© Geoffrey Heard 2014
The earth moved for us on Easter Saturday night here in paradise. In this land of breathtaking scenery and volcanoes, gurias (earthquakes) are commonplace. This was quite a significant earthquake -- enough to send many residents fleeing from their homes to open space.
Me -- well, I awoke to the rocking, rolling, and groaning of the old two storey house I live in and the sound of water sloshing back and forth in the neighbors' tanks. I was about to force my unwilling body to the vertical with a view to toddling outside when I reflected that this lightly built old house had survived scores, probably hundreds of gurias great and (mostly) small over the years and it was still standing. No reason why it should not survive this one too.
I went back to sleep and resisted the blandishments of those who cared when they tried to arouse me to join the exodus.
As it turned out, the house was not quite up to this one. But the bed was stronger than the house, so I was able to roll underneath it and ride the collapse to the ground. I then crawled out of the wreckage, unscathed. Talk about adrenalin!
Romance, of course. The mundane truth is that I awoke in my bed to a sunny Easter Sunday morning after a peaceful and refreshing night's sleep, proof positive that both the house and I had survived.
I was quite pleased!
But I did miss an important local event. Those who fled their homes were entertained by a son e lumiere show when the earthquake caused two hanging insulators on a particularly tall power pole nearby to smash together resulting in a short circuit, a spectacular shower of sparks, and a fire at the top of the pole. The Fire Brigade was commendably speedy in attending and quelling the flames (to the disappointment of the spectators who were enjoying the show) and PNG Power, often maligned (random blackouts are not unknown), was on the spot with temporary repairs which they made permanent on Easter Sunday.
One advantage of Easter here in paradise is that it is actually Easter, rather than a commercial fest(er) which avaricious retailers in rich countries have taken over and are attempting to transform into a second, totally corrupted Christmas.
Easter here actually happens at Easter. The first timid signs of it occur only a few weeks before the event, not immediately after Christmas. Hot Cross buns of excellent quality are baked locally in the couple of weeks running up to Easter and are simply added to the normal baked goods display and successfully sold at a very good price (K5.50=$2.50 for half-a-dozen). There might have been one or two Easter displays or even (heaven forbid) Easter specials in some of the stores, but if so, they were so unobtrusive that I did not notice them.
On Good Friday and Easter Sunday, large numbers of people dressed in their best trooped off to Church. There were lots of family gatherings, particularly on Sunday, and visits to the beach, a major rugby league match on Sunday afternoon, and on all three days, other community sports competitions.
Most stores were open on all three days, although trade was limited by lack of customers on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In short, a proper Easter break (except for the stores being open all the time) was had by all.
I am not a believer, but I am appalled by the corruption I see in the rich countries of these key events so important to many. You can’t move without been smacked between the eyes by the overwhelming deluge of extravagance.
I look around me here -- I call it paradise, but, of course, it is a human community with all the variety, good and bad, that entails -- but it feels a lot closer to paradise than the rich industrialized countries when I see a festival like Easter being largely celebrated at a people level by believers or as a simple holiday where people join together in family and community gatherings.
I had a family feast with many of my "line" (family) on Sunday which included delicious red emperor fish baked on the fire and fried shark. The family fishermen pulled in two big sharks off the beach, one a hammerhead, using 200 pound lines and live bait. The downside is that they keep urging me to snorkel off the same beach. Is there a message I should be getting here? LOL.
I don't want you to think me prejudiced in any way against chocolate, these fishermen also grow cacao from which your chocolate is made, but a family gathering catered like that sure beats a mountain of so-called "Easter eggs" cynically slammed down in front of you by greedy store owners intent on squeezing every last cent out of poor people’s pockets.
And as I write this on Easter Monday morning, after a fine weekend, the tropical rain is slashing down. Wow! And there is a wind. And it is cool enough for me to think about a shirt of greater protective capacity than my thin polo shirt. Goodness gracious!
But knowing Rabaul, this can't last more than a couple of hours. I am sure we will have a fine afternoon.
Happy Easter! ###