Friday, March 4, 2016

A Visit to Marakei

This is the first excursion we've made to the outer islands.  Actually, we've been to North Tarawa twice and I even rode the Church launch out to Abaiang once but to fly to another island and stay for several days is a new experience.  There was a project that was begun in Marakei about four years ago and it has never been followed up or even inspected since its inception.  We needed to go out and see where it was, progress wise, and also inspect the chapel and Elders' quarters

We bought round trip tickets and flew out on a Friday in this twin prop commuter.  It carried about 15 passengers and the flight was about 20 minutes

Here is the cabin with some of the passengers.  We had Kamatoa and his wife as well as Peter Eria along with us.  Kamatoa was there to do the audit for the branch and Peter was with us.  He is the country welfare manager and takes much of the responsibility for welfare work in Kiribati
 The windows in the cabin were so dirty we could hardly see out much less take a picture but we did get this one to show the atoll.  It is a complete circle with a lagoon in the middle--kind of like if you held two horse shoes end to end.  There are bridges to connect the two places where the land masses meet and what seems like a river running between them as the tide moves in and out.

We took a picture of a map in the "hotel" so we could see what the whole island looked like.  It is pronounced Meh rah kay.
This is the airport terminal.  I am standing with Peter and the Elders assigned to this branch.  These two young men, the Sr companion has only been out since September, are alone on this island doing great missionary work.  They arranged for transport and a meeting of the Church priesthood holders so we could chat about the project and their humanitarian needs.

We enjoyed the shuttle from the airport to the Island Council Accommodations.

At the Island Council campus we were greeted by this building which is the accommodations for guests coming to Marakei
I am sitting at the buffet table plugged into the only working outlet in the building.  This is the lobby, which was fairly comfortable and where we took all our meals.  They prepared three meals a day for us and really went out of their way to make it as nice as possible.  On the left table you can see a tray and selection of drinks which included hot chocolate and a sort of orange juice concentrate you could mix up to make a juice drink.  We brought our filters and filtered anything we drank because water was straight out of the rain tank.  The meals were fairly good, too.  For breakfast we had pancakes with grated coconut, bread and butter and hot chocolate.  For lunch; fish and rice.  For supper; rice and fish; both served with squash--they call it pumpkin. They served a little corned beef as well, alternatively in kind of a stew.  Once they served crab.  I tried the legs and they were quite good.
Our room was a  commodious 10x10 with a view of the beach, good cross ventilation and a mosquito net.  Though, when it rained, we had to close the drapes to keep the water out which occluded the ventilation somewhat.

Security included locks on the doors and two keys.

The restroom facility, though community, was spacious, well ventilated and included a shower.  The door locked nicely with a bent nail that turned freely.  Everyone was discrete and polite, knocking first before coming in.  Though the seating was not exactly comfortable (owing to the missing seat/lid), the toilet did flush.  There was a string on which to hang the towel.  What more do you need?
These are the tanks that provided the water for the "hotel."  The larger of the tanks is connected to the roof by PVC guttering which collects the rainwater.  The rainwater is pumped to the upper tank so that the tap, toilet, and shower (all singular) can be fed by gravity.  

Having checked in, it was customary for new guests to circumnavigate the atoll and pay homage to the four Goddesses before any business could be transacted.  So we rented three motorcycles and took off on this interesting journey.  I haven't ridden a motorcycle in 35 years and it was touch and go at best.  Sis Waldron opted, wisely so, to not ride with me on my bike.  She might never had made it back alive.  I fared better than I thought considering terrible roads, often no more than game trails.  I did lay it down once while negotiating some deep, dry sand.  

This is one of the four Goddesses with our guide (pictured right).  I didn't think to bring anything but our guide did and broke a piece of candy off at each altar.  As we pulled away I chanced to look over my shoulder at the altar and saw the children converge on the candy left behind.  I assume the Goddesses were pleased as we made it around the island without incident.

 These three pictures are the kitchen facility at the hotel.  This young lady, who happened to be one of Peter's former English students, cooked three meals a day for us.  
 The kitchen conveniences included two sinks with running water, and a two (2) burner kerosene stove

There was no electricity therefore no refrigeration.  All food is stored in what the islanders call a food safe.  These two larders are typical of that storage.

Above is the view of the beach from the hotel.  It was very nice.  There were several Kiakias here that one could sleep on if desired but we stayed in the room as all were occupied this weekend.

These wild flowers grow everywhere and are beautiful.  They presented a fun picture with the trunk of a coconut tree in the background.  Fun texture and color.

By and large the properties were clean, tidy and partitioned off.

This property had several garden spots with cabbage and other vegetables growing.  I complimented them on the great labor on their property.  It looked very impressive.  

We met with the Elders of the Branch and discussed their needs with respect to garden supplies, tools and water.  The water system not only for their gardens but for the community for drinking and cooking as well.  

Before leaving, we took a long walk around the island and saw some fun things.  This is a hand shoveled causeway.

This is one of the kiakias we saw that had split limbs for siding.  Haven't seen that much.  Peter is seen here doing some family history work with one of his cousins in this village.  

This was an absolutely gorgeous tree.  We couldn't pass without taking a picture of it.  

This last one is just to show you that the roads are bad and worse depending how long ago it rained.
A final shot of the accommodations from the beach looking back.  This was a short visit, so we were unable to visit the members as we would have liked.  We did attend Sacrament Meeting but had to leave immediately after in order to make the flight.  There were funds available from a prior project so we were able to take care of much of their needs immediately.  We thought this was a great trip.