Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Matt goes fishing in the open ocean for the first time (in the process of trying to figure through some cross cultural communication!)

The subtleties of cross cultural communication are a curious thing! He’s an example I've been working through recently.

More men have said they will take me out fishing here than I can remember (and I've been out a couple of times in the lagoon as part of that). The conversation normally goes like this:
One of the nuku men: “Matt I’ll take you out fishing sometime.”
Matt: “Yeah I’d love to go, any time. Just let me know, I'm keen.”

Matt’s interpretation of the above conversation is – 'this is now in the expert fisherman’s court who will inform Matt when is a good time to go fishing and invite him accordingly'.
What Matt is learning is meant by the Tokelau man: “Matt you come and ask me when you want to go fishing” or “I won’t ask you because that might impose on you – you ask me when you’re ready to go”

It seems that where I think I should wait for the formal invite (not wanting to impose), they don’t want to make an invite (not wanting to impose) and expect me to ask directly, “Can we go fishing tonight”. I'm still trying to get my head round it exactly – but I think that’s how it goes. So this is how it played out. Fofo – Pale’s brother in-law was giving me a lift over to Fale on Wednesday and telling me about how many fish he’d caught the previous day. I say to him in a joking kind of way:
Matt: “Hey you still haven’ taken me out fishing!”
Fofo: “You never asked me to take you out, I thought you didn't like going fishing”
Matt: [Perplexed because he’s been waiting for an invite when it suits Fofo to take him] “I've always been keen to go when it suit’s you”
Fofo: “Aye it’s your problem you've not gone out because you never ask. I said to you ‘Anything you need, just ask’. Do you want to go fishing – how about 1pm today!
Matt: “Sounds great. Anything I need just ask. Got it …. [I think].”

So at 2pm (that’s 1pmish Tokelau time), Fofo calls me and we head out to fish. Sheepishly I tell Fofo that I've brought what are from a Tokelau perspective are a number of “non-essential” items with me. They include a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon); Life Jacket; Diving Gloves (so that I don’t get one of the ‘tattoos’ that many of the men have - where the fishing line has cut through the back of their hand when catching a fish), and a camera. Fofo finds this fairly amusing and chuckles away.

We’re aiming to troll for Wahoo (because I've mentioned to Fofo that my kids love the Wahoo fish – making amazing battered fish like you've never tasted). Fofo has made his own lures made from a mix of things – old screwdriver heads, pieces of tooth brush and pieces of cut-up lures as well. He tells me that he’s tried all sorts of other lures, but still finds his own are best. The trolling speed for Wahoo is very impressive and it was strangely rough in parts – some unusual current according to Fofo. (I still have the sore rear end to prove it!). As we progressed down the outside of the atoll we darted out further to sea from time to time to chase flocks of birds – the best indication of a school of Tuna. On one of these, my line snagged quite a decent sized yellow fin tuna. At this point I had to don the gloves, because my little palagi hands were going to struggle to pull in this wet and slippery hand line. In it came though, and a good whack to the head and we were off again.

We also (on Fofo’s line) caught a Barracuda (very good eating, different form the NZ one which is apparently not).

Other than that the other main event was careening across to another flock of birds only for Fofo to start muttering away frustrated long before I noticed what was going on. We’d found a pod of dolphins – which meant no Tuna. It also however meant ‘excited palagi’ who's never been so close to dolphins who all obliged by enjoying swimming alongside the boat. I have a shot at filming them with the waterproof camera – not knowing what result I’d get with the lessening light. This is what I got – pretty cool!

So, a happy time, some good company with a good man, a big fish for dinner, a wonderful sunset and hopefully some learning about cross-cultural communication!

Thanks Fofo, you're very kind! Anything I need, I’ll just ask!


  1. Awesome - love how you can hear the dolphins whistles in the underwater shots...a t least, I think that's what it was... ( Nikolien)

    1. Yes Nikolien - we were pretty stoked when we heard that sound too - definitely them calling to each other - they were in the process of herding fish together.

  2. I really enjoy your posts and have a good chuckle! I think about your guys lots....I just never get around to emailing!

  3. Dear Family, I read your blogs with nostalgia and vivid memories of the years spent in Tokelau. Not much has changed- except that you have electricity and electronic communication! A little different from 4 ships a year. Give my love to Lihe, Pale, noholagi and Folauga

    1. Dear Elizabeth, glad you're enjoying our blog and our learning journey here in Fakaofo. Lovely to share an affinity of experience with you - we'll be interested to find out more from Pale and Lihe about your own journey here so long ago and hopefully make contact at some stage.

  4. Lihe was my sister in law and is my children's aunt. The uniforms haven't changed either! We lived on family land at Tai, v close to where many of your photos seem to be taken from.I taught there for years while Ioane was working for the taupulega then the office.we had a traditional fale v close to the beach.yr lagoon trip is immortalized in our family history too.

  5. Hey Matt, glad that you've finally gone out ocean trolling! And a yellow fin tuna on your first trip too! Fofo will keep his word...anything you need, just ask...if he can he will. Hope your family continue to enjoy the experience - not to go now. alofas