A sense of belonging is one of the most important components in the life of a prosperous, happy, peaceful individual. A person who is productive and beneficial to their community and our society.
Being on board Faafaite was like being back at our grandparents home. No matter where on earth you grew up, we can all relate and connect through these warm feelings.
There, in the core of your family we learned basic values, respect, discipline, humility, we learned about our past, our culture, our beliefs and most importantly, we learn about love and gratitude. This was the exact feeling that all of us who participated on our voyage with Faa’faite felt through out the entire journey. Today, I want to share our experience with you but before I do that, let me tell you a little bit about Faafaite, our tupuna, our grandmother.
The story begins in 2012 when I became a part of the Haunui Waka crew.
Haunui is one of seven Wakas ( traditional Polynesian style long distance voyaging vessel/catamaran/canoe ) who participated in a 4 year Cultural Mission around the Pacific to spread awareness about the plight of our seas and revive the art of celestial navigation amongst Polynesian nations who once survived, thrived and depended on this specific knowledge.
Our current problems are numerous as you know. From loss of habitat to pollution, overfishing, rising seas, food supply/security, the list is long.
The seven sister canoes or Wakas embarked on their educational 4 year voyage and when they all visited Maui I made sure to go and pay tribute to them in person. Never in a million years did I imagine I would one day be on board a Waka but be connected to this beautiful family for life is one the greatest gift any one can ever receive.
In 2015 I was able to schedule a trip with Faafaite bringing guests with no prior knowledge of navigation or cultural traditions on board for the first time. The privilege of being on board the Wa’a and belonging to this prestigious family comes with a lot of time, loyalty and dedication. The trip was a success however we hadn’t had the opportunity to reconnect until this year. Eight years had passed by. It was time !!
I decided to do a series of four blogs to share our experiences and thoughts.
This is the first of four short blogs. I hope you enjoy them.
Our nine day voyage began in Huahine.
We were picked up by some of Faafaite crew to meet with the Mayor and a group of teenagers that belong to an organization called …. ….. ( explain org )
The kids and crew greeted us with the traditional flower leis and were playing lovely Tahitian music for us. There was lots of fresh fruit and local Tahitian foods. Faafaite was looking very beautiful, more like regal, floating in the calm waters just waiting for the celebration to be over to start our voyage. ( photos, videos of welcome party )
In this first encounter, we witnessed the first cultural exchange. Not only for us as guests of Faafaite but for the children of Huahine and their tupuna, Faafaite.
The kids got to spend some time with the Waka and learned from its amazing crew. `I must say that, the crew were just as special as the waka itself.
Every single one of them a jewel of Tahiti. All from different islands and different backgrounds, some even blood related, a gift from the trip because this new connection was made only because they were both joining this adventure.
After the kids left we went on a small tour of Huahines traditional fish ponds and its cultural center. We met Maui, a very knowledgeable woman who was blood related to the builders of the structure we stood upon and the builders of the fish ponds themselves. ( videos )
What amazes me the most is the simplicity in which the ponds were build and the efficiency of them. This is precious ancient knowledge that is very beneficial to our youth and must be kept and shared. With everyone. We watched a fisherman in action, as he patiently sat on his single man canoe waiting for the fish to come to him under this tiny hut inside the fish pond. You could see several small fishing huts in the distance. There was no struggle. A simple waiting game.
See a video of the fish ponds here: https://youtube.com/shorts/fmgd3MO6tk0?si=4acsvCxasZuxuEr-
What a fabulous first lesson to learn. Sometimes you just gotta wait a little to get what you want.
Right next to the cultural center was a Marae or Tahitian temple.
These structures, the remains of them, are sacred and very special to Tahitian and Polynesian culture in general. They each had their purposes such as agriculture, fishing, celestial navigation, and some were even used for human sacrifice. They are charged with energy, old, ancient energy.
You must be respectful when you visit these places. You must dress appropriate to the occasion. It’s like visiting a church, or your grandparents house.
You must show respect at all times. Period.
It was time to say goodby to our first friend Maui and get settled in the Wa’a. Our adventure at sea was about to begin!
We were introduced to the crew and bunks were assigned. It looked like we had so much luggage ( long fins and masks, guitars, ukuleles drums! ) but at the end everything fit just fine. Space under the deck where we sleep is limited and bunks are small. Adjusting can be difficult at first but once you get the feeling of the adventure and you realize that the time you spend down there is minimum you don’t think about it.
Theres too much happening outside, under the sun or the rain, looking at the tall mountains change shapes in front of your eyes, somehow, you don’t want to miss out on anything. You want to stay up and awake, enjoying everything and everyone. Towards the end of the trip some where even missing that feeling of being tired and going inside their dark cocoon at night to recharge.
The lagoon waters were crystal clear and we were heading out to our first destination at a Motu. Motu means island. It’s a term used for the small islands located inside the lagoons of the main islands in the Society Islands. ( pictures videos )
At arrival, some went for a swim and then we all went to explore the tiny host island to wait for the sunset, and dinner. The white sandy beach was full of beautiful shells and small coral pieces. I have to admit that doing that walk on the beach barefoot was a bit challenging, so when you visit those remote places maybe bring your slippers, but don’t leave them behind!!
Sunset was beautiful and it was time for our first meal together.
I must say that, there was not even ONE single disappointing meal in our adventure and that’s thanks to Tania our master chef nourisher for the entire trip. A lot of love was poured into every meal. Most were very traditional and authentic to the areas we were visiting. Making this voyage an epic culinary experience as well. Food is culture and we love both. They go hand in hand.
After an amazing dinner we went to bed to recharge. Everyone inside their little cocoon for some sleep. Our next destination in Huahine, was a quick three hour stop in the town of Fare for provisioning and some snorkel time.
It took us a few hours to get to Fare from our little Motu and the view was breath taking. The weather was sunny and there was a bit of wind so we raised the sails and cruised to town. When we arrived we were welcomed by the mayors team and they had fresh cold coconut water waiting for us along with a light fruit and roots snack.
The town is cute and tiny with some local artisans, a few shops and restaurants. Our favorite was the yacht club which is right by the sea and has some descent snorkeling. Theres a beautiful white sandy beach if you walk a few minutes passing the yacht club.
Our stay in Fare was short and sweet just enough time to start missing life in the Wa’a and Tanias delicious food. Next stop was the Mayors town, one of my favorite places. As we cruised through the lagoons of Huahine and admired the scenery, stories were constantly being told by the crew. Old stories and myths about the places we visited and the Gods who once inhabited this places.
Hiro, Hina, Ta’aroa… and many more were alive inside the hearts of the crew of Faafaite.
The Mayors town.
Life in the Wa’a has very few luxuries. A proper shower as most people know it, is a luxury there. I still can’t figure out how the crew could look so fresh and squeaky clean with out a bathroom as we know it. Fresh showers were a commodity and for that reason, knowing we would miss that, the Mayor so gracefully allowed us, guests and crew, to use their facilities.
Fresh water showers yay!! On the Wa’a you shower with salt water and after, you put coconut oil on your skin. Then you dry your skin with the towel.
Showers usually happen on the back deck. With a bucket and yes, you must keep your bikini or shorts on while taking a shower.
I can’t remember the name of this town, all I can remember is the feeling, the music and the vibration of the entire place slowly embracing us and comforting everyone in between the spaces from the mountain to the sea. Making us closer to each other. A vibration blind to nationalities, races colors or religious beliefs. It was just pure Aroha.
As soon as we set foot on land it was like a celebration. Kids of all ages were coming to take a close look at their Tupuna Faafaite. They were jumping by the dock, swimming around like little fish. Having so much fun near grandma.
They were all happy to see Faafaite and very curious to see her inside and how she functioned and housed 16 people comfortably. A trip to their past in todays world can be life changing. It was life changing for many of us who participated, guests and crew.
The children played all afternoon near their tupuna and waited for the Wa’a to give them a proper reception the next day when things were more settled. The children felt at home with the Wa’a and they were thriving.
It had been years since Faafaite had visited Huahine. One of the teens who came to greet us asked for Hokulea, recalling the last visit to Huahine when Hokulea visited Tahiti and Faafaite hosted them. The children, they remember everything.
We rushed to those fresh water showers and large toilet areas. We used the fast internet as many didn’t have any service while at sea. Mothers had the chance to check on their children, and animals. Check work, have a taste of current continental news and then go back to paradise.
As I walked back to the Wa”a I could hear live music. I had brought my cajon ( Peruvian drum ) so I could accompany the strings if we met anyone playing.
Also because two of our guests are professional musicians from Hawaii.
I rushed to the Wa’a and grabbed my cajon. We played for almost an hour before dinner and we played and sang more after dinner. We sat at the pier and admired the night and calm waters inside the lagoon. We even saw a sea snake!!
It was 100% organic and not planned. The Wa’a attracted young and old, man and woman. Everyone in town came to share their aloha and hang out with their tupuna. She represents cultural hope and she carries the torch for the future generations.
The next day was departure day.
Huahine was heaven on earth and the warmth of the people made it very hard to leave. The folks who were playing music the night before were there with gifts for us. The folks representing the Mayor and the town were also there.
We all gathered in a circle on the back of the Wa’a. There was palm frawns laid on the deck with two bowls, one on each side, separated by the Hoe.
We were each given a small gift to place inside the bowls. There was 16 small gifts. The crew gave thanks to the community and we each of us placed the gifts in our hands inside the bowls, one by one. It was a small way to symbolize our gratitude to them. Gratitude for hosting us in their beautiful town and for having so much love for all inside the Wa’a.
After the gifts were given the crew started singing a song called Te Firi Nei.
This song is so special it has a powerful vibration to it and even tho you do not know what it is being said, at the end of it you cry. I lifted my head up after the song was over and we let each others hands go and everyone was in years.
Everyone. We all cried saying goodby to people we had met in the past 48 hours.
We as humans have the power to make others feel incredibly welcomed and good, however we also have the power to hurt and harm one another.
I look at what’s happening in the world right now and we have cousins fighting with each other to death. A sense of belonging to the land has caused this millennial conflict to go so far and out of control it’s heartbreaking. A sense of belonging to somewhere and something has made our youth join dangerous neighborhood gangs! Think about it.
We are social beings, we need each other to survive and thrive. Just like Orcas. Feeling loved understood and appreciated, as simple as it sounds can makes us humans happy. Sharing values and beliefs. This exchange of energy is important for our emotional physical and mental health.
Finding your “tribe” might seem difficult at times, so stay true to yourself. True to your core values true to what our heart feels and what your spirit longs for.
Aloha and Mahalo to Danee Hazama and Faafaite for the incredible photos.