Arriving at the Butaritari airport ... security is not needed ... one big happy family here. Think the white buckets are waiting to be loaded for their trip back to Tarawa. Anybody with kilos left on the baggage limits gets to help transport goods ... I think I had about 6 luggage tags .... for my one bag! No wastage when it comes to transport. "Do not carry packages for others" does not apply here!
On Butaritari there is a lot of wreckage and other debris left over from WW II.
Someone commented on another blog about how disrespectful they thought the I-Kiribati were for not having more respect for those who lost their lives ... sometimes the remains have graffiti on them. My comment ... it wasn't their war ... two countries invaded theirs to have a war ... and left the remains, with little respect for the I-Kiribati. How about they do something to rectify the situation?
Japan and Kiribati have erected some plaques, etc to honour the fallen ... the fallen regardless of their nationality ... I didn't find any plaques from the US being here.
Butaritari is probably the wettest atoll in Kiribati. This is the main road that runs most of the length of the atoll. Those specks in the distance are chickens .... of course they could as easily be pigs, dogs, or cats!
We (myself, Mollie, and Deborah) did get caught in a downpour our first day there. To get out of the weather, we ducked into an almost empty maneaba (community meeting house). Within a few minutes some local boys (men?) approached us. Tiimi (above in the yellow lavalava) speaks English and before long had organised a game of te vinti for us to play. It is a pool-like game using plastic disks and a flat board covered with powder. Think Mollie and Deborah were especially happy to join in ... Tiimi got a lot of their attention!
Christmas Eve started with truck loads of people arriving from villages all over the atoll. At least three church services were held on and around Christmas.
On Christmas Day there were as many people outside the church as inside.
... was three days of singing, dancing, and about 150 people sharing the maneaba ... and inviting us strangers (I-Matangs) in to be part of their families. One local couldn't imagine a Christmas where everyone went back to their own homes and spent it alone. I think he might have a point!
The singing and dancing was actually part of a competition between the different villages. The I-Kiribati who are born to dance actually go into a trance-like state (probably like being "in the zone" in basketball?). The two on the left were especially powerful. The look in their eyes said it all! Some of the dances brought the dancer to within centimeters (inches) of me! Sometimes wasn't sure whether I should be afraid or not! No harm came to any spectators!
The hand made decorations were especially beautiful ...
The plastic decorations were very colourful, but just lacked the personal touch. I guess in this type of competition it is not practical to make all your own decorations.
Another past time I participated in was drinking kava with the locals ... some of which were missionaries. The kava here tasted much better than that on Tarawa .... the locals assured me it was the water .... Butaritari has very nice water ... the kava still looks like dish water ... and really doesn't taste too much different, I bet! As one priest told me, "You don't drink it for the taste."
One day I gave my camera to one of the local girls who had befriended us, and asked her to go around and take some pictures. Every time I got my camera out, I was inundated with little kids! She came back with some interesting shots. I liked this man's T-shirt ... "Living the Dream ... Beer Judge"! I think the girls are his nieces.
I thought this shot of her's was especially nice.
The three girls who befriended us were all about 16 and had or were attending school on Tarawa. From left to right ... Kerekeata, Ruute, and Benateeta. One evening I went with them around to several villages to see if we could acquire 6 bicycles so we could all go for a trip the next day. That may sound easy, but the bicycle is the main way they get around, and if you break one, you may not ever be able to get it fixed. And to take six ... that would almost paralyse their day's activities! Anyway, we did manage to acquire the bicycles, through the very kind nature of the people, and spent one day taking a tour of the length of the island. Think we traveled about 70 km (almost 50 miles).
Around the atoll are several shrines erected for various purposes. This one, I think, marked the spot where the British first landed. Another marked the sighting of The Virgin Mary, and others were of WW II significance.
We also met many of the girl's relatives. This is Benateeta's auntie in her kitchen making pancakes ... they were very good, too! The big pot in the front contains boiling babai, a yarrow-like plant root. The bai bai is under the plastic bags and coconut. Haven't taken to it as my favourite food, yet!
One person Benateeta was especially interested in me meeting was her Grandfather, because we are of similar age. I'll never forget the look on her face when she commented that her Grandfather and Grandmother haven't been able to walk for some time ... and here I was riding a bicycle around the atoll and doing all sorts of crazy stuff ... I will be printing this picture and taking it too them sometime soon.
The kids of Butaritari are typical of Kiribati kids! They love to have their pictures taken ... then look at the picture on the camera ... don't know what they did before digital cameras! Many of my pictures had a funny blurry spot in the middle ... when I finally looked at the camera, I found a little fingerprint right in the middle of the lens! Think they are threatening me that they are going to do it again! Or they are proclaiming their innocence and asking me to check their fingerprints! I think the boy with the light coloured shorts is the guilty one ... he's not showing his fingers! ;-) Just love these guys ....
This is Kereke I-Benson, a little over a year old. Don't think he has seen many I-Matangs! When I asked about the "Benson" in his name, his mother said that is his Grandfather's name ... I mentioned that I have Bensons in my family ... and maybe we are related! She suggested I should meet his Grandfather .... he's "just over there." After walking through about 3 or 4 other villages, I was able to meet his Grandfather, who spoke very good English ... but was definitely I-Kiribati. He told me how 3 Benson brothers had come from the US before the War, and each settled on different atolls and married local women. One even started the Church of God on Tarawa . You never know ....
Well, it is very good ... and so pure it was injected intravenously during a cholera epidemic, I am told.
Another popular drink is toddy ... the sap collected from the top of coconut trees. The blossom (I think) is cut in a special way and fitted with a bottle the toddy drips into. Each morning and night the toddy collector climbs the coconut tree to retrieve and replace the bottle. While doing so, they sing special songs to let the women below, who might be using the area for a toilet, know they are not just up in the tree to perv on the women! Hearing their singing in the morning and evening is very relaxing.
This bottle of toddy was almost full when we stopped at this primary school ... in about a minute or less, the girls had nearly finished it! A very popular drink.
And, if you are given coconuts ... this is a bit of scaffolding behind the Catholic Church across from St Peter's Square.