Sunday, July 22, 2012
Cayla and I woke up early to prepare a thank you breakfast for Sr. Catie and Sr. Stephanie. We had to work with the ingredients in the cabinet and decided that french toast and fruit was feasible. Cayla and I had a good system going and soon the table was laden with platters of french toast, chopped bananas, pineapple, watermelon, and tea. They had never tried french toast before and enjoyed it. We cleaned up together and were ready for morning mass. Cayla and I went to the chapel at 8:00 and sat waiting for the service to begin. The chapel is beautiful and exemplifies their culture. There are no walls in the chapel and mural behind the altar is vibrant. The students soon filed in, and a few girls we met yesterday sat down next to us. The mass was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Most prayers are sung, and everyone participates. The sound of hundreds of voices and a guitar filled the air and gave me chills. It was an exquisite was to worship. The young children squeezed onto the front benches and we adorable.
After mass, Cayla and I spent some time in the clinic with Sr. Catie while we waited for Sr. Vero to pick us up. Sr. Catie is so entertaining and I grew to love her more every minute. When Sr. Vero came, we hurried to pack our things in the car because we had to leave quickly. There was a forecast of heavy rain and the roads to Visale often flood so we had to beat the weather. Although Solomon Island time is slow, our goodbye to Sr. Catie and Sr. Stephanie was quick and we were off again. We stopped at the other Dominican house in Panatina to bring Sr. Leonie home. Cayla and I had a quick lunch there and were on our way to Visale. The weather predictions were luckily inaccurate, and it was a beautiful afternoon. The road to our new home wound around the edge of the island. Wide-eyed, I had a spectacular view of the ocean from the car. The government is repairing many of the small bridges, so we detoured several times through water channels, and did serious off-roading.
Sr. Vero brought us to her house across the road from the school and clinic. The other teachers live in the surrounding houses with their families. We emptied the car then jumped right back in to visit her family. Sr. Vero grew up in Visale and it seems like she’s related to everybody. First, she brought us to the place she grew up. It looked like a place found on the cover of National Geographic. Right on the water, there is a crystal clear view of the ocean and mountains of Visale. We met her cousin and her nieces and nephews before dunking in the tropical-temperature ocean. There was a lot of reef, dead and alive that goes out from shore for hundreds of meters. I wish I had brought my snorkel, but I did what I could opening my eyes under water. The water was shallow all around so I paddled about, looking at deep blue starfish, coral with brilliant purple flecks, and some other interesting creatures I made sure I didn’t disturb. Sr. Vero called to us from down the beach and waved us over. We gathered our bags and joined her. Sr. Vero’s cousin had set up a table with a bouquet of flowers on the beach so we could relax and eat fresh fruit. It was so kind of her, and I was overwhelmed once again by the hospitality of the people here. Sr. Vero’s nieces and nephews timidly came over and shared the food with us. Then we learned they had a surprise. Cayla and I closed our eyes and a necklace was tied around our necks. The kids were giggling and embarrassed because they do not speak English and because they rarely see white people. Cayla and I were so happy and speechless at their thoughtfulness.
We said farewell and went to a village where Sr. Vero’s cousins live together. It is an unbelievable set up - behind the gate are several huts with grass roofs fifteen steps away from the beach. The kids were chomping on coconuts, the babies skipping around naked, and hammocks were hung from the trees. This is the way to live. We drank tea and ate dinner in this paradise. Sr. Vero taught us a special way to cut pineapple, so Cayla and I will attempt it tomorrow.
After meeting the head nurse at the clinic and the priest at the church, Cayla and I took refreshing showers using the spigot of cold water underneath the house. Sr. Vero led us in evening prayer as we sat around a small shrine in her home. We bombarded her with questions about life as a Dominican sister, and she happily answered. We shared stories and laughed before heading to bed. Solar energy is used in the house, so electricity is sparsely used at night. We have flashlights available, but we will be rising and setting with the sun. Today was one of the most incredible days of my life - the people are wonderful and the atmosphere is breathtaking. It is a such a blessing to be here!