We've had a very brief respite from the strong winds so several yachts have left and one new one has arrived so there are now just six boats in Fulaga. It looks as though we are in for another windy weekend but we are beginning to look towards sometime next week to leave this lovely place.
Meanwhile, there's rarely a dull moment! A couple of days ago we took Lutu, Mini and another expert carver, Pito, back over to the forest to watch some more amazing work with the chainsaw to cut three, 10ft long, 15" wide and 3/4" thick planks from the next section of tree trunk. A Health & Safety Officer would have had a heart attack at the sight of Pito standing, barefoot and without any kind of protective equipment, on top of the horizontal trunk, guiding the chainsaw by practiced eye and steady hand towards his foot! Thankfully we emerged, all limbs intact, with the planks, a rough-cut steering oar and the foredeck that was made a few days ago; Kerry & Damian's big dinghy carried all this back to the beach where the canoe hull has been waiting patiently for the past year.
Yesterday the team worked on fine-tuning the shape of the deck, with chainsaw and plane, to fit the top of the hull and it's all looking amazingly good; the more we learn about the construction of these canoes the more we are impressed with the design. That design which is just carried in the heads of the men who build them as there is nothing written down; the last canoe was made about 7 years ago so it's remarkable that they can remember all the details.
Whilst the work was progressing, Lutu made good his promise to teach Graham how to cook in a Lovo, an earth oven that's known as a Umu in Tonga and a Hangi in New Zealand. In essence, you dig a pit and light a hot fire of coconut shells onto which you pile pieces of coral rock. After an hour or so any remaining embers are raked out and the food, protected from the fierce heat of the hot rocks by a layer of green coconut tree sticks, is placed on top of the coral and is then covered with coconut leaves, some wet sacking and then a good layer of earth or sand. An hour and a half later you excavate the whole thing and the food is beautifully cooked. The Fijians were very amused to see a Palangi (foreigner) making a lovo and there was a some wonderful teasing but Graham was very proud of the results. Photos to follow when we get back to internetland.
Whilst all this was going on we had also been invited to a fundraising lunch and 'bring and buy', the funds are going towards a project to install flush toilets to every house in the village. So, in addition to the crab and cassava/coconut (grated into a kind of dough and wrapped in little parcels with coconut leaves) cooked in the lovo, we had some curried pork, rice, roti and pumpkin plus, of course, a few rounds of kava to wash it down. Some of the ladies did some traditional dances and we shared some stories and a lot of laughter. Quite a day!
Today we are having Jiko, our host from last year, across to Maunie for lunch (cooked in a gas oven!) and then we need to downtime from all the village activities so that we can edit lots of video of the canoe project and print loads of photos. Unless the weather changes dramatically, we'll do our farewells on Monday (which will mean a party, of course) and we're hoping to borrow the computer projector from the school to show our Fulagan friends the videos.