The Ninigos Islands, PNG
|Sailing past Field Trip on a custom boat.|
|Thomas' brothers new house|
Thomas walked us around the beautifully manicured village to introduce us to his extended family and tell us about how much they all enjoy meeting so many cruisers from around the world. Later, I leafed through their guest book, amazed at the international visitors they’ve hosted! Some people came and decided to stay as guests for years, and I could understand why. Thomas and his family were a delight to be with, whether sitting around a table learning their language, hitting the volleyball back and forth, or listening to their stories about life in the Ninigo Islands.
One of the sweetest pleasures we had while we were there was sending some emails from Thomas to some of the very cruisers that had become so dear to him during their stay in Mal Island. He would carefully pen a heartfelt note and we would type it up and send it via our satellite mail. Within a day or two, our inbox was littered with excited responses that we’d print out and bring ashore with us. Each one brought tears to his eyes when he read them, and it was obvious how much of an impact these visitors had had on him and his family.
|Thomas and family sorting through gifts|
|Homemade stilts the kids played with while in village|
|Signing guestbook with family|
|Mark playing doctor on burned foot|
|Thomas' wife and grandchild|
|Ride to Pataku Island|
|Pataku welcome ceremony with lots of food!|
|Pataku school listening to Sarah's presentation|
Through these conversations we got the chance to hear their stories of life here. They showed us their infamous racing outriggers and how they were built with such precision and detail. We were able to meet the champion from the last big race and see his winning outrigger which was kept under a shelter near his home. We were also able to sit and talk with a family whose father had recently suffered a stroke and could not move the right side of his body. We laughed together, learned together, and by the time we had to go, we cried together.
Our time in Pataku felt sacred somehow. Like we had been given this glimpse into how precious and beautiful the human race can be.
During our conversation, Francis shares with us his plans for building a new house here on Lau. He points to the spot he’s chosen, and then paints a picture of a large home with many solar panels and a large satellite dish, so that he can have a big television. Funny how the grass is always greener on the other side. We have tried to step away from being constantly bombarded with tv and media, hoping to find quiet for our overstimulated souls. Yet, here, where the quiet is abundant, it seems to be deafening for the people. They stay up all night crowded around a laptop watching movies, tv series, or music videos. Many have cell phones filled with western music and videos from YouTube. And their dreams of building a house are motivated by how big of a tv they can power. Simultaneously I feel humored and saddened by the contrast.
LONGAN ISLANDRemember the welcoming committee who sped by us in their sailing outrigger when we first arrived? Turns out, the captain of that boat was Oscar, a friendly, outgoing man from Longan Island. While we were in Mal Island, he came by a few times to visit with us, each time making sure we knew that we were welcome to come to Longan Island anytime. He and his family were looking forward to hosting us.
Well, finally, we got there. Two couples, Oscar and Karen and Campbell and Nellie, sure have perfected the hosting of cruisers like us. Together, they carefully and thoughtfully planned a special welcome ceremony and meal for us and our friends on SV Perry. The eight of us were lined up and presented with gorgeous flower leis and heaping bowls filled with fresh fruits and vegetables while they serenaded us with songs they had written specifically for visitors. Tears involuntarily sprang to my eyes as I realized how precious this moment was and what a unique gift it is to be in this place with these people. I had to force myself to stop thinking about it to avoid completely melting in front of them. Somehow I managed to pull myself together, but when I looked up again at one of the women singing, I noticed that she had tears streaming down her face, too. This moment meant just as much to them as it did to us.
Later, we were treated to a brisk sail on one of their infamous outriggers. Campbell’s son and another young man showed impressive sailing skill as we scooted across the turquoise waters of the lagoon and landed gently in the lee of a quaint secluded island. All of us went for a walk along the beach, looking for shells on the windward side, while one of the guys nonchalantly climbed up a towering palm tree and cut fresh coconuts for us to drink before heading back. I felt like Moana, sitting on that handmade canoe and seeing the hand hewn mast and forked boom! As the wind picked up, one of the hulls began to skip over and then completely lift out of the water! We all tightened our grip as the guy in charge of the sails skittered out over the bridge deck, using his weight to right us. This was the real deal!! All the while we were sailing, a little girl who’d accompanied us was busy bailing out the bottom with a makeshift bailer, trying desperately to keep ahead of the leaking hull. The three of them - the captain, the crew, and the bailer - took great care of us on our adventure, and that sail will be remembered by us forever.