Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Love hearts...just what every phone tower needs!

To complete the echoes of one New Ireland trip in the next, we finished our time on Djaul Island with a dedication to attend. Last year Catherine and I were VIP guests and singing in the choir at the dedication of a fuel pump. This year, we were part of the crowd for the dedication of a phone tower.

We’d been warned early in the Sunday School workshop that the tower dedication was planned. Slowly we became aware of the fact that everyone was planning on attending and if we ran the workshop at the same time, we’d have few people in attendance. We got the message and adjusted our workshop plans to end a day early.

Among the earlier arrivals, we did a lot
of waiting as we watched shade be
planted among the bench seats.
Eventually the big day of the dedication came. We watched as the ambulance, packed to overflowing, ferried people to the dedication site. The beat up ute and the two tractors with trailers were also hard at work, carting people and food to the hill top. Eventually it was our turn to get a ride in the ambulance. We climbed in ready to play at sardines, but the VIP treatment meant that we were not to be crowded. We rode along with space to spare as others walked.

Arriving at the hilltop we were greeted by a shiny new phone tower, an open space in the jungle that the workmen had created and a LOT of decorations. The fence around the tower was decorated. A walkway for the ceremonial arrival was decorated. The stage built just for the day was decorated. Another shelter built for the day was piled with food for the eventual feast. A toilet built for the day was a blessing.

We were given seats in the shade, watched over by our host parents and left to watch the spectacle. It was nice to be the side show, not the centre of attention for a change, although when your skin glows, you are never out of the spotlight! Kulau (green coconut) was brought for us to drink and pomelo (a type of citrus) was given to us to eat.

Shade being brought in from the jungle.
Our island friends were aware that we whiteskins burn easily. We got encouraged into the shade, we got smiles of approval when we put up umbrellas for shade and we had shade brought to us. Actually, everyone was collecting shade. They did this by heading into the jungle with their bush knife, cutting branches off trees and then standing them up in the dirt around their seating as an immediate and temporary forest.  

Once settled in we waited for the VIPs. For over an hour we were told their helicopter would be landing in ten minutes, a story we would not believe until we could actually hear the aircraft. When they did arrive, the extent of the decorations became evident, as they had taken over the landing space and the helicopter had to divert to the local school oval. We did some more waiting as the ambulance went to collect them and bring them to the hilltop and the rather large waiting crowd.

The welcome party for the official VIPs
Their welcome was grand. The speeches were long. The kids doing a dance were cute. The string band was unique. The thunderstorm was building.

The string band played on hand carved instruments of unique tuning. We’d heard some of these instruments in church and I was impressed at the sound. My favourite was the instrument carved to look like the electric bass of a rock star.

Just as the speeches reached an end, the dignitaries were returning to their helicopter and the feast was being readied for serving, the thunderstorm struck. We’d seen the clouds building up and felt the wind front hit. We were surprised when the helicopter still took off in the middle of it. Then the rain came…sideways. There was little shelter for anyone except by huddling together and being shielded by the next person.

The gathered crowd listening to the string band.
In the middle of the downpour the ambulance returned to collect us. We piled in, dripping and laughing. The policeman who has been escorting the VIPs was still inside and was also wet and smiling. As we drove back to our house and dry clothes, we got caught behind one of the tractors. There are four vehicles on the whole island and we had a traffic jam with two of them! The tractor had a loaded trailer of people, all hiding under banana leaf umbrellas that dripped more water on their neighbours than gave shelter to the people under them. I wish I had a photo, but bouncing in a car in the rain while taking a photo of a tractor sliding on a muddy road in the rain is beyond my camera’s ability.

So it was that we finished our work time on Djaul. We were overtired before the dedication and wet and silly by the end of it. As one of the ten days of the workshop was given up for the tower dedication, the joke was that we had been decimated. If being decimated means spending a day hanging out with new friends and ending it with laughter, then it is not such a bad thing.

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