Leslie’s Letters, Marquesas, Oct 18, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Kaoha Mom and Dad:  So nice to hear from you. I enjoyed very much reading your email to Michel. Your news touched on some great things about your visit here, already three weeks ago. I loved reading your point of view.

[Dear Michel, we have been back from the Marquesas for over a week. We spent 3 weeks with Leslie, Eric, Bryce and Trent. The island is isolated so not many tourists, mostly boaters coming from the Galapagos. The boys are going to school there, French spoken, so it has been a big challenge for them.

Taiohae college from outside.
Taiohae college from outside.

They plan on staying on the island until May, when sailing season will have good projections. Leslie/Eric have many friends there as this is the third time Eric has sailed to the Marquesas. We stayed in one of their friends’ home for the 1st week we were there. It was up a hill with a lovely view of the harbor where the boat is anchored. While the island is not a 3rd world type of living environment, it is a way of life that is simple, void of many of our typical comforts. The first home we stayed in had a full kitchen, hot and cold water, where most of the homes we experienced had no hot water. We had boar meat for some of our meals, and our favorite, fresh raw tuna very often. Trent turned 12 and Bryce 14 while we were there. We had perfect weather, with humidity of course as it is tropical. People who have cars usually have large 4 door, 4 wheel drive diesel trucks as the roads are quite primitive and full of rocks and potholes.

Aakapa & Attitoka as seen from way above on the ridge.
Aakapa & Attitoka as seen looking down from way above on the ridge.

There is only one road to the other side of the island, where we travelled about three times. We rented one of those trucks for a week while we were there. Eric drove, of course. We loved the green green scenery and hikes and the sailing. All of us snorkeled one day, and accumulated lots of lovely shells to bring back. Beach combing for shells was a favorite thing for us, but we had to cover up as there are a lot of biting insects on the beach. There is no laying on the beach to get a tan!

Denis feeding his semi-wild semi-domesticated pigs.
Denis feeding his semi-wild semi-domesticated pigs.

The two highlights that we remember most were feeding semi-wild pigs coconuts and our incredible hike to the waterfall at the end of Hakaoui Bay, next to Daniel’s Bay where Survivor Marquesas was filmed. Of course, time with the family was golden. We were treated like royals. We miss our Kandu family very much, and feel the long trip that we made was very very worth it. Sending you all our love from Oakland, Rosie and Ron.]

Last week was very busy. We got our US income taxes submitted on Tuesday: two days before our October 15th deadline! Gee, that felt good to get that off our shoulders. A friend from Tahiti happened to be in town on Sunday and Monday – so we spent some quality time with her and her bank boss who had come to Nuku Hiva to check-up on various bank investments. It was interesting to learn about Marquesan start-up businesses and how entrepreneurs here qualify for loans.

Friday I helped Raymonde teach children how to make yogurt in a couple elementary school classes (I first spent a separate morning with 5 other volunteers learning how to make yogurt in a rice cooker). We will make yogurt again tomorrow morning, Monday, with three more classes. It is actually quite simple to make. You heat a liter of skimmed milk stirring it continuously until it’s hot but never boiling, you add and mix together ½ cup live yogurt, 4 heaping tablespoons of whole powdered milk, 10 teaspoons of sugar or less and wait for the mixture to steam. Remove from heat, divide into portions and place in a warm environment for 6-8 hours or overnight. Then transfer to the refrigerator and consume. Yum yum! Since it’s so easy, I plan to make some on the boat. I already bought special yogurt containers before we left on our trip.

Homemade yogurt. Mmmmgood!
Homemade yogurt. Mmmmgood! Not too sweet.

We have been helping Bryce and Trent more with their homework as they are becoming more capable of comprehending the French in their classes. Eric was involved in recording an ad for breast cancer for Raymonde who is putting on a big cancer awareness event this Friday – which I will be helping with all day.

Nuku Hiva drum battery
Nuku Hiva drum battery

We also went again to watch/hear the dance rehearsal Friday night that Nuku Hiva residents are preparing for the December festival on Hiva Oa. Watching and listening to their songs and drum battery is always an exciting cultural experience.

Leslie sporting new outrigger paddle.
Leslie sporting new outrigger paddle.

Two weeks ago we ordered an outrigger paddle for me, fashioned by a local paddler. I received the paddle earlier this week and admire it’s beautiful workmanship. It feels like I can paddle faster and more efficiently. Ha ha! Bryce is now paddling two times a week through his school.

See Bryce in the first chair. This is the FaHoro position. He maintains the paddling rhythm.
See Bryce in the first seat. This is the fahoro, or cadence position. He maintains the paddling rhythm.

Unfortunately, Trent is too young to paddle through the school. Last week, I paddled three times with our mixed group of French residents, cruisers and Marquesan club members. Eric and the boys actually went out twice in the three-man outrigger. Also, I’m really enjoying aqua gym in the ocean with the ladies on Tuesday and Thursday mornings . . . great exercise and enjoyable company.

Today, there was an historical tour of Taiohae bay that started at 9:30 til 12:30. It was quite interesting. One tidbit we learned about the history of Nuku Hiva was that it was first discovered by an American merchant ship captain, Joseph Ingrams in 1791. Later in 1813 during the war of 1812 while harassing British flag ships in the Pacific, the bay was claimed for America by Navy Captain David Porter and named Madison Island.  Taiohae was named Madisonville and the bay, Massachusetts Bay. It’s a convoluted story, but suffice it to say that he arrived with 8 ships, commandeered from the British, with many mouths to feed.

United States Navy Commodore David Porter's fleet off Nuku Hiva in October 1813.
United States Navy Commodore David Porter’s fleet off Nuku Hiva in October 1813.

The Marquesan chief and residents of Taiohae valley agreed to let them build a fort and lay claim to the eastern part of the bay (the least desirable section because there was no river) and to provide them pigs as long as they fought and defeated the neighboring valley Taipi Vai, whose residents had been harassing Taiohae. In order to feed his men, Captain Porter reluctantly waged war on Taipi Vai, firing canons, shooting guns and lighting aflame magnificently carved structures that covered the valley. Reportedly the day after, the Taipi Vai people showed up with 300 pigs. Months later Captain Porter had to leave and shortly thereafter the American claim went with him. Congress never ratified the annex. The French took over control in 1846.

My English classes are three times a week now because I have an advanced group and a beginner group. My students are advancing steadily. I spent Friday morning learning some teaching tips at Linda and Chuck’s boat, Jacaranda. Previously watching me teach English, she got very excited and wanted to share some technics that she used when she taught ‘English as a Second Language.’ She had great ideas like throwing an ‘un-birthday’ party and wrapping up some gag gifts…everything to be spoken in English, of course. I plan to prepare that particular idea sooner than later. Sadly, Jacaranda is supposed to leave for Anaho today, but looking out into the bay – they are still here, so they will probably depart tomorrow morning. We will likely not see them again until December during the Marquesan Matava’a festival in Hiva Oa. I will miss our fun conversations and her artistic input. Did you ever check out her website? She is constantly adding great articles about the islands and the interesting things they learn: s/v Jacaranda blog

Un-Birthday party during "English Class"
Un-Birthday party during “English Class.” Since Laeticia is a doctor and it was October, I gave her a Halloween skeleton for her Un-birthday.

The boys have been spending quality time Boogie boarding. They cannot get enough time on their Boogie boards, taking advantage of the large southern swell, which will change to a northern pattern in December. They headed out again today and had a great time…who wouldn’t considering how wonderful and clear the water is on these hot-humid days with little rain. Academically, Trent is really enjoying reading his “dragon” books on the new Kindle. He just loves them. His comprehension is improving in English and French.

You also have been very busy. Congrats on selling your little red car. Yahoo! Thanks for sending the school package of pen-pal letters from here off to Allison Maires at Cabrillo Middle School. I will write her to make sure she knows to look for a package in the mail. I appreciate you purchasing the items for us for when Shannon and Charlie come to visit.

Well all that is probably a bit more than you were expecting to read. I will sign-off here. Just know that I am thinking of you….


Leslie Rigney

One thought on “Leslie’s Letters, Marquesas, Oct 18, 2015”

  1. Leslie, I read your wonderful letters and stories, and wonder how you will feel when you come back to the US. I know you miss family, friends and convinces, but every time I visit LA now, I wonder how we ever managed the husse and madness! Green Valley, Arizona is a very quiet place.

    Thanks for sharing once again.

    Fondly, (and I say that as I am learning so much about you and your family)


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