Saturday, August 11, 2012
Weekends are wonderful at Fanualama, and especially this one. Today is the Feast of St. Clare, so it’s sort of like my birthday. Bishop taught about her life during his homily this morning. St. Clare lived in Assisi, Italy and enjoyed a comfortable life of luxury. She heard St. Francis preaching and felt called to his lifestyle of poverty and prayer. Against her family’s wishes, she cut her long, golden hair (I hope this wasn’t an implication that I should cut my hair) and joined the Franciscans. Clare lived a life of prayer, and many people, including popes, would come to her for advice and spiritual guidance. After mass everyone shook my hand and wished me a happy feast day. The smallest things are appreciated and remembered here.
At 7:30 a truck load of people were driven to the market by Bishop Chris. Traffic cops in the US would have a field day if they came here and saw how many people pile into vehicles. I love it and make sure i get to sit in the bed of the truck every time. Sr. Loretta, Sr. Matilda, Cayla and I took the market by storm. When I think about using a shopping cart for about five items at home, I feel like a major diva. Using two baskets and two plastics, we stocked the sisters up because we’ll be leaving Tuesday (trying not to think about it). They should be set in the food department for the next decade. We bought cabbage, cucumber, pineapple, ginger, breadfruit, taro, bananas, peanut butter, bread, pineapple jam, navy biscuits, chili sauce, taiyo, chicken, tea, and coffee. It’s fun to shop with the sisters and let them go wild throwing things in the basket. It’s a small gift for their tremendous generosity.
Cayla and I stopped at Telecom on the way back. We’ve been getting internet access about once a week, so I feel kind of important when I have a lot of emails. But then I realize it’s mostly junk mail, and I’m brought back to reality. After getting in touch with the world outside of this tiny Pacific island, we walked to the cathedral. Aligegeo students were rehearsing for mass tomorrow. We joined the practice and walked home with the crew afterwards. During lunch, we discussed our ideas for giving back to the places we’ve visited. Our favorite idea right now is to create a scholarship fund that Sr. Loretta will be in charge of. Many students cannot pay their school fees and are often forced to drop out of school. I think that it would be an effective way to support the people here if an monetary award was established. Students can write an essay and submit their grades for consideration. If it is done in this way, it will be something for them to earn and not a charity case. Also, it’s hard to help some students and not others because most people here are struggling with finances.
At 1:00, we left for our excursion to Liliciana. A few of our new friends, Richard, Gabriel, Phillip, and George live there. We wound around rugged roads, and I really felt like a local, although I definitely didn’t look like one. Liliciana is right on the water, the houses are close together, and the road is sand. It is absolutely beautiful, but clearly very poor. We met Richard’s family, and sat outside his home on small benches. His niece, Gema, was adorable. It was nice to see where he lives. Richard and the others who live in Liliciana wake up at 4:30 a.m., study until 5, then walk to Fanulama for morning mass. Every day.
We walked through the village, past the sandy field where the kids play soccer with the new ball we bought Richard, and arrived at the lake. Children were splashing around the lily pads, getting relief from the heat. I went in the fresh water with Richard, Patrick, George, and a few girls. We made necklaces with the white flowers to be used for the procession at mass tomorrow. It was fun to make them and fun to just be with everyone. They were singing and splashing, and a few little boys kept sneaking up on me with leaves covering their heads, trying to scare me. Midway through my second necklace, the boys decided to tell me that crocodiles are in the water. I figured that if I died right there, they could just use the flowers at my funeral - and they better look pretty. So I finished my necklace before carefully going back to safety. The group of us paraded around the streets decorated with flower crowns and necklaces. At the main road, we said good-bye and split up to go north or south to our homes.
We had a little bit of time to shower and relax before evening prayer. Ben’s family welcomed Cayla and I to dinner to celebrate their nephew visiting home from Cuba, where he is enrolled in medical school. The feast was very satisfying. Sr. Loretta brought us to the Aligegeo talent show after dinner. After a bunch of random and interesting acts performed, the teachers decided to play a few songs so the students could dance before bed. And that’s when the fighting started.
***Mom and Dad, stop reading here***
There was a panel of teachers on the stage where the computer and speakers were set up. Two brothers from North Malaita kicked the speakers over during the second song. One of the large speakers hit Lucy, a favorite teacher who was holding her 6 year old daughter, square in the jaw and shoulder. Chaos ensued as Lucy hobbled to the side of the room holding her mouth. Boys started going after each other on the dance floor, and a small swarm formed around Lucy. Sr. Loretta was shouting at the students and instilling some order. I grabbed Lucy’s daughter Katie. Patrick, Simon, and several boys related to Lucy quickly surrounded us and led us outside. We all walked back to Sr.’s house together to check out Lucy’s injury. Lucy is Sr. Loretta’s niece and also has cousins who attend Aligegeo. On the walk back, we saw one of Lucy’s nephews. He had a machete (apparently there are more purposes for them than chopping vines and bananas) and was planning to get revenge on the boy who shed the blood of his family member. Sr. Loretta talked him down while Patrick and the other boys pushed him back to come with us. One of Lucy’s other nephews tried to explain the situation with customs and rivalries to us. For some people, when they see blood, it is their instinct and obligation to hurt the one who harmed their blood relative.
Lucy’s injury wasn’t too bad. She took Motrin, and since we didn’t have ice, we wrapped the frozen chicken in a towel and put it on her jaw. Meanwhile, the troops assembled outside. I delivered food to the boys, and when I walked out the door, the amount of people had multiplied exponentially. All were related to Lucy somehow. The boys who caused the trouble paid $100 to one of Lucy’s relatives so that the cousins would not go after them. They agreed that the families from each group would decide a compensation price outside of school. It’s a relief that no one was seriously injured. The wantok system and family loyalties are fierce. The people are very defensive of their family. Sr. Loretta just got off the phone with Deputy and the two boys will receive their expulsion letters tomorrow. She explained to me that no one at the school likes the brothers who caused the problem. Lucy is from South Malaita, so the students from the south defend her. She married a man from the north so most north Malaitans respect her. The brothers were from an area of North Malaita, so they have students from the north and south extremely angry with them. Regardless of blood ties, Lucy is a beloved teacher at school who really cares about her students. This earns her the respect and admiration of everyone.
I wrote the first half of this blog post in the afternoon before the havoc. Weekends have been wonderful, but tonight was a taste of reality. While the culture of welcoming and entertaining is rich, the culture of violence and revenge when a family member is violated is fierce.