Dakota, always charming
Chapter 14 in Part Four: New Zealand Yarns follows us to Fiji on vacation during school holidays in 1981.
On the way to Rakiraki we stopped at the Pacific Harbour Resort, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Fiji. We toured the mock native village and watched demonstrations of typical tribal dances. We walked through the animal collection and discovered a show in progress.
Two animal handlers fed mangoes and other fruits to several giant fruit bats. These bats were as big as Chihuahua dogs, their sharp teeth quite intimidating up close. A reticulated python starred in the animal show. The animal handler selected Dakota from the potential volunteers and brought him center front, then draped the python around Dakota's shoulders like a stole. The handler turned to the audience and went on talking about pythons, their habitat, diet, and hunting style. Dakota stood still as a statue while the snake's head rose slowly, tongue flickering, moving across Dakota's chest toward the opposite shoulder. The handler answered questions from the audience and didn't notice the snake's progress.
When the snake's eyes were even with his collarbone, Dakota called out in a desperate whisper, "Hey, Mom, can you tell them to take it off me now?"
Leaving the Pacific Harbour Resort behind, we drove on to Rakiraki where we shopped for groceries before catching the launch for Nananu-i-Ra. We knew that our cottage had a refrigerator, so we bought the usual breakfast cereal and milk, bread, a selection of canned goods, some fresh tomatoes, a plentiful supply of beer, and four pineapples. I can't say why we bought so many pineapples for a three-day weekend, maybe they were cheap, but I do know that we ate them all and relished every juicy bite.
The launch, barely big enough to carry us and our baggage and groceries, dropped us off at our landlord's dock after a 30-minute trip across calm water. The landlord showed us around the simple cement block cottage and explained that the fridge operated on kerosene and a generator would provide electricity for lamps in the evening from six to nine o'clock.
While I put the groceries away, Fred and the kids went out to check the seashore. Dakota scavenged a length of fishing line and a hook from the rocks near the dock. He cracked open a few small clams for bait, put on his mask and fins, and snorkeled around in the shallows. By dangling his baited hook in front of tasty-looking fish, he managed to catch enough for our supper. I hope I praised him for his remarkable ingenuity. I kept returning to the same thought, this boy of ours is not quite eight years old and he can put food on the table. ###
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