After our private and secluded time off the island of Uliga, we headed the few miles back to the main village on Ailuk. It was hard leaving such a peaceful and lovely spot – but "Pumpkin" kept asking when we were returning. So we anchored amongst the "bommies" and headed to shore. As usual, our entourage of kids immediately started to follow us. After a visit with Anious (Pumpkin) and Emily, we promised to be back on Saturday morning to meet the woman for whom we delivered several boxes from Majuro. We also wanted to walk to the other side of the island (to the airport) and see more of the village.
Saturday had us back in the village by 9:30 am and after some freshly baked donuts at Emily's house, we made our way to Mira's home to meet her. Here we were gifted with many beautiful handcrafts as a thank you for delivering her boxes. We also learned more about how they make a few items. It is hard work and everywhere we looked we saw women working on handicrafts as they sat on the floor, leaning against walls. Then we stopped by another house of someone who wanted Michael to look at computer power cord to see if Michael could fix it. After our errands were done we walked around the island – carrying our handicrafts. The airstrip is just that – a strip of treeless land that is also used as a baseball field and volleyball court – though it was all empty when we traversed it. Upon our return to our starting point at Pumkin and Emily's home, we were given a bag of homemade bread and more donuts!
There was much sadness in the village when we arrived on Friday. It illustrated to us the very difficult life these folks have out here. A young woman had died the night before delivering a baby. The baby survived, but the young mother didn't. Emily was helping the midwife throughout the night. The sadness was etched in Emily's tired face. Anious when he told us, was also very sad. The week before, during the Liberation Day celebration, a two-day old baby had also died and the infant's body was being watched over by Emily while the mother waited to tell the father when he returned on his canoe. As we walked by the cemetary today, we saw a tiny newly covered plot and cross knowing it was for that small baby. The woman's funeral and burial were today (Saturday) and we heard the bells ringing for the service this afternoon.
It makes you see that the day to day survival of these hard-working, good people is something that isn't easy. When it doesn't rain, they run out of water (though the island does have a small watermaker that makes about 8 gallons an hour!). When a ship doesn't arrive, they can't get needed supplies or send off their handicrafts and copra – they way they make money. Kids must travel to other islands to go to school beyond primary grades and live away from their family. If they get sick, they hope for the best. And yet, they are the most generous, kind and gracious folks who have certainly welcomed us into their community.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is Palm Sunday and we have been invited to attend Anious' church (he actually is Rev. Anious – not Rev. Pumpkin!) followed by some singing and then lunch. We know, yet again, we will be treated specially.
Sorry for the sadness of this entry...but that is also part of what is happening out here.