The Wise Chief, Episode 64, Odysseys in Paradise

When tomorrow came, Rich was 12 hours out to sea and smiling broadly. He reclined in the cockpit shaded from the sun and drifted off to sleep. When he awoke, he lifted his head above the windshield looking over the bow to see if anything lay in the way. In the far distance, an island.

Rich retrieved the sextant from below and took a reading. From the reading, the island was identified a Batiki. No information was available about it other than it was a part of the Fiji Islands.

The sails were soon dropped and Rich slowly motored through a barrier of reefs and dropped anchor about a hundred yards offshore. The sandy beach hugged the water’s edge at high tide. Palms hung over the beach and swayed above the peaceful lapping waves.

Just beyond the palms, a clearing emerged with a dozen homes. To The Odyssey’s port, six bare-chested men stood thigh deep in the water pulling nets.

Rich rowed the dinghy only a short distance before jumping into the water and pulling it the rest of the way to shore. As soon as the fishermen spotted Rich walking toward the village they left their nets and approached him.

They greeted him in Fijian. “Ni sa bula.”

“Bula,” Rich smiled. “I speak English.”

“Where are you from?” said a short heavy man.

“My name is Rich. I’m from the United States. I am here only to see the beauty of your island.”

“Why are you going to our village?” the man said.

“Only to inform the headman or chief of my presence,” Rich said, “and to ask permission to stay and see the island.”

“I am the chief. Is there anyone else on your boat?”

“I’m alone,” Rich said.

The chief shrewdly pursed his lips. He glanced at the expressionless men to his left and right. “There is not much on this island to see. It is like many others. Go look at them.”

Rich reached out to shake the Chief’s hand. The Chief hesitated and shook. “I respect your decision. You are a wise man and a good chief.”

“Vanuinui vinaka e nomu volau,” the Chief said.

“You are most kind, sir,” Rich said. “Moce and may God be with you and your people.”

Rich walked back to the dinghy and shoved it into the shallow waters and rowed back to The Odyssey.

Rich motored The Odyssey beyond the reefs and found a favorable wind out of the west that drove him due east.

Rich was not offended in the least about the treatment received from the Chief. He viewed it as the Chief’s duty. No doubt they had been the victim of tourists who visit the island for no other reason than to exploit their goodness and naive ways.

“If I had a treasure chest full of gold for them, the response would have been the same.”

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