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Sunday, August 26, 2007
Rapa Island School Picnic

The school picnic was a day long event. In evening hours the day before, a calf was chased down by the young men, its hind leg tendons cut and then his throat slit. In the morning a fire was made in the schoolyard and a spit set up to roast the beef. Bowls of coffee on the windowsill set near the fire as the men splayed out the calf and began slowly turning the huge spit. The day before also saw several women collecting taro and beating it in the rocks. It was National Geographic-like, but we were really amidst the living tradition. Men and women wear lava lavas and the kids wear the average Tshirt and shorts or lava lavas. My friend the teacher showed me the school with its two classrooms. It had so few visible supplies. Very few books were around.
There was one map of Polynesia. Each classroom had one blackboard. One word came to mind...bleak. Maybe the French government didn't want them to know much about the outside world.

Outside in the dirt schoolyard were several trees which provided the framework of two games. The first was an adult game of "Petanque" or French Boules (bowling) which both men and women had a spirited match. Rapa Island was a dry community so the laughing and cheering was genuine spirited fun without the booze element. Another game challanged you to work a soccar ball up two ropes tied to a fence by narrowing the distance between the ropes. It was no mean task and we all had too many attempts to finally succeed. There was a Concentration game for which I won a prize. Can you believe a muffin pan made by Mirro?

Most of all, we enjoyed the joy and laughter all around as the locals had a big feast and played games. The food was amazing, even the purple poi. Steve and I filled our faces and realized how sorry we'd be to leave the next day. Steve "Drake" and Donee were visiting with the French government official and the nurse's family for a separate dinner from the town's festivities.
We had managed to mingle and socialize with a lot of folks with very little working knowledge of the French language. Fishing can be a great equalizer.

That evening, a fellow was fishing off the cement dock we were tied to. His rig was a long string with a rock tied on near the end. However, the end was a periwhinkle, cracked but not broken up, tied carefully on so that the fish would swallow it. Then, Voila! Steve broke out his sports fishing pole which had a #4 Mepps spinner, flourenscent orange spoon. He cast it into the lagoon and reeled it in slowly until kaboom. Something ravaged the lure and ran into the darkness curling Steve's rod into a "C". The local fisherman took keen notice as Steve played the three or four pounder. Gradually the fish lost its battle and Steve gaffed it in the cheek and pulled in onboard. It looked like a type of jack but we later learned that the locals called it a white salmon(??). We invited the fisherman to come over and give the rod a try. With a few demonstrations and cues, he was delighted to secure another white salmon, then another and another. He laughed from his belly inside out with every catch until we finally packed the twenty or so white salmon in a garbage bag for him to take home and enjoy. Later we learned that modern fishing gear was not allowed on this island, but I think one Rapaitian was forever dreaming of Shimano spinning rod and reel.

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