Saturday, February 15, 2014

Trip to Ysabel

I just returned to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands from Ysabel, the longest island in the Solomon Islands, as Br. Patrick reminded so many of us during the Melanesian Mission to UK last March--June.  I went to visit the new SSF work on the Island, and it happens to be just 5 k from Br. Patrick Paoni's village of Koragu. We disembarked at Haivo, and walked 6 K into the bush to the brothers place.  It was marvellous to be back on land after nearly 18 hours ploughing through the Solomon Sea.  We had spent the night perched on the narrow ledge outside the ship's bridge. Fortunately the view of the night sky and the close up looks at so many villages were fantastic. At one stop I saw a former SSF Brother Fr. Reginald Kokili, known to me as Br. Zeph. He lived with us at Little Portion in 1990 for a time and whetted my appetite for life in Solomons. We were both completely surprised and a bit emotional as we hallooed back and forth ship to wharf.

Two brothers have undertaken the work on Ysabel, Br. Jones (pronounced Jonas...) and John Kogudi. Armed with machetes and sheer determination they have cleared several acres of land and planted crops which have given bumper yields.  They live almost entirely on sweet potatoes and tinned fish, near as I can tell.  We stayed in the Senior Priest's house, because the SSF house doesn't have a floor or walls yet!  We may as well have been sleeping on the ground, given the abundance of stinging, biting, burrowing critters that seethed up through my woven mat.  Exhaustion can overcome the worst sleeping conditions and I even felt refreshed in the morning.

Br. Patrick, Br. Steven and I, as visiting brothers, were given light duty our first morning, cutting half a cord of firewood and lugging it on our backs to the thatched kitchen. It was brilliant weather and I love that kind of labor, so it was a really good time. That afternoon, a huge rainstorm shattered the day, thunder, lightening and torrential rain (the palm thatch withstood it all, hallelujah!). I seized the opportunity to shuck off my sweaty clothes and bathe in the rain cascading off the roof. The others regretted not doing this as the stream flooded and they didn't wash in the thick muddy water. Carpe diem I say.

The next day, Wednesday, we trooped up to Patrick's home village, a fantastic walk through thick jungle and rolling sweet potato gardens. The road was quite good, though narrow and often edged by precipitous drops. Our arrival in the village was quiet (no leis and singing) but that was okay.  We went to the river to swim, and by the time we got back Patrick's sister had laid on a nice array of fruits and other food.  We basically ate the whole 24 hours we were there. Dinner was a highlight with all the freshwater crayfish you could eat!!

For me a huge surprise was to meet a baby boy, Patrick's nephew, named Douglas Clark Paoni. When his parents were casting about for names Patrick mentioned mine, so though he is known as Doug usually, that day we called him Clark.  He joins Clark Kae Kae--also of Ysabel heritage who is now 4 years old. These boys are particularly smart and handsome I think!!!

We got a lift back down to the friary, and after a final meal, and Night Prayer we went to bed.  Friday we walked back to the beach and caught our leisurely paced scow back to Honiara.

Do you know how many cockroaches can dance on the back of a ship passenger's seat?  Don't ask.

I've given my book to a few people, holding back from wholesale giving out til the 250 copies I mailed from New York arrive. But early reaction is very positive, and we are now looking into printing an edition at the Provincial Press in Honiara. This weekend is the Religious Life Weekend, and they'd planned a workshop on the Vows, so I am now a featured participant. They rather thought to depose the Roman Catholic Dominican, but we finally decided to keep him on and I'd make an Anglican response.

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