Thursday, December 15, 2011

MAKING FRIENDS, MEMORIES & MELTING IN MALAITA

TWO WEEKS ago the Fauabu Malaita Branch was officially organized with 31 baptised members and an average Sacrament Meeting attendance of 50 plus.  Peter Rimou and his wife Margaret have been serving a mission there for the past 6 months and have laid the ground work for a great future for the Church there.  They have formed a great friendship with the Anglican Priest, Father Michael Irotoa, who has not only the responsibility for the parish but also for the medical clinic there.

Peter suggested to Father Michael some time ago that the Church might be able to rebuild one of the dilapidated buildings at the Clinic with Humanitarian Funds.  Cheryle and I and Pres. Misitana visited there in early November to assess the needs.  We prepared the proposal and submitted it a week later and received approval to proceed with a budget of $83,000 SBD.  That's almost $12,000 US.  After this Peter went with Father Michael to the Anglican Board of the Malaita Diocese to get their approval.  Their one question to Peter was, "What is your motivation"?  Peter responded that we did not have a motivation other than to provide help where we could see much need. 

As soon as the District Conference was over we concentrated our efforts on getting everything in order to leave on Monday December 5th for Fauabu Malaita for the project.  Pres. Misitana got the materials ordered and ready to be shipped from Honiara and we were ready to go.

The Lady Wakehurst was scheduled to leave Honiara harbor at 6 PM.  President Misitana had the materials loaded earlier in the day.  He wanted to pick us up at 4 PM to go with him to board so we made sure we were ready and waited for him.  And waited for him.  And waited for him. 

At 4:30 we called and he said not to worry he would be there in 10 minutes.  At 5:15 we called again and he said he was coming.  At 5:45 he pulled up with a cab and we ran and jumped in and headed for the wharf. 

We fought the evening traffic through town and got to the wharf at 5:55 and literally ran to the boat and jumped on.  We were the last people to board and it was packed.  Really packed like a can of sardines.  We could not even walk in the isles without stepping on someone.  There were no seats until a mother with 3 young children took pity on us and moved them so we had a seat to sit down. 

We arrived at the harbor in Auki, Malaita at midnight, hot, sticky and sweaty.  The hotel was about 1/2 mile away so we found a taxi and jumped in.  Cheryle and I in the back seat.  The lights worked, but nothing happened when the driver turned the ignition key on.  After 5 minutes or so of this I decided to get out, so I reached in the dark for the door handle and found it was broken.  (I swear that there is not a door handle, window winder, glove box latch etc. in all of the Solomon Islands that still works.)  I got hold of what was left of the handle and pulled, but it did nothing to open the door.  Finally I convinced Pres. Misitana that we needed to get out of the cab and that he needed to open my door from the outside.  We got our luggage and walked to the Hotel which was quite enjoyable after how hot we had been all evening.

Tuesday morning Cheryle and I got up early and went to the market to pick up some fresh bananas.















Gas stations are a little interesting in Malaita.  This one is quite hi-tech because they have a hand pump in a barrel with a glass cylinder like the old antique pumps in the US to see when they have a gallon pumped.  Then they pour it into a plastic container and with the help of a funnel pour it one gallon at a time into the tank.  No one fills up the tank or tops it off because they only sell the fuel in even gallons.  You just always run on the low side with a gallon or two in the tank.




We were blessed to be able to rent this 4X4 toyota truck from James, the owner.  The last time we were in Malaita he drove us around for $1000 SBD a day plus fuel.  This time he agreed to rent his truck to us for $700 SBD per day plus the gas.

I liked this a lot better.  Yes I'm a control freak, I just like to have the steering wheel in my hands and not someone else driving.  30 kilometers each day to Fauabu and back on a decent but rough dirt road most of the way.  Check out this bridge.  Note the planks on the left side.  It's really not bad if you stay in the middle.
The truck ran pretty good for an old toyota but the seats were worn through the foam so you could see the metal frame on the drivers side against the door.  It never quit us or even had a flat and the AC worked which was really nice after a long day working in the sun at 88 degrees and 80 % humidity.


The other mode of travel was a public motor vehicle or PMV.  30 to 40 people in the back of a 16 ft truck bed with maybe a plank bench and lots of supplies, canned foods etc.  We were spoiled in comparison.












These houses are typical of those along the way to our project in Fauabu.  Well kept, but palm thatch for roofs and walls.  No water, electricity or other conveniences like we take so much for granted in the US.  We always passed ladies with their dishes stacked up on their heads as they walked up the roads from the streams where they had washed them.  Sometimes they carried containers of water back to their homes for long distances from the rivers.




When we arrived at Fauabu the work had already begun.  The whole building had been cleaned and everything had been moved out ready for the renovation. 











Women and men joined together to begin to remove the old trim and screens.  The louvered windows had been covered with window screen and then chicken wire over that for security.  Everyone seemed to want to wear the Mormon Helping Hands vests.  They didn't seem to care if they were Members or not they all wanted to wear the vests.  It was great.













Ken pulling off the trim around a window.












While the work outside progressed another crew went right to work on the inside repainting the 40 year old building.  








How do you carry a sheet of heavy mesh wire that is 12 ft by 6 ft and weighs about 150 lbs?

 These men seem to have fun carrying the heavy wire for the windows.  We used 3/16 inch galvanized wire welded in at 2 X 3 inch grid for the new security wire over the new screens on all of the windows.









Painting the anti rust primer on the iron roof while others cut the heavy wire mesh and still others work on the exterior walls.

Note the strategically placed antique operating table in front of the clinic.




  




Removing window batting and screen.









My Dad always said that necessity was the mother of invention.

And........

Operating tables usually have just one purpose, but sometimes they are handy and if the need is there, what the heck, why not just go with it.








Hey, guys, watch the drips, that scaffold may need to be used again.














Elder Mitchell with the hat, supervising his mixed crew of Anglicans and Mormons. 

At the first of the week I wondered if they knew which end of the paint brush to hang onto, but by Saturday they were showing amazing skills and real potential.



The Boys liked the paint and seemed to have creative ways of using it.





The girls liked to watch and just be around the project, especially when Sister Mitchell was near.









Elder Mitchell taking a break next to a couple of cocoa palms.

















A view of the bay just 100 yards from the clinic.
















Sister Mitchell on the beach with the Holy Rock (translation: Fauabu) in the background.
















Logging boat full of timber cut from the hills behind.  Then loaded on the barge with a track hoe and pushed by the tug boat out to deep water where the timber is unloaded onto the big ship.

Note the dugout canoe in front of the barge.





The Anglican Chapel at the Clinic is in rough shape as well.  Maintenance is not much of a priority here.  In other words it does not happen.  As an example, look closely on the eyebrow roof to the right side of the picture.  The cross has fallen down some time ago and lies flat on the rusted iron roofing.  I suggested to Cheryle that perhaps I should reattach it to the roof, but we decided to leave it as is.








Fred, in the blue shirt was quite skilled and had a great talent for painting.  His wife is Solomae, the midwife at the clinic and we came to like them very much as the week progressed.




Cedric, on the left, is the lab technician for the clinic and he worked with us all week.  Here they are painting the iron roof with aluminum paint. 

Cedric asked if we might help him with his lab.  The termites had eaten the plywood on his counter top until it was literally gone and he had no where to put his microscope.

Someone had also broken in through the chicken wire on his windows and stolen his supplies.  So we used the left over screen and heavy wire to secure his windows and replaced his counter top with a new sheet of plywood.

Friday he told me he had to go to Auki to collect his pay check.  It seems unbelievable to me, but the ministry of health will not bring the payroll the 30 kilometers to Fauabu.  The employees must travel by PMV to Auki every two weeks to get paid.  What this country needs is an efficiency expert. 







Our multi-talented paint crew hard at work.













What a beautiful place to prepaint facia boards.











President Misitana's 10 year old son Alma, fast asleep on the way home to our hotel in Auki after a hard day of play.






Our pink panther paint crew with their Mormon Helping Hands vests puting on the final coat of paint.






Cheryle with her native fan by her side, hemming her dress by hand.












Cheryle's little friends.  It seems like everyone loves Sister Mitchell!  Or is it Sister Mitchell loves everyone.  Probably both!









More fans of Sister Mitchell.  Yes the blond hair is natural and quite common.  











President Misitana, our direct supervisor and Elder Mitchell, who provided expertise, technical assistance and project supervision.






Three of our young helpers, or should we say they helped themselves to the paint.  Look closely at the one on the right, the evidence is on his face and legs.  The kids all loved the paint, but we are not sure if their moms did or not.








Cheryle cleaning windows that had not been cleaned since the building was built in 1971.  They looked a lot better when we were done. 











Putting the finishing touches and security wire on the windows.





        


Father Michael Irotoa and his wife Connie were very gracious to us.  They invited us to stay with them overnight but we politely declined explaining that we had a hotel in Auki that we stayed at each night after the day's work.  They fed us lunch two different days and became very good friends with us.
Father Michael had long discussions as he asked question after question about the Church as we visited on his back porch.
This view is from their dining room looking out the back of their home to the ocean and back yard.

Saturday morning Father Michael prepared a celebration to thank us for our help with rebuilding the Clinic.  He had the Gwa'adoe panpipers perform for us.  Leis were given to us and shell necklaces were placed around our necks.  We were literally treated like king and queen.  He spoke to the assembled group about the blessing we had provided to them and how thankful they were.  He then asked Elder Mitchell to speak.  Light refreshments were served and the panpipers performed again.  It was a very nice celebration. 

The Humanitarian Fund of the Church provided over $80,000 SBD for the project and the labor was provided by a combination of the Anglican and Mormon congregations at Fauabu.  It's interesting that a Church of 31 baptised members in the Fauabu Branch could provide the funding when the largest Christian Denomination in the Solomon Islands could not provide any money for this project.  Beginning Tuesday morning and working hard until dark Saturday night most of the work was completed. 

President Misitana stayed until Tuesday to finish up the last details and complete the job.


 




Elder Mitchell addressing the group at the celebration.













Solomae, Sister Mitchell, Nurse, Connie Irotoa, Father Michael Irotoa, Elder Mitchell









Connie and Father Michael,  Elder and Sister Mitchell, dancing to the panpipers.











Ken and his Anglican friend and helper, John.


























Our little friend Andrew and his friends dancing to the panpipers.  Andrew is on the right.












Cheryle's friends having fun in the ocean.






































Sister Mitchell's friends loved to perform for the camera.  Looks fun doesn't it!!





















The perfect end to a perfect week and a nearly perfect humanitarian project.

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