Wednesday 27th August dawned as a normal day, off to work for a busy day in the office. At a minute’s notice I caught the flight to Marakei. Sue needed my car to collect her paint; she collected the paint and dropped me off at the airport.
A truck was waiting to pick me up. On arrival at the presbytery Fr Patrick asked me where I wanted to stay at the presbytery or the convent. I chose to stay with the sisters. I took mosquito coils, toilet paper, water etc. My bed had a very thin mattress with a mosquito net which was comfortable. The generator was turned off at 2.30 am nightly. I was impressed with the use of solar. The toilet worked sometimes. The first night the parishioners held a wonderful welcome ceremony. The food was all local with the only purchase being rice. There were basins of fresh sardines, shell fish, tuna, milk fish, flying fish, lobsters, basins of land crabs (the waiter cracked them for us), pork, babui, bananas and pawpaws. There was local fruit berry punch, toddy (sap from the coconut) and toddy boiled to syrup added with water for cordial. With the syrup, they made a delicious sweet dessert. Syrup coconut cream and grated coconut and rice. I brought some teabags and powdered milk with me. They had visitors from many islands; at every meal more than 70 adults were catered for. I did enjoy the fresh raw sardines and the land crabs.
The celebration was to open St Monica’s maneaba (Meeting place). I worked hard with this project to manage the funds through three Taiwan Grants. The maneaba was built by a local builder who has never been recognised. It is by far the best built building I’ve seen in 5 ½ years. I shall invite the Taiwan Ambassador to inspect it. Many musical groups came from Betio village on Tarawa. The adult group gave international performances while St Patricks College’s students at Betio entertained us with many exceptional musical items including rap dances. Many of the songs sang were composed by themselves.
Friday many local people were Confirmed. There are no Catholic Schools on Marakei. Another celebration with the candidates and their families was enjoyed. I fell in love with the children. Each morning I walked with the local children. After the Confirmation a lady took me on her motor bike for a tour of this round Island with a lagoon in the centre. It took 2 hours. We stopped at the villages as we went around; I wanted to see their needs. All the thatches were neat and well-constructed.
The people were very organised. Every meal had the same food maybe cooked a little different. All this food was from the land or sea, there was no cost involved.
Saturday was the big celebration, all villagers attended with bunches of bananas and basins of food. All villagers danced and sang, in brightly coloured local costumes – mainly red and orange. An elderly man asked me to dance and I had to oblige, they all laughed at me. I was given a mat, necklace, bangle and earrings all made from local materials. Later I climbed on a back of a truck for a lift to the airstrip. I saw a small cargo ship with bags of rice unload. It looked like the 1900s.
The plane left at 12.30 pm Saturday and I arrived at Bonriki airport at 12.50. On my arrived, one dead rat in the middle of my lounge floor, and Taraua ran into the back of my car (luckily no damage).
I needed a break away from the office and I enjoyed Marakei immensely.
Since 2009 Marlene Rasmussen from QLD has volunteered for the Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru, Kiribati. As bursar and trainer, Marlene is sharing her extensive financial management and business skills with the local diocesan staff to improve delivery of education, health and social welfare services in a country struggling with population growth and land loss due to rising sea levels.