Popcorn, Episode 67, Odysseys in Paradise

Rich sailed east for three hours. Again, he dropped the sails. He slept as The Odyssey drifted. It was a short night and he awoke more from the frustration of not being able to sleep. At the chart desk with a coffee Rich located an island further to the east another 70 miles, Vanuavatu.

Rich found himself with little eagerness to be in Vanuavatu in any sort of time frame. He humored himself with an imaginary angry group of Polynesians lining the beach and holding signs reading, “Go Home, Yankee Imperialist Dog.”

Near noon, Rich caught the first glimpse of the island through a heavy rain. The rains stopped and he waited for an hour before motoring the dinghy to shore.

Rich walked from the beach and past a throng of palms into a village. He counted 11 homes. Two native men approached, merely wanting to know from where he sailed and where he was from. The conversation was casual, with each telling something about their families.

“I wish only to stay for a couple days,” Rich said. “I would also like to buy some fresh fruit or trade something for it.”

The man named James laughed. “Why buy or trade for something you can pick for free.”

“I don’t want to take anything that might go to the table of anybody without compensating for it,” Rich said.

“What you take will likely fall to the ground and rot anyway,” James said.

“Nevertheless,” Rich said, “I will leave a gift to your island for its generosity.”

“As you wish,” James said. “Will you eat with my family tonight? I want them to hear about other people.”

“It would be my privilege,” Rich said.

James looked to the other man, Temo. “If it is alright with my guest will your family join us?”

Temo looked at Rich for confirmation.

“That would be a double privilege,” Rich said.

“It will not offend us if you wish to use eating utensils to eat with,” James said, “of course, we hope that eating with our hands does not cause you offense.”

“I shall use my hands,” Rich said.

“We will teach you,” Temo said.

“That’s okay,” Rich said, “I’ve spent many Saturday afternoon matinees with a box of popcorn between my legs.”

“What!” Temo said.

“It’s how we eat popcorn in the United States,” Rich said.

“Popcorn?” Temo said.

“It’s American,” Rich said. “I’ll explain at our meal.”

 

The meal was a good meal; attended by 25 family members of James and Temo. That represented over half of the village.

Rich shared with them stories about the United States. They had difficulty understanding the concept of skyscrapers, televisions, washing machines, neon signs, and automobiles. However, Rich brought something special with him from The Odyssey; a deep pan, a lid, salt, butter, and popcorn.

They flinched and laughed at the popping corn. And, of course, Rich showed them how to toss it and catch it in the mouth.

Rich went back to The Odyssey a couple hours after sunset. He laid in bed certain the legacy of popcorn would be recalled for generations.

In all Rich, stayed five days on Vanuavatu. They were happy days; the perfect mixture of solitude and companionship. He helped fish, repair a home, and gave lessons in English. He told stories of perils at sea and those experienced on land.

When the time came to leave Rich visited each home to express gratitude for the kindness they expressed.

James and Temo walked him to the dinghy. Each held Rich by the shoulders at arm’s length, smiled, and hugged.

“This makes it difficult to leave,” Rich said.

“I am happy you leave,” James said.

“Me too,” Temo said.

“It is because you are happy,” James said.

“If you would stay,” Temo said, “you would become restless and begin the look at us in a different way.”

“You would see us as a tree in your path,” James said. “Instead we want to be a tree next to the path; providing shade to refresh you so you can continue your journey.”

“How often does a cargo come?” Rich said.

“Maybe every two or three months,” Temo said.

Rich smiled. “Don’t be surprised if you receive a shipment of popcorn.”

Rich, James, and Temo pushed the dinghy into the surf. Rich jumped in and they pushed him until the water came to their waist. Rich motored back to The Odyssey and prepared to sail his next destination.

Rich quickly hoisted his sails and the mast groaned. The Odyssey was now powered by the wind.

From the helm, Rich looked back to the beach expecting to see James and Temo waving. They were gone as if never existed. He lifted his hand shoulder high and with a solemn fond smile, waved to no one. “Goodbye, Vanuavatu.”

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