It was Yolene and her cousin Po'iti who told us about the dancing. Yolene has become Alisa's great friend in Taiohae.
Yolene apparently noticed Alisa walking around town with the two boys morning after morning while I was back on the boat working, and started calling her "Apache" in her mind. As in, 'check out that Apache-looking gal who's always walking around town - what's up with her?'
Yolene eventually approached Alisa, and they formed a quick bond. She also took a particular shine to Eric.
Yesterday morning before the dancing began Yolene gave Eric a necklace she'd made for him, a necklace with a tuki popo'i on it, something like a pestle. She told Alisa that when Eric came back to Taiohae some day she'd be able to recognize him if he were wearing the necklace. And she gave Alisa a pair of intricately carved shell earings.
Alisa was overwhelmed by these gifts.
Yolene and Alisa became quite close even they don't share a language. Meeting Yolene was a gateway into Taiohae, as Alisa (and I) have met her English-speaking sisters and cousin who could fill us in a bit on who is who and what is generally going on. Meeting all these people has been great. But Yolene is very much the main connection, even if Alisa can't talk with her. Other people translate for them at times, but their friendship gets along fine without that intercession, too. It helps that Yolene is a person of tremendous presence, who can happily hang out with a foreigner without becoming shy or self-conscious. And of course Alisa has a gift for friendship that has played a role in their connection.
And really, for anything that you might say about a young unmarried woman who is keen to be around a baby, or a mom with two small kids who is spending a lot of time in a strange town with no friends, it was really just a bit of universal human understanding that brought Yolene and Alisa together.
Alisa cried on the dinghy ride back to Galactic after we said goodbye to Yolene.
After we said goodbye to Yolene and Po'iti we both felt very strongly that shore was now tapu to us - we'd made our bonds with the place, and then broken them, and it was now very much time to leave.
But then Alisa braved one more trip ashore with Elias, running all around town looking for Yolene. She finally found her, after it was getting dark and she was feeling heartbroken over braving the shore again and then being frustrated in her search. She left Yolene with a silver bracelet from Alaska. Yolene was, as ever, cool, and not particularly fussed over the gift, but it meant a lot for Alisa to leave it with her.
We talk about coming back here some time to spend a year. And we even floated the idea of staying now. But we're definitely going, today, which means that we're walking away from something really special here.
The Tuamotus await, and we trust that there are plenty of delights waiting for us there.
But what we've found here in Taiohae has given us the feeling that all the effort that we've put into this new boat has been worth it.