Tuesday, December 6

We woke up to dark clouds threatening rain, and by the time we hit the trail to the other end of our island at a few minutes after 6:00, drops spattered the umbrellas we quickly popped up. Usually, we can hike the just under two mile trek to the school in 45 minutes, but the slick muddy trails slowed us down this morning. Between the rain and the dew on the plants that covered both sides of the trail, we were soaked by the time we arrived at the school.
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Thankfully, during the morning prayer service the clouds began to part and the sun began to shine and we soon had a gorgeous day on our hands to celebrate the 6th grade graduates. This elementary school serves about eight different villages, this year they had 222 students from kindergarten through 6th grade. It's a great chance to rub shoulders with lots of people throughout the West Russells. Aaron took the opportunity to catch up with Chief Raymond from Karumalun.

And our kids enjoyed the chance to play with the other students. The Choate Academy students had worked hard to finish all of today's assignments ahead of time, and they took every opportunity to enjoy their freedom.
Olivia and Katherine especially liked carrying around babies. I remember, as a new mama, being very reluctant to let anybody walk around with my baby. It wasn't that I didn't trust anybody, I just enjoyed holding my baby! And the church nursery workers always had a knack of rocking our babies to sleep when I wanted the little ones to stay awake. But here, babies get passed around constantly, and I often find one of my kids toting around a small neighbor.

Finally, the music started. It was Pachelbel's Canon in D. Being a cellist, I have mixed feelings about this piece of music. Playing the same eight notes over and over and over again gets old. But today, hearing the music brought a pang of homesickness. And a little giggle. We so often associate the Canon in D with weddings, but today, the special guests and the graduates all walked down the path and received their flower garlands while Pachelbel's popular piece played over the loudspeaker.
One of my favorite parts of the graduation was watching extended family support each other. Family spreads out over many generations, and cousins are counted as brothers and sisters.
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The top students in every grade were recognized, and Aaron was asked to hand out the 5th grade certificates. As you might imagine, the many speeches and multitudes of certificates combined for a very long ceremony.
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Supporting students for many years in a row means that now we are also encouraging younger brothers and sisters. This cutie pie is Harris' little brother. He received a top prize in his grade.
Seems like he is following in his big sister's footsteps.
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After the graduation ceremonies were over, everyone spread out underneath the huge, old mango trees to eat. Each family was supposed to bring their own food. It's called a "family meal."

Families share food back and forth. One family gave us six slices of watermelon. Another shared a big fish. Yet another shared pineapple. We were kept busy refilling their plates with the food we had brought for our family.
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After more announcements, we finally started the walk home around 3:00. We went more quickly this time, partially because the sun was shining, and partially because all of the students were rushing to get home just as fast as they can. Our kids rushed along with them. How different from the first graduation we attended when Aaron piggy-backed Katherine all of the way home.
Most of our walk is through what most people would consider jungle, but mid-way along the island, the path cuts through a well tended coconut grove that always takes my breath away. When the jungle closed in again, the kids had passed us and Aaron and I got an unexpected date as we chatted single-file along the path home.

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