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Tobal Treasures



It all becomes clear when I close in on sleep -- that stage where the visuals of the day replay in my minds’ eye and knit together with a narrative more musical than verbal. All of this taps in to feelings elicited by natural beauty, daily activities going on around us and generous encounters. It’s all in the people and it fills my heart with joy again and again.

Let me share  some highlights of Tobal.



Coming back along the beach front, many men were working to move a large fishing boat from waters edge to tree line. Mike set down his backpack and jumped in to lend a shoulder. They had laid palm fronds under the keel to reduce effects of sinking into the sand and friction.



Nearby, children and dogs looked for distraction and I was happy to get sandy with a small cadre of kids. Mike was thanked by the boat owner with a bag full of husked drinking coconuts.




Another day was enjoyed with SV Pulsar walking around the entire island ocean side at low tide and circling back around to the airstrip, then lagoon side beach. Mike and Graham walked the interior track while Karri and I continued down the beach.



We had the great delight of meeting Joanna and Veroni rinsing breadfruit at waters edge. Joanna’s husband is an elected Councilman. So their visit from the states, where they live and are raising their three children in AR, coincided with the first of two annual council meetings.





She was eager to learn traditional ways. While her husband's niece, Veroni, supervised from the shallow water, Joanna was mashing out the salt water rinse of breadfruit fiber. She described that the breadfruit is harvested, peeled and chopped then buried underground for two weeks. After that period it is dug up and rinsed in saltwater, mashed to remove excess water then dried and ground up to mix with other items in the future. There is no taro grown here, breadfruit and imported rice are the starchy staples. Fish, pig and chicken (in that order) are local sources of protein. We saw Joanna again at church and I didn’t recognize her. She looked like royalty with her lace trimmed long dress and shell headband that encircled her plaited hair. The next day Joanna and her husband came out to the boat to use our Starlink connection so they could video-talk with their daughters in the US.

Finally, one of my favorite encounters on Tobal was with Samuel. It seemed he chose us.

Mike and I were onshore to hike and explore. We wanted to find some trails that might carry us across from lagoon to ocean. Mike suggested we passed it. Perhaps not when we came upon a single track and turned toward the ocean.  Immediately we were joined by two boys who passed us then slow down, gently swinging their machetes.




No words exchanged -- just turned  around to look and they smiled with a raise of their eyebrows. We happily fell in behind them and murmured appreciation that we would NOT have a repeat of our Fijian “hike to the other side”.   (The mom in me also considered that some adult saw us turn into the jungle and sent them to keep us safe.) All together it was the best day of hiking. Samuel dropped in right in front of me and he determined when we took a break for coconut refreshment.



This was the first time Mike and I ate a brown sprouted coconut. My new favorite!! The center of these coconuts have a bulb of the tenderest meat I have ever enjoyed. It was sweet, seemed to melt in your mouth and was terrifically satisfying. And watching ten year olds wield their machetes with fierceness and accuracy was just fun!

We were guided to the ocean side and drank in the drama of waves in companionable silence.



On the way back, I marveled out loud about the difference between nui (green drinking coconuts) and the sprouted coconut. Samuel started scouting palm trees and chose one with LOTS of green coconuts. Watch and Learn!



He scampered up with ease and schooled us about how to knock down coconuts.







With quite a haul we loaded our arms and Mike’s backpack and made our way to Samuel’s shucking station. The next day we saw him again at church, he sat nearby. Smiles and eyebrows were shared across the pews in front as I tried to calm the younger children at my elbows and knees. Their giggly delight, attempts to whistle and musical chairs was patiently tolerated by all. The end of church did not come soon enough for the kid brigade to organize themselves for our dinghy launch at the beach.




 

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