Thank You! Tangio Tumas! Cheers!

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I wish to give thanks to all that have made this dream of mine come true. To the committee that serves on the Fr.Smith Fellowship board I send my sincere thanks. This program has changed my life completely.
I also want to thank Fr. Robb and Sister Rose Mary for all of their assistance that went into the planning and fine details of this trip. Without their knowledge and time, none of this would have been possible. A special thank you to the Bells, the Dominican Sisters, and Bp. Chris for taking me in and caring for me these past few weeks. I truly found a home and family in all. Speaking of family, thank you to my amazing family and friends for your constant love and support. And lastly, Kerry, thank you for being the best travel buddy I could have asked for! Together, we had the experience of a lifetime.

Words cannot express just how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to travel to Australia and the Solomon Islands. Every person I have met, all of my experiences have inspired me in so many ways. And the amazing part is, these people wouldn’t even know how much of an impact that they have had upon me. It was the simple smiles from all my friends in the Solomons and all the life lessons I gained from my observations in Sydney. Throughout my journey I have been welcomed and cared for by so many people. Complete strangers looked after me just like a family member would do. They truly taught me what it means to love one another like brothers and sisters. Along this journey, especially in the Solomons, I learned to value simplicity. What matters most is right in front of me. I know now what it means to be present. All of the life stories I have had the chance to hear, simply getting to know all these individuals has made me want to be like them. These people have gotten it right. They truly know what it means to embrace the qualities of Faith. Hope. And Love.

From this experience, I too, have gained a great deal of insight regarding these very virtues. Since being on this journey, my Faith has never been stronger. I know there is a God. I have neither doubt nor fear. These people have shown me what it means to have strong Faith. When I was feeling most insecure I prayed to God to help me through. And whenever I was scared of the unknown or unsure of things, again, it was God that I prayed to for assistance and guidance. I believe God was with me this entire time, keeping me safe, healthy, and so happy. And being surrounded by people that are so devote and dedicated to their faith has inspired me even more. They have shown me the way.

Hope. Each and every person that I have met has given me Hope that I too can be more like them. Hope that I can share these many lessons with my family and school. I Hope to not only be better, but to also make things better. I now know that I must dedicate my life to serving others. No matter what it takes, this mission must be served. I also Hope some day to return to the Solomon Islands, so that I might be of more assistance to these remarkable people. In the meantime, I Hope to support them from afar, doing as much as I personally can and also to encourage others to do the same.

Lastly, Love. I now know what it means to have Love. Love is shown by all. I will and do Love all my brothers and sisters. I have been shown how to share this Love with others and how to embrace this. Words can’t explain how. Sometimes you just know.

This experience has been completely life changing for me. I have gained such a deep appreciation for all that I have been blessed with. I feel so grateful to simply have a roof over my head and family and friends that love and support me so much. Moving forward, I know that I will be so much more appreciative of the people around me. I have learned that it truly does not take much to make me happy. I will honestly travel any distance, sleep on anything, eat anything and talk to anyone. All of which I would be grateful for. This experience has truly taught me to be grateful for what I do have.
I have also learned to be present much more myself. This means understanding how to make and take time to listen and be there for others.
One of the biggest changes for me however, is the mindset that I have learned to embrace. There is nothing I would not do. I don’t mean this in a dare devil, thrill seeking way. I mean this as in: there is no person I would not speak to. No person I would not hug or show kindness to, kind of way. This may sound bold but it’s true. I have seen people do this constantly throughout this fellowship. I too have become much more open. I have no fear, nor boundaries. Being in the Solomons has especially shown me this. While there, I embraced every aspect of their culture. There wasn’t a hand I did not shake, or a hello turned down. I never once put up my guard. Through the hospital I visited patients, all through the schools I taught classes, in mass I held hands and sang along, I joined community members for meals, I trusted and extended my friendship to all. And I felt the best I ever have. Like I said, living this way… I found my Happy.

Across the world I have traveled 9,000 miles.
I have been greeted by so many hugs and smiles.
I have learned what matters the most,
And often those with the least are the best host.
The Lord has guided me,
And I truly have found my Happy.
For me this is not the end,
To entourage others to do the same I intend.

Thank You So Much! Tangio Tumas! Cheers!

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Pure Paradise

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August 20th 2014 (Honiara & Visale)
True beauty is everywhere. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Today, I learned that this beholder, with a little patience, can see beauty like no other. Pure natural beauty of life and all that this world has to offer. I give thanks for all the blessings that allow for me to see these natural wonders; as today, I found the most beautiful place on earth.

It’s amazing how quickly one’s views and perceptions can be changed. This quite simply is one of the main reasons why I love to travel. Speaking of my travels.. I should give you all an update on my present whereabouts. I have left Auki, and I am now back in Honiara, the capital city of Guadalcanal. I am staying here for a few days with the Dominican sisters until my flight back to Sydney. Today, the sisters said that we would be traveling to Visale, one of the small village communities outside of Honiara.
As we set off for this day-adventure, we pass through the city of Honiara. I find Honiara to be rather difficult to see, given the strong presence of poverty and poor living situations. In order to get there we had to take a total of three vans. But at last, we had arrived to Visale! It was like entering into a sanctuary. It’s amazing the disparity, from Honiara to here. Just within this distance you go from harsh to heavenly.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Sister Veronica. She wanted to first give us a tour of the Visale School. There is both a primary and secondary school, as well as, a training school for young women. Sr. Veronica was really excited to report that the chicken wire came in that is to be used for the grass rooftop of their primary school addition. All around the school yard the students are wearing dark shorts and pink uniform tops; light pink for the primary students and dark pink for the secondary students. I love it!!

The schoolhouses themselves are located in the most prestine location. Looking out from the school you see the most magnificent ocean blues. However, to top it off, when you turn around, you see that behind the school, they are surrounded by the most spectacular mountain ranges of rainforest. I have never seen mountains so high. No matter where I turn, I am surrounded by natural wonders.

Sr. Veronica showed us all the classrooms, the library, and the teachers room. All of these are very simple, with very little furniture as well as school books/materials. However, it is very evident that the school is moving in the right direction. They are very organized, and are clearly trying to expand and improve upon the learning environment. While talking about the school, she explained that many of the students must walk up to six miles a day, one way, just to get there. Another concern for the children is that in their homes, there is no water system. The children can only rely upon their mothers to travel great distances to the rivers in order to collect little amounts of water to be used mostly for the cooking. Despite these experienced hardships, this is, by far, the most beautiful school I have seen. It is simple, yes, but immaculate and surrounded by beauty both inside and out. Overlooking the schoolyard all you can see are the kid scattered throughout, as they peacefully play in their pink uniforms singing and dancing right along the ocean beneath the mountain ranges.

Our tour of the grounds continued as she brought us to the Visale Church, called the Sacred Heart. Let me tell you, my heart melted the moment I set my eyes upon it! The entire church was painted bright Bubblegum Pink! This was the most vibrant, colorful church I have ever seen! All colors of the rainbow seemed to find a place somewhere within. The woodwork along the windows was all painted in various colors, all the windows stained too. Of course, even inside pink reined supreme! So there I was praying in pink!

Next stop was to the nunnery, which is where many of the Dominican sisters live. It truly is a sanctuary here. Their villas overlook the ocean. All around the villas are the most beautiful flowers, all assortments of pinks. There are walking paths too, made by pebbles and sea coral. We were lucky to have the chance to meet a number of these lovely sisters. They welcomed us right up to their porch offering us cold drinks and cookies! It was so nice to talk with them. One of the sisters, Sister Pita has visited Boston a few times. Also, Sr. Theresa was born in New Hampshire. Even here I have a touch of home!

Up next on our Visale adventure was a grand tour of the local community. We hopped right into the truck and were immediately off! As we cruise around the local town I look up and see the most monstrous mountain range. Mountains so luscious and green. I feel so small looking up into them. The community is just so calm and peaceful. Women are tending to the gardens and children play in the yards. Life is simple, but just so mellow.

Driving in the truck felt like a jungle expedition in itself! The roads are all dirt, filled with bumps, rocks, leaves, and trees. We have to continuously stop or slow our speed just to make it over the huge potholes. Not to mention the numerous wooden bridges that we must pass over. These were my favorite! I am glad that we move across the bridges at a turtle pace, because looking down into the stream the water is so crystal clear that you can see schools of fish harmoniously swim along. It’s beautiful just to see the streams glimmer in the sunshine!
So once over the bridges it’s up the mountainside we go! They call this part of the journey ‘Snake Road’…the name is quite fitting, as it literally is shaped like a snake meandering up the mountain. While trekking up the side, it literally feels as though we are in a roller coaster cart slowly moving upward ( I can hear the click click click in my mind). The sights are just spectacular! I feel as though I am passing through the jungle. We are surrounded by the largest, most green ferns, palms, coconut, and banana trees. And sprinkled throughout the forests are the most exotic flowers you could ever imagine. Flowers flowing from all the tress and ground; of all intricate shapes, sizes and colors! They are flaming flamingo pinks, bright coral, deep red, dark purples, orange and golden yellows. I’m a true flower child at heart, so to me this was absolutely divine.

As we continue to rise over the range the view overlooks the sea. It is extraordinary! So blue, unlike I have ever seen! We eventually make our way back down the other side, again passing through all these wonders.
Once reaching the bottom, we had the chance to walk along the ocean. My breath was actually taken away. Looking out into the sea is nothing short of mesmerizing. This is my paradise.
The serenity, the peacefulness, the shear beauty. The ocean is not one shade of blue and greens but many. The inner shades by the shore, reflecting the palm tress, are a blue green, almost like a teal. Then the green shades linger become softer and softer from a mint green to a seafoam green. And then that seafoam green turns into hues of blues. Light blues turning into deep dark blue as the ocean extends into the distance. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. No one is around, it is so calming and relaxing just begin here in this moment. The palm tress lingering about shade the shoreline. There are some piles of drift wood laying softly along the shore. And the sand is soft and tan. Closest to the water covering the sand are thousands of white coral pieces. When the water splashes the shore it hits all the white coral pieces, sounding like the pitter pater of rain.
All around me I am surrounded by beauty. Mountain ranges stretch into the sky, flowers align the grounds, and the sea spreads as far as the eyes can see. This is Visale.

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Farewell to my Fanualama Family

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August 18th 2014 (Auki)

Each morning when I wake up, I look at my “Seize the Day” calendar beside my bed. Every day has an inspirational quote. I find this to be the perfect way to greet the day! This morning for August 18th it read: “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think (Longfellow).” I read this and smiled to myself thinking this to be the perfect advice for my last day here in Auki, as I decide what to pack up and bring home. I continued with my morning regimen by attending the 6:10am mass. And low and behold, Bp.Chris during the homily spoke about the importance of giving to others. He talked about the insufficiencies and disregard for excessive materialistic properties. The story he elaborated upon was that of the rich man who followed all of the commandments, but could not part with his material things. Bp. Chris reminded us that we have no need for such materials, for these are simply obstacles that keep us distanced from God. We must remember to share with others, going in confidence, knowing that with God, we have all that we could possibly need. As I packed my bags, these words stayed with me.

So in an effort to try and avoid the dreaded baggage weight scale and airport parameters, I thought it would be best to leave some things with the kids. I decided to leave some of my Providence gear behind, in the hopes that the PC legacy could make its way into the Solomons. I gave a shirt to one of the boys and he immediately put it right on! He said I don’t know what to say! I told him not to say anything, this is what friends do. It felt so good to be able to share with him. And to see his excitement! I also left behind a skirt for one of the girls that I tutored. She was so grateful! Later in the day she wrote me a letter thanking me for everything I had done for her. This was really touching. I know it came straight from her heart. I can’t get over how kind and sweet these kids are. It breaks my heart to say goodbye to them.

Later this afternoon, Kerry and I had ourselves a visitor. One of the boys, Patrick, stopped in. He is usually very shy, so it was a pleasant surprise to have him come over. He wanted to show us the research project that he had conducted for his geography class. His research investigated the garbage disposal, or lack there of, in Auki. Driving along the roads you will see there is an evident need for this. The trash is simply heaped in piles along the roadsides. In an effort to dispose of it, they simply light fire to it or bury it. Patrick researched the biodegradable vs. non-biodegradable trash products. His research found that 57% was non-degradable. His work was absolutely remarkable. He included charts and graphs. While reading his introduction page I see that he gave thanks to his mum and to God for their assistance in his work. I could never imagine a student back home doing this. His intent is just so pure, he is an amazing kid. I was so proud of his work and effort. I was also very honored that he wanted to share his work with me.

We shared one last lunch with the sisters as well. I was happy to have this chance to to reflect on our time together. So many memories: sharing meals, cooking, playing cards, dancing, singing, braiding, talking, shopping, praying, and best of all laughing! What wonderful women they are. They will forever hold a place in my heart. I appreciate how giving they all were. From them I learned what it means to give and care for others. How to be sweet and loving so that others feel comfortable to come to me. I learned what it means to have a warm heart. They smile and laugh all day long. Everyone wishes to be their friend. I hope to be the same.

After lunch the sisters gave to us the most beautiful shell necklaces and earrings. This was such an honor. Shells actually are a form of money here, so this truly was a very generous gift to be presented with. In addition to this, they gave to us gorgeous scarfs to give to our mums. I can’t believe they got my mother a gift, just to thank her for sending me and to also send their well wishes to her. I think my mom will cry when I give this to her. There is just such an outpouring of love here. These are the most giving women and people that I have ever met.

Bp. Chris prepared the most amazing Farewell Feast for us. We say farewell because we are not meant to say goodbye, we WILL see each other again. So together we joined for a meal and celebration in the outdoor grass hut. To join us he invited the Dominican Brothers and Sisters, the DMI Sisters, the Church Youth, our freinds from school, the school teachers, the Parish leaders and all our friends from the Fanualama compound. There were so many people the hut was filled. All there to celebrate and thank us. What an honor this was, I don’t deserve this. It’s they who shall be thanked. It was however, such a heartfelt moment to look out and see so many people together enjoying one another’s company. Just so happy.
After the meal, Bp. Chris called for speeches from various people to express their thanks and well wishes for us. This is Solomon custom.
The first speech was by a school teacher thanking us for our time and efforts with the students. Then a youth minister spoke as well as one of our students. The DMI sisters also spoke. They talked to us about holding onto our faith, telling us that with God anything is possible. They wished us luck in our lives and sent their blessings to us girls and to our families back home. These ladies in blue are just so sweet and motherly, I feel that I myself have a mum in all of them. They left us with hugs, prayers, and blessings. I feel that I have been touched by angels.
Then Deacon Patrick spoke. He spoke words of encouragement and inspiration. He spoke of our lives in the US and asked us to share this with all the people back home. He understood how moved and changed we have become by this journey. He said you have left your things back home, but have learned that you don’t need much to be happy. He told us to embrace this. He told us that here in the Solomons we have found ourselves a family.

Solomon style we went out in dance and song. With the guitar playing, we all joined hands and sang out real loud, and danced! This is a memory I will hold onto forever. Mother Glades, 70 years old mind you, runs over to me and grabs my arm. There we are moving and grooving! So full of life, love and joy she is. Across the hut boys from the school are joined hand and hand, smiling and singing away. Just so happy! Words cannot describe the positive vibes that surround us. It is so touching to see these older kids together embracing life, smiling their big smiles and giggling away. Back home it would be a rare sight to see this amongst teenagers, teenage boys especially; even adults would be reluctant to do this. Often, people are too shy or uncomfortable. But not here. No, everyone here embraces life, from the kindi to Glades. But this is how life should be. Back in the States we think too much. But here, you just Be. Be yourself. Love life. Seeing these people all so filled with gladness is inspiring. I too am smiling so much it hurts!
At this moment I think to myself ” I found MY happy.” This is it. This is what it means to be happy. It means just being together. Nothing fancy. No stress. No worries. Embrace yourself. Embrace each other. Love, smile and enjoy!

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Faith. Hope. Love.

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August 16th & 17th 2014 (Auki)

After mass this morning, I made my way over to the championship soccer tournament. Here, it is actually called ‘footsol’. Imagine the concept of indoor soccer, except it is played outside on pavement; similar to an outdoor basketball court, but with nets. There are only 5 players per team, the ball is heavier than the average soccer-ball, and halves only last 20 minutes. The players do not wear shin guards, some do wear shoes, some wear just 1 shoe, while others go at it barefoot. Watching them play, it amazes me just how fast they move. I can’t believe they do not trip! It is really entertaining to watch because it is so fast-paced. Also, when there is a slight altercation, as in an exchange of words between the players, they hug it out. Such sportsmanship, I love it! So many people attend the games too. It is the big happeneing around town. There are at least 200 people in attendance. Despite the large crowd, the fans are all respectful. It is a real simple atmosphere. The fans just sit in the grass or along the side. Some take their coolers to sell ice-pops or other small snacks. It just so casual and lax here; it is great!
Later this evening I attended the most beautiful mass. I feel as though each mass I attend here, I have a totally unique experience, evoking different feelings and emotions. Tonight, was the vigil for Blessed Mother Mary. Gathered together were all the women of the dioceses. It was so peaceful to see all the women sitting in the grotto before mass praying together. There they sat wearing all blue holding onto their white candles.
Kerry and I were able to join them in their procession into the church. Together we sang “Ave Maria”. This was such an amazing feeling and moment. I was moved by the beauty of this moment, being surrounded by such wonderful, faithful women. They sang like a choir of angels.
Bp. Chris during the homily spoke about how we are untied together by our Faith. Hope. and Love. I don’t know a single woman here, yet I feel as if I am a sister to all of them. I feel so comfortable and accepted by all.
August 17th- “The Assumption of Mother (mami) Mary”
The women’s celebration continued into today. This morning at mass it was the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary. Again the women of the church were dressed in blue and led the precession into the church. 8 of the women concluded the procession with a sacred dance, carrying large wooden polls. The women were all older, in their 60’s, and yet there they were, dancing along. Their love and faith is just so strong. Not only did these women lead with a delicate dance, but they also reenacted the Gospel story of Mary. They did a great job! In the Solomons it takes a great deal of courage for a woman to give a reading in front of the church. So it was an especially brave moment for them to reenact this story, using scripts and costumes. They even had 2 kids resemble a donkey; using cloth and a cardboard mask. It was adorable!
All during mass I smile the entire time and sing right along. It is so easy to embrace one’s faith here. The environment, filled with so many people, is just overwhelming. There is such an outpouring of goodness all around.
After mass, Bp.Chris called me up to the altar. He presented me with the most beautiful hand crafted, wooden cross. It is detailed in sea shells that glimmer in the light, reflecting pinks, blues and greens. Bp. Chris explained that this was a gift intended to thank me for my time here. I was so very honored by this. I am still so amazed by how giving and appreciative the people are here. They need not thank me. It is they who are deserving and worthy of thanks. This entire church and the people of Auki have truly given me so much. More than they could ever know.
Before leaving the church I was able to say a prayer over the altar. This was a very special moment for me because Pope John Paul II said mass over this very altar. It would therefore be considered an intercession of a Saint because he had physically touched the altar. So, it is considered to have great power over the prayer. I found this to be the perfect place and time for me to give thanks for this journey, as well as, all the blessings that have been bestowed upon here both here and at home.
After this I was able to visit the hospital. I am really glad to have had the chance to see the patients one last time. Then back to church I went to have lunch with the women. They are honestly the sweetest!
To end this most splendid weekend, Kerry and I played cards with the sisters after dinner! They honestly are just so much fun! I am not the best player, but apparently I won some rounds. Who knew?! (I still don’t know how I won, but I will take it!) The sisters are an absolute blast. This is a friendship that I will forever cherish.

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Holiday Happenings!

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August 15th, 2014 (Auki)

Today was Maltaita Day! This is a day that celebrates the island of Malaita, which is the island on which Auki is located. So, this means it is a holiday for all to take part in. Fittingly, all the shops and schools were closed for the day. I really enjoyed the holiday mentality here on the island. Everything is just so relaxed. Additionally, holidays are designed so that the entire day is focussed on spending time, as well as taking part in activities, with everyone in the community. There was a huge soccer competition that started in the early morning hours and lasted until late into the night. There were so many people there just to watched and support the local youth. I stopped by for bit to see some of my students.
In addition to this, was a singing competition. It is called “Auki’s Got Talent”. It is an outdoor concert that is hosted in town. In order for a group to enter, they must pay an entry fee. However, there are cash prizes for the winners. Upon entry, a group must have 3 songs prepared: 1 about their love for Malaita, 1 about God, and the next of their choice. One of the youth groups from our Church entered. So, to support them, Kerry and I joined Bp.Chris to see them perform. It was so much fun, and the music was fantastic! Try to imagine island reggae music singing all about the love of their island and God. As they said: “All are one”. It is really cool to see how much the community values not only their relationship with each other, but their faithful relations as well. Being immersed in their culture is very special. Also, I was able to attend my annual summer concert, in the Solomons to boot, which is even cooler!
Then after this I went back to the house to paint with Richard and Brother Henry! They had never learned to paint before. As the daughter of an art teacher, I knew this was my calling to teach them. My mom, being the fabulous mother and teacher that she is, had sent a paint set, brushes, and wooden crosses. So I used these for my little lesson. I was so happy to be able to share this with two people that have been so welcoming and kind to me. Art truly is such a great way to connect with one another. So outside we painted our crosses, as we talked and listened to music. They loved our country music! They both really opened up today, singing and painting right along, it was great! I know this is a memory that we will all cherish.
Then later this afternoon, Richard knocked on our door. He wanted to teach Kerry and I how to speak pijion, their local language. So there we sat, with our notebooks out this time. It was our turn to learn. We learned so many phrases and words, some silly, and some more practical.

“Mi laekem kumara” – I like sweet potatoes.
“No wariwari” – No worries.
“Yumutufala danst” – Let’s dance.
“Gudfala evening to yu” -Good evening to you.

I am so glad we were able to share so much with one another today about ourselves and our cultures. What a fabulous holiday this was!

“Tangio tumas!” Thank you so much!

Life is Good.

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August 14th 2014 (Auki)

This morning at mass, I had a ‘Proud Polish’ moment! You see, today we celebrated the Feast of St. Maximilian, a priest from Poland during W.W.II. St. Maximilian was very devote, dedicating his life to spreading the Word of The Lord. However, he is most celebrated for defending his faith. He was sent to a concentration camp during the war. Here, he sacrificed his life, so that a man with a family could live instead. We learn from him the true importance of sacrifice. I hope some day to have the chance to travel to Poland myself, so that I might be able to pay my respects.

Then to Luciana I went for morning classes! As it was my last day there, the teachers and class had quite the surprise for me! They had planned for a class outing to the lake and beach! But 1st before we left, I asked the teachers if I could take a class photo. I had noticed that they didn’t have a single photo of their class. Rather than decorating the walls with pictures of their students and school, they instead used pictures from calendars of other people. I told that them that I would take their picture today, and then once back home, enlarge it and send it to them. This way, they can have a big photo of themselves; showcasing all of their big and bright beautiful faces! The teachers are so excited for this!

Once the photo was snapped, the kiddos were off! All the children started running toward the lake. You should have seen them; nearly 50 kids all under 7 years old sporadically running through the trees and along the path. The teachers simply following behind. I couldn’t get over how relaxed they were; I was a nervous wreck! But let it be known, these are some tough kids. Through the path they trekked, no shoes, no water, for at least a mile. And the whole time they were running and jumping out of the tress; so much energy they have! And then there were the other little ones who had to hold on to me the entire walk. Some just held onto my arm because my hand was taken. Then at last we arrived at the lake! It was beautiful! Filled with all Lilly pads and blooming water flowers for as long as you could see.I was mystified! And sure enough, the kindis, in a matter of seconds, were jumping off the small bridge right into the water. Just so young and free! So there they all were, jumping, swimming, and playing in the mud…clothing of course was optional for them. Kids just being kids!
After this, we went to the beach! This was right along the path as well. More waterworks and playtime for us. So into the ocean they jumped and in the sand they dug. Life is just so good here. It was difficult to say goodbye to my class. I am so going to miss their sweet, smiling faces!
Then Kerry and I headed to another school in the community called Alota’a. But before we got there, we took a little snack break to enjoy our coconut crackers. There we sat on a bridge, overlooking the community all on water. Moments like this really strike you. I think about how surreal it is to be here at this moment. Life is good.
At the primary school, we worked on the art project that we had originally begun back in Sydney. We had the students from the 2 schools exchange drawings of themselves as well as a written description. The students really enjoyed learning about the kids in Sydney. It is awesome to be able to connect or two worlds, especially through art! (Mom you taught me well!)
Later, I finally got to put my grilling skills to good use! I helped Brother Henry prepare chicken wings and tuna over the open-flamed fire grill. I was totally in my element. It was great to spend this time with Brother Henry too, he is just so happy and kind! Also, fish is my forte, so I was elated to offer my assistance. Cooking in the grass hut I couldn’t help but reflect how awesome this was. Life is Good.
Tonight we celebrated Richard’s big 21st Birthday! Richard was one of the first kids to really reach out to Kerry and I, so, it was awesome to be a part of this celebration. Birthdays here aren’t like they are back home. Here, they are very simple. Most birthdays will actually never be acknowledged. But Bp.Chris, would never let this be the case. Bp.Chris made sure to make this a special day for Richard, preparing him a great meal as well as a homemade chocolate cake! So together, we shared a lovely meal and then every person was asked to give a small speech for Richard. This is what it is all about. True Birthdays are meant to celebrate this person for all they do and all that mean to us. You don’t need flashy gifts and decorations. All you need is to be together and to honor this person. Life here, is honestly just so genuine and good.

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“Sister Act”

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August 13th 2014 (Auki)

So apparently people on the island think that I am an actual nun, or as they call out to me “sista!” Too funny! If they only knew that I am very much an American college girl and 21 at that! But hey, at least they know that I am here to help.
Today I taught a Form 3 English class. The students were asked to write a letter to a public official, concerning anything of their choice that they would like to see changed or occur. Every single student in the class chose to write about the water problem that their school is currently experiencing. Each student drafted a letter to their principal asking that their water problem please be fixed. I walked around the class to read and edit all of the petition letters that they had drafted. Every student in the class graciously accepted my recommendations. It is really touching to see how much they appreciate my time and suggestions. I can see how badly they wish to learn.
All of the petitions explained how difficult schooling is for the students under these conditions, given that they have no water. They explain that the dam, which provides the water, is currently out of use because it is rotten. This means that they must solely rely on rainwater and streams as their water source. The students travel a great distance for very little amounts of water. This is time consuming and tiring for them; therefore, taking them away from their studies. They all talked about not being able to concentrate in class because they are thirsty and tired. (I can only imagine how exhausted and low on energy they must be at this given moment. And yet here the sit, trying their very best to complete their work and pay attention to me)
The teachers too are affected; many choosing to not show up for classes at all. Because the teachers choose to not show up for class, the students express that they personally feel lazy because they do not have class, and that they feel bored. The students also talk about not being able to wash their faces or swim (bathe). This being said, they cannot wash their clothes either. Some of the students also mentioned the fact that there is no working toilets because there is no water to flush them; as they must go to the stream to collect this water. This being said,many resort to utilizing the bush; which is risky because this could potentially contaminate the limited water source they do have. There is no water for cooking, no drinking, not sanitation system. Yet most of all,the students describe that they are most concerned about not being able to learn. They say that they experience difficulty when trying to focus at evening pryer as well as preparations for exams. They have no energy at the end of the day to learn their prayers or to study; which they are very bothered by. They simply want to study and pray.
It truly amazes me how these students persevere. I am so very impressed by the way in which they cope with these conditions, and do so without a single open-complaint. Reading through all of these letters was extremely humbling for me. I can’t believe how much I take for granted. A simple glass of water for example. These kids have such real hardships. I feel so overcome with helplessness and guilt reading these words of such simple needs. They are such wonderful kids, each and every one of them. I wish that you could meet them all to see for yourself. Under such conditions I can’t even fathom how uncomfortable they must be. Yet despite this they are so kind and friendly and full of life. These are the kids that truly deserve the world of opportunities.
After classes Bp.Chris took us out to the only restaurant on the island for coffee. Together we shared yummy scones and donuts. It was fabulous to have this time to talk with Bp.Chris. He told Kerry and I all about the people of the Solomon Islands and their culture.
Then after this Kerry and I want to the hospital just to visit with some of the patients. It was great! Everyone was so comfortable around us. In the past they tended to shy away because of our slight language barrier. Yet today we really had an amazing breakthrough. The patients really opened up to us and were glad to be in our company. Also, so many of the patients were in great spirits and doing very well! One of the patients, Stephen, that we had prayed for in the past, was actually awake and alert today. It was great to officially meet him and to see him in this light. He even asked us about ourselves and our home. And one of the other gentleman that we had visited was getting ready to be discharged! I was so happy to have seen this.
Then later this evening, we attended evening mass at the Luciana Church. This is the community that has been built directly on and in the water. What an amazing experience this was! I was able to do the 1st reading too. The church is absolutely fantastic; it is all hand painted and overlooks the water. When the kids saw us walking toward the church they all flocked towards us running from their huts right into the church. By the time the final bell was rung, the church was packed! There had to be at least 70 young picaninni, all under 8 years old. They constantly smile and wave at Kerry and I. Many of them are the kindi students we teach in the mornings. Oh and to hear these children sing! They love it! knowing all the words to each song they really belt it out. They say that to sing a prayer makes it twice as powerful…well let me tell you, this had to be at least three times as powerful!!! I was smiling the whole time just listening to them. Then after mass, Bp.Chris had all the kids shake our hands. They swarmed us!! All jumping with joy and giddiness. I have honestly never been surrounded by so many kids, but the love and joy in that little space was the absolute best!

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