We are currently anchored on the north side of Nuku island where the sand is clean and soft, and the water turquoise. We anchored last night right before 5pm which is usually the start of our pre-bed baby hour. We've been in Neiafu for two days to buy groceries, extend visas, use internet etc. but there is no clean water, no beaches, and only grimy sidewalks and restaurant patios for Eloise. Our times in Neiafu are cooped up times for our energetic goer. So, we quickly rowed ashore to Nuku so Eloise could have some clean fun. She was ready for it, reaching for the beach as we rowed closer. She played happily by herself with us watching for about half an hour. She finds small crab holes to stick her arms down, sorts seashells at the high tide line, picks up sticks and broken coral, stands up and claps her hands, then crawls to the next interesting collection the high tide has made and then starts again. It is a huge relief for me whenever there's a mosquito-free play area like this for Eloise. She excels. I relax from the constant vigil on the boat or in town of redirecting her to good play areas.
Last night she took another step unaided. This morning on the beach again, another unaided step and a two legged stiff hop.
Last night while nursing, Eloise asked me a question, "Daddy outside?" using sign language. Yes he was. She asked again. I answered and explained he would see her in the morning and then she relaxed and kept nursing until she waved good night to me, her hat, the fan and other interesting objects and I placed her in her bed. Sign language has been a joy to experience with Eloise. Her pointing finger is deft and her "uh uh uhing" is easy to understand. But when she squeals and signs, "bird" we can engage in a conversation with her about the birds she sees. Her spoken language is limited to ma and dada but we are gradually learning more about our little girl's needs and interests through sign language.
In other news, we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of Justin, our nephew. As soon as he arrives in Vavau we will show him a couple of our favorite spots and then check out of the country to head to Fiji. Once we arrive and complete formalities we hope to make a trip down to Ono Island inside of the Astrolabe Reef. Marine Reach, the organization we volunteered with last time we were in Fiji, is setting up a 3-month miniature Bible training school on Ono Island. It is quite remote, despite its location about 90km from Fiji's capital city, Suva. The only means of transportation to Ono is by boat. It's exciting to us that we can use Nomad to help our friends at Marine Reach.
Another exciting development is our acquisition of another gecko. When we crossed the Pacific in 2009, we had a gecko from Panama, all the way to New Zealand. It was entertaining when he/she occasionally hunted fruit flies on our ports in the mornings. So far, this Tongan gecko is not as cute as our previous hunter but we are not interested in cute, we're interested in the depletion of our small beetle proliferation. They are about the size of small ants, but they had been exploding in population. I put out a call on the cruiser's radio information net that runs daily that I would trade a batch of cookies for a gecko. An employee of one of the restaurants overheard my request and collected 4 geckos for us that night. They arrived in a Nescafe can with holes poked on top and large beetles inside for the geckos to eat! Brian selected the smallest of the geckos and tipped out the others on land. We have no desire to run a gecko breeding program aboard. One hungry bug eater is all we wanted.
A few days later….July 23
Eloise had a play mate yesterday and the day before! Hurray! When she sees pictures of kids or passes kids about the age of 6 and down, Eloise squeals and squirms and tries to get to them. She has a favorite picture of her cousin Naomi before age 1 that makes her squeal also. So, it makes me happy when Eloise meets a real kid to play with. Alex is about 4 years and from another cruising boat. He didn't hold still and didn't seem interested in interacting with Eloise except for his two quick kisses offered when his mom told him to say hi to her. But Eloise enjoyed chasing him and climbing the large mound of sand that was his sand castle.
Then yesterday, outside of the town of Nuapapu we passed a bright eyed, smiley boy on a horse with his dad, collecting firewood and coconuts. Later, we stopped at the grassy lawn in front of the Wesleyan church so Eloise could stretch her muscles. The same boy looked over from the gate of the house next door. I waved him over and he came. We recognized him as one of the children of the primary school we visited 3 weeks ago. ?He recognized us as well. Instantly Oneone was crawling around herding Eloise, chasing her tickling her and doing all the things a good big brother might do. At 6 years old, he's an experienced big brother with an 18 month old sister, and a 6 month old brother. By the end of their play time, Oneone and Eloise were standing next to the wooden pew on the cement verandah of the church, banging banging banging. I wanted to hug him for being such a good playmate. I look forward to the time in Santa Cruz when playmates will be easier to find, and Eloise's cousin Elijah, just a short drive away.
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