We were so nervous leading up to the big community farewell. The build-up wasn’t the smoothest. We both got a terrible flu, rainy weather had set in, the Bullock we bought to feed everyone got lost and so much needed to be done in so little time.
Initially our idea for the ‘party’ had been to buy a bullock and give everyone a good feed to say thanks for making our year here such a special time. But we learned that the Lolihor Development Council (LDC) woman (who we worked for) wanted to have a party to thank us for our efforts! So we compromised and still bought the bullock and the council did all the organising to make the event happen.
So back to the bullock……the party was on Thursday, but late on Wednesday there was still no sign of the bullock (steers, bulls and cows are all refered to as bullock here). It had taken weeks to find one as there are so few left after all the wedding ceremonies.
Jacob, who is the husband of the LDC chairwoman and good friend of ours, grabbed his rifle, collected a posse of ‘boys’ from Ranon (our Village), and caught a boat to the area were the bullock was last seen. It was getting dark and the last they heard the bullock had wondered off into the jungle so things were not looking good. But as they arrived to shore to begin their hunt they were relieved to hear that the bullock had been found.
What a relief! So in the end an easy shot for Jacob and the real work of slaughtering the bullock began. Firstly it was cut into large segments to transport on the boat. Once back in Ranon (our village) it was cut up into smaller pieces and thrown into large pots and boiled for a few hours. This job took many hands and was not finished until 11pm.
While all this preparation was happening we were flat out in bed hoping that we would feel well enough to attend our own party the next day. A flu had been going around and it hit us hard. For a day Pippa couldn’t even keep water down…and dehydration was a real problem.
On Thursday morning we woke with sun streaming through the window of our bungalow and we were feeling much better. The LDC chairwoman Rosie had prayed for us and for good weather and it seems that both prayers were answered!
We went down to the place were the party would be held in the morning to find that the area had already been cleaned and decorated with leaves. Also food preparations were continuing with a horde of helpers cutting the boiled chunks of bullock into bite size pieces to make stew. At the houses in Ranon community members were making lap lap to bring to the party…..it looked like things would turn out well after all!
The last hurdle was our nerves at being the centre of so much attention.
‘How many people will come?’, we asked ourselves. Maybe 100?
In the end around 200 people from the area came to say thanks, share some food and enjoy string band music. Many, especially us, were surprised by the turn out (particularly after there had been so many weddings in the recent weeks).
Representative from five villages made thank you speeches, presented us with a Salu Salu’s (Lae) and gave us gifts. We were humbled by the turn out, the thoughtful gifts and the beautiful words of thanks that we received.
The whole thing was topped off by 2 beautiful songs sung in our honour. During the singing the tears flowed and we reflected on how warm and giving the people of Ambrym have been to us both.
We have included a verse and chorus below from one of the songs.
Happy days and nights gone by
Depending only on God,
Now is the time, yo”ll be flying away
Thanks for the love we shared
God will supply your needs
Now that you’re leaving
We are saying goodbye
Oh please remember us in prayer
How lovely was the time we spent
The only happiness we shared
The love from God above
On Tuesday night we will share our last meal with three close families that have looked after us throughout the year (next door neighbours, bungalow staff and our ‘adopted family’). We have written a farewell poem and have a tonne of pressies to give them as a way of saying thanks. No doubt our tears will be flowing thick and fast.