Saturday, September 24, 2016

Seeing the Village

We got an early start this morning after a tasty French toast and fruit breakfast. The mission for the day was to go to the village of Nuku, drop some sports gear off at the school, and have a look around. We dinghied to Elizabeth Bay and made the walk from there. It was about a 40 minute dinghy ride followed by a walk of about the same. We got to the bay at the end of the road, anchored the dinghy, said hello to the locals, and began our walk. It was cool to see all the gardens at the small houses planted along the way: cassava/manioc, potatoes, taro, breadfruit, mango, eggplant, kava, noni, and probably a lot more I didn't recognize. And always a few chooks roaming around the yards, with perhaps a skinny dog or three, and a few pigs. It was hot, hot, hot but we got to the village as planned, saying hello ("mawrhi" or something like that in the Banaban language) along the way.

The first building we came to was the Fijian Ministry of Fisheries Rabi Island office! So, we went in, said, hello, asked "the boss" a bunch of questions, and told him we were his American counterparts. He was affable and pointed out to us which fish had ciguatera (useful info, although still a bit spotty). I complimented him on his cool t-shirt (official shirt) with a really neat fish design and he offered it to me! Thinking that he probably wouldn't want a girly white t-shirt in exchange, I declined, but it was funny...and it was a really cool shirt. They should sell them!

Next it was on to the authorities to check in, but no one was home. Fine with me, I typically try to avoid the police anyway. And then we were off to the school, where Barbara and Michael had promised some sporting goods during their last visit here. On our way, we passed the preschool, where the kids were being read to outside. Since we did stick out, all the kids got excited when they saw us walking down the street and the teacher made them say hello to us in unison! Then Barbara asked a question and they answered in unison again. And lastly they all said "Bye!" all together! It cracked us up and put some big smiles on our faces!

We made it to the primary school, found the head teacher and her counterpart and told them we had brought the sporting goods—several balls of various sorts. She was pleased and implored us to come back to the school with "more things." The kids were curious about the visitors, the head teacher explained that there were some students studying for their annual exams, and that it was Friday, which is sports day. We decided not to create much more disruption and went on our way, picking up some eggs and cold sodas at the village store.

It was super hot and I was ready for a swim, but we decided to hit the coconut oil "factory" before heading back. It was really cool! The woman showed us how they get the meat out of the coconuts, press it, and ferment it to get the oil and then showed us the products they make with it: virgin coconut oil, essential oil scented coconut oil, and two kinds of soap. We thought the enterprise was well run and seemed to be doing some good for the community, creating a market for local coconuts and employing the villagers. We made a few purchases to support the local effort and headed on our way making the hot slog back to the dinghy. All in all, a very successful, if hot, trip to Nuku, which gave us a solid look at life on Rabi and a lot of smiles from the local kids.

I'll spare the details of the afternoon snorkel to prevent from boring the non-fish-head readers, but will say the cute fish of the snorkel was the Fiji Fangblenny, Plagiotremus flavus. We saw it poking out of a little hole and then it swam out to say hi. It was a little less cute once we read that it eats the scales of other fishes, which it aggressively attacks...okay, cuteness de-merits, but it is a cool looking fish. We also saw an octopus hiding.

Dinner tonight was steaks, mashed potatoes, pumpkin sauteed with ginger, and red is good.
At 9/23/2016 7:09 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°26.64'S 179°56.26'W

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