A few days ago I was walking to the northern point of the island. There I saw a large group of women sitting together under what is known as a drinking house. It was a windy day and they had plastic stuck up on the side of the shelter facing the sea. They were huddled together drinking tea and smoking spear cigarettes, which are literally raw tobacco, with no filters. This was the first time I had seen the women having a good time. It was like they had secretly planned to meet here, away from the men, to be silly and do what they wanted for once. Yes, they were being very silly.
I stood some distance away, just enjoying the music and the atmosphere, when one woman summoned me over. It was quite a scene and everyone was watching this lady and myself. When I got closer she grabbed me and started hugging and kissing me. I was really surprised. I had not experienced this kind of thing before and to be quite honest I had not been sure whether the older women liked or approved of me at all. In response to this woman's generosity I gave her a vai songi which is the same as a hongi. After this the woman was even more excited. She lifted up her lap lap bearing her thighs and underpants, and then paraded her legs for me to see. She wanted me to see her tattoos. They were around both legs and had simply drawn pictures of fish and flowers and words over them. I remembered that Geraldine (see last post) had told me that once all women on Takuu had these kinds of tattoos, but her generation was the last to repeat this tradition and now the custom has died out.
I was quite taken back by this unexpected event and was not sure how to respond. I let the woman know that I thought her tattoos were very pretty and sat back down. Then all the woman in the group wanted to show me their tattoos. Soon everyone had stripped down to their underpants and continued to sing their traditional music and dance their traditional song with their bare legs and flopping tummies showing... Then the woman who had first summoned me over commanded me to join in.. I was game enough to go up and start dancing, but no this was not enough. They were pointing at my lap lap and signaling me to strip. So, well, I had to. There I was at the point of the island surrounded by old Takuu women in my underpants trying to follow their dance moves to a very strange and foreign sounding song. All the women thought it was hilarious - and I was so embarrassed. Hopefully now I have gained their respect... I think I have.