Friday, July 20, 2012
I fell asleep to the sweet voices of the students practicing their hymns for mass. Sr. Catie, Sr. Stephany, Cayla, and I woke up with the roosters. We dressed in the dark, and Sr. Catie gave Cayla and I flashlights to guide us on our walk to the Marist brother’s chapel just up the road. We wove through the grass on the side of the road where there with huge ditches full of water. Frogs hopped around at our feet, and the first signs of light crept up through the trees. The three of us joined four priests for early morning mass. Fr. Cybil, a priest from Holland, offered the mass. We met the other religious after the service then returned to Sr. Catie’s house.
We sipped tea as we prepared a breakfast of oatmeal and toast. Sr. Catie put a generous amount of salt in the oatmeal, and laughing, realized as we were eating it that she added double the amount she intended. We cleaned our dishes then went to the Good Samaritan clinic right across the road. Sr. Catie is a nurse and helps the people in the area who come in for treatment. She gave us a tour of the few rooms in the small clinic and wasted no time putting us to work. Within fifteen minutes, Cayla was giving injections and I was cleaning and bandaging wounds. One woman was hit in the head with a coconut and got her stitches removed on Wednesday. She will be coming in daily to have the cut cleaned and bandaged with fresh dressings. Another woman burned her finger and had a swollen, open sore. Who knew I would actually be putting the first aid skills I learned in lifeguard training class to work. After the morning rush of patients, Sr. Catie brought us to the school to meet the deputy, but he wasn’t there. The students were on their break, so I talked to a few of the girls in form 12. They were vibrant and excited to talk. They told me about their plans to pass the exam and be admitted to form 13. After that, they will have an opportunity for university scholarships in places like New Zealand, Australia, and Taiwan. These are difficult to come by, however. It would be incredible if one day a Solomon Islands student could come to Providence College for their degree. The girls were interested in medicine, economics, and teaching. After chatting for only a few minutes, they asked me for my email and home address so we could keep in touch. They saw their teacher walking into the classroom and scurried off so they wouldn’t get into trouble.
Sr. Catie, Cayla, and I went home for tea and lunch. The sisters are persistent and are trying desperately to “fatten us up.” And I cannot complain... When Sr. Stephany got home from teaching, she took Cayla and I to the Honiara Central Market. We walked a half mile down the dirt road, carefully avoiding muddy puddles. A public bus, which is a large white van that has twelve seats (but about 20 people pile in), arrived and we climbed in. There was a lot of traffic on the main road since it was a Friday afternoon. On the way, Sr. Vero called Sr. Catie and asked us to come to a government office where Cayla needed to speak to someone in charge about her work helping in the clinics. We took another bus back to meet Sr. Vero. She was standing at the gate like a security guard. Sr. Vero has a permanent smile stretching across her face, and her laughter is so free and uplifting. She took Cayla and I into an office where a man asked Cayla if she was doing research and gathering data here. We assured him that it is observation and that we wouldn’t take patients records back to the US. It was time to jump into another bus and return to the market. We finally found one with enough room for us, and attempted to get to the market again. Cayla and I were the only white people among hundreds of Solomon Islanders. While we took photos of the endless tables of fruits and vegetables, a few took pictures of us. The market is under an enormous tent adjacent to the shore. We were excited to help Sr. Stephany shop for food, and even happier to pay for it. The three of us were loaded down by sweet potatoes, lettuce, watermelon, pineapple, tomato, shallot, and coconuts. Cayla and I sipped coconut water through straws out of fresh coconuts while balancing the bags full of groceries. We must have been quite a sight. Our final purchase was four apples for Sr. Catie. She told us they were her favorite fruit, and we promised her all day that we would find her a few at the market. It began to rain while we waited on the curb for Sr. Vero to pick us up in her newly fixed car. She arrived with Sr. Leonie and the five of us drove home.
It is so enjoyable to be with the sisters. They are kind, funny, thoughtful, and loving. Together, their admirable traits are magnified. They are happy to be together and their chatter and laughter light up the room. We all sat together snacking on the vegetables while Sr. Catie prepared dinner. Cayla and I will be with Sr. Vero in Visale from Sunday evening until Thursday morning. She spoke to us about things we can expect to be doing there. After a few failed attempts, we took a photo all together using the self timer feature on my camera. Sr. Vero and Sr. Leonie left, and Sr. Catie, Sr. Stephany, Cayla, and I sat down to dinner. Meal times are a wonderful chance for us to talk and enjoy each others company. Their life stories are fascinating and I am trying to drink up everything they tell me.
The four of us finally rose from the table to tidy up the kitchen. Sr. Stephany washed the dishes and I dried them. As we stood side by side, bumping into each other as we put things away, Sr. Stephany asked me how Cayla and I spelled our names. Then she said, “Ah. Now I know what to tell the next woman who asks me what to name her twins - Clare and Cayla!” She told me that often women come to the sisters and ask them to give a name to their child. Sr. Stephany reminded me to be sure to leave my address so she can write to me when this happens. I was so flattered by her gesture, I didn’t know what to say. Every minute, the sisters impress me with how genuine and kind they are. They embody poise and beauty.
At this point, Sr. Catie had eaten three of the four apples we bought for her. It was like Christmas morning we gave her the fruit. Every time I bite into an apple, I’m going to think of Sr. Catie.
I took a much needed bath out of a bucket of warm water. I utilized a few handy tactics I acquired during a week at Nazareth Farm in high school to make the most of the precious amount of water. I managed to wash my entire body and clean my clothing from the day. It is easy to see how much I take for granted the ease of water access at home. Here, Cayla and I boil all the water we drink and use the buckets to bathe because the water frequently shuts off. Fresh and clean at last, I am exhausted and ready to collapse in bed.