Location: Haamene Bay, Tahaa, French Polynesia
First off, HI, MOM! HI JAKE! HI COURTNEY! I love you and miss you! Okay, now that that is out of the way, I am really excited to write about today because what we got to do was really special! I definitely tried the nice mom approach to waking up people today with loads of nice shoulder and/or head rubs. Once we got ashore, it was only a small jaunt to the Hibiscus Turtle Rescue Foundation, which in reality, is a hotel and restaurant that doubles as a turtle rescue. We stepped in through the front door into a lovely dining room and then out the sliding glass door to the back patio where the flooring before the wooden dock was comprised of lovely mosaic tiles depicting a sailboat, among other lovely nautical shapes. We were led to the back left side of the patio, where there was a small fenced-off area. As we approached closer, we could see shapes gliding through the water: turtles! About eight or so in this enclosure. Our main man gathered us on the dock, and as we took pictures of the reptiles, he told us how the turtles come to the foundation. All turtles in the rescue were the accidental catch of local fishermen. The fishermen bring the turtles to the sanctuary, where they stay and are rehabilitated for no more than one month. For the Tahitians, eating the turtles is forbidden for all but the priests and sometimes chiefs because honu (the turtles) are considered sacred animals. During this small spiel, one of the man’s sons, probably a 9-year-old, jumped in the water and caught one of the turtles, which moved much faster than one usually sees, and even thinks possible. These guys can really jet around! He brought the turtle onto the deck, where we were able to interact with him: touch him, hold him, and take loads of pictures. We were then told the most thrilling news: we were going to name, tag, and release this turtle back into the wild. We watched as he was weighed, his carapace measured, and his front flipper tagged, all the while shouting out name possibilities. I suggested Lockjaw after a turtle was released in a childhood TV show, Hey Arnold! Another good one shouted out was Argonaut. We took a group picture, and Matty soon stepped into the water, waiting for our newly freed friend to take his first breath and then take off. As Matty let go and the turtle, now named Jason after the leader of the Argonauts (though I’m sure some will insist that he is REALLY named after this really famous quarterback.I think he plays for the Patriots, Thomas Bradley?? Brady Tom? Bradley Thomas? Ooooh yeah, that’s right! It’s Eli Manning!!! Just kidding, Alex G :P) took smooth strokes with his fins and was swimming out into the water. It was easy to feel the hope and good mo-jo being sent out by everybody present to go along with him. We wrote a note in the logbook, recording the release of Jason, and all of our signatures went down next to it. After releasing our new friend, we all basked in the success of the venture by sipping a cold bottle of coke on the back patio, with a Sharpei puppy and cute child keeping us company. Many of us tried to duel this boy at swords, but in the end, all retreated. Even me, the bravest of warriors, ended up instead sitting with a sleeping puppy in my lap. It was about an hour’s walk back to town, and many people took different directions as we left the sanctuary. Jenna and I walked down the road to the right and found a grocery store where they had a lot of goodies we had been craving. We tried looking for a pearl place that we were told was around but had no luck, especially since it was nearly midday when many of the businesses close. We ended up strolling for an hour towards the town where the dock pick-up was located. As we walked, clouds hid the sun, and the sky opened up, and it rained for the majority of our walk. It was actually quite soothing and refreshing, being accompanied by the smell of rain and the sounds of the drops hitting the foliage. I tortured Jenna by pausing every few steps to take photos, all the while she desperately needed to pee. I am still so taken aback by the friendliness and hospitality shown by the locals. While Jenna and I were walking, we were given bunches of bananas (6 foot 7 foot 8-foot BUNCH daylight come, and I wanna go home). There were other people in our group who had days involving dancing in the rain, water taxis, hikes, hitchhiking, bungalows and docks with resident moray eels, as well as home-cooked meals and gift-giving. Jenna and I finally caught up with some shipmates at the docks, where we proceeded to play Frisbee with a bunch of local kids for a few hours. Passage prep proceeded as we came back aboard, and dinner was awesome! For my squeeze, I felt it was important to bring us closer, so I asked everyone in the group to say something they appreciated about the person to their left. I also felt it important to bring laughter because I feel like laughter and humor can create strong and happy bonds. In addition, I asked people to share their favorite corny jokes. There were some beautifully sincere words that were shared about each other and some of the biggest groans over the jokes we heard. I designate the following joke, which made me laugh the hardest to be shared on the blog (from Tim): A piece of rope walks into a bar. The barman takes one look at him and says, “I’m sorry, but you have to leave. We don’t serve pieces of rope here.” The rope walks out, ties himself up, messes up his top, and walks back into the bar. The barman asks, “Aren’t you the piece of rope from a few minutes ago.” The rope replies, “No, I’m a frayed knot.” So, all in all, a lovely day, which ended with laughs, experimental trust falls, and Wreck-It Ralph.