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Can You Feel The Mana?

Jilly and I have an outgoing spirit with a certain twist that can’t really be explained very easily. It is something that has opened doors for us to see the local cultures a little below the surface. We greet the locals with a smile and a friendly “Bonjour” or “La Orana” and always say, “Merci” or “Maru’uru” when we’ve been served, assisted or in general courtesies. We try to learn the first names of those we regularly meet and greet them by their first names when we see them again. In watching other cruisers around us, it appears that we are just a small percentage of those cruising the islands that do this kind of thing.

Last Saturday evening, we decided to go into town for one of our last dinners for a while. We went to the Moana Nui pizza restaurant. It turns out that the restaurant was decorated for Mother’s Day here in the Marquesas. The restaurant was entirely reserved by locals except for one table for two near what we thought was the back of the restaurant. It actually turned out to be near the front entrance. They brought out the hand written menu and explained it to us. They had prime rib for dinner. Well why not? So we both ordered the prime rib and about fifteen minutes later our food came to the table. As it turns out, they cook it a bit differently here on the island. They slice the rib and then grill it to medium rare perfection. It was HUGE! I mean it covered over half the plate and it was about one and a half inches thick. It has been a long time since I have had prime rib, but I can tell you this, it did not suck.

Feel the Mana with TitlesShortly after we ordered our meal, Kevin of Nuka Hiva Yacht Services, his wife Annabelle and their children entered the restaurant and sat at the table next to us. Once again we got some more insight to the local culture from them. A three piece group of men began singing and playing a keyboard and an electric guitar. Somehow we had stumbled into another cultural event. We were the only white cruisers in the restaurant except for Kevin and he is a transplant from Pasadena in Southern California. He is considered more of a local than anything else.

We see the many cruisers with a take attitude. One that is stopping to get what they need before moving on…somewhat like locusts. Like I have said before, everything on these islands with the exception of the fresh fish and local fresh fruits and vegetables has to be brought to the Islands. And while we also participate in buying resources from the local market we also believe in putting back into the community. When we stop at the Snack Shack or the Tempatutui  restaurants where WiFi is available, we always buy something. One thing I’ve learned in water world is that nothing is free. These businesses have to pay for the WiFi for their guests to use. If you don’t buy anything and use their Internet, are you really a guest or a mooch? We were sitting in the Tempatutui  restaurant sipping a frosty cold beer we bought and were using their WiFi connection. Another solo male cruiser was sitting behind us using the Internet and he had not purchased anything from the restaurant. After about 10 minutes, we lost our Internet connection. No big deal right? A few minutes later, the woman running the restaurant slowly walked by our table and slid us a piece of paper with a new password access for the WiFi. And then a few minutes later the man approached us and asked if we had Internet. We told him that we didn’t think it was working and that we were working on photos and reading saved articles. Perhaps a little white lie, but we knew the moment the woman slid us the new password what was happening. So, I got up and ordered a second round of beer. Jilly walked up to the bar to get her drink and slid the piece of paper with the password on it back to her. The woman got a big smile on her face. As it turns out, she speaks English and overheard what we had told the man. We just smiled back at her and then walked back to our table with our beers.

While sitting on Dazzler in the anchorage, we have been watching the locals canoeing in their single outrigger style canoes most afternoons. While walking around town, I had noticed two distinct canoeing clubs. The last night we were in Taiohae Bay, I was sitting in the cockpit playing my ukulele when one of the paddlers stopped by Dazzler. He had traditional tattoos and wore a choker around his neck that had tusks from a wild pig he had killed. He explained that the pig had killed his favorite dog during the hunt, so he had some of his dogs bones also on his choker. He explained that he and the others have been out practicing for a competition that occurs at the end of June. We enjoyed a nice conversation with him before he had to get back to practicing for the competition. We saw him later that week and he smiled and exchanged hellos with us.

Jilly and I believe that somehow we are giving off some kind of vibe, karma or mana that opens doors and opportunities for us in these small communities. Perhaps it is adventurous curiosity or perhaps we are seen by our actions or its mana. I’m not saying we are the only cruisers that act like this. It just seams to be a rare personality trait that is not viewed in other’s actions.

I know I have mentioned that in the recent past during our hikes to waterfalls and other island ancient grounds, we have both felt the presence of a spirit that has surrounded us. It is a feeling that can’t very easily be explained. And it is one that is best described by the definition of mana.

Mana is described as a:

(noun) prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma – mana is a supernatural force in a person, place or object. Mana goes hand in hand with tapu, one affecting the other. The more prestigious the event, person or object, the more it is surrounded by tapu and mana. Mana is the enduring, indestructible power of the atua and is inherited at birth, the more senior the descent, the greater the mana. The authority of mana and tapu is inherited and delegated through the senior line from the atua as their human agent to act on revealed will. Since authority is a spiritual gift delegated by the atua, man remains the agent, never the source of mana. This divine choice is confirmed by the elders, initiated by the tohunga under traditional consecratory rites (tohi). Mana gives a person the authority to lead, organise and regulate communal expeditions and activities, to make decisions regarding social and political matters. A person or tribe’s mana can increase from successful ventures or decrease through the lack of success. The tribe give mana to their chief and empower him/her and in turn the mana of an ariki or rangatira spreads to his/her people and their land, water and resources. Almost every activity has a link with the maintenance and enhancement of mana and tapu. Animate and inanimate objects can also have mana as they also derive from the atua and because of their own association with people imbued with mana or because they are used in significant events. There is also an element of stewardship, or kaitiakitanga, associated with the term when it is used in relation to resources, including land and water.

 I know it is easy to get caught up in having to get something fixed that broke on your travels to paradise. Having to order some critical part for your boat. Or, your crew just jumped ship and you’re stuck looking for more crew. Whatever the many reasons it could possibly be, don’t forget to smell the coffee, flowers, peanut butter, crepes or experience the mana. Perhaps by slowing down, looking around or adding a few more items to your daily routine, additional doors may be opened and opportunities could unfold right before your eyes to provide a deeper cultural experience while visiting paradise and feeling the mana of the land, people and natural resources.

Until next time, Maruuru

Captain Dan

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Jammin’ In Nuka Hiva

Here we are 3000, miles from mainland Mexico and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most everyone who cruises on a boat has made the comment of why they voyage to other countries to experience the culture of different people and lands. Well, I know I have. There is a difference though between saying it and doing it. I have many fond memories of being invited into the homes of many Mexican friends throughout my travels in Mexico. Their family run businesses and restaurants all have become memorable and their friendships have provided hours of cultural experiences.

Yes, our goal on Dazzler is to immerse ourselves into the culture of the places we travel, the islands we visit and try in our short time period of a 90 day visa to meet the locals.

We are similar to the other boaters in that sense of having a desire to catch up with a few emails upon our arrival. As we look around the cafe that has free internet, we see the masses huddled around there electronic devices trying to squeeze out some sort of internet connection. Well, according to Kevin at Yacht Services in Nuka Hiva, the island internet is provided by satellite only. In other words everyone on the island is trying to use the Internet portal at the same time and the result is like trying to squeeze a 25 pound turkey into a 5 pound oven. As you can guess cutting the turkey into five equal parts and cooking them one piece at a time is going to take a while.

The islands offer many different activities if you have a reasonable budget and an adventurous heart. Hikes to waterfalls, island tours or rental car road trips open up many adventures.

One of the things that Jilly and I have observed is that many of the yacht traveling crowds are sitting around with their noses buried in their electronic devices at those earlier mentioned WiFi spots. Buried to the point that they seem to be oblivious to things happening around them. And in some cases missing the culture happening all around them. We attempt to keep a watchful eye out for situational awareness. Constantly scanning what is happening around us for two reasons. The first is for our safety and the second is for cultural opportunities.

Just a few days ago was one of these days. We needed to go ashore to take the rental car keys back to the office. As it turned out Kevin, at Yacht Services, had called us on the radio and asked if we could return the car keys on Monday. Well, you know me, flexibility is my middle name. They call me Gumby Dammit. Ha ha ha. So, we decided to go into the snack shack at the petite quay (dingy dock) to send a few emails. While there, we saw the same group of boaters huddled around their electronic devices with their noses about two inches away as they stared into the screens waiting for the spinning wheel of death to stop turning and provide a message to the user of, “Message Sent!”

While at the snack shack, we noticed what looked like a family BBQ. They were cooking up fish and breadfruit on a grill made from a barrel that was cut in half and had wrought iron legs welded onto the bottom. One of the family members was walking toward his vehicle with one of the boaters and he asked me if I wanted a ride to buy some beer. It was Sunday and only one store was opened till noon. The snack shack didn’t sell beer, so I said, “Why Not!”

The man’s name was Henry and as it would happen he is the owner of the little restaurant. More about Henry later. He drove us to a little store that sold a few items including beer. For those of you wanting to know what beer costs in the Marquesas, Well it is $22.50 per six pack of 16 ounce cans of Hinano beer. Good thing the alcohol content is 5% by volume. Needless to say, everything on the island with few exceptions is brought here by boat or plane. I offered to provide Henry with a few dollars for fuel and he refused. On the way back to the restaurant, Henry asked that we don’t leave more than one beer in the open on the table at a time. I’m guessing it’s not in accordance with his restaurant license.

Once back at the restaurant I grabbed a couple of glasses from the counter and poured the beer into the glasses. While enjoying the first sips of Hinano beer, an older local man named Paul, a friend of Henry’s family, took a guitar from his vehicle and started playing and singing. He was facing away from the crowded restaurant and his collection of traditional island songs was amazing. Jilly and I sat listening and sipping our beer, until Henry asked me if I play. I told him that I played an Ukulele. Paul heard that, put down his guitar and returned with a 10 string Marquesan Ukulele and handed it to me. That was all it took. The next thing I knew, I was strumming his Ukulele as he played his guitar and we were jammin’. Gemma a Spanish woman from another boat soon joined us Paul handed her his guitar and went to his vehicle and returned with another 10 string Ukulele. She had an incredible voice. We were now a trio jamming together. What an experience. After several songs, Paul excused himself to go eat with Henry and his family. I took a short break also.

After many of Henry’s family and other friends had finished eating, several of the men including Paul returned to the instruments and started playing again. The local island music was incredible. I went back out to Dazzler to get my Ukulele and was once again invited to participate with them. We jammed for a few hours playing their traditional songs. We accompanied the music with broken communication and laughter. Music is truly it’s own language that spans the globe, cultures, languages and can be done without conventional speaking.

This day was one of my best experiences in the Marquesas hands down. Oh, and while all this was happening, many of those sitting at the tables had their heads buried in their electronic devices and completely missed what was happening around them.

Back to Henry, We are not sure, but it would seam as if Henry may be one of the island elders or at the very least one of the leaders. This we only guess from how the family members and community members interact with him. Many mornings around 0700 hours, many of the locals arrive at the Snack Shack and drink a morning beverage while speaking with each other in what sounds like old Marquesas dialect. They stay about an hour and then depart for their daily business.

Until next time, keep your head and eyes up. Who knows what opportunities may present themselves to you?

Manuya, (Cheers)

Dan and Jilly