At ten o'clock the next morning Sera led us through the village and out the back side where we found a real road. Well, a real dirt road, down which a carrier truck travels at least once a week. (There are no cars in Naviqiri, but there are a number of horses!) This road led out of town through a stretch of garden allotments (for the people on this side of the village), up a hill, through some piney woods and down the hill to the school shared with the nearby village of Nasau (Na-sow).
The school, which serves all the elementary grades, was sited in a huge open area, its buildings wrapping around three sides of playing field (rugby is the lead sport.) In front are the houses the teachers live in. Behind them is the cookhouse, then the "cafeteria," next boys and girls dormitories, and then, across the back, the classrooms. Although most of the children walk the mile or so from home to the school, others who live a bit farther out, board during the week.
The school currently has 98 students, and they were all assembled in one classroom, cross-legged on the floor, boys on the right and girls on the left, for us to do our thing! I don't know what exactly we were thinking…well, yes I do! We thought we'd just stand in the back and watch a lesson. But NO! We were the first white visitors to the school (that the teachers knew about…actually, we're fairly sure our friends on Billabong visited a couple of years ago!), so next thing we know we are front and center. What a sea of eyes and smiles!
At the teacher's suggestion, I told them a little about our travels, improvising a map of the Americas on the blackboard. Then we took questions which ran the gamut from President Bush (Help!!!!!) to climates in the United States to how we deal with storms on the boat. Don stood in the corner videotaping the whole thing and adding his comments here and there.
Now understand, while all these kids study English in school, they were all pretty shy about actually speaking it out loud. There was a lot of mediation by the teachers. But when the questions ran out, it was the kids turn to perform for us. With no conductor required, the kids launched into their school song, a rousing multi-verse song in multi-part harmony. Like the adults in church, the kids' singing voices were strong and confident. Song is obviously a big part of their culture.
Up to our departure, the kids were awesomely well behaved, but as we exchanged thankyous with the teaching staff outside the classroom and the assembly broke up to return to their own rooms, the kids launched themselves into another series of songs while crowding about the windows and doorways trying to get into the background of the inevitable round of photographs Sera had me snapping! It was quite comforting that kids are kids the world around.
Tea with Mr & Mrs Sunaki
On our way back through Naviqiri to the dinghy, we diverted to the outermost house in the village. Perched on a hilltop, #45 is one of the few houses to command a view of the bay and is the home of Mr. & Mrs. Sunaki. Mr. Sunaki had approached Don after church the previous day, and invited us to stop by.
Mr. Sunaki is a retired policeman from Suva, which definitely gives him and his home a more cosmopolitan air than most of the other houses in the village. In addition to the mats in the main room, they had two beds, as well as two more beds and a table and chairs in the kitchen area. Around the "rim" of the room were hung framed photographs from his career in uniform, as well as shots of his children and grandchildren in their careers (also uniformed!—police and military.)
Mrs. Sunaki put on a nice tea for us, with cups on a silver tray and biscuits with butter and jam. We talked about retirement, the building of his house here, and like all parents, about what our kids are doing. Mr. Sunaki told us many people thought he should start a business in Labasa upon his retirement, but he didn't see why. He is perfectly happy puttering in his garden, growing the things they need to eat. Still, Navigiri must be a big change from the capital city.
The tides have not been with us during our time in Naviqiri. With the high tide coming in the morning, all our arrivals had been a piece of cake. Departures, however, have invariably happened at low tide. After the first day, when Sera and Villie had had to help us lug the dinghy to the water, Don had dug out our "Happy Wheels", in storage since Mexico, and mounted them back on the transom. It still wasn't fun, but at least they made low tide departures doable.
On that Monday afternoon, when we straggled hot and tired to the beach, the tide presented us with one of the bleakest prospects we have ever faced. It must have been dead DEAD low, the water 150-200' from the beached dinghy. I'm sure Sera thought we were nuts, but by this time, as usual, all we could think about was getting back to the coolness of T2 at anchor.
Sera was right. We were nuts. The 200 feet across which we had to drag the dinghy, was not nice hard-packed sand, but glutinous, sucking mud, pocked with rocks. Don pulled and I pushed. Believe me, the "Happy wheels" were not remotely happy…and neither were our Crocs! And then, once we were finally afloat, we still had to paddle another 200 feet before we could get the outboard down.
But, oh when you need a swim, you need a swim! How do people live on land?
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