Archive for May 25th, 2011

Change of Address: Vaiaku, Fongafale, Funafuti, Tuvalu

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

We arrived outside Funafuti atoll at dawn and found Te Ava Pua Pua, the southern pass, right where the guidebook’s coordinates said it would be.  In fact, we found the area between this pass and the town of Vaiaku to be very well charted with all the inner atoll reefs in place, giving us an easy passage to the anchorage. Actually, K still spent a couple of hours swishing through the sky at the first spreader level because we didn’t know the chart was good until we saw that… the chart was good. 

Funafuti has many islands encircling the lagoon.  The Tuvalan capital, Vaiaku, is on the eastern island of Fongafale. 

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We anchored in front of town and went ashore to check in, but were directed to the Customs satellite office at the main wharf a couple of kilometers out of town.  We were warned it would be a long hot walk but after five days at sea we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and take in the sights.  We found the island bright, breezy, and full of people and color.

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Scooters are everywhere, and drivers usually share the ride.

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Moms wait for their kids to get out of school for a tandem ride home.

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Bicycles are popular too.

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In Fiji, nearly everyone you passed on the street offered a friendly “Bula.” In Tuvalu, they prefer a silent respectful raising of the eyebrows, kind of like the index-finger salute you give passing pickups on the roads of rural America.  It’s very subtle and it took us a while to notice that they were in fact acknowledging us.  The children love to wave and say hi, and we got a warm response from their elders when we learned the Tuvalan greeting “Talofa.”

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Judging by the number of hammocks that we saw strung up in the shade as we walked down the road in that sunny tropical afternoon, we decided that Tuvalans must be smart, practical people.

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Every house has a hammock or two in the front yard.

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Its the perfect place to dish away the sweltering afternoon.

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Most houses also have a boat and a couple of ancestors in the front yard.

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Traditional houses are simple raised platforms with open walls.

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There are a few key appliances that come with all the benefits and frustrations of mass produced household goods. Sad is the man with a broken fan.

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It’s deathly hot in the middle of the day. By 1100 every hammock is full

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and every pup is snoring in the shade.

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All family authority succumbs to the siesta and there is a relieving breakdown in child supervision for the urchin in his warm weather uniform.  

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Micronesian life has a simple progression here. Every coconut palm has a set of scary ladder sticks tied up the trunk and if it all goes wrong, the cemetery is never far.

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We finally made it to Customs, and after checking in we stopped for a bite in a quiet curry house with an amazing Obama montage. We had chicken curry with a side of calcium.

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Now we are hardly purists when it comes to meat cutting. K will seek out a primitive chop on principle, but if the Fijian recipe for chicken curry begins with:

1) Rinse a whole chicken, pat dry, and cut into 1 inch cubes with utter disregard for skeletal anatomy…

the Tuvalan version must be:

1) Rinse a whole chicken and pat dry. Ignite explosive in the cavity and retain all the bone chips…   

On forensic reflection, that chicken was processed with either dynamite or a sledge hammer. The effect on the flavor was excellent, but the effort to sieve all the bone chips out had K wishing for some kind of reverse baleen prosthesis.

08°31.45′S 179°11.38′E 25-May-11 22:30 UTC