Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Exploring Abemama

Yesterday, we rented a motorbike from a couple who we met while hanging out
in front of the bank/telephone co/admin bldg/etc. They were waiting to be
paid for their copra harvest, and expected they would be waiting most of the
day. In the meantime, they offered us their motorbike to explore! And
explore, we did! We jumped at the opportunity and headed out on the dusty
trail. Well, sandy trail, actually. We decided to travel South, and went all
the way to the end of the island...about an 8 mile trip.

We passed over three causeways and through a dozen or so villages. Most
villages have a church and a maneaba - a community gathering place, usually
a cement foundation with a steep, metal roof, that hangs low on the side, so
you must stoop to enter. Most homes are small raised wooden platforms with
thatched roofs for sleeping. Some are left open to the breeze, while others
are closed in with coconut leaf mats, or with wooden slats. Each family may
have one or more sleeping platforms, and a separate cooking hut. In some
cases we saw a small screened area that contained a pit toilet, but more
often, they used the beach for that purpose.

We also popped into a couple of the stores on the island. Our trip wasn't
planned, so we hadn't eaten lunch. But, as with the other stores we'd
visited here, there wasn't much that you could eat off the shelf. Most
stores sell some canned goods and a few bulk staples (rice, sugar, flour),
there wasn't much that we could eat for lunch. I offered to John that we
could eat some dried instant ramen noodles - a throwback to my childhood -
but he refused. We settled on a package of crackers, and big bottle of

It was a great day. Even though I'm not sure my butt will recover anytime
soon. Three hours perched on a steel luggage rack...yowsers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feast or Fix

Where does the time go? We've already been here a week. We were planning to
stay here at least another week. Not least of all because of this:
Once again, we've stumbled onto a time of local celebration - this week is
important in the Catholic Church here - we are celebrating the Virgin Mary.
There is daily mass (we think), and it all culminates on Saturday with a
morning mass, followed by a big community feast. Already there are people
staying here from other villages. For two days, the women have been wearing
a blue dress - all identical - to mass. We understand that Saturday's dress
will be yellow. There is a great sewing bee going on in many of the homes as
these dresses are prepared. (By the way...hand crank sewing machines like
mine are the norm here)!

So, needless to say, we're glad to be here, and are looking forward to the
community feast, and all the celebrations that lead up to it. But, we are
cruising after of course, there must be some critical boat part
that needs maintenance!

John has discovered that we have a problem with our transmission. So now,
we're contemplating our options. Stay for the celebration?? Or leave early
for Tarawa to work on the engine? Tarawa, though it is the capital of
Kiribati, is not likely to be the end-all and be-all of repair locations.
After all, this is a very poor country. We're not sure if engine work will
be possible in Tarawa, or if we'll need to keep moving to a bigger port.
Lots to think about - we'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Abemama - Off the Beaten Path

We're definitely far from the Coconut Milk Run now! The police officer told
us that only one boat came here last year - an Australian.

In our last post, I spoke of our dreams of a dinner ashore. Our hopes were
quickly dashed. Although our outdated guidebook spoke of a hotel, it clearly
hasn't been in operation in many years..

We have walked around on a few occasions. Each time, the children are
pleased to see us, and call out to us "Matang, Matang" (Foreigner).
They like practicing their english...hello/bye-bye. The adults are much more
shy. They happily respond to our greetings of "Mauri" (hello), but are
reluctant to reach out into further conversation.

On Sunday, we went ashore early, dressed in our Sunday finery, to seek out
the Catholic church. While we waited, we were befriended by a herd of
children, and eventually three of the village women joined in. We had a
lovely conversation, and they seemed impressed with the few words of
Kiribati language that we'd learned in Kanton. After church, we were invited
to join them for tea. We also met a local teacher whose english was
excellent, and he answered many of our questions about the island, and
offered to help us find a motorcycle, that we hope to use to further explore
the island.

By the far we've seen three trucks and one car on the island, but
most people get around on motor bikes. If you're into that sort of thing,
like John is, you may like to know that almost all of the bikes are Honda
Trail 90's...which apparently cost about $2000 AUD brand new. I'll have to
do some more research, but I'm guessing that the average salary in this
country is less than $4000 AUD.