We're on a tiny island somewhere in Melanesia. I recall we're somewhat safe because there haven't been any cases of cannibalism since 1968. *Gulp*
Anyhow, this is the day we met Chief.
It all began with an English-speaking local named Samuel. Samuel wanted to show us a real village, but he had to get permission from Chief first.
My heart is pounding while he talks to Chief-- a big guy, standing in the distance, dressed only in a palm frond.
Permission is granted.
Chief blows on his conch shell and leads us into his village.
I'm nervous, realizing we're on some tiny island, in the middle of nowhere, heading into the jungle with strangers.
Naked strangers, I might add. Well, except for Samuel. Thank Goodness.
Anyhow, Samuel is the only one who speaks English, but all the villagers are so nice- full of smiles.
The young boys come out to see us. Reluctant at first, they eventually become excited, showing us their games: drawing pictures in the sand, showing us their pet pig, and their spider garden.
Yes...they actually have a spider garden for their pet spiders.
Other men show us their cooking and where they store their food. They are surprisingly proud of the palm leaf covered pits where they store their bananas.
"Not monkey bananas," Samuel tells us. "Other kind of bananas."
Good to know!
The women and girls are sitting together, weaving palm fronds.
At one point we see a single isolated little hut. It looks quite inviting.
Samuel explains that a woman will go there when she is menstruating.
Yup. Once a month, the women in the village go to isolated private huts and chill by themselves. While they deal with their PMS, the husbands deal with the children.
When their period is finished, and they feel better, the women come back to the village. They're happy and refreshed.
What a wonderful way to treat their women.
But, it wasn't always that way.
In the long ago past, this was their courting ritual:
When they'd find the village girl they wanted to marry, they'd punch her in the face and drag her home. Now she's their wife. The added bonus is she'll probably have missing teeth and not be attractive to other men.
In the late 1700's, when missionaries were visiting the islands, trying to convert them to Christianity, they convinced the men to consider a different courting ritual that didn't involve violence. Like, you know...talking to her.
During WWII, the USA temporarily took over the island. The poured concrete still remains. When the war was over and the military left, all the items left behind were collected and stored in their new "museum."
Chief proudly took us into the hut to show it all off:
They have an abundance of food on the island and use bamboo as pots...
And that, dear reader, was the memorable Christmas Day we were welcomed, with open arms, into Chief's village.
We'll never meet again, but we'll never forget him.