Monday, July 19, 2010

UHU Village

Two boys fishing at the entrance to Uhu village.

Sunday, July 10: After Mass at St. Augustine's Cathedral we climbed aboard a "canoe" for the four hour trip on the sea to Uhu village. Our trip was relatively smooth, and we arrived in the village about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Uhu is at the southern end of the Are Are lagoon. The sheltered waters of the lagoon offer good fishing and safe places for building houses and many small villages line the shoreline of Malaita (known as the "mainland") and the numerous barrier islands that separate the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean.

Uhu Island is home to about 100 families (700 people). There is no electrical power or mobile phone service. Water is piped over from the mainland to about 6 taps along the shoreline. Every morning, the "rush hour" is of children hurrying down to the taps to fill up a variety of bottles and jugs with the day's water. In the late afternoon, the taps are busy again as everyone gathers for their "swim," the local term for a wash-up. The families of the village live on the food that they grow in their gardens and on fishing. Dozens of pigs and chickens are a vibrant part of the community, wandering about freely all day long. At home we'd call them "free-range," but here they're just neighbors. Most of the homes are built of bamboo and palm leaves. We were lucky to stay in the house of Sirach and his family, one of the few wooden houses in the village. A solar battery powered one light for the house. Most of the villagers depend on kerosene lamps or their cooking fires for illumination.

When we arrived, Peter, the village catechist, greeted us and told us that the people were eagerly anticipating Sunday Mass. Uhu is at the southernmost part of the parish of Rohinari, and the priest is only able to come once every month or so. When the bell rang, people started coming from all over the village and the leaf church was soon filled to overflowing with even more people standing outside. The young people of the village had prepared a beautiful liturgy with all of the songs and Mass parts sung in the local language of AreAre. Everyone from small children to the very few older folks joined in the singing with great gusto. After Mass, everyone wanted to shake hands with the visiting white-men (arriko in AreAre). Fr. Tom kept asking the children "What's your name?" All they would do is echo back in reply "What's your name?" All week long as Fr. Tom walked through the village cries of "What's your name?" would greet him from every side.

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