|Sunday mass on Tiputa|
Ia’ Orana! The time is 0434 on May 11th, and we are currently anchored off Rangiroa. There is a light NE wind, with alto-cumulus clouds blocking the view of most stars. I am just coming off of anchor watch from 0300 to 0420. Today will be our last day in the Rangiroa lagoon, and we will be sailing towards Carolina Island by 1800 tonight. Yesterday at 0815, Andreas, Gaby, Lara, Nick, Heidi and I suited up in our Sunday best and headed toward Tiputa, a smaller motu (island) of Rangiroa that houses a sleepy town with the same name. Our destination was the small Catholic church of Tiputa, where mass began at 0900. Since European contact and the arrival of missionaries, Christianity has heavily influenced Polynesian society. Yesterday morning some of us we were headed to church to experience how people on Rangiroa practiced Christianity.
We arrived at the church just as singing voices began drifting out. Seemingly simple and white from the outside, the church interior was painted a vibrant light blue. White pendant flags hung from the ceiling and colorful stained glass windows let light into the large room. Most of the churchgoers wore white, and many children crawled on their parents’ laps or sat patiently in the front rows. The service consisted mostly of songs, which, despite our deficient knowledge of Tahitian language, we were able to follow along because the words were projected on a small area in the front of the church. Each time it was time to sing, a tall woman in white stood up in the front row, and conducted the congregation. Her infectious smile was accompanied by an impressive set of pipes. Last Sunday, a group of students including myself attended a church service in Pape’ete, the major city of Tahiti. In comparison to the service on Tiputa, the service in Pape’ete was mainly spoken in French, and included an older and larger crowd. During that service, one of the members of the church asked us where our group was visiting from. She then acknowledged our presence during the announcements portion of the service, and had us all stand up. Though we clearly stood out during the service at Tiputa, only curious gazes from children indicated the unusual nature of our presence.
Sitting in the church yesterday, my vision started to get dizzy. At first, I thought that I was dehydrated, so I quickly drank more water. However, I soon realized that I was experiencing what sailors call “land sickness”. My brain had grown accustomed to the heaving and sighing of the ship and was continuing to correct for that motion even while on land. I later found out that other students also experienced land sickness that day, including shipmate Anna. Are we real sailors yet? Only a few days into the trip, and our bodies were more adapted to life on the sea than on land. Robert C. Seamans, or Bobby C., has become a home for many of us. The prevalence of bare feet and musical jam sessions on the top of the doghouse suggests a level a comfort associated with home. Bobby C. allows us dream, while still demanding our devotion during watch hours. Mau Ruru for reading, and until next time, this is shipmate Erica Knox.