The Funafuti International Airport is THE center of Funafuti fun. Today (Saturday), we headed into the village because there was supposedly a ceremony to welcome home the national rugby team from the recent Pacific Games on Wallis Island. They have only had a team since 2008 and during this years games, they actually won their first international game (not the tournament – but a game!) So it was a big thing. It was a rainy day and the ceremony was supposed to take place at 10 am so we headed to the airport where the festivities would take place. On the runway (yes ON the runway) there was a cricket match in full swing. The white team and the blue team were playing – and the teams are co-ed with the women playing in skirts. They modify the rules a bit as women only pitch to women – so there are more "bowler" changes. Down the runway a bit, there was a volleyball game going on as well. Along the side of the runway, people were watching and cheering for their various teams. Plus, the motor scooters and cars were zipping about. Soon the fire engine came out with sirens blaring and the cricket pitch and volleyball net were taken down and the runway prepared for a special charter plane that was coming in. (Planes are normally only Tuesday and Thursday).
The festivities for the rugby team were taking place in the large meeting room on the side of the runway and there were lots of speeches in Tuvaluen, so we moved on (though the food being prepared looked pretty darn good). We walked all over the town, stopping into the library and many small shops. What is really fun is that if you met a person once, they seem to remember your names. A few young kids that we met earlier that day when they kayaked out to our boat and then we gave them a tow back to shore with our dinghy, were yelling "Michael" as we walked by. And another woman in a small store that we met earlier in the week, excitedly called out "Barbara," "Michael" as we approached again.
After three tries at the bakery, we finally got some bread and made our way, between downpours, back to the boat.
You have to love a place where the locals call the runway their playground!
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