Archive for August, 2009
August 28th, 2009
This past week the merry-go-round started before we were even ready…. On Saturday [while most of you were still laboring through Friday] Ruth and I, along with the Secretary General of SANMA Province, Joel Path, and Minister of Finance, Sela Molisa, arrived in Wunpuko villij for the Lease Signing Celebration we had so long pursued. It actually took place on a most beautiful, sunny winter day in a space adjacent to heaven.
Everyone was psyched for it. Really, the preparations reached everyone in the village. What resulted was a flawless process of love, joyous expectation and extreme satisfaction. [We left before the bullock was served – but by then the village was having such a good time that it didn’t matter that we upped and left]. They loved the occasion as much as us; indeed, the one was inextricably bound within the other […..in spite of a penchant for forbidden fruit].
Our part in the ceremony began with a solemn and, at the same time, joyous procession in which I was led by the sacred namele leaf [that only a chief can use for chiefly purposes]. Thus we were organized into a slow-step processional march, each singular step delicately placed in the lea of a resonating blast from the conch-shell by Assistant Chief, Luitan. And while Ruth was busy with the camera, she was very much included in the festivities, [even though the culture here does place its women behind the men-folk]. So there I was, tied to the Chief whom I’d never seen like this before, naked but for a loin cloth, namele in one hand, ceremonial spear in the other – but still with impish grin he and I shared so many times. Charcoal streaks hid his normally dark features even more [as he was prepared for war], as well as spread across his splendid younger-than-his-years body.
Behind us then were the rest of the dignitaries – those who are called “Big Man” in this place where ceremony is so much loved and respected. It took a while to begin but everything, it seemed, was in divine order – it had to be. Chief Willy, who, like an old brother to me ….now gently pulled my spirit forward. We were in his kingdom now, and this, his nasara – is the unmistakable place where he is revered as king. In this wondrous place now he was about to formally take us and receive us ….into his hearth as part of the kingdom …..forever more.
The loving formality of each step was echoed again in speeches and song as Ruth and I wandered through the program. Then all seemed to almost stop as I came face to face with a shell of Kava filled to the brim. Willy – whose office it is to dispense such blessings – looked upon me with more satisfaction than astonishment. Even the children were surprised at my …fortitude. So was I.
When finally the formalities were over, focus shifted to the feast at hand. We’d brought with us two hundred and fifty éclair-like pastries [which had now been cut into 500 pieces. Well, they didn’t last fifteen minutes. There were easily one hundred and fifty of us who’d waited for this moment.
Our special vegetarian plates were also ready, and lovingly prepared. But the excitement was still too deeply resonant in my gut, to get much into it. The pastry though was sensational, just what you’d expect from a Parisian patisserie ….now in NWSanto [a world away].
It has been such a long, long road to this magic place, we could not but consider the momentous occasion anything but profoundly moving…. It was almost like a marriage, a birth, and a coming-of-age all wrapped up into one grand occasion. Here were all those we’d come to know [over many visits and nights we spent there] and love, full of joy with and for us ….circling our life now within reach of theirs [for all time] even if this was only a 75yr lease. No one would have thought it any other way.
So, with the various steps in ratification of the Lease still to do [for which we both went on to Port Vila that evening] it may still be till Monday when we can rightly begin to install the Edenhope Project. But the marriage already took place! The documents, we are informed, have indeed made it to the Minister of Land’s office – and he will sign it as soon as he gets to it and into his office again after the weekend. Whereupon we will pay stamp duties – various – and register the Lease for 1,878 acres [exactly the size of shangri’ la].
And next we await a Certificate for the newest Conservation Area in the South Pacific [if not the world]. It is no doubt enthralled in the singular prospect for which we came here almost three years ago. Looks like we have reached up to that place we have so long dreamed. Now the work must begin. We’ll keep you posted.