If you ran out of food at your house today, chances are you’d hop in your car, or walk down the street, to the nearest grocery or convenience store, pay some money and come home with enough food to feed your family. Otherwise you might order a pizza or go out to eat at a restaurant. But what would you do if the grocery stores and restaurants were closed, or, as is the case in many places in Malaita, the stores were too far away to walk to or drive to?
In many of the villages in Malaita, especially in the East and the South where there is little road access, families must eat what they can hunt, gather, and grow. Fortunately, the natural ecology of Malaita provides a smorgasbord of well adapted species of plants and animals that are suitable for human consumption—many of which grow and run wild!
In this picture my new friend is showing me an amazing creature—the coconut crab! Coconut crabs receive their name from their main source of food—coconuts. The crab has strong pincers both fore and aft allowing it to husk and crack open the coconut’s shell. Coconuts can be cut in half and set out as bait to catch the crabs in the middle of a tasty lunch.
Another wild food that grows in many places is swamp taro, or kakama in the local language. Kakama is an “emergency” or “poverty” food that is planted as an insurance crop. It is planted in swampy land not suitable for other forms of cultivation. Once planted, it requires no maintenance and can keep for over ten years. Kakama is not an everyday food, but is often harvested for inquisitive guests (such as myself) and is always available in the event of calamity, thus making it a staple for basic food security in the Solomon Islands.
Growing up in the United States it was easy for me to take for granted clean, fresh water from the tap. My family has a spring on our property, but even beyond that, freshwater in the US is typically as close as the nearest sink and faucet. The average American household is equipped with a water pump to automatically fill up the toilet, the hot water tank, the washing machine, even our refrigerators!
Water in the Solomon Islands is a different story altogether, especially in the village. The picture featured above shows part of the quaint village Lololo along with the primary water source that runs through it, the Lololo River. In the village, the river is a fundamental component of daily life. It is used for drinking and cooking water, and washing clothes and dishes. It is also used for personal hygiene and even for entertainment–the children love to swim! The river—downstream from drinking, washing, and recreation areas—carries human waste away to the mangroves where it is filtered before it reaches the ocean. In short, a day does not go by in which the river is not used for the flourishing of village life.
Overlooking the Airahu Campus is the Chapel of the Martyrs of Melanesia. Here, morning and evening prayer is held seven days a week, and Holy Eucharist is celebrated on Thursdays and Sundays. It is a beautiful blend of Melanesian and British cultures, just like many features of the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Here Jonathan and Judah Hicks, and I are seen walking to morning Eucharist.
One of the most interesting cultural/geographical features I have seen in the Solomon Islands are the man-made reef islands that can be seen in and around various lagoons. Many of the original builders/settlers of these islands were displaced from the bush-lands many generations ago. Slowly, canoe load by canoe load, these settlers brought pieces of dead coral and piled them upon one another, until their islands were built. This picture is taken at mid-tide–the water level will rise a bit higher than seen here. Historically, these sea people would catch fish and create shell-money (still an active currency) to be traded with bush-people for sweet potato, cassava, taro, etc.
A couple weeks ago I was asked to fill in as a homilist at Sunday Eucharist. I was given about 48 hours notice, which is considered “advanced” notice in this culture. It was an opportunity I was grateful for. The chapel is called “The Chapel of the Melanesian Martyrs.” In an upcoming post I will share a bit more about the martyrs to whom the chapel is dedicated.
Worship in the Anglican Church of Melanesia tends to be Anglo-Catholic in style, and features incense, vestments, and familiar hymns and creeds. There are, however, many distinctive Melanesian features (you can probably see my bare feet!) that I continue to discover.