On 14 September, our programme coordinators told us that we need to be prepared for a couple of boat rides. Ahhh…the skirt and light silky blouse were substituted for long pants and thank goodness – a SNAX T-shirt. Not very official but since the T-shirt carried the official message of Show Manus 2010 I was glad this will be our way of blending in with the spirit and events of the day as well as keeping cool and comfortable…not forgetting the planned boat travel.
As we waited on the jetty I wondered what was being planned for us by our programme coordinators. But as they say, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ so there we were on a jetty in Lorengau wondering what was in store for us – surrounded by canoes, boats and kayaks and a calm blue sea. Well, for starters the thought of being on a boat in this lovely weather with a hint of sea breeze beat being in an office all day…
Soon the waiting and wondering was over. The penny dropped with a loud thud! How could I not have figured it out sooner – must be the heat. A dinghy drew alongside the jetty and we were asked to get in. My team and I gingerly boarded the dinghy as we headed out towards three waiting canoes. Each a single-hulled canoe with a wide platform in the middle. This was a balancing act so skillfully mastered. We were in safe hands I thought as we each settled down into a comfortable sitting position.
I reckon if these craft were on a road the sign would have read ‘wide load’ or something like that.
The canoe began to move and I could feel the sea breeze against my face. The paddles raised in unison, in the three canoes, then dipped into the water. This repetitive movements continued until we reached the beach. These gentlemen were part of the welcoming committee. I was moved to tears once again. Every now and then an intermittent beat of the garamut accompanied the paddlers in the three canoes. The well-choreographed movements did not leave any room for mistakes. It was perfection. This was a new experience and one I’ll never forget.
As we neared the shore I could see that VIPS, traditional dancers, children, members of the public and kayak competitors lined the beach. I couldn’t resist taking some pics of the welcome scene before us. It was a lovely sunny day.
As we alit from the canoes, traditional dancers put home-made leis around our necks and we were led to the welcome marquee.
After pleasantries were exchanged we were treated to more traditional dancing before the speeches and lunch.
We were told that there are about 85 different dance groups from the various islands that make up the province of Manus.
We were given more presents after which we took lunch of fresh fruit, fish, plantain, sweetpotato etc. I enjoyed the food and thanked the ladies who had kindly arranged lunch.
Our main host was the chair of culture in Manus. In presenting us a handmade model of a sailing craft the chairperson told us that one such craft sailed to Port Moresby a few years ago and this was like a replica which we should bring back to Manus filled with things they could use…we smiled.
I was asked to say a few words which I did. Then I was asked to declare the Provincial Kayak Competition open – what an honour to be asked to do this. I was delighted and glad that by doing this we became part of the celebrations instead of just being there as mere visitors.
I later met some of the dancers and had the chance to personally thank them for their willingness to entertain us and make us feel welcome too.
Looking back, I’d say that it had been another cultural highlight in Manus.