2009-12-10: Sunday School Picnic Day

Thursday we attended the Sunday School Picnic Day event. This is a yearly event where the Sunday School children and their parents head to a nice beach just west of the village. Every time I asked what events would take place I received the response that there would be feasting, of course, and games, and children bathing in the ocean. I’m not sure the significance of the last event, but it was specifically mentioned by more than one person. Maybe they’ve bought the lie most Americans have that the old Franklin saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” is a biblical proverb.

The event was scheduled to start at 6:30 am. Since we didn’t see a compelling reason to venture out that early and the fact that it was raining rather steadily, we waited until closer to lunch to make our way to the beach. The tide was coming in so it wasn’t so bad, but I was worried about our return trip. The spring tides are apparently much higher than normal tides around here. I strategically thought it might be good to take a short cut across the point in case coming back the tides proved too daunting. I asked Kelly if she was up to it and she said yes. Unfortunately the short cut trail quickly ended and we were walking through thick bush and Kelly was not a happy camper. We ran into Fakaofo who guided us back to the trail and eventually we safely arrived at the beach.

As we walked up to the picnic we spotted two long lines of tamalikis, children, passing coconuts backwards over their heads to each other. Once the nut reached the end of the line the last child would run frantically to the start of the line to start the sequence over. The game quickly digressed into the boy’s throwing the nut to the last person in line who most often than not was not privy to the sudden rule change and thus welcomed the arrival of the projectile with an unprotected forehead. This was followed with an uproar of joy from observing children. Slapstick comedy is very big here. Soon complete chaos erupted and no resemblance of a game remained. For personal security reasons we quickly meandered to the group of adults sitting under a huge outcropping of rock forming a nice shelter from the strengthening showers. Here we sat for 2.5 hours not doing a lot. We mainly people watched and observed very interesting behavior. A few pods of four adults were playing the popular island game of trump 10. I’ve had a few daring locals try to teach me the rules but I am horrible at learning card games audibly, especially from people who don’t speak English. A few women where boiling food in large pots, a few where scraping coconuts, and most where just ‘yarning’. The kids were busy playing in the incoming tide along the beach not paying much attention to the developing down pour. They would run into the oncoming waves doing flips and cartwheels. Sometimes an unsuspecting child was gobbled up by her limbs and hurled into the surf. Full body tackles were another common technique used by the children to submerge their brethren. It was safe to say the energy level was above average and I wouldn’t have been surprised if a few children didn’t walk away with slight concussions.

Lunch for the children consisted of tuna sandwiches with a side dish of scraped coconut, sugar, water, and breakfast crackers mixed into a gooey pulp. The adults had fish and the left over coconut concoction. The sanitation practices observed are hardly ideal in the village so out here they where pretty much non-existent. We where indeed thankful we had brought out own tuna sandwiches and fruit.

After about 3 hours we decided to start the journey back to the village while there was a slight break in the showers. I asked Samalu where the trail was leading over the point away from the shore and he said it turned up at the rocks. With this detailed description we ventured off back home. Sure enough, there was a trail leading up the hill at the rocks. The unfortunate event occurred when half way up the trail ended at a farmer’s block. This often happens around here and unless you know where the trail picks up again somewhere along the perimeter of the large block it is hard to keep on going. We decided to forge ahead and searched around the bush for the trail. We finally found the path near the ridge. Now we had to make it down the trail. The rain at this point was falling heavily and the trail was more like chocolate pudding on a slip and slide than dirt. We clumsily made our way down not avoiding the occasional butt slide and arrived back home a good 45 minutes later. So much for a short cut…

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