Banaban Voice

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Our first trip ashore at Albert Cove (the settlement of Motawi) was a short one and we met the people who lived in two palm-thatched houses just off the beach. We took some tea and noodles as gifts and chatted for awhile. The patriarch of the larger family, Samuel, was visiting the couple who lived on their own, close to where we beached the dinghy. Samuel spoke good English and welcomed us to visit anytime.

What's for dinner honey? This Octopus. caught on the nearby reef has been preserved by smoking over a fire.

The couple who lived in the first home, Panea and Rara, had a clean two level home made from woven palm leaves. Three of the walls were open off the ground, allowing good air flow. Set back about 8 feet from the front wall at waist-level was a sleeping platform. There were several mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling over the platform, one sewn from an old magenta sari. Chickens appeared to roost below this platform;  I guess this makes it easy to gather eggs for breakfast!

Rara and Panea

Attached to the main building was a large cooking shelter with two fireplaces. A wood fire glowed in the corner and a puppy slept happily in the warm ashes. Chickens and a rooster pecked around the yard outside the kitchen at discarded coconut shells and a fair-sized pig grunted on a long leash under a tree close-by.

Before we left to visit the other family, Samuel showed us a ukulele which had had its neck broken and put back together with packing tape. Chris offered to try to glue it back together and bring it when we returned to visit the next day.

Chris repairs a ukulele that had been broken during a kava drinking session

 A few hundred yards down the beach is the home of Samuel's son Bill and his extended family - 4 generations in total. Their house was chaotic and rudimentary compared to the first house, with a simple outdoor cooking area on the ground over which a cast-iron rack was placed for holding pots. A shelf at shoulder level held dishes and sundry items.

One of the huge trees along the beach at Albert Cove 

Bill's son-in-law was drying copra over a barrel stove fire in a small shack closer to the beach. The humid tropical climate here must not be conducive to solar drying. Copra is a cash crop and the family had come over to their plantation to work on their harvest. They reminded me of the Mexican fishermen who spend weeks away from their homes catching fish and other seafood on the isolated islands off the Baja coast.
Recently cut pandanus trees. Bill's wife was cutting this to make mats when we arrived.

Bill's youngest daughter, Pauline, was breastfeeding her six month old baby when we first walked by the house. Being Westerners, we averted our eyes but she invited us to sit with her and chat. Her mum was busy cutting leaves from a pandanus stand a little way down the beach and her two brothers hung about watching us. The baby's nappies were drying on a line and Pauline explained that she did not have laundry soap. Her husband asked if we had any sugar to take with the tea we had given them. We told them we would bring some when we returned the next day.

Before rowing back out to Ladybug, we enjoyed a walk along the beach which is lined by picturesque trees of great age and girth, their tired old limbs leaning on the sand. These reminded Chris of an ancient white oak he had seen in England whose massive sagging branches had to be propped up off the ground to stop them from breaking. These trees are more supple and do not seem to mind even resting their elbows in salt water.

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