Sunday, August 19, 2007

Birthday dinner

Unpongkor (Dillon's Bay), Erromango Island, Vanuatu

Jif (Chief) William N. Mete and his wife Marta generously invited us in for dinner and live music ashore. We arrived to find temporary building elaborately decorated with fresh brightly colored and aromatic flowers. Benches lined one side of the hut measuring twelve by twenty feet and opposite, a generous fifteen foot long table resplendent with heaping platters of local fare. Jif William warmly welcomed our small group and then shared some of the islands tumultuous history of fierce tribal wars, ruthless European traders, cannibalism and the arrival of missionaries whom were sometimes eaten. Jif William then smoothly transitioned to his vision of the future and outlined the steps to ensure traditional values and lifestyles are maintained while embracing the inevitable and ever-present rush of change. We were all very impressed with the seventy five year old Jif's leadership and youthful vigor After a pre-dinner prayer I was invited to cut my birthday cake and the fifteen person band led a rousing and unique rendition of "happy birthday". The Jif's wife then adorned me with a special birthday scarf and flower lei and ceremoniously powdered my face with white powder of some sort. Then we loaded our plates with sumptuous island fare and enjoyed hours of traditional music and great conversation.

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