Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Markets and Mountains

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
We began the day with our usual routine of mass at 6:15 at Sacred Heart Church.  After the service we met Joan, a woman from New Zealand who last visited the Solomons 50 years ago.  She is helping the Daughters of Mary Immaculate nuns with horticulture for six weeks.  For breakfast we had leftover rice, pineapple, and tea.  A hearty meal for a big day. 
Sr. Vero and I went into town right away to buy supplies for the new library!  I was so excited to get a few very necessary items to make the room inviting for the students.  It took about 45 minutes to Honiara, and Sr. and I chatted the whole way.  Sr. Vero is an incredible woman.  She has major responsibilities with the school and is extremely busy, but still manages to laugh all the time.  I really admire her.  We finally reached the school supply store where I purchased a notebook to start a system of recording book borrowing, labels to number the books, and colorful paper and plastic coverings to categorize the sections.  Next stop, we bought liner for the shelves so they will be easy to clean, mats for the open space on the floor, and material for curtains.  I was giddy with the idea of making the room into a library for the primary and secondary school students.  
At the Central Market, we bought a fish for dinner that was caught hours before.  Men stood 20 feet from the shore with huge coolers filled with reef fish - it was quite an interesting smell.  The heat was sweltering at this point, so Sr. Vero and I treated ourselves to an ice cream.  My passion fruit cone was heavenly, and I was pretty much hypnotized by how glorious it was.  We bought an apple for Cayla, and orange soda for the boys who would be our guides to the top of the mountain in the afternoon.  During this long shopping excursion, I must point out that everyone was bewildered by my presence.  I have never been a minority, and now I am outnumbered by the thousands.  The pointing and staring is comical, especially when Sr. Vero translates the Pidgin comments.  We were very amused by the attention, and I assured her that everyone was looking at her, not me.  On the ride back, we talked some more.  It is interesting to learn about the practices here, from marriages, to violence, to the medical system, to abortions.  Sr. Vero, Cayla, and I often talk about how things work in our respective cultures.
I ate a quick lunch of pineapple, mandarin, and muesli bar before walking 100 yards to the library.  A few strapping boys helped me move the library shelves to make the space open and welcoming.  Two teachers kindly helped me line the shelves, so they are ready for the books!  Everything is arranged in precarious piles according to category - fiction, non-fiction, novels, children, science, encyclopedias, religion, etc.  The real challenge with be alphabetizing and labeling them tomorrow.  
I scooted out after finishing the shelves at 3:15 to get ready for my big hike!  I stopped at the clinic to pick up Cayla, and they were having a crisis.  A man came for help by boat this morning.  He was throwing up blood for three days but couldn’t get transportation to a clinic.  The man finally arrived at 9:00 this morning, and they radioed for an emergency vehicle to bring him to the Central Hospital.  Six hours later, help had not arrived.  Cayla was convinced he had liver failure - his skin was yellow and his legs were swollen up to his knees.  It was extremely frustrating because the nurses were not concerned.  They began to worry very late in the game, and Cayla did all she could to encourage them to pursue other methods to get help.  Finally, an ambulance was confirmed.  The systems here are highly inefficient, and in a life or death scenario, it’s not ok to be on “Solomon Island time.”  
Cayla and I changed into hiking gear, refilled our water bottles, and met Jerry and Godric for the hike.  Two girls, Ritalina and Cecilia tagged along.  We were going to hike the mountain that overlooks the village.  The path is visible from the road.  It was quite the event for the village.  People peeked out their windows and trailed us down the road.  Sr. Vero told us when we returned that everyone lined up next to her house to watch our tiny figures to see us reach the top.  The hike was extremely difficult.  It started off at a slight incline, meandering through hike grasses and over little streams.  Then it turned into a full on ladder climb through dirt, rocks and “bush.”  My friend Dominic, who trailed me when I went for a swim yesterday, met us on the trail.  He is adorable, adventurous, and funny.  I called him “Monkey Man” for the hike because he would scramble up the trail way ahead of us then whistle and chant and wait for us to catch up.  Jerry was patient and quite the gentlemanly guide.  Godric brought up the rear and made sure we didn’t roll all the way back down the trail.  When we finally reached the top, we celebrated with pictures and water.  Cayla and I gave our four new friends (Cecilia only went with us for the beginning of the trip) chocolate granola bars, and I passed out Serengetee stickers as a reward for our triumph.  Little did I know the hardest part was yet to come.

Cayla and I opted for the other path down the mountain, because the ascent we took was so steep.  We were nervous about climbing back down that way.  Instead we bush walked through a wild pig’s dwelling, slid down steep muddy drops, and hung on for dear life to vines as we tried to descend.  Jerry, Godric, Ritalina, and Monkey Man were all barefoot, prancing down the mountain making Cayla and I look like fools.  They were very patient and very amused by us.  I loved every second of it.  It was a cross between Tarzan, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Jungle Book.  Ritalina made me a crown of leaves, so I looked the part swinging through the vines.  The trek back took much longer than I anticipated, and Cayla must have inquired 30 times if we were going the right way.  I was just nervous that the sun would set before we were out of the bush.  At long last, we came to the road.  Cayla wasn’t too keen on how the adventure worked out, and starting running when Sr. Vero’s blue house came into view.  We were all laughing when we got back - amused by everything that had happened.  
While Cayla took a shower, I went to get water with Sr. Vero.  My buddy Dominic came along.  He is the same age as John, so I think that’s why I like him so much.  Sr. Vero spoke to him in their language, and told me that he was so happy to have joined us on the hike.  Dominic ran into his house showing his dad the sticker I gave him.  Sr. and I filled a few water jugs at the spigot.  On the walk back in the dark, people were expecting us since they saw us on our trip to the water spigot.  I was prepared with dobogi (goodnight).  To my surprise and amusement, the young children were waiting on the verandah and said goodnight in English.  It was funny and exciting that both sides were eager to communicate in the other language. 
I took the most glorious cold shower and scrubbed my dirty clothing.  We ate the freshest dinner I have every had - fish from the market, papaya just picked from Sr. Vero’s tree, breadfruit, and green vegetables.  The three of us made a racket recounting our day and all the funny things that happened.  We said evening prayers together and cleaned up.  Every night I think this, but today was one of the best days of my life.  I’m sad that tomorrow is my last day in Visale.  There are still so many things to do, people to meet, and mountains to climb here.  I will have to make the most of tomorrow and be super efficient so that I can complete the library!  

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