Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Sunday in Funafuti - Music speaks to the heart in any language


After battening down the hatches for a 25+ kt rainy/windy squall (followed by a worry that we might have dragged our anchor [which we hadn't]), and closing the seacock in the aft head because the toilet was leaking and the pumping handle was loose, we managed to dinghy ashore almost exactly on time for a "9:30 for 10:00" church service. You might say that it was just an average Sunday morning at anchor :)

The church was one of the prettiest we have visited. The first thing I noticed was that space was almost empty - other than a few benches for some of the older parishioners, and the raised tables draped in clothes and covered in flowers for the minister, all that was in the room was the woven mats on the floor. The next thing I noticed was how bright and airy this made the space feel - the walls were painted white and accented with the same turquoise of the lagoon we could see through the open doors, while swaths of pink and turquoise fabric were draped around the walls. We were actually amongst the first to arrive, and we were quickly welcomed and ushered inside. At first it sounded like we would be seated according to local custom (men at the back left, women at the back right, boys at the front left and girls at the front right) but then our host decided that we could, in fact, sit as a family somewhere towards the middle. Our seats were ideal as we had the cross-breeze coming from both the side and back doors :)

The room was relatively quiet as we entered, but four people began singing (in parts) almost as soon as we sat down. It seemed at first like a sing-song, with jovial laughter when they made mistakes and had to start over, but soon it became apparent that this was the nucleus of the choir. With each selection, the strength of the music grew, as more people arrived to sit with them or simply sang from their places in the congregation. Finally, a smartly-dressed man in a sulu stood and expertly conducted the last few numbers before the service started. The acoustics of the hard walls, coupled with the choir's harmonies (if my high-school music recollection is in working order, I would say that they were singing lots of 'fifths') caused the music to ring and resonate as if they were a group several times their size. All the singing was acapella. At the start of each piece, the conductor would indicate for one woman to sing the first few notes to set the pitch, then the group would sing, joining in with many layers of harmonies. Once again (as in Penrhyn in 2014) I suspect that the especially moving music near the very beginning was a sung version of the Lord's Prayer; in fact, I again found myself weeping gently as they finished. I even noticed a familiar (three-fold?) "Amen" sung partway through the service. I lost count of the number of times the choir sang; for me, the music was the highlight of the morning.

Even though people arrived not only during the singsong but also right through the service, and rotating electric ceiling fans as well as woven palm fans were in constant motion, there was an unusual sense of quiet in the room before and throughout the service. Even the children, sitting together at the front of the church, were remarkably still (I guess having the watchful eyes of not just their parents but every grownup in the congregation on them had it effect!) We tried to look like we were paying attention to the proceedings (all in Tuvaluan) but sometimes we snuck a look around at our neighbours. Everyone smiled back, especially the children. One little girl, seated behind us, seemed particularly fascinated by Benjamin, and by the end of the service she had scooted closer to him than to her mother :) Given that no one in our family is used to sitting cross-legged on the floor for long stretches of time, the 90 minutes passed surprisingly quickly. I had told Benjamin on the walk over that he would have to be very quiet ("like when Mom was singing in the choir at Berwick Camp") and miraculously he didn't utter a word from when we entered until we were back outside. Yet again, despite how warm he was on my lap, I was grateful that he is 'still nursing' - I'm not sure how I would have managed to keep a squirmy toddler quiet otherwise! Even still, I was relieved when the service was over and we had survived :)

I have been reading two books this week that gave me food for thought as I listened to the service. The first, "Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics" (yes, really - when you have a degree in Engineering Physics, and a life-long interest in theology and spirituality, and you see such a book for sale at your Camp Book Room, you snap it up - or at least if you are me, then you do) was written by priest and social psychologist Diarmuid O'Murchu. In it, he talks about how human history stretches back upwards of 100,000 years, while 'religion' only began about 5,000 years ago. We have been dancing and making music pretty much since the beginning. These were our first sacred acts, and they were our early ancestors' method of connecting with the divine. Scientists are evening beginning to describe the unfolding and expansion of the universe as a 'dance'. The second book, "Resilience from the Heart: the Power to Thrive in Life's Extremes", by Gregg Braden, talks about how we need to connect to our hearts and our hearts' wisdom in order to make the kind of new decisions (personally and globally) that our evolving world needs now. Here I was in a service where I didn't understand a word, but the music was speaking to (literally resonating in ) my heart, and on the dais were written the words "Trust in the Lord with all your Heart" (the only English in the room), giving me something to ponder as I reflected on the experience. Both books came at similar subject matter from a different direction and seemed timely in their own way.

I found it funny that the service seemed to end rather abruptly; there was no obvious benediction, but all of a sudden I realized that there had been a short burst of laughter, the minister had stopped talking, and people were getting up to leave, so we took this as our cue. After the service, we spoke with a couple of friendly women on the front steps. It turned out that one of them worked in the Prime Minister's office (in the same Government building next door as where Max had cleared into Immigration and Quarantine) and that it had been her son who had given Max the ride on the scooter on Friday. She told us that the laughter was because the minister had told the congregation to speak to us, as he unfortunately hadn't been able to speak English during the service. We were touched that they would have considered us in the midst of their worship. True to form, Victoria had pulled out her crochet once we started to chat, and it turned out that the second woman we were speaking with was the mother of the 11-year-old girl watching Victoria so intently. We showed both ladies the name of our friend from the Savusavu market, and they didn't know her, but one said that the niece was the PA to the PM, and that she was in Morocco for meetings this week. We are still curious about if/when we will see our friend. We also learned that the dinghy dock that our friends had referenced had been removed recently, and that the large open park (QEII Park) had just been opened in September. (Deanne - this is the only area that doesn't seem to look like you remember...). This will be the site of a two-week trade show starting next week, so we think we will stay in the atoll until then, and clear mid-week for Kiribati. More to follow ..

We spent a quiet afternoon on the boat. Both big kids jumped into the water as soon as we got back from church. I haven't been swimming yet, but they say that it is warm enough that even I will like it. Without other kids to play with, it is a joy to hear laughter and made-up games from the upper deck :) Given that "bucket and chuck it" is a rather unsatisfactory way to deal with the need for a toilet onboard, we investigated the leak in our toilet right after lunch, and found that it was unrelated to the handle becoming loose: the leak was in the usual place between the porcelain bowl and the pump (the bolts need to be just tight enough to stop leaks, but not so tight that the bowl gets cracked). The handle was loose, not because the shaft was exiting the pump as we had worried, but because the set screw holding the handle to the shaft had come loose. Rather than an afternoon of labour, we were back in business with about five minutes of bolt-tightening. I had added extra bolts to our parts bucket (they were on the table to assist with the job), so when we had a bolt left over, we were worried that we had forgotten the set-screw for the shaft. It seems that we didn't, so all appears well :) When Max works alone, he *never* puts extra parts in the bucket - now I know why! Johnathan and Max (ie Johnathan with Max supervising) spliced a chain-hook into the line for our second anchor snubber. We will continue to use a rolling hitch on our main snubber, and will use the hook for the secondary/backup snubber. Meanwhile, Victoria was reading up on "Heavy Weather Sailing" in the book we were given by Exodus just before Tim went home.

Supper was one of our tastiest meals to date (according to the crew). I tried a new recipe from the Boat Galley Cookbook called "Sesame Crusted Tuna" topped with "Tangy Dipping Sauce" from the same book. I don't think I have heard such raving compliments in four years of cruising, so needless to say, this recipe will become a staple when we have tuna. (If you are curious, it couldn't have been simpler: I seasoned the fish with salt & pepper, smeared it with sesame oil, shook on some sesame seeds, and seared it in a hot pan because it was too windy to use the BBQ. Yum.)

As supper was being cleared away, Johnathan asked if I would read the newest chapters in his book aloud. The last I read it out for the family was back in Feb/March when he had just written Ch 1. Now he has over 15,000 words and he is well into Ch 4. I mentioned heart-wisdom earlier. I think Johnathan has plenty of it, and he was brave enough to subject his creation to feedback. He seemed pretty happy with the honest and enthusiastic compliments he received from everyone in the family. Proud mama moment, for sure!

I hope you also had a lovely, heart-expanding Sunday, and I hope you are well,


At 2016-11-17 1:22 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 08°31.49'S 179°11.30'E
At 2016-11-17 7:43 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 08°31.52'S 179°11.31'E

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