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A Letter from Jasper

Dear Mimi,

I apologize for writing you so late, but I need to thank you for taking me on the trip with you. Ever since my mom went with you in 2005 I’ve wanted to go to the Solomon Islands. It was a dream come true to wake up in Taumako to the sound of the waves on the rocks. And to walk around the island to kahula, and walk on the grass to the edge where it drops to sand. That image will stay with me forever.

I also wanted to tell you that I got a uke for my birthday in march, and have been learning how to play it. It reminds me of the 3am watch on the Gershon II with you. This trip was the inspiration behind my application to School Year Abroad, I was accepted and will be going to Italy for my senior year next year. The essay prompt was a page of my autobiography, here’s what I wrote.

Day 1 (on the boat). The crystal clear waters was the first thing I noticed when we were trying to find an anchorage off of Taumako, then came the dense forested hillside and the white sand that wrapped around the island. At the tip of the island there was rock, which the waves crashed mercilessly against. Coming from near the rocks there was smoke where someone had lit a fire, probably to cook their fish. We weren’t supposed to arrive on the island because the islanders on Taumako hadn’t yet officially welcomed us, so we passed a few hours, sitting on the boat, relaxing, with the occasional dive into the clear blue water.

Finally, two boys rowed up in their hollowed out canoe with a letter for Mimi, excited when they got invited onto our boat. In the afternoon some men from Taumako came back from fishing and gave us a huge fish for dinner. They stayed on board as well, and we soon learned turned that these fishermen were also the crew of te alolili, a traditional Polynesian sailing canoe – the boat we came to document.

Day 2 (first day on Taumako) After one of the best canoe rides I have ever been in, through waves and over reefs just a foot below the canoe, our canoe turned into the mangrove swamp. Our driver cut the engine and paddled us through the mangroves. My mom, Bob, Mimi and I were all expecting the welcoming ceremony to have warriors trying to scare us, but I didn’t know what to expect. As conch shell was blown I could hear yells coming from my left and my right. We came into view of a man made island in the swamp and I could see the boy who blew the conch as he and another boy were yelling from up above on the rock wall of the little island. I assumed that maybe they would keep their distance from the boat, but I was wrong.

From all sides now, the boys from Taumako rushed to our canoe yelling and waving their “weapons” that looked like they were made out of sugar cane.

After this ceremony, my mother and the crew stayed a couple days with me on Taumako, as they waited for the right winds. Eventually they all left and sailed to the reef islands, while I stayed on Taumako for another week. The day they were leaving the wind was the strongest I had experienced there on the island, but it was a clear day and the clouds were mostly far off on the horizon. I exchanged hugs with my mother and the crew of the boat. I wasn’t scared about being there all alone. Already I felt like Taumako had became my home and the people my family. I watched the boat launching from the reef, and then I walked along the rock wall around the island and watched the boat slowly sail away off into the ocean.

Thank you so much for this experience Mimi, it meant so much to me, and hopefully when I have my own boat someday I will return to the Solomon’s.


Jasper Guyer-Stevens

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