on the ground. I hadn’t even offered her a glass of water on our boat!!! Anyway, I hadn’t come back to the village since, although Mark had gone in to work on more machines. And we’d even moved over to another part of the lagoon to get closer to a dive pass without thinking about how the village might interpret it. Turns out, the chief had been very worried that he’d done something wrong, that we’d left because he hadn’t taken good care of us. He told someone that he was responsible for us while we were anchored near his village, and he feared he may have run us off. I hated hearing this. We’d moved to get closer to the reef for diving, and hadn’t realized we should have told him why we were moving. Ugh. I felt awful. I still feel bad! We explained when we went to say goodbye that we were sorry and we didn’t understand the expectations. It matters to these people! I want them to know that they matter to us.
|Village waving goodbye as we leave the Reef Islands|