Victims of Overwhelming Generosity

One of the more humbling aspects of being newly poor is the amazing support we have received, from our friends back home, from family and from perfect strangers. There are, of course, and I guess there always will be, those who simply don’t care; those that have too much and are afraid to share; the miserable misers and those who’s captured conscience keeps their hands tight inside their pockets. There are all those, and they are still the mighty majority of the noble human race. But since we have been poor they all seem to be fading away into a background void of anything important.

Of course, the fact that we are newly poor means that we’re not shy to talk about it. Just as the newly rich have an insatiable urge to brag about their recently acquired social status, we find it normal to admit to our material poverty readily in conversations with old and newly acquired friends. I had to convince myself that to reveal our economic meltdown openly is not an act of begging. It’s fun to blow little holes in the many taboos we uphold. Talking openly and sincerely about money is certainly a taboo in most circles, so when depicting our situation I deviate to the feeling of uncertainty associated with the big holes in our pockets. Then I wander off to our incompatibility with the marketing craze necessary for survival in the capitalist society. Although I can think of a million things we could have done to not end up in the financial mess we’re in, I believe that it is not “our fault” that our little savings have evaporated so astronomically fast. This was due to accidents and mishaps you had the pleasure to live through alongside us and it is impossible for me to bring myself to feel guilty about it.

Still, this has not been an easy piece to write, and the draft has been lingering on for almost a week now. The pretext of it all is simple enough: to formulate a hearty thank you for the many things we have received from all you wonderful people and make it clear that this is what allows us to continue this journey. There’s a proud beauty in acknowledging that our exploration of the human heart is truly sponsored by and through the human heart! When I started to write the above paragraphs I had three or four examples of generous donations we had received. Now that we are getting very close to leaving that short list is growing exponentially into a long list of overwhelming proportions! Let me go through it, loosely in order of their disappearance.

Curley is a bloody Kiwi who calls every second thing around him bloody. We met him at the store talking to the crazy Aussie lady, who had managed to buy her bottle of champagne just before closing time. Stores here close at 11:30 for noon break, so you better get up early if you want to get things done. Curley doubles as Santa Clause during Christmas season and he wears his white beard almost down to his belly all year round. He is delivering a cat from Grenada to Fiji, where he runs a cruiser’s corner in Suva Suva, with meal services, a full-fledged radio program over VHF and even cyclone moorings. His delivery turned into an odyssey of its own, with a five month rebuild of the boat before even starting, a dismasting off Panama and now we would get to know Curley during his two months stay in Nuku Hiva, where he was waiting for money from the owner, parts for the broken motors and autopilot, medicine for himself, etc. His boyish laughter soon echoed in our minds and his tender wit only very slowly revealed his distant past as a Vietnam veteran of New Zealand’s top-notch army. Very early in the game Curley became seriously concerned about our frivolous adventures into the realm of purist sailors having lost our outboard motors to neglect and lack of maintenance. My innocent insistence on the futility of the safety argument by being one of the many motorized sailors cruising the seas was of no avail at all. He soon boarded Aluna for regular visits twice or more times a week and started to delve deep into the mysteries of outboard mechanics. The carburetor was diligently dismantled, cleaned, taken to the shop to have the loonies blown out of it, not only once but three times in the course of the month and a half. Spark plugs were examined, adjusted, sniffed, sanded, analyzed and re-inserted. Fuel hoses were inspected, bent and if doubtful replaced. My left arm is still hurting today from the many pulls on the starter cord it took to have our Honda 4 stroke come back to life after the long period of total neglect it had suffered. Once it was smoothly puttering obediently, Curley did not stop and went to work on the salt encrusted corps of our Johnson 2 stroke that sat equally abandoned in the port motor well. He brought that useless piece of metal up to specs as well bringing us back into the age of petrol ready to guzzle some gas, should we have to make our way through a tricky reef in the future. My gut feeling is that we might be in just such a situation soon enough to bite my tongue for the many times I defended the purists point of view!

On top of it all Curley also provided me with a decently paid job doing fiberglass repairs to his cracked forestay fitting. But as soon as our motors were up and running, he continued on his benevolent way. He is at this time eight days out of Taiohae, his course set on a low latitude sail West, which he plans to culminate with a quick dive South towards the mighty kingdom of Tonga between a bunch of early season cyclones… Fair winds to you, my friend!

Camille’s cuisine is like an open poetry book! We first found that out at a diner, where the special ed teacher, proud of biking up the mountain roads across the island to the airport for coffee and cream, declared sternly that the Marquesan people are barbarians void of any form of respectable culture. The food was plentiful with a local flair, delicately prepared but fully unpretentious, its healthy spin almost nonchalantly hidden behind a feast for the taste buds. If you’re used to a pretty strict diet of (mostly) rice and beans, such exuberance can be dangerous and rowing our bloated stomachs back to Aluna that night was not a joyful task! During later invitations we found out the Camille is a weight loss champion way ahead of the crowd. Going through her photo albums time laps style you zip from a mortally obese body packing a hefty 180 kilograms in bursting folds around arms, neck and waist, to a bony but very determined lady of just under 65 kilos who is exploring her new body by happily swinging arms and hips in Tahitian dance classes, all this within a year’s time! So Camille is not only a contagious agent of chang but her culinary expertise made her also the perfect person to approach for organizing the upcoming wave of provisioning for Aluna’s next hitch across the seas. She diligently worked the phone and friends down in Tahiti to go through our list of staple food, shop around for them in bulk and then have it all shipped with the local supply boat, the Aranui, up here to Nuku Hiva. It was a Tuesday morning when we went to the pier, where the Aranui was docked. She would always come in at nightfall the day before and the rattling of her giant anchor chain could be heard echoing around the bay. The pier was busy like an ant’s nest under the midday sun with little trucks lining up to enter the loading area and soon after whisk away heavily loaded. Our stash was tucked away with other deliveries in a cage made of green steel strips. We loaded it on Maimiti’s pickup truck and went with it to Camille’s house to split up the bounty, since she had also ordered some new ingredients for her magic cuisine.

The time eventually came to bite the bullet and ask how much the damage was going to be for our pocket book. Camille put up her hearty smile, about the only thing that runs pure and unaltered through her exemplary history of transformation, and expressed: “Eh bah, it’s good. C’est bien!” All our protesting turned out to be in vain and was cut off with: “Well, you have to talk to Tayfun.” Tayfun is Camille’s husband, prof de técnologie at the local high school and of Turkish origin. This sizable gift literally hyperinflated our personal economy and assured our culinary survival for a couple months into the future. And it was only the beginning! More and more provisions would come our way from those two practitioners of the most noble of human virtues.

You’ve already met Maimiti and Yoann on our island tour. They’ve been another pillar of our vast network of Nuku Hiva shore support. Their washing machine must be ready for a serious maintenance stop after all our laundry and the shower stall never had a chance to dry out between our frequent visits. Their truck ferried a good part of our drinking water over the hills from Taipivai. The tasting of their homemade ice cream became a religious ritual impossible to flunk. And then of course the mangoes! The constant supply of giant, most succulent mangoes from the tree over their driveway made our morning oatmeal a feast for the eyes and tongues. The Breton-Polynesian mix of their hospitality is an honorable treat and Maimiti deserves a special recognition for her absolute 100% assistance to the Latin Dance class. She did not miss a single one and actually had three classes all to her own.

Cecilia and her family also deserve a prominent place amongst this festivity of generous deeds. She, 200% Marquesan of literally royal origin, her Catalan husband Philippe, and her youngest son and daughter (three older daughters have flown and live in Tahiti now) welcomed us into their homes and circle of friends, which gave us insights into the local ways and woes. Cecilia moves her body with grace and a carefree fluidity, picks up routines and retains them like a pro. Three stalks of green bananas look at me while I’m writing this, thinking of ripping slowly to feed us for quite some time into the future, courtesy with much other fruity stuff of their garden.

Although maybe obvious, my parents also need to be part of the list of excessively generous people. They have too frequently had to reach into their pockets to help us through tight situations throughout the past year. Back in Switzerland getting ready for another stern winter they must be having the uncomfortable feeling that many of their wisely spoken “but what will you do if…” have come to pass as promised!

Fabienne, the passionate dancer and veritable embodiment of living culture, allowed Beatriz to participate in her Tahitian dance classes without any monetary demand, sharing freely her wealth of traditional knowledge, her never ending enthusiasm, her vision of places where people live in total dedication, healed from the wounds of civilization.

Debora Kimitete, here mentioned last, was actually the first to open the doors to the hearts of the Nuku Hivans. She took plenty time out of her busy schedule to give us a solid start with our artistic activities. Not for nothing people here endearingly call her the Empress of the Marquesas. There can be no doubt that she wanders amongst the few earthly beings who’s vision carves the future of the human race. Her late husband’s mysterious disappearance and his exemplary life before that only makes her charisma more luminous.\

Thank you Nuku Hiva, and this is also for everybody else I forget to mention! You’ll always have a special place in our hearts. There are few places on the face of the earth where a gypsy at heart like me would like to stay for a while. You have definitely made it into that magic circle! Keep up your noble tradition of hospitality, nurture your simple curiosity, cultivate your proud independence, and above all: keep dancing with your flowers, birds, pigs and people!

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