Sunday 16 December 2012

All together now: Blow, blow, blow the wind...

They're battening down the hatches in Fiji ready for Cyclone Evan, which is heading there now after wrecking Samoa. I haven't been there for ages - although I was recently asked if I'd be interested in a visit - and the last time was to go on my first ever cruise, with Captain Cook Cruises from Viti Levu up through the Yasawa Islands, which are currently in the path of the cyclone. It was a small ship, comfortable and friendly and though not super-luxurious in the way that my second cruise with Silversea was, it must have seemed so to the people we visited. The Reef Escape certainly looked exotic, moored in various bays off the beach, glistening white and seeming very big against the villages of plain thatched bures underneath the palm trees.

Visiting the villages was the nicest thing about this cruise: we went to church one golden evening and listened to the shrill harmonies while watching chickens roosting in the frangipani trees outside the open windows; and at another were shown with great pride around the school by the children. The classrooms were so bare and basic, but the writing on the blackboard was beautifully neat cursive and the exercise books were full of careful work all conscientiously marked. Some of our group had known to bring gifts, and presented the teacher with a pack of ballpoint pens. "Oh!" she gasped, clearly thrilled. "We never see pens!"

The children had all gathered outside the school to welcome us with a little concert, and loudly sang what must have seemed to them such foreign songs - 'Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross' would have been sheer gibberish (as it is to me, and I've been to Banbury); and even 'The Wheels on the Bus' was totally out of their experience, as there were no vehicles at all on these small islands. I was escorted around by little Lusi, who was 5 and had only just started school, and she was so pleased to be a big girl at last. She'll be one of the seniors there now: I hope she and all the others will be safe.

I wish all little schoolchildren could be safe.


the queen said...

I distinctly remember my teacher explains what a kookaburra was. She didn't explain gum trees or bush, so it made no sense. Bush? Is he sitting in a tree or a bush?

TravelSkite said...

Gum trees are eucalypts, and there are many, many varieties in Australia. Both there and here, we can use 'bush' to mean a leafy shrub as you do, but the word also means, as it does in the song, the wild woods.
The song just gets silly then, with gum drops and monkeys. No wonder little kids get confused about things.


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