The ceremonial opening of Pukapuka’s new cyclone shelter did not go without a few hitches.
As the delegation made its way from Motu Ko to the main island of Wale on the barge, the motor went out. It appeared the visiting guests might have to walk back on the reef in their formal wear.
Luckily, local mechanic Yatoma Lavalua managed to fix the motor but the barge moved slowly. A boat came with a spark plug and the barge moved through the noon-day heat. “I was very impressed with the inventive cleverness and how quickly they fixed it,” remarked Janssen of the EU delegation.
Upon the opening of the doors to the center by the prime minister, the keys could not be found. A call was made to Rarotonga and officials ran around looking for the keys and found them in the office there.
Given the transportation challenges to Pukapuka, the keys could not easily be delivered. Someone opened the main center doors through a back door. As everyone sang and danced into the evening, the lights began to flicker. No permanent generator, solar power or electricity have yet been finalised for the building. The generator on loan could not handle the voltage. Dancing and drumming continued with flickering dimming lights. The singing just became louder.
The pautautau or songs of ridicule asked “where is my boat food?” referring to the promised boat from Samoa that did not arrive before the opening. “What are the government officials doing about our boat?” asked one of the boasting jesters and then he made a motion cutting his neck and spit on the ground.
Prime Minister Henry Puna and Finance Minister Mark Brown both contributed small money during the singing and found themselves dancing. Brown put on a particularly good show dancing with the ladies of Yato village.
The Pukapukan MC for the event, Yeutu Yeutu, gave himself a special do shaving half his beard and half his head.
“I loved the humor throughout the event,” said Janssen.