The bag of cassava that the Fly Harbour Primary School kids gave me turned into a big tray of cassava pudding/lelenga to help feed all of the people that came to Sarah and Benjamin's farewell party last night. We also cooked rice, bananas, kumara/umalau, and plain boiled cassava/uvikola. Families here often hold parties when their older children go away to school, so it was very appropriate for us to do the same. Thankfully, it was a potluck, and we had a table groaning under the weight of all of the good food. We met under the house with a bright fluorescent light run by a friend's generator (and my sweet friend, Kiko, had volunteered to buy the petrol). The darkness outside was a sharp contrast and made pictures really difficult, but I was determined to capture every memory possible for my amazing two who are leaving the village.
The little boys soon clustered around Benjamin while we waited for the party to start. They played games, and Benjamin even taught the boys math tricks, like how the multiples of nine add up to nine when you combine the digits. We've been told that when we aren't here, the little boys play at being Benjamin, like a super hero. I grabbed a baby and was in adopted mama heaven when he went to sleep in my arms. We finally started around 8 o'clock with a welcome song and a brief welcome from our friend, Chief Hensy. The guests of honor were served first, then the host family (that would be us). I love my spunky Olivia, she chose to stay with her buddies and eat with the rest of the village children, who were served after our family.
Then came the big men, followed by the women. At last, everybody had full bellies and it was time to sing a song while shaking hands with Sarah and Benjamin, who were now wearing fragrant garlands of frangipanni flowers. Some people placed necklaces over the heads of Sarah and Benjamin when they came through the line, I think this was the highlight of the evening for me. Sarah ended up with eight necklaces and Benjamin had one. Filming people who have been our adopted family for the last eight years as they hugged the necks of my kids...it left me in tears and shaking the camera. But then I pulled it back together! Different representatives were called upon to make speeches for Sarah and Benjamin. Our friend Janet spoke on behalf of the women in the village.
Walter, as the senior catechist, voiced the thoughts of the church, and Leonard talked from the perspective of the translation committee. Chief Hensy was the last village representative to speak. The recurring themes we heard highlighted Sarah and Benjamin's participation in the village and church activities and how well they played with all of the children in the village, too. Janet especially commented on Sarah's cooking skills and what a good woman she was to share food with the village so often. Then Aaron took his turn and blessed Sarah and Benjamin specifically citing Sarah's heart for God and Benjamin's willingness to help and quickness to obey. Finally, Benjamin, and then Sarah gave their brief speeches. I am so proud of those two. Benjamin mentioned that he was eight when he came to live in Marulaon, and now he is sixteen, and reminded everybody that half of his life he has called Marulaon home. Half of his heart is in the village and half can be in America, and he plans to take the best of both cultures and mix them together. We wrapped up with a prayer by Walter, our favorite Lavukal good night song, and three happy cheers by Leonard. It was a late night, but worth every drop of sweat we put into it.