Dad, high-steppin in the conga line!! Yeeeaaa!

The weather had postponed our plans of a passage to the northeast, but dad’s ‘go with the flow’ attitude paved the way to good times wherever we went…we sailed all around the island, visited the sacred ‘marae’, installed Swell’s new refrigerator, and met lots of my friends. On a visit to introduce dad to some of my Tahitian friends, we were invited to celebrate New Year’s eve at their house, so on the 31st we sailed back toward the Papa family’s ocean-front plot and showed up that evening with a case of Hinano and enough mashed kumara root (kinda like sweet potatoes) to feed thirty!

All the family, extended family, and friends were there–grandmas to groms, cousins to caretakers, and us two smiling ‘Marites’ (Americans)…Just as I suspected, despite his nearly complete language barrier, Dad melted smoothly into the mix. Matahou, the English-speaker of the group, instantly took him under his wing, and they yucked it up like old chaps over icy cold Hinanos where all the men were gathered around the smokin’ hot barbeque.. Mind you, this was no ordinary barbeque. I’d have to say I’ve seen a few styles of bbq-ing around the world, and we Americans consider our gas-powered Grillmaster 5000s to be pretty supreme…but, this contraption took the grand prize. Even George Foreman would have been in a fluster…It was custom built of re-bar and steel, about 5ft by 3 ft at least, the grill held nearly 40 steaks at once and spun on a spit. You could even adjust its height to 3 levels according to the heat of the fire! Dad and I were blown away…he leaned in asked me if I thought they’d once used it to cook up their slain enemies! Ha!! Cannibal jokes go a long way down here…but it was seriously big enough!

The Papa family knows a thing or two about bbq-ing...this is only the first round!!?

Certain things remain constant regardless of culture, so while the men tended the meat, the ladies busied themselves in the kitchen, and the kids helped set the table. I scurried between the three, lending a hand wherever they’d allow. Soon we were called to eat…”Tama’a!! Tama’a!!”  and gathered at the long table set out on the veranda. With our plates piled high with an array of edible delights, the live band pumped out island versions of classic American hits along with local Tahitian favorites. We dove into the poisson cru, taro, potato salad, rice salad, couscous, fei bananas, and uru just to start. Uncle Heipua brought round after round of steak, veal, chicken, and fish kebabs off his grill of all grills. Tahitians seem to have no vegetarian inclinations…

The evening ambled happily on towards midnight. Dad and I  stuffed ourselves like good guests do.  His smile was bigger than ever…I looked out at the sky for a moment. The rain had stopped and the sliver of waning moon hung high amongst some scattered stars. The island music pumped cheerfully into the valley around us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude…

“Canq, quatre, trois, deux, un……woooooooooooo hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!”  The New Year had arrived…Kisses and hugs all around… I squeezed my dad tight, planting a New Year’s kiss on his lips…with a start like this, I had a feeling a good year was to come…

The kids lit fireworks in the yard and the neighborhood dogs happily scarfed down table scraps. I inhaled a piece of chocolate cake just as dad and I were swept into the conga line for a lap around the party ending in the Tahitian version of the “Hokey-Pokey”…

At that moment, I couldn’t have agreed more– “This is ‘what it’s ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL about!’”

the ladies!

Tama'a maitai!

...and on and on we danced into first morning of 2011

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