Alex finally had his birthday dive. He went out with a small dive shop here and with Graham. The dive master had a fantastic video camera and gave us a really cool video of Alex diving. The dive was a cavern dive and Alex said it was really great. I was a bit shocked to see the small spaces they dove through. Made me worry a bit. I asked Alex if it worried him that he wasn't able to go up if he got in trouble, that he would first have to travel forward out of the caves. He said, "no there wasn't anything to worry about." He is most definitely growing up. Graham said that Alex was a confident and safe diver and didn't seem stress down under. He didn't use alot of air either so I guess those are all good things.
Our friends on Simpatica headed off in the opposite direction to Fiji the other day. We had a beautiful good bye dinner with them and a couple more days of fun in the sun. We ended our time together on the perfect note. Louis finally speared himself a grouper. In various anchorages from Bora Bora onward, Louis would speak of how much he would like to spear a grouper. He tried in Suwarrow and in Rose island but with no luck. The other day while Graham and Alex were out snorkeling they came across a bunch and they quickly hopped in the dinghy to go get Captain Louis. Didn't take Louis more than a few moments to grab his spear and jump in with the boys. They raced back across to the spot and before long Louis finally speared the grouper he had talked about for so long. It was definitely a fitting ending to our time together. We are going to miss Louis and Jules a bunch and look forward to meeting up again.
We are currently anchored in front of a tiny island named Ha'afeva with a small village on the other side of it. We made the 20 minute walk into town today and walked up to a tiny store. It was basically a shed with a small window that you look through and point at what you would like. The choices of items were basically.....corn beef and staples. The shop owner Calib was such a nice fellow. Graham and him got to talking. His wife Afu and baby were sitting on the porch and I sat down and chatted with her. Before long we were surrounded by children. I played the game were I try to remember each of their names and say them back. They all got a kick out of me....giggling away. Amelia let me know she had some cards in her purse. This was perfect timing because I could hardly pronounce many of the kids Tongan names .....no way I could remember them. I took the deck and began laying them all face down in the dirt. Many of the kids faces filled with recognition of the game and they began saying the Tongan word for the memory card game. They were all excited. I was shocked at how good the kids were at the game. Even with so many kids around and so much going on they could remember each and every card. They would all try and help Amelia, Alex and I on our turns. It was so nice to have fun together and not to have to worry about the language barrier. Finally after many games I let the winner have the deck of cards. He was a really young boy and he was so happy to have the cards. Felt really good.
The kids took us to see their school. The lawn was beautiful green grass, so strange to see mowed grass. The school building was nice looking to. Unfortunately when they opened their classroom door I was shocked. The desks were knocked over and their books were all over the floor. It looked like the room had been trashed. The kids all poured into the classroom and climbed over the desks to the back of the room where I was looking through some of their work. They all began digging for their own books to show me. I quickly returned the book to the shelf to avoid another mess in the already messy classroom.
Once we were back at the store Calib (the store owner) let us know that it is the end of their school year, so things are not as well organized as they are at the beginning. Calib and his wife Afu have invited us for lunch tomorrow. We are all looking forward to it.
Tonight we had a cruiser pot luck on the cement wharf at the waters edge. There are only 4 boats here and they are all friends of ours so it was really perfect. The food was amazing and we all had such a good time. The kids were happy to have some unsupervised time together. As the parents all sat and visited the kids made a fire and burnt the garbage. We could see them running back and forth to the beach to collect more wood to keep it going once the garbage was gone. At one point I wandered over to the fire and I found Alex and another boy lighting the ends of a dry palm frawn on fire and moving it about. I realized it was probably best if I just stayed away :-).
On a side note for those who have been asking, our plans are to get to the final Tonga island of Nuku'alofa before the 28th. Once we are there we will ready Artemo for our final sail to New Zealand. We will wait for a good weather window and then make the hop. It should be around a 12 day sail.