Friday, August 15, 2008

It does not seem as if I can upload pictures from here. I will do it when we get to a different spot. We are plannning to leave tomorrow to go either to Samoa or Wallis Island, which is a French protectorate. It will depend on the wind angle where we end up.
We have been having a wonderful time here in Atafu. The last 2 days Barry and I helped out the archaeologists. They are searching all the small islands inside the reef to see if there are sites worth further exploration. This involves everyone, 8 people or so, lining up in a line and walking through the jungle. We have to maintain the same distance from one another and walk in a straight line so that every inch of the island is looked at. This is much more difficult that it sounds because of the vegetation that gets in the way. You have to crawl under trees and go through thick brush, it is hot and there are bugs, spiders, hermit crabs, etc. Everyone has to communicate with one another so that we stay in line. The leader was having a hard time getting us to communicate with one another, when one end of the line stops to look at something they have to yell to the next guy in line to stop and then the message has to get passed down the line. If you have quiet people on the line it doesn't work very well. Once we finish crossing the island we just rotate around the end person and head back into the jungle to do another transect. I think the plan is just to look at all the islands this year and next year to come back and explore what they have found. One of the team is an expert on fish, he has gone fishing with the villagers and yesterday he was busy classifying fish bones with some students. Another team member studies vegetation, so he has been taking samples of what is growing on the atoll and studying it. Yesterday he was making presses with some students so he could dry out some vegetation.
The first day we found a gravesite, yesterday we found a house foundation and another gravesite. I think we could have missed stuff as well because sometimes the piles of rotting coconuts and coconut fronds on the ground are so big that there could be anything under them.
Today I went to the school and made a presentation about Canada. I talked to kids about 9 and 10 years old. It was received very well, I showed them pictures of the snow and ice and they thought that making a snowman and sliding looked like a lot of fun. They danced for me, it was wonderful and I ended off by singing Oh Canada for them. It gave me goosebumps to sing our national anthem in a place so far away.
We have been hosted by a local family, so I spend time visiting with the grandmother of the family. We have had several meals with them. The food is very traditional, raw fish soaked in coconut milk with cucumbers, fried fish, breadfruit, and of course pork from those pigs. We had a lovely coconut gravy served on rice the other day as well as a chicken stew that was wonderful. I taught their little girl who is 4 how to sing Insy Weensy Spider and the actions to I'm a little teapot, so we are getting along famously. She speaks a little English, but not much. Everyone speaks Tokelauan here but most speak English as well, they have lovely New Zealand accents. We attended a remeberance service the other day and the singing was just marvelous, there is no instruments, just their voices and the harmonies are marvelous. At the end of the service one of the elders asked us when we were going to leave, when we replied, he told Barry that he should leave his wife here and he could choose 3 other women from the village widows to take with him. It was hilarious and everyone laughed and laughed.
I am not sure I am ready to leave but Barry thinks that if we stay he should go and help out every day and I am not sure his body will stand up to much more. He has been taking a lot of Ibuprofen as well as his regular pain medication. I could not convince him to stay in town with me today so that he would only do 1/2 day.