Tuesday, September 17, 2013

“Talofa” from Tuvalu

We have left "Bula, Bula" (the Fijian greeting) behind and have entered into "Talofa" territory. But it is amazing how different the two countries are in the simple style of greetings. Where the Fijians are outgoing, gregarious and very open, the Tuvaluens are quiet, more reserved and perhaps even shy. However, once you have a bit of communication, they will remember your name and be very friendly and talkative.

We arrived late Saturday afternoon and couldn't clear in to the country until Monday. So we took advantage of catching up on some sleep and getting the boat cleaned up a bit. Barbara had attempted to bring additional fresh fruit and vegetables along from Fiji (as we knew we wouldn't see that stuff for quite some time). She came up with a new storage plan – using a hammock in the forward head. There were four green papayas (pawpaws, locally), a cabbage, and a big stalk of green bananas. They seemed secure. However, in all the pounding and heeling over of the five day passage – the forward head became a mess of mashed papaya jam and seeds (that instantly grew fuzzy mold), moldy cabbage and very bruised bananas. It was a mess. Of course the papaya mash got on all the clothes also hanging in the forward head. It took all day to clean this one small room (and we still need to launder the clothes and towels). Michael rebuilt the aft head as well. The weather was still squally – so we hung out, took in, hung out and took in wet clothes from the lifelines several times as well. We had hoped to get the clothes and towels and seat covers at least dried – even though they still needed to be washed.

On Monday, we headed into Fongafale and Vaiaku to take care of customs, quarantine and immigration. We had to dinghy quite away to Fongafale and the customs dock. Once there, we located the customs office but nobody was there. We waited. And waited. An waited. Finally, a man on a motorcycle arrived and he was the custom's guy, but it seems that today (Monday) was a semi-holiday. All government offices were closed as it was deemed "clean-up" day on the island. Everyone was supposed to be helping to get the island all cleaned up. Luckily, he was willing to complete our paperwork – which actually meant that we filled out a form, handed over our clearing-out papers from Fiji and that was it. We didn't get any paperwork nor did we have to hand over any money!

Then we were supposed to go to quarantine, but that was also closed. We then had to dinghy back to the other end of the island and Vaiaku to the government building for immigration (but we were warned by customs that it would also be closed). It was indeed closed. The bank was luckily open and we managed to exchange some US dollars for Australian dollars (the currency of Tuvalu). This was the first time in our four and a half years however, that we got back less than we gave. By the time the exchange rate was determined, the US dollar was worth less than the Aussie dollar. (For $300 US we got $291 Aus.)

We met some interesting folks in town and sat by the "runway" where all the action is for lunch. We enjoyed a great fish and chips meal while watching the folks of Tuvalu "clean-up" the runway. They were using weed-eaters to cut very large areas of grass! Others were literally sweeping the runway with brooms. And when we say runway – that's what it is - the Tuvalu International Airport's runway which runs down the center of the island. In fact, it takes up most of the island itself.

Next entry – a little history and information about Tuvalu, one of the smallest countries in the world.

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