Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Surf's Up, Water Catchment, and Yoga

That forecast swell arrived just as predicted, and was phenomenal. The wave breaking outside the lagoon on the south side of the pass was a clean, offshore, beautifully formed left-hand peak with consistent 6-7-ft sets and occasional double overhead waves. It reminded Chris of a surf break called Frigate's Passage that he surfed in Fiji (just before the coup there in late 90s; it was where Chris' sailing dream was hatched) and appears to be able to hold a solid triple overhead swell. It is a relatively friendly wave (not too fast nor too heavy) but, during the full moon at least, you have to work against some strong tidal currents, and with the reef so close, it is not a beginner break. During the big tidal swings, Chris even had to get out and walk back up the shore to get to the peak, along the way he'd pass Shawn, who was taking photos and mingling with the locals who were also interested in watching Chris surf. One local surfer, Tekanaoro, joined Chris during a couple of his sessions. Otherwise, Chris surfed alone and reported feeling deeply moved by the raw and relentless energy of the ocean unleashing one seemingly perfect, pristine, and untouched wave after another on the shores of this tiny atoll. To add to this immense beauty, he was occasionally rewarded with glimpses of a large tuna hurling itself out of the water in pursuit of scattering prey, or a rainbow left in the wake of a passing squall.

During the swell, fellow cruising boat Privateer left for a beat to Tahiti and came back 36-hrs later with a 150-lb ahi tuna and a broken headstay. The same day, quite rickety looking and badly listing to starboard, the loaded Moamoa, one of the island's few supply ships, motored in and dropped the hook where we had originally been anchored. For the next two days while they were here, small boat traffic across the river pass increased noticeably as locals from all over the island made their way aboard to purchase wares (we primarily heard excitement for long absent tobacco and kava) or to secure off island passage. Privateer made their way over to our side of the pass to join the two other boats already tied up to the grounded barge for headstay inspection and "dockside" repairs. The Kwai, a motor-sailor cargo ship traveling between Kiribati the Cook Islands and Honolulu, usually visits Christmas Island before Fanning, but was diverted and filled the Moamoa's recently vacated spot. The cargo motor-sailor had been diverted by Tyrone, an agent for the Kwai who is in charge of buying seaweed from around the island and making sure it is prepared and ready for shipment, and who needed to get his family to Christmas Island by a certain date. Tyrone is also the unofficial cruiser's ambassador, speaks superb English, and is the guy who knows how to get things on Fanning. We have had several discussions with Tyrone and feel that he is a warm and honest soul and were very sad to hear of his father-in-law passing the night before he and his family left.

Throughout the swell, we poured over our tide charts figuring out daylight hours that were most favorable for surfing. We found that at least 0.8-ft of water is necessary, below that the reef gets difficult to avoid, an ebbing tide seems to hold the wave up best, and the smaller bump of the two daily tidal swings creates less current to fight against to stay in the line-up. Post-swell, we shifted our thinking toward heading south. We started to look at weather, and at the same time, continued dialogue with the Napoli local Beeto (the one who originally showed us around the north shore of Tabuaeran) who had contacted us in hopes that we would be willing to teach the island high school students some yoga. Feeling like that was our final activity, we prepared for it and slowly chipped away at our always growing "to-do" list. The chainplates were cleaned and rebed prior to the swell so top of the list was sewing and connecting our mast-funnel water catchment system. Another entire day was spent doing laundry, by hand, motivated by the fact that all of our holding buckets were brimming full of Fatty-caught (mostly fresh with a little salt water splash) water and needed to be used to make space. It was quite a process and sparked lots of thought about how much water and energy are used by washer/dryers we are familiar with, as well as very sore wrists. After the cleaned and rinsed laundry was hanging all over Tao and drying in the wind, we pushed off to make a banana bread delivery (all of our bananas ripened at the same time) to the folks working diligently on the barge. As the sun set, we made it back to Tao to pull the clothes inside just before it started to rain.

And rain it did, all night long. During a middle-of-the-night pit stop Chris saw lightning and the next morning Shawn heard thunder as the rain continually poured straight down with eerie no wind conditions. We juggled water: added what had been collected by our mast-funnel into our 6-gal jug plus two of our 5-gal jugs to top off our starboard tank and put these jugs back to immediate collection use. The larger one was posted at the base of the mast and the two 5-gallons on each side of the cockpit gathering water funneled off each side of our shade awning through side grommets into hose leading to each jug. By the time the sun came out, all of our jugs were nearly overflowing.

It turned out this morning was our planned high school yoga class, so we prepared for a very wet ride on the red "church" truck (apparently the white one is owned by "the local council" and the blue one "the people") that Beeto and the school had routed just for our yoga day. All three trucks have the driver's side on the right and are quite well-used (which is an understatement; imagine patches of paint, smashed windshields, and generally major signs of vehicular attrition as there are no official mechanics on the atoll). Ed and Nila from Quixotic, also dedicated yoga practicioners (Ashtanga) joined us for the occasion. It was a 45-min very wet ride standing in the back of the truck as it drove slowly from one wet pothole to the next to the far north end of the island. As the actual details had been lost in translation between us and Beeto via the VHF (he hails us "Tao's boat, Tao's boat, Tao's boat"), we were unsure exactly what we were to present to whom. Discussion of what yoga is with the high school teachers? Students? Did they want to see or do a whole class? Watch a demonstration of yoga? We went armed with books, CDs, and all sorts of information in our heads to share. We were flattered to have been invited and excited to share something so special to us. It turns out that Anates, the high school geography teacher is working with Beeto to improve the high school's physical education program, one of the ways by adding yoga. The problem is that they have no one to teach them, which is where we came into their plan. Unfortunately it is impossible to convey all of our combined yoga experience and knowledge in one afternoon. But what we were able to do was quite satisfying.

Napari Village, at the north end of the island, houses one of the two (and the only non-parochial) high schools serving all of Christmas (Kiritimati), Washington (Teraina), and Fanning (Tabuaeran) Islands and currently boards approximately 90 students. We were met by a man serving as the interim principal and the science-turned-geography teacher, Anates (we had previously met the actual principal, but she had left a few days earlier, along with several other teachers, on the Moamoa for several weeks to attend a conference on Christmas Island). Anates took us to meet the "senior" or grade 11, 16-yr old, students we were to teach. We all gathered in an open air space roofed by natural woven palm leaves covering a cement slab where the 4 of us were ushered to sit in the center on a palm woven mat and face the students. In addition to the teacher, whose English was quite good and Beeto, there were about twenty shy looking students. It was a co-ed class, who had separated themselves in half, with all girls on one side and all boys on the other. Each student was in uniform with a white button down shirt and blue knee covering shorts for the boys and skirts (which made some of the yoga quite difficult) for the girls.

We launched into it, each of us briefly introducing ourselves and meeting blank stares. Shawn asked if anyone had heard of yoga and only the teacher and Beeto raised their hands. We were unsure if the students could even understand what we were saying and though there was no head nodding or acknowledgement from the students when we asked if they were following our English, the teacher confirmed that they understood perfectly well (it turns out that all of their lessons except Kiribati class are performed in English). So we continued on, starting with what yoga is "union of mind and body," and how yoga might be good for each of them. Then we asked everyone to stand up and join in and first, Ed introduced Ashtanga by leading the class through several sun salutations and a couple postures. Next, Shawn introduced Bikram's Yoga, starting by describing the normal classroom with mirrors, heat, humidity, and how to practice on an empty stomach and well hydrated, then leading everyone through Pranayama Breathing and the first three warm up asanas. By the time we got to Eagle Pose, where you twist arms and legs like ropes to open all the major joints in the body, the students were smiling, laughing, and actually enjoying themselves. Our time was up and after a thank you in English from one of the boys and a Namaste, we were invited to join the class for lunch where Shawn and Nila sat with the girls and Chris and Ed sat with the boys. One of the girls, Keemie, turns out to be Miss Christmas Island 2010 (which means she was voted the best traditional dancer in 2010) and though in school uniform instead of traditional garb, she agreed to perform an impromptu dance for us. What a treat! We left them with the Bikram's Yoga class CD and hope to send them the Bikram's Yoga Blue Book via the Kwai when we can. Late that afternoon, they sent us off on the red truck with smiles, waves, and ko bati n raba(thank you very much)'s as well as fresh greens, Kiribati music, new words for Shawn's dictionary, more papayas, another entire stalk of bananas and a general sense of having shared something important with this community. It is a small step, but we are delighted to have been part of bringing Yoga to Tabuaeran.

1 comment:

  1. Your stories are such fun. It sure sounds like your tme exploring Fanning Island has been a wonderful experience!

    Mum and Griz