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Published: January 4th 2012
Rotting on the Beach with Spot the dog.
With the constant sound of the trade winds rustling through the palm leaves I didn’t hear the dog walk up behind me. I don't know how long he had been there. I only noticed him when he leaned against my leg. His warm brown fur tickled my leg as he slowly sank to the sand…sound asleep. I knew how he felt. There is seductiveness to the South Pacific Islands that fills the senses with color and softness and fragrance and an overwhelming desire to linger.
We had come ashore at Christmas Island (South of Hawaii, part of the Republic of Kiribati) filled with plans for exploring, snorkeling and photography. What we found was a reef fringed atoll surrounded by intense azure water and an ancient island culture covered with a thin veneer of the modern world. As we turned off the main road down a sand street through one of the villages the centuries seemed to slip away. Friendly waves and smiles encouraged us to walk further into the village.
Women with long black hair busied themselves preparing lunch over outdoor cooking fires. Short legged pigs
rooted about, one leg tied with a long leash to a nearby coconut palm. Roosters crowed and the trade winds swirled the smoke between the thatch houses with their peaked roofs. Little gaggles of laughing children followed us everywhere. But mostly we were ignored by the islanders…what a pleasure compared to the high pressure sales and shouts of “Give me money!” of most resorts.
When the snorkeling turned out to be impractical I spent several hours beach combing looking for shells that hadn’t been hijacked by hermit crabs. Since only a handful of cruise ships visit this remote island every year the shelling was superb. I had also picked up two young boys who acted like a collection party …running ahead and bringing me shells. Lots of smiles and laughing and they wouldn’t take a penny. I walked by an outrigger canoe set under a tree, its design unchanged in thousands of years, ready to take its owner out to the reef to fish for supper.
Later I walked back across the island passing by a woman cutting Pandamus leaves to weave a mat. I stopped at a tiny general store where two teenagers were sitting on the
floor playing Scrabble, the Oxford English Dictionary resting close to hand. The islanders are Micronesian and speak Gilbertese so it is a great way to practice English.
Eventually I found myself sitting on a sun warmed rock in the shade of a Frangipani tree, the intense blue water of the lagoon lapping at my feet and an outrigger canoe bobbing at anchor a few hundred feet out. That’s when Spot appeared. As I watched him sleeping on the warm sand I thought I should move along and continue exploring. An hour later I was still sitting there.
Harry and Connie
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