Saturday, December 6, 2008


Nov.10, Sunday: Tahuata
Dry, easy landing, and a short walk to the small town. The island has a small population of about 650, and no air strip or regular connection to the nearest main centre in Hiva Oa. Small private boats do the trips daily, and it is sometimes possible to get a ride over in them. It is the smallest of the Marquesan islands. It was the island of first contact between the Polynesians and the Europeans, back in 1595 (Mendana)

Since it is Sunday, everyone is heading for the Catholic church, mainly for the singing. The town is a pleasant place, with a small stream running through it. I pass a small, simple wooden church on the way to the Catholic church, but when we get there, I am totally overimpressed with its size and pomposity! The Vatican provided the money, and it is built of concrete, covered in rock, built to last a zillion years. It overlooks and almost overpowers the small village.

People slowly arrived for services, the women in white muu muus, flowers in their hair. In the background I could hear the children singing in Sunday School. Most of the people from the ship arrived, and entered the church. Some were turned away for being dressed inappropriately, despite being reminded to dress respectfully. All I can think about is the small, modest little Protestant chapel down the road. So I headed back down the road to sketch it.

I had barely started when it started to rain. A group of women sitting nearby motioned me to join them out of the rain, and I limped over. It turns out they are the craft vendors, and they invited me into the traditionally built building where they had tables of their wares set up. For a change I was the only customer! I was able to look at the carvings at leisure and without 'the hordes'. I quickly spotted what I wanted: a pair of carved bone earrings, with a tiki, combined with the traditional fish hook design.

The rain stopped, so I returned to finish the picture. As I worked I was joined by parishoners leaving the Protestant Church, including the Minister. They laughed and pointed to the people sitting in front of the church, included in the drawing. Francoise, the French lecturer came by with his wife and they talked to the minister, translating for me. The small church is old, and riddled with termites, and it will soon be torn down for a new one. The minister is happy I am painting it, and I will send him a copy of the picture.

When services end at the Catholic church, we return to the ship. They have off loaded the cargo for this village, so we sailed to Hapatoni where we had lunch. As we walked up to the place where we will be eating, there was a long line of tables with large and small wood and bone carvings. Everything was so tempting, but either too large, or too expensive. Sophie succumbed and found a pair of bone earrings. Each table was being swarmed, and I felt very happy that I made my purchase for the day.

There were all kinds of small finger foods and goodies waiting for us, and another wonderful lunch, this time provided from the ship. The men put on the best performance I had seen so far, but most people were charmed by a five year old who held centre stage whenever it was empty.

Some people headed off for a hike, but Sophie and I returned to the ship. I found a lovely private, quiet spot away from everyone up on the stardeck. I stayed up there, and watched an amazing sunset before heading to the obligatory 'information meeting' with 'The Hun'.

The Hun was a tall grinning German young man, whose English really wasn't up to presenting the next day's programme. Every third word was 'yah', used like those maddening people who fill their sentences with 'like' or 'fuck'. His presentations were done with a huge grin and lots of hand waving. He was well meaning, but rather ineffectual and sometimes maddening.

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