2009-08-19: The Tourists Arrive

Today the island hosted two tourist ships, the Blue Lagoon and Tui
Tai. Blue Lagoon arrives once a quarter and the Tui Tai comes once
per week. It was a clear crisp day with light clouds and a soft
breeze. I think last night was the coldest yet as temperatures dipped
below 70 to a nice 67. The program was to start at 9:00 am with the
canoe flotilla, group of men and women on canoes, greeting the ship.
For some reason they started at 8:00 am which was a shocker to us as
nothing in the South Pacific starts early and rarely on time. We got
a call from Samalu that the party had started and we quickly dressed
and headed to the Falekaupule to capture the performance in
mid-stride. The men and women paddled in a group of about 20 canoes
singing and beating a drum. They circled the ship while singing for
about 15 minutes then headed back to shore.

The canoe flotilla signifies the returning of the navigators after a
long voyage of searching for lands in the Pacific. Warriors who
stayed back paddle out to welcome them back with the beautiful women
singing to refresh them from a weary trip. So, in this case the Blue
Lagoon passengers where the navigators and islanders the warriors.

The 33 passengers arrived and entered under the large Talofa, hello,
sign that was especially decorated in flowers and coconut three
leaves. As they entered the Falekaupule they where garlanded. This
signifies a time of joy and the warm welcome of the community.

Loto, the councilman responsible for tourism, gave them a brief
introduction and Kelly then read a more formal introduction. I was
supposed to follow with a reading of the significance of garlanding
and the canoe flotilla but have been sick with a nasty cough and chest
infection the past couple of days. After the narratives the fatele
began. The songs lasted about 30 minutes and then they asked the
tourists to stand up and dance to a Fijian pop song. They hesitated
but once it got started really grooved, thanks to the dancing of a
couple of islanders who joined in.

The boys then performed a Fijian meke, dance, complete with war clubs
and grass skirts. The older boys followed up with another meke with
fans. They were very good and had just learned the songs last night.
Most of the performers had left yesterday off to Nadi for a sports
competition in Rugby and Netball.

After the mekes a young women danced solo to a traditionally
Polynesian dance song. She was very good and could shake her hips
with the best of them. A couple of Rotuman, the other Polynesian
island in Fiji but much further to the north, men jumped in and joined
her in the dancing.

After the dancing the women displayed their handicrafts such as
handbags, baskets, mats, doormats, turtles crafted from voi voi
leaves, necklaces from seashells, shells, and wood carved masks and
canoes. It was all very well made. The women were given a grant by
the government to build a women’s craft center adjacent to the
falekaupule where they will be able to display their products and make
the handicrafts as a group. One of our projects will be assisting
with marketing and selling of the products. Often tourist come to the
island for the sole purpose of purchasing the handicrafts.

We met several nice tourists from the Blue Lagoon. One man was from
Italy with his family of four and another nice fellow was from New
Zealand with his wife. They asked a lot of questions about the island
and the Italians want to come back and stay for a month during their
next holiday. Most from the Blue Lagoon were families while the Tui
Tai seems to have singles and couples only with only a few families.

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