28.05.2013

Amanu

Saturday, May 25th, we arrived at Amanu early in the morning. To be correct, we had slowed down since 3 am, at 4am we stopped in the position "hoved to" (beigedreht), at 7 we set sails again to tack against the wind and approach the entry of the atoll. After watching the stream and some discussions via radio with islanders and other sailors (whom we already know) it was 11 am local time that we were able to enter the small passage, just after the strong ebb stream in the small channel had eased. Over radio we already taken notice that a wedding was taking place and everybody, including all sailors, are invited. "Cool, an original wedding", I thought. This is my chance for some nice photography. Ha, just what I had wished for but thought of being very unrealistic. Well well. The boys immediately said "make a cake". Well, since we do not really have many gifts on board, it was a good idea. So I used the waiting time to quickly make another one of these cakes with pear sauce. It was just good and cool enough to wrap when we had the anchor down in front of the town.

Marcus first brought me and Sebastian to land and followed later, he needed a short rest. We were at land at 1pm, the wedding was supposed to start at 2pm. Good, I thought, I can take some pictures of the event place. Well, we found the center place decorated with some green on the lamp piles, chairs set up and tables prepared. We walked to the church but it was closed. A guy came in a kind of truck, with benches in the back for people to sit on. It was crazy to see a truck in that small village of less than 200 people, about 50 of them little children. He asked if we need help. I introduced us and said I was looking for Francois, the major (Bürgermeister) of the town to ask for permission to participate at the wedding (the friendly guy from the swiss catamaran had told me to ask him). It turns out the guy was Francois' secretary and a witness of the wedding. He brought us to the other side of the building, to Francois, a very young guy, very friendly. He warmly welcomed us to the island and invited us and told us about the schedule. I had told him that in return I would take pictures of the wedding and give them the pictures on a USB-stick. Yes, modern times arrived even there. I was allowed to leave the cake in his office until later, when I would give it to the couple to be married, Sandra e Hency. Then the secretary took us back to the parents' houses of the bride and the groom. During the ride, when I had told him, that we're German, he informed us that this morning Bayern München had won over Dortmund 2:1 in the Champions League final. He had seen the game; it must have been a good one. So that was good news. Imagine you arrive on a distant island, in the middle of nowhere, and the first thing they tell you is how your home soccer club played this morning. Strange.
The next thing we learned was that the musicians are first going to pick up the groom and then walk down the street three houses to pick up the bride and then go to the municipality house for the wedding. We decided to watch town life and wait in front of the groom's home. An elderly lady in a white costume with long sleeves and a beautiful white hat with flowers on it came down the street with flowers in her hand and entered the house.

Probably around 2pm, all the sailors, some local people and the musicians had already gathered in front of the groom's house, the music started to play and the groom and this elderly lady, his mother, came out of the house. The groom had a huge white flower wreath (Blumenkranz) of white closed blossoms (weisse, noch geschlossene Blüten) and green leaves around his head and wore a long flower necklace. Traditional head decoration to non traditional clothing: long plack pants, a long white shirt and a vest (Weste) at about 33degrees C (92F). In his hand he hand a flower arrangement which turned out to be the bridal flowers which he brought to his future wife. As mother and son walked down the road the music was playing happy local music with guitar and ukulele and some people, mostly us sailors, were filming and taking lots of pictures. I guess I ended up as THE wedding photographer as I had the best camera and delivered all the pictures next day, ready for printing…
Anyway, mother and son soon entered the blue house through the patio, which was decorated with green and flowers, handmade hats and decoration made of leaves. I heard the ladies of the town sat for at least a day to make all the decorations of local flowers and bushes. Also, as an entry to the patio, two beautiful huge cloths, one green and one red, both with golden parts in them, were hung up, like curtains, which looked very prestigious. It made me feel as if I was in front of the palace of the king of Tonga yet. Same cloth, by the way, which covered the seats of bride and groom in the wedding room.
After about 3minutes the pretty bride came out in a white dress, very modern, one hand on the father's arm and the other holding the flower bouquet that Hency brought her. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed although she looked beautiful. I don't know what I have expected but for sure not a modern white dress with gloves and the white cloth in her hair (sorry, I forgot the English expression for "Schleier") instead of flowers in her hair and some more traditional clothing. Not that I did not like her outfit, but I would have loved to see some traditional clothing. Her father wore long black pants, a long white shirt and a red tie. Well, I guess, you can't stop westernization.
The bride and her dad, followed by the groom and his mom, followed by the musicians and then the guests, walked to the wedding room under the blue sky, sunshine and with traditional music. In front of the Maison de la maire" (house of the major / Haus des Bürgermeisters), where the official wedding was going to be processed, young men and women, about the same age as groom and bride (maybe 21?), waited in two rows, dressed in yellow sports shows and blue sports dressing, each holding beach volleyballs up so the couple and the fowling people had to pass underneath this parade. I thought that was cute and at the same time again unexpected for me. The wedding itself lasted only about 15 minutes. After both said "yes" the music started playing again. A funny scene was when she had difficulties putting the ring on his finger ;-). There were not as many people as I had expected. Ok, the room was small, so not everybody participated really at the wedding. Many came later for the food and festivity on the central place.

After the wedding everybody walked back to the bride's home. Only family went inside, the rest of us waited outside. They were preparing the groom to change his confession. He changed from Christianity to Mormon religion. His Mormon baptizing took place at the "harbour", just across the street from the house, where the official and the groom, both dressed in a white whole body suite (as if they were going to paint a house), walked into the water. Then the guy said some things raising one hand while holding onto Hency with his other hand. To finish the process, Hency was dipped under water. Everybody clapped, the bride seemed happy. Soaking wet Hency came out of the water, kissed Sandra took her hand and they walked off to the house, everybody following. Next thing I see is Hency talking on this golden mobile phone while walking with his new wife to the house. Strange new world…

A time of waiting came up where we did not know what to do. We kept waiting in front of the house, talking to each other (all the other sailors). Oh, by the way. Usually all we see is French sailors. Guess who was there now: 2 German boats (including us), one Swiss, one Dutch and one French. Interesting, hugh? The first time every that sailors participate in a local wedding or even any local festivity - the major told me the next day. It was something really special for them.

After a while they put up some chairs at the patio and asked us to come in. They served a little piece of cake and one cup of juice. We used the time to hand over our presents (we had the cake and the photos next day) and again congratulate the couple. They were very sweet and did not really know what to say. Then a music session started. The major, the bride's father and the secretary of the major started playing the guitar and ukulele and sang - after having changed their clothes again to short sleeved shirts with flowers on them. For a short time, Sebastian took over the guitar and we kind of played two songs, which I sang as much as I knew the words. Too bad Sebastian does not really know many songs. I had thought of bringing music, guitar and the harmonica but then put that thought aside. It would have been lots of fun. Anyway. They liked the idea that some foreigner played the guitar and I sang, even though only for a short time.

The music session took place until the dark came and it was time to dig out the food. Yes, dig out. The Polynesian way of cooking is traditional: they have a kind of an "oven" in the earth where first hot coil is put into it, then a huge welded frame and into that baskets made out of leaves where the food (pig, bread, banana) had been put into. All of this is covered with metal shields, fire proof blankets and then sand. The food in there cooks about 3 hours. A couple of young men dug (ausgegraben) the frame out and then took it out with leaves to protect against the heat and put it on a truck which drove the food to the place 50m away where the party was going to take place. Huge "serving plates" had been made out of leaves as well. Those were covered with aluminum foil and food put into them and served on the tables (fixed bench and tables that are always at the place, almost like the beer bench and table set you find at Bavarian beer gardens). They gave us plastic bowls and forks and the feast started. Unfortunately there were some people sitting on chairs like audience in a concert. They did not eat, I have no idea, why. Maybe we took their places? I don't know. This for sure was the most interesting wedding dinner I have ever seen. One huge table only for the children….We had pig, raw fish (two different meals), some special banana dish and cabbage with meat. And local bread, which tasted very sweet, more like a cake.

As eating came to an end the major had informed us that we have to do a dancing for the wedding couple. Best if we could do something traditional German or Swiss/Dutch. But we had no music with us. We ended up dancing to Polynesian music once the couple had spoken their words and thanks to the audience and had started to dance their "wedding dance", thus opening the ball. They danced Disco Fox to the Polynesian music, I couldn't believe my eyes. The parents and some other couples joined in. We (the sailors) also had to go out. Since neither Marcus nor Sebastian can dance the three of us danced solo. I tried to use my skill to dance a bit more local style which we had seen for the dance competitions in Rikitea. Sebstian made some uncontrolled moves to the music which made the people laugh, so he entertained them well, they loved it…When the next song came on the major asked us to dance one more. In my desperation I said to Regine, the lady from the other German boat, "let's do a Polonaise". This involves all people. This ended up being a great idea. Not that many local people joined in, but all the kids and that was so much fun. People applauded and I love the kid's part. After the song we went back out. Music still played and no one was dancing. So I jumped back out, dancing, and all the kids came rushing to me which meant another Polonaise. You should have seen this, like the rat catcher (? Rattenfänger) from Hameln...Oh how much I loved this. I taught the kids to bow (sich verbeugen) in front of the table of the newly married couple who laughed and found it cute. By then I had definitely won all the kids, who even afterwards did not let loose of me - until the highlight for the kids took place: Sandra and Hency cut their 3 story cake together and the kids go to eat the cake.

Not long later my guys were too tired and bored to stay (ok, I was tired, too but have loved to stay) since we had just arrived that morning from a long and tiring trip. We all slept like dead the night. We were in bed by 8pm. I woke up just in time (7.20) to get ready and go to church next morning for the celebration of mother's day. I just felt I wanted to spend some more time with these friendly people and I knew we were going to have to leave our anchorage that day because of changing wind. I really enjoyed the 2 services, one catholic and one more traditional in another place, especially since one very cute local girl had chosen to like me and sit next to me and cuddle into my side. I had my arm around her almost all the time, we played a bit and she had the cutest smile. She is a friend of the Swiss' 8 year old daughter Laura. You'll see the picture once I get internet, probably in Hao. I even received a gift from the second pastor, a beautiful long shell necklace, and another one shortly after from the Secretary passing by. As I walked down the street, ready to go to the boat to prepare the pictures and put them on the stick, the major came out of a garden and invited us to the mother's day party at his house. I should pick up the guys and come. So we did. It was a fun party but destroyed a bit the picture of the peaceful island: loud music and lots of alcohol. The people were very nice, some pretty drunk already. The major repeatedly thanked me for coming, it would such a big honor to him, it's the first time sailors were at a party like this and the wedding. I told him how honored we feel. He gave us more shell necklaces as a gift. That makes me feel a bit bad because we have not much to give back. I had brought him a Pomelo because they don't have fruits other than coconut on their island. Don't ask me why. Anyway, we had fun but had to leave soon because of the changing weather.

Quickly we went back to the boat, lifted the anchor and drove to the SE side of the atoll to find a spot, which, behind the many palm trees, is completely calm, no wave, and just some wind gusts come through. Last night, we all started to feel a bit bad and very tired, Marcus the most. He ended up with strong fever, the rest of us a bit weak, tired and sore throat. My cold had never really left me and I think I passed it onto the guys. Nothing serious and to worry about, but it'll take some days until we (and especially Marcus) are all fit again. Good that we're laying here very quietly.

Wow, so much had happened since we arrived here that I have not found to even report we're here. What a wonderful welcome in Amanu. Sorry for this long text. Some of you might find it interesting, the rest of you made a short cut anyway ;-)

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