[Lots of new images uploaded in different galleries. Enjoy! – admin]

Tuesday 27 May 2010, A village somewhere in the South Pacific

We weren’t going to say much about the following episode.  When it originally happened we figured, the less said the better, on the basis that we didn’t want to emphasise something negative or create any more embarrassment for those involved.  But it has all ended well.  So well in fact that we thought it was worth detailing it here – just that we won’t mention the village or any of the names involved.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when we dropped into a small village (name withheld)

As usual we had a fair number of kids out on the boat, with 16 in the dinghy being our new record as upwards of 40 made their home on the boat for a few hours at a time – mostly on the deck.  In all cases, we have found the kids to be well behaved and respectful while on board.  So it was with disbelief that we concluded that Matt’s missing iPod was not just lost but must have been stolen.

We were well down the coast when we realised the loss and had no intention of going back to the anchorage but the more we thought about it the more we figured we needed to make the village elders aware of what had happened.  We didn’t want to be left with a bad taste in our mouths about this village and stealing is the sort of behaviour that needs to be checked at the earliest opportunity.  Oh,  and Matt was keen to get his iPod back.

After much discussion aboard we deduced that a shiny white iPod would be a very difficult item for a child to conceal in such a village.  So as a first step in locating the machine a quick call was made after a few days to a Ni-van, healthcare worker friend from down south whose brother lives in the village and who we got to know quite well when we were first there.

The call had the desired effect.  Within a day we received a call in return saying that the iPod had been found and that if we were able to return and pick it up the village would like to make a presentation of a small gift to show how sorry they were.

I sought directions from my friend as to how best to handle the situation – should we just stay long enough to pick up the item, then go, or should we stay the night at the village anchorage.  We understood that the actions of one silly boy did not represent the whole village, but because word spreads quickly in a place like this there would be a lot of embarrassment over the issue.

In the end we decided to stay the night and after arriving this morning we went ashore this afternoon and were greeted by the chief in charge of disputes and legal issues.  It was then off to the Nakamal long hut, to sit and take kava, prepared in front of us by a group of men.  It was clear that the actions of this one boy had created ripples in the village which were expressed to us as a profound apology from this particular chief.  After soon arriving the old man told us, in an animated way, while waving his machete, that, when the father of the boy heard about the theft he wanted to kill his son, for the shame and embarrassment caused.

This was no doubt more an expression of sorrow and contrition, rather than real intent, but over the ensuing weeks things had obviously calmed down a bit because the boy was eventually brought into the Nakamal hut in front of us – looking  quite fit and healthy.  He received (another) talking to in front of us and then came forward to say sorry and shake Matt’s hand at which point he also gave Matt a gift of a wonderful woven mat.  I also shook hands with the boy.  Now, whether we had kava before or after this I don’t remember, but I do remember we had two coconut shells full, and that might explain why I can’t remember.

The chief went on to explain that the kava ceremony is designed to bring harmony and restore things to what they were before, with a short prayer given up before proceedings.  Matt and I (I should explain that Lanie had happily taken her leave half an hour earlier, even before the crushing of the kava tree roots by hand had commenced, in order to attend to a small boy whom she had noticed had a lot of sores on his skin) then shook hands and embraced each of the men, one by one and there was a definite lifting of the tension in the air at this point.  Nothing like a bit of a bloke-hug to sort things out.

Realising that this poor kid, (who no doubt wished the ground could open up and swallow him whole), had copped a bit from all angles over the past week or so, I thought it appropriate to say a few words to the gathering.  I drew inspiration from the Lords Prayer, (always a good standby) of which all of them would have been well aware, being devout Anglicans.  After acknowledging that stealing was bad and that it was important to learn from mistakes, I reminded everyone that we ask God to … “forgive us our sins, (or trespasses)  as we forgive others who trespass against us” putting the emphasis on forgiving others because it was not just this boy who had done things wrong in the past, but every man gathered here, including the chief, had done things wrong.

Everyone seemed happy and relaxed after the ceremony and once outside the hut we sang songs with the kids until it was obvious darkness was about to fall and we’d better get back to the yacht – where Mike was busily working on the computer typing up medical records from the clinics.

The boy at the centre of the whole affair walked with us down to the dinghy, (plus his father) along with what seemed like a mass of kids, (after all, Lanie was now back with us) and so it was with quite a bit of emotion that we fired up the Mercury and covered the short distance back to the boat, reflecting on the importance of the ceremony and the words of the chief thanking us so much for coming back and enabling them to make amends.

Not only did Matt get his iPod back, but we also scored a mountain of Pamplemousse.  Which is a great blessing because we were down to out last two.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and forgiveness all round

Rob Latimer