HERMIT ISLANDS - WHERE MAGIC EXIST
What would you say about an early morning...? The sea is still gently rocking your sleepy mind while the scent of clean air fills your nostrils with a fresh buzz of energy. The chill breeze softly strokes your skin as to wake you up. Somewhere in the background colourful birds sing their morning glory. The melody slowly makes its way to your ears and takes the sleep away. Your eyes open and welcome the first rays of the sun while your body stretch lets the energy radiate through your muscles injecting it with an adrenaline. All your senses are being passionately awoken. The day starts... There is no rush, there is no need! Today is hanging up in between yesterday and tomorrow. There is no time, there is no distance!
Now... how about having a sweet, juicy pineapple then going for swim? Swim with amazing manta rays and funny little fish reflecting all the colours of the rainbow, to your side baby sharks watching you with their shiny eyes. Swim through the vibrant coral reef which proudly exposes its treasures creating a breathtaking underwater landscape, chase rocketing turtles and catch lobsters. Then, after enjoying the blue waters there is time to worship the land. Walk on the pristine beaches and feel the sand's virginity under your feet. Climb the trees, pick up fresh coconuts and drink greedily the delightful juice straight from the broken shells with your mouth filling up with its young white meat. What would you say if that was your every day morning?
For me, it was... four days in a row I was wakening up and wandering... "am I still dreaming?...". My eyes were open but the mind felt as if it was still somewhere in the somnambular world. The colours, the sounds, the scents, the tastes, all the stimulants around me were part of a picture that was hard to believe it really existed. The magic lagoon was like a jewel hidden on the Ocean. Was this reality or a fantastic dream? - this question drilled my mind whenever I had a chance to look, hear, taste or sense in any other way the beauty of the Hermit Islands. There were some moments when I honestly thought I have died and have woken up in a Paradise. This DREAMT PARADISE was there and I've decided to make this time as beautiful as possible absorbing its surrealistic beauty with my total being!
There were people. Oh yes... there were many people. Small kids scratching their shaggy heads, running around the village, laughing, jumping into the water and letting the sun shine brightly on their wet brown skins. They welcomed me to their Paradise, into their village and into their hearts. Spoiling me with coconuts and bananas, they showed me their island, took my hand and lead me through their houses. A people happy with their lives, they smiled widely, presenting enormously red gums and teeth ruined by betel nuts. They shook my hand and showed me around. "Here we have papayas, here we have mango trees, here we play soccer and here we have our school. This is my house and this is my house. Here we have gardens with vegetables and here we cook them. This is our church and here we have a meeting place". Everyone seemed happy to see me even though they have no idea who I am, where I come from and what my life is bringing with me. There is no judging, no stereotypes, no jealousy. There is no money, no greediness, no sadness. There is only Happiness!
There were children, all of them welcoming each new day with their hearts full of happiness. There are no unwanted children. The whole community await the newborn's arrival. All the youngster's became its brothers and sisters, all the women were like second mothers, and all men were second fathers. Children never lack attention or love, each of them being embraced and treasured.
They had a school - three wooden shacks with a black board in each. Six classes, two teachers. - "What did you learn yesterday?" - I asked a 10 year old girl. - "We learned about recycling the metal cans" - was the answer. All education is in English. It is easy to talk to them, everyone speaks the language. Pigin - the local language - is in use on the island as a spoken language, but everything written is in English. People here know how important education is but they aren't teaching the kids useless stuff, they teach them life important things.
They had a church. A long wooden building in the centre of the village painted in blue. While sitting inside, you could see the Ocean on your both sides. It was Saturday and I was invited to join the mass. - "First we need to get ready" - I was told. - "What time does the mass start?" - I ask. - "With the sound of the bell" - was the answer. And there it was... The sound of the bell flew through the village. The tones were loud but gentle, coming straight from the bell which was made of an empty gas tank once found in the water. I jumped up shouting - "We have to go!" - "No" - said Francesca - this was a ring to get ready. And so we did... I was given a dress and a young girl came to comb my hair with some kind of fat to make it shiny and she tied a pony tail at the back of my head. And then I was given deodorant. Is it that bad? Should I be embarrassed? - was my first thought while using it... Luckily no, I saw everyone is using it and it is like a part of the ritual. They were all putting on baggy, home-made dresses, combing their shaggy hair and passing deodorant from one armpit to another covering it with the flowery scent. Next sound of the bell and we entered the church. The blue wooden building was slowly filling up with people wearing their best clothes: simple dresses and white shirts. They all sat down on the wooden benches inside the church, in the shade, awaiting the mentor. Then the ceremony started and soon the whole village filled with voices singing words of happiness, thanking god for all they have - good health , love, food and houses.
There were the gardens. Stretched up among the hills, they were filled with planted vegetables: taros, carrots, cucumbers, onions and other tasty species. Stripes of neatly arranged land were covering the hills on the southern side of the island. They were not rich in vegetables but people grow enough to fill their stomachs. Each family had their own field, as big as they needed to grow vegetables for all the hungry bellies. Land is for free. If they want more veggies, they will have to work more and grow more. There was plenty of land waiting to be planted and looked after - but, nobody is greedy here...
There was a social understanding. The people only used what they needed being aware that some people might get ill or became too old to look after their fields. So all the "extras" were stored in a small shack in the centre of the village and shared with those who needed them more.
There were deer - living freely on one of the lagoon's green islands. It actually belonged to the animals. There were not any people trying to disturb their peaceful existence. People treated them with respect as they respected all the gifts sent from heaven that fed their families. Having the whole land covered with a shady forest at their own disposal, the deer seem to have their own paradise. People didn't hunt for fun or from greediness. Their diet was made of vegetables, fruits and sea food, with some poultry from time to time. Chickens were kept mainly for their eggs, their meat was only consumed from time to time and only when the village was celebrating some special occasion. At times, men wore their hunting gear and went to the neighbouring island in search of wild deer. This wasn't an act of brutality, they knew from life's teaching that they must control the population of these animals so the deer can live their lives happily with no worries about food. The whole village would celebrate these events sharing their food, singing and laughing.
There was God. It was everywhere. The people self-identify as Christian, but their religion is actually mixed with animist beliefs, including ancestor worship and belief in witchcraft. Some missioners came to the islands spreading the news about Catholicism. The Christianisation began during the first half of the twentieth century and it frequently required serious decisions to be made by both local inhabitants and foreign missionaries regarding the way of worshiping the god. As much of the traditional religious beliefs were being entwined with the new religious beliefs. This sometimes seemed impossible, as becoming a Christian required breaking with traditional religion, but here it works and we can witness something so overt as traditional music and dance being the way to worship Christ and Mother Nature at the same time.
There was the music. Every evening, when the sun went down and the skies were overtaken by millions of bright stars, the island?s people gathered together and lit fires. Along with the scent of burned wood, the wind brought the sound of music. All the voices, young and old, sang the melody of Happiness. Their words worshiping God and at the same time their dance was saying: "We are related to the sky, the stars, the sun, the sea and the moon. What makes up clouds also makes up us, we all came from there - pointing at the Ocean. We are all one...!"
This island kept me under its spell. Here, where the high ocean waves became trapped in a small lagoon, the Magic still exists. Here lives the Magic of Happiness.
And then I woke up... I was on the boat arriving to Kavieng on New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Was it a dream or had this island really existed? Looking at the map you may think it was only a dream, but my heart knew...