Fote Volunteers: Max and Sarah

On July 24, 2010 by admin

Michelle is currently in the Solomon Islands with new volunteers but we are so very sorry to say that we never posted our last volunteers’ account of their experience in Fote.  We are so sorry Max and Sarah!  We hope you forgive us :-) Amidst all the moving, traveling, getting married (for Rhoda!) and setting up in U.S., your wonderful story with amazing photos got lost in the shuffle.  Without further wait, here is Max and Sarah’s story:

Our Time with the people of Fote Village

It was incredibly hot when Max and I arrived in Honiara for the first time in December 2009. We were paralyzed and we thought – how are we going to survive the next two months here??? Walking around in Honiara made us feel a bit insecure because it was the first time for us in the South Pacific and we didn’t know anything about the Solomons and its people.

The day we arrived in the Fote village together with Mirjam from “Little and Loud”, we were welcomed with a wonderful and overwhelming welcome ceremony which the village people had organized for us. A women’s choir, whose members were all dressed in beautiful white dresses, sang “Step by Step” – a song that would later become one of our favorites. Singing with their amazing voices, they accompanied us to the decorated stage where people gave us necklaces made of Frangipani blossoms.

Then a “Bamboo Band” in traditional costumes with bamboo flutes and drums appeared and played the most uplifting and groovy music we have ever heard. They were dancing gracefully while playing and even performed the National Anthem of the Solomons – we were absolutely thrilled!

Karassi Bamboo Band having a break

The ceremony ended with a few speeches and some delicious food. It seemed that the whole village had assembled and was sitting under the big tree in front of the stage. We drowned in smiling faces and warm handshakes. Never in our lives had anybody treated us with such appreciation.

During the following days Mirjam showed us around and introduced us to the people and the different parts of Fote. However the heat was still unbearable for us and even walking in a slow pace turned out to be a physical challenge especially because Sarah had caught a flue.

After Mirjam left, we started with our holiday program, which included English lessons, music and drama. The children were all extremely interested in us and in school, so many turned up each day. They loved the banjo and violin and sang so naturally. They are the students every teacher would dream off. The kids were shy at the beginning but we soon got closer and shortly before Christmas, we even made a Christmas movie with them, which we showed in the “cinema” in front of their parents and neighbors. It was one of the highlights and everybody enjoyed it.

In school…

Every Thursday we took a truck and 30 minutes later arrived to Auki where we taught computer literacy to a few teachers of Fote primary school. We also used the time there to keep “Little and Loud” updated with our program and progress, which turned out to be quite tedious as the internet connection got interrupted a few times. However the air-condition in the Telecom building made it all worthwhile!

Each morning we woke up to the beautiful singing in the church and people would bring us local food consisting of sweet potatoes, rice, noodles and fish with cabbage. On weekends and on other days we tried to cook our own meals in our ‘kitchen’ which was a little leave hut next to our hut with a little fire place and a hole in the roof. We learned to appreciate electric water jugs while we tried to make fire and get the water boiling which could take up to 30 minutes in absolutely smoke filled air. We would come out with charcoal in our faces, bathed in sweat and coughing…However we adapted and even managed to cook Chinese instant noodles. We’d fall asleep to the calming sound of singing voices from somewhere out in the dark…

It stopped raining for three weeks in December and there was no running water in the village which meant that we weren’t able to cool off under the open-air shower of the village under the stars. We had to use our rain water that we collected in a big drum outside our hut. We never thought that we would ever be so desperate for rain in our lifetime! However in January it started raining again and it rained a lot! The empty streams and waterholes filled with crystal clear water for us to jump in and cool off. We swam through the rainforest with a green kaleidoscope of leaves above our heads.

The heat could be oppressive and the absent rain didn’t make it easier. Inside the school building it felt like in a sauna as the tin roof heated itself up quickly. However the children were diligently learning, singing and practicing drama in front of cameras which they especially loved. Every day they would ask if we would show the recorded scenes in the evening on TV. And when we did, young and old would burst out laughing.

In the ‘cinema’ showing the Christmas movie we made with the kids.

The children impressed us the most. They climbed up high coconut palms and cut coconuts open with giant bush knives. They could do anything the adults could do from carrying heavy buckets filled with water to working in the hot sun in the garden for hours. Even the youngest would play without supervision by the sea and walk around in the bush. Nobody was ever worried that they might fall or drown or cut themselves except for me!

Take it easy…

Max and some men from the village started building shelves for the storage room of the school that the previous volunteers Marc and John had built. They also built furniture for the school and a roof for the Kindergarten with material they got from the bush.

Max and Chaniel building the roof for the Kindergarten…(always good teamwork)

One evening the sons and daughters of Taisol would play up with their own bamboo band instruments and the girls were singing and dancing for hours! There was nothing we could have taught them about music. It was a stunning performance, proof of a rich and alive musical culture.

Joining the Session with the Taisol Bamboo Band.

When it was time to say goodbye we were surprised about two farewell ceremonies that had been organized for us! One part of Fote called Karassi had prepared a sophisticated program with the Karassi bamboo band and even women dancing and singing traditional music. What an exciting performance to see and listen to! We were touched by the effort they had put in all this including the delicious meals. When the choir sang three emotional farewell songs, tears started falling. We were even given beautiful traditional shell-money necklaces as farewell presents and custom mats (traditional umbrellas).

The women of Karassi performing a ‘custom dance’.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this report, we were never treated in such an honored and appreciative manner. We don’t know how we can give back what these people have given to us. It is a truth that these simple and warm-hearted people have given us an invaluable experience and understanding.

Despite the hardships this way of life poses to western people, we are endlessly thankful for the time we spent in Fote. Thank you ‘Little and Loud’, especially Mirjam for letting us be part of the project.

They really are little and loud…

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