A Welcoming Island Community
During our time on Uripiv we had multiple opportunities to take part in community events. This was great because it gave us a glimpse into everyday life on the island, familiarize ourselves with some of their customs, and be part of a very special event.
Pete and I walked the paths throughout the island every day (often multiple times), which really allowed us to meet people and see how they live. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.
We soon learned that when meeting someone on Uripiv for the first time it is custom to shake hands, even if you are spotting each other from far away. It was not uncommon for residents to come out from their homes, across their yards, or out of the bush to shake our hands to welcome us to the island. It is typical to be asked where you are coming from and where you are going.
One day we were even invited in to someone’s home to see how they make floor mats out of palm leaves. In addition to mats, these women make beautiful bags, fans, and storage containers.
This welcoming vibe didn’t stop there. Jacinta, our host while on the island, was kind enough to invite us to church with her the Sunday we were there. She even gave me a traditional island dress to wear, which all of the women wear to church, so that I would be more comfortable.
There were about 100 attendees of various ages and the service was 3 hours long. It was interesting because half the time Pete and I had no idea what was being said or going on because of the language barrier, but we somehow were able to sing along using a Bislama hymn book.
At the end we (along with other guests/new members) were asked to stand at the church entrance to allow the rest of the attendees to walk by and shake our hands as they departed. Everyone was very kind and we felt honored to be invited.
Although we did not see any water turned into wine, we did see roots turned into kava (aka kava kava).
Ok, bad transition, but how else do you go from a paragraph about church to an adult beverage? Anyway, kava is a traditional drink made out of grinding the root of the Piper methysticum plant, adding it to water, then straining it several times.
The result is an earthy, bitter, strong radish flavored beverage. This is not a drink you savor. You down each serving as quickly as you can. Traditionally it is consumed prior to eating (probably partly so you have room to fit all that liquid), but also so you follow it with hot food/tea that enhances its effect by pushing it into your blood stream faster.
Desalination Facility Grand Opening
We were originally planning to stay on Uripiv for a week, but ended up extending five days so we could see and take part in an exciting event happening on the island. Although there are a good number of rain barrels and multiple wells, fresh clean water can be hard to find at times during dry season. To help with this, volunteers worked hard to set up a desalination system on the island. This system will turn the ocean water surrounding them into clean drinkable water.
To celebrate it’s completion, the villages planned a ceremony and party, which we were graciously invited to as special guests. The celebration included traditional dancing, passing of a flower lei to each special guest, songs (including a special song thanking the lead volunteer on the project), and a huge lunch with multiple variations of laplap sor sor (click here for our blog post that includes a description and photos of this dish).
Unexpected Special Guests
We felt very honored and surprised when we were included in the group of special guests. Our plan was to stick by the side and take a bunch of photos! As guests (there were around 40 of us), we all walked to the facility together with a gentleman playing guitar at the front of the group. Upon arrival, we were presented with flower leis by a group of women who performed a song and dance.
Thank you, Uripiv
It was amazing to be able to take part in and witness all of these wonderful community experiences. Thank you to all of the residents of Uripiv for teaching us more about your culture and making us feel so welcome.
Here are a few more pics we wanted to share.
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