One of the best parts of cruising to these various countries is experiencing the cultural events. In just about every country we've visited, there has been something unique and interesting to observe about the indigenous culture. Whether it is the nose to nose touching of Maori's in New Zealand or the hair cutting ceremony in Niue; kava ceremonies in Fiji or banana carrying in Moorea, we have enjoyed experiencing some of the unique sports and traditions of each location. Though Tuvalu is a small nation, it is not without its own sporting events and traditions.
Because we've been here for their 35th Independence Day (week) celebration, we have seen a lot. We've already written about the unique game called "funny." Michael was talking with a local man the other day and asked where this game started and his response: "Nobody knows." Last night, we watched the local dancing/singing competition. The costumes were wonderful – colorful cloth with lots of flowers and plant material and beautiful floral head wreaths. The singing, almost chanting, was mesmerizing and very moving. The dancing all told stories – with their hand, head and body movements. It was beautiful to watch and experience – but here's the strange cultural twist. During the dancing, some people who are watching (and usually its the important people viewing – in the case last night it was the prime minister and his wife, members of Tuvalu's parliament as well as ambassadors) get up and walk through the dancers spraying perfume on them. We're guessing this is a relatively new "custom" as spray bottles of perfume were probably not around these islands centuries ago. But perhaps its an adapted twist. We'll have to do some additional checking to see if we can get a handle on this. In Niue and Tonga, people stuffed money into the costumes of the dancers – the perfume is a new thing and those poor dancers must smell pretty fragrant after a night!
We have enjoyed watching lots of the sporting events from cricket to tug of war. The volleyball was quite good and the outrigger canoe races were fun. We watched the canoe races from our dinghy and had the best seat in the house. We had met a NZ police officer who serves as an adviser here in Tuvalu, and she was on the OPM (Office of Prime Minister) canoe team. She raced in their women's team and the co-ed team – coming in first for both races. It was fun to have someone to cheer for.
The Thursday plane that arrived was waved off its final approach three times... they couldn't get all the dogs off the runway. They also had to stop the cricket finals to let the plane land. Luckily the plane was late, so the tug of war semi finals were already done! It is so funny to have a runway used for so many things – including the twice weekly plane!
We keep trying to rent motor scooters to explore the island further – but because of all the festivities, there are none to be had. The policewoman has offered us hers – but we were hoping to go with our friends from "Lady Nada." Of course the locals would just squeeze all four of themselves on the bike – but we aren't up for that! We have seen just about everything being transported on these scooters – from the tiniest of babies to giant propane tanks.
The partying continues! Live bands, music all night into the wee hours of the morning, fun and games, food and dancing. Can't beat being in Tuvalu for Independence week as long as you don't need to get any business done.
Michael got the sail mended this morning – so its not all play aboard Astarte!
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