|Eric, Johnny, and a yellowfin tuna|
caught on hand line. Just like in Kodiak,
where king crab legs sometimes go into
crab dip, part of this tuna went onto a…
tuna pizza. Nothing compares to the casual
use of luxury foods in the
Johnny is also an even-tempered guy. Our acquaintance has been short, and necessarily shallow because of the language barrier, but I get the idea that it’s hard to get him angry.
But when he was on our boat for dinner the other night, and we were showing each other pictures of Alaska and Rapa, he showed us a picture on his phone of a ship anchored in Baie Haurie, the harbor of Rapa.
A scientific ship from New Zealand, he explained. They were here, we know they were diving around Rapa, but they never explained to us what they were doing.
There was a real bitterness in his voice and his demeanor – a palpable sense of being wronged.
Public "outreach" is all the rage in Alaskan marine science. Especially if a group will be working in the area around a subsistence community, there is a strong expectation that the scientists involved will present their work to the locals and solicit feedback.
|Here, and below - scenes of Rapan celebration|
The Kiwi-flagged ship that Johnny had photographed didn't do that. And oh boy, did they miss out asa result.
The National Geographic "Pristine Seas" group, and the Pew marine protected area people who were working with them, took a completely different approach.
A central goal of theirs was securing local support for the establishment of a marine protected area in the Australs. They went fishing with locals, and took locals on their sampling/filming trips, and generally did everything they could to make their work valuable to the people of Rapa. So, for instance, when some locals suggested that it might be a good idea if they were invited on board the Hanse Explorer for a party, the Nat Geo guys didn't hem and haw and try to fit it in at the end of their trip. They invited their local contacts, and their contacts' families, on board at the soonest opportunity for beer and wine and finger foods and a viewing of a rough cut of the footage they had been shooting.
They also presented a ten-minute version of their movie and an overview of their scientific results to the whole community at the end of their trip, and had the entire school on board the ship for a tour.
The people of Rapa, in turn, did something that Polynesian cultures clearly excel at – they treated these visitors as honored guests. They reciprocated with the leis and necklaces and flower crowns and woven hats that are the Polynesian way of saying, "you are special – we honor you!" They played music for the visitors and sang them songs and taught them local dance (the "Haole haka" - always a crowd pleaser).
|On the VIP list. The written invite from the|
mayor was immediately a treasured souvenir
And, they showed their welcome with ma'a – food. Or, more accurately, with feasts. Food is a center of social life and festivity everywhere, but even more so in Rapa, if you follow me.
|Gettin' down with the people|
And, so being included in all this, we got to see a wonderful side of Rapa. This place isn't any kind of time warp – the people here are modern, with experience of
|Mao leading the Rapa hake, haole-style|
|The Nat Geos and Hanse Explorer crew, decked|
out for departure
In other words, we were treated to a number of scenes of community celebration that were very reminiscent, I imagine, of what a sailor might have encountered had they sailed into this place forty years ago, when the Pacific was innocent of the great modern herds of travelling sailboats, and a friendly face from foreign shores was something to celebrate.
That was Thursday when the Hanse Explorer left Rapa, and the celebrations ended…until Sunday, when the monthly feast for the Protestant populations of the two villages rolled around. There was singing, there was music of ukulele and kamaka and guitar. There was food for all, and enough for everyone to takeaway for a second meal at home. And there were Alisa and myself (the boys were eating at the kids' table) sitting at the VIP table with our friend and interpreter Jackye and the venerated old people of Rapa.
|Here, and below - the celebrations continue, local style|