Thank You’s All Round

I could absolutely have gone on, or doubled back, or started over. It’s been an amazing journey and I hate to see it end. My children, I know, feel rather differently, but I think even they know what a long, cool trip it’s been. In June they were just suburban American kids who had never been anywhere. Now they’ve traveled over 27,000 miles and seen everything from an active volcano to a live coral reef, never mind all those fascinating piles of rocks….

Dani says his favorite place was the Mangonui pa in New Zealand; Matiu says his was Mo’orea, or, as he put it, “that house.” I couldn’t even begin to pick; it was all fascinating to me. But one thing I do know is that we got really good at traveling. I was filled with anxiety before we left, both because planning is much the hardest part and because, while Seven and I did travel extensively in the early years of our marriage, we have stayed put for more than a decade now. And I really mean stayed put: with the exception of a trip to Nova Scotia in 2002 we haven’t been anywhere in twelve years. So I just couldn’t remember what this kind of traveling was like, and somehow I had gotten the idea that it would all be harder now, that I just wasn’t the explorer I had once been.

But some things, it seems, just don’t change. It’s like that realization you have at some point about your children: that the personality traits you are seeing in them at 11 or 15 or 19 are the same ones you observed in them when they were 2 or 3.

In some ways this kind of crazy traveling was actually easier than my ordinary life. For one thing, I wasn’t trying to do 10,000 things at once. It was just one foot in front of the other: now we eat; now we sleep; now we catch a plane; now we swim; now we go look at something interesting; now we eat again; now we catch another plane….The simplicity of it all was rather marvelous: so single-minded. I don’t know if you can see it in this picture, but there was definitely something of the well-oiled machine about us by the time we reached our last stop.

So, here we are packed and ready for our very last flight home (note: the bags are still in great shape, though the American Tourister luggage tags all fell apart):

homeward bound

Just to wrap up the story, we left Ann and Joel to continue their journey around the Big Island while we made our way to San Francisco to see our friends Tessa and Daniel, who generously put us up while we went through a couple of days of re-entry decompression, and to meet with Patrick Kirch, whose numerous books on Pacific archaeology constitute the backbone of my reading list.

Pat showed us around his lab, pulling out drawer after drawer of amazing objects, including a cast of a little anthropomorphic carving on a piece of porpoise bone about 3-4 inches long — “God belong ol Lapita,” in the words of the guy who found it. Pat has been tremendously generous to me, helping me think through a number of issues and pointing me in the right direction as I feel my way through this new field. So he is high on the list of people I want to thank as I bring this journey to an end.

There are, however, quite a lot of other people on the list. So, starting at the top:

Thank you to the Australia Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for supporting my writing and enabling this fantastic opportunity for new research.

Thank you to Shelley Madsen at Aspire Down Under who made our incredibly complex travel arrangements. It all went amazingly smoothly and we always had good seats!

babara's houseThank you to Barbara, Katy, Linzee, and Peter for looking after us in Los Angeles. I’ve made a stop at my aunt’s beautiful house in Pasadena every time I’ve passed this way since 1984, and it’s still the best B&B in the Pacific.

Thank you to Rose Corser in Nuku Hiva for help with accommodation and local information. It was especially nice to have a friendly American acquaintance at this early stage of the journey when we were just starting to get things figured out.

Thank you to Bob Hammar in Seattle for the use of his beautiful house on Mo’orea and to Jacques Decottignies for service well beyond the call of duty in sending us the camera battery chargers that we left behind. That was a lifesaver!

Thank you to Marimari Kellum for showing us around her property and telling us about its fascinating history. We hope everything continues to go well with the O Tahiti Nui voyage.

Thanks to all of Seven’s family in New Zealand: to Rina, whose recent loss we feel profoundly, for making time for us; to Bill and Wati and Liza for driving all that way just to have lunch; to Boboy and Piripi for coming to see us in Paihia; to Anaru, Justin, and Bianca for finding us in Auckland; and to everyone else who made us welcome. The kids were amazed not only at how many relatives they have but at the warmth with which they were embraced wherever they went.

Thanks to Ana, Sateki, and Fine Uasike for astonishing hospitality in Tonga. We will hope for an opportunity to repay you in kind!

Liv, Neane and TobyThanks to Liv, Neane, and Toby in Melbourne  for a beautiful day at the Healesville sanctuary, a fabulous lunch, and general comradeship and good company. We’ll hope to see you back in Cambridge before too long.

Thanks also to Anne, Hilary, Elliot, Mary and Chris for making time to catch up on our absurdly short flyby of a visit; and to Mere for breakfast, among many other things. I wish we could have spent more time with all of you.

Thanks to Matthew Spriggs and Stuart Bedford in Vanuatu for showing us such cool stuff, and to Geoff White in Hawai’i for putting me in touch with Pat who put me in touch with Matthew.

Thanks to Pat Crosby, who hasn’t changed a bit in all these years, for a delightful dinner party, and to Meleanna Meyer for ducking out of something else to come. It was great seeing you both again.

Dani at Volcano

Thanks to Sam Low for connecting me with Laura Thompson, and mahalo to Laura for a chance to meet some of her family, for dinner, and, especially, for the generous loan of the Volcano house (here is a picture of Dani enjoying the microfiber sheets).

Thanks to Scott, Lauren, Danielle, Suzette, and Melissa in Kailua for dinner and friendship over many years. It was great to see all the girls so grown up, I only wish Abraham had been there too. Next time!

Thanks to Ann, Joel, Isabelle, and David for doing all the Big Island planning and for meeting up with us just when we needed it most. And to Ann’s aunt and uncle, Myrna and Lowell, for extending their warmth and generosity to include us; we feel that we too have family in Hawai’i.

Finally, thank you to Tessa, Isabelle, Benjamin, and Daniel, whom we have missed ever since they left Cambridge, and who housed and fed us in Los Altos with characteristic generosity and grace.

Last, but by no means least, thank you to my brother Elliott, my sister-in-law Debbie, my niece Rachel, and my mother, Dorothy, who held down the fort for 8 weeks while we went gallivanting across the sea. I could not have done it without your connivance and I appreciate everything you did to make this trip possible for Seven, Abraham, Matiu, Dani, and me.

Aloha nui, everyone.

Back to the Beginning

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Editor of Harvard Review and author of "Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia" and "Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All."

18 thoughts on “Thank You’s All Round”

  1. One of my undergrad advisors did her dissertation on Tok Pisin, so we used it for a lot of linguistic examples in class. I’m a bit rusty, but I believe “God belong ol Lapita” means “God of the Lapita”, or literally “God theirs Lapita”.

    God —-> God

    belong —-> belong —-> of

    ol —-> all

    belong ol —-> belong all —-> theirs

    Lapita is the Lapita. 🙂

    And Christina, thank you for this amazing blog! It’s been fascinating to read and a privilege to be able to comment. I can’t wait for the book.

  2. Thank you again and again for sharing your wonderful summer with friends and family. What a wonderful journey. Sallie

  3. Thanks for the vicarious voyage – sorry I missed you in Melbourne – but it has been fun following you in cyberspace

  4. It’s been fun sharing this journey with you and visiting so many amazing places with you and your family vicariously. Can’t wait for the book. 🙂

  5. I have enjoyed reading your blog as you have traveled
    this summer. Look forward to your next book. “that house” is a dream that turned out to be real.

    1. Dear Bob: I feel very lucky to have found you. Hopefully one day we will be able to return to Fare Hamara. In the meantime I arrived home to find your telephone card in the mail, which I’ll will send back since I can’t use it now. I did figure out how to make calls — with some help from a friendly airline attendant at Faa’a airport. I think it’s possible that Pat Kirch will be on Mo’orea next summer. I have a faint hope of getting out there briefly to visit his dig and will let you know if that comes off. I’m sure you’re booking the place months in advance. All best, C.

  6. It’s been a delicious pleasure to follow your family’s journey and especially to enjoy your elegant writing.

  7. Yes! Please add me to the chorus of thanks for providing a summer of armchair travel at its finest. Yours was an email I always enjoyed seeing pop up in the IN box. Warm wishes and welcome home – Andrea

  8. Thanks for the wonderful blog – it’s been fascinating following your journey each step of the way. And the pictures … were fantastic!

  9. I agree with everyone else; it’s been so much fun to follow your remarkable adventures. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Good luck with your book. You have a terrific family! 🙂

  10. And thank you to everyone who followed along, and especially to those of your who commented. It was always very cheering to see your remarks. Now that I’ve dipped my toe in the water blog-wise, so to speak, maybe I’ll make it a habit. Though, I can see this becoming a bit of a distraction when I’m supposed to be writing the book. It’s so fun to be able to write with pictures!

    1. Ooh! You should write a children’s picture book about the South Pacific. Send the main character on a trip like yours and have her talk about all the interesting things she encounters.

  11. Welcome home…
    Thanks for all the wonderful postings along the route… as I mentioned to Dorothy, a dozen years ago we would have been lucky to get a post card a week after you’d returned!

    1. Dear Jonathan — I keep looking around wondering how you ever managed to paint with all the crap there is in this place. Mother tells me she asked you to just move it way from the way. You poor thing! But, whatever you did, it sure looks beautiful. I see you even fixed the place in our bedroom where I (I am ashamed to say) slammed the door into the wall. Anyway, THANK YOU. It was amazing to come home and find it so fabulous. C.

      1. You’re more than welcome… I’m glad that you enjoy and hope that we didn’t leave the kids rooms in too much disarray. Glad you got back before the earthquake in New Zealand… (just because we’d worry).

      2. Jonathan:
        Mother wanted me to ask you if there was any paint left over and where it might be. I’m moving my office to the workshop and it needs a (modest) makeover first …

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