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Count your blessings

19 July, 2012

A butterfly fluttered by fluffy white clouds piling up in mountains behind it. Dozens of small birds flitted in circles way up high and fruit bats lumbered around near the shore with heavy wing beats and branch shaking landings. The crew were spread out along the reef walking, swimming, spearing fish for lunch, hiding in the shady nook in the cliff where a fresh water spring poured out into a clear pool.

Rennell Island, or at least the east end of it is a World Heritage site. It has the biggest fresh water lake in the insular Pacific (I’m not sure exactly what the ‘insular’ Pacific is, but it’s a big lake) lots of endemic species and very little interference from humanity. The western part of it on the other hand is being logged by a Malaysian company. We shifted the canoes to another bay further east then a group of hardy voyagers with the desire for a good walk and no real idea of how far we were actually going, made the trip along the ragged jungle road and collapsed at the end of it beside the lake dotted with islands. Curious kids were the first to appear, smiling and giggling shyly. That didn’t last long of course and with a noisy entourage of 20 or so we walked around and met some of the people.
Talking with Anthony, an older man, we said how much we liked his village and would like to stay here ourselves. He laughed, “You have made such advancements and now search for the simple life, but I think your standards are now too high.”
I wonder if he’s right. Do we expect too much to live simply? Could we face the challenge of living without smartphones or internet? Brand names and shiny things? In some ways it sounds like paradise, but we accept global communication for example, as the norm and it’d be tough for many of us to live for too long without access to the online community. Could we step back into a world where the gift of an old dive mask is received as a blessing? I’m sure we should think about our blessings a bit more, maybe that’s where we start.

Seafarer’s legs are not used to long walks over rough roads and there were already blisters and broken shoes so it was with great relief tempered by only a little embarrassment that we dragged together all our cash and got a ride in a truck back to the canoes.
This morning found us doing some final clothes washing in the clear spring that flowed generously from the white sand nestled in the shade of the cliff a few meters from the tide. Swallows flitted thru the coconut palms and the aquamarine, turquoise and royal blues of the water scattered with large patches of coral stretched out to the canoes a quarter of a mile off like a surreal, neon carpet.
The kids here played with palm fronds at the waters edge and small dugouts rested on the beach or paddled across bay, our own voluntary taxi service.
Leaving is tough, but the time has come and we have put more than a little pressure on this small community just by asking for fresh veggies.
Rennell Island has been an unexpected blessing.

Dunc and Faafaite

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