A lovely instructor mama, who helped me to make a heis during my time on the island of Moorea.

Moorea, Part 1

I was at sea again, sailing from Bora Bora to Moorea, in the South Pacific. I was excited thinking about adventures planned and unplanned on Moorea. When it was nearing sunset, my thoughts changed to hoping to see a Green Flash.

The effect is real and rare, as the conditions have to be exactly right. The horizon has to be unobstructed; out to sea is an excellent place, as long as there is no haze, fog, or clouds. This was a good day. I glanced occasionally at the sun until it appeared to touch the ocean; it started disappearing, and when it was about ¾ gone, then I looked for a brilliant Green Flash at the top of the sun. The glow is like emerald and it lasts just a second. It is a good luck omen and a special moment in time.

After the spectacular sunset I was eager to enjoy life on Moorea.  One afternoon I had an opportunity to make a leis and a heis to wear for dinner and dancing that evening.

Making leis with the lovely ladies of Moorea, in the South Pacific. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Making leis with the lovely ladies of Moorea, in the South Pacific. Photo by Madelyn Given.

A group of mamas had laid out large cloths and assorted hundreds of flowers in piles of different colors. They were speaking French, but it wasn’t a problem to sit with them on the cloth mat and follow the instructions from an older mama, who sat in front of me with a needle and thread, taking one flower at a time to make a leis. I slowly and carefully began threading the delicate, fragrant flowers one at a time, following a pattern of one being made by my instructor-mama. It took a while to make my leis with so many flowers, but it was beautiful when it was finished.

Now that I understood the process of making them, I appreciated all the leis that had been given to me in the past, and it made this one more special. I tried to imagine the work this entails to make leis for every guest entering their island: how many flowers need to be grown, picked, and then assembled by hand.

My mama instructor gently put the lais over my head and straightened it around my neck. Then she smiled and we gave each other a big hug.

She insisted I now make a heis. This is a crown made with many colorful blossoms. I sat quietly working and glancing at my instructor, trying to follow her directions, while she laboriously worked and helped me at the same time.  When I finished, my mama-instructor nodded her head in approval and gently put it on my head.

These lovely mamas, who were working so hard to please their guests, were also willing to share their culture of Moorea and the islands of the South Pacific by teaching their guests how to make their leis and heis. I was very pleased and humbled by the experience.

(posted April 5, 2016)