Paradise….lost? The Toau Sweat Shop

After a week in Toau we have decided to set sail.  There is a two day weather window opening up and we plan to take advantage of it.  The winds are forecast to average 10 knots out of the NE for a day and then lighten up and become squally.  We still have a full tank of diesel and we are prepared to use it this time!

The past week has been busy.  We were hoping to relax more but each day we have succumbed to the call of indentured servitude to the local family.  When we arrived here we told them we did not have any money (they charge 700 cpf or approx. $9 US per night for use of the moorings).  They said “no problem!  Maybe you can help us out a little bit instead?”  We said “Sure.  No problem.”  We also gave them some gifts: a box of wine, a pineapple from Moorea, some veggies, baguette, etc.  Turns out that their expectations of “a little bit of help” are on the order of migrant laborer status.  We helped them out with everything from preparing the feast for the visiting charter boats to raking the leaves, to gathering fish from the fish traps and then stringing them into bunches of four for the supply ship (all 600 fish!), shaving coconuts, doing their laundry (we did ours as well which was nice), cleaning and doing dishes, filing about 120 liters of water bottles for them with our watermaker, etc.  After about the fourth day of labor I was starting to feel that we were being taken advantage of.  They were very friendly and we found it almost impossible to turn them down when asked for help.  I even rehearsed in my head responses to the next favor she was going to ask of us, “I have work to do on the boat” or “I’m working on the engine today.”  But as soon as she would ask we would lose all control and immediately say “Sure, no problem. We’re happy to help. How high should we jump?!?”  We think that so many cruisers have come through here with unlimited generosity that expectations have risen to unreasonable heights.  We’re glad we could help them out but in aggregate it was a little much.

It was not one-sided though.  We were able to join the feast with the charter boat (that we helped prepare), they baked a pizza one night that we all shared and Alyssa was able to drill holes in some of our pearls.  I think what made the trade so lopsided was that on Sunday we sat around visiting with them and she harped on for three hours about Jesus and we had to sit there in flight attendant mode (all fake smiles and nods) during the whole “lesson.”  That session was far more painful than the manual labor!

Helping Gaston with the fish traps yesterday was a wild experience.  I helped him collect 600 fish from his traps in only two hours.  That is an incredible amount of fish and the fish were about 18″ on average.  My job was to jump in the trap and swim (scare) the fish into a corner.  Then Gaston would hold a big basket (7′ x 4′ x 3′) made of chicken wire against one side of the corner while I swam around the other side.  The fish would then go into a crazed frenzy and swim violently into his basket.  He then tipped the opening of the basket so it was above the water and we both lifted the basket out of the trap and another guy lifted it into the boat.  We repeated this procedure about 40 times between two fish traps until the boat was full to the gunwales.  Then we unloaded the fish at the dock, sorted them and strung them up 4-5 to a bunch.  A few hours later the supply ship, COBIA 3, came into the bay and dropped down a huge container with ice in the bottom.  The fish were loaded into the container, more ice put on top, and then loaded back onto the ship.  Those fish will end up presented nicely on ice in the central market in Papeete tomorrow.  Gaston will be paid the equivalent of $1,500 US for four hours work.  Not a bad system when you have free labor at hand!

Gaston and Valentine are both very friendly and we believe they mean well.  It was nice getting to know them.  That said, I don’t think we’ll be coming back.  It was just too much trying to satisfy their expectations.  We also missed out on some great diving as a result.

We are very excited for our next atoll.  It promises seclusion, privacy and tranquility.  We are both looking forward to spending a few weeks on our own private motu.

We’ll send updates en route.

Manuia from Toau!
Lewis & Alyssa

September 12, 2014
Anse Amyot, Toau Atoll, Tuamotus, FP

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