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Thursday, August 07, 2003

August 07, 2003-Child singing in the night.

There is a rock wall off to the left of our boat where we are anchored at Ebora cove, which is so steep and rugged that I don't see how anyone could walk on it, let alone do it in the dark, but a small child does each night, and she sings. The whole place here is so tiny that we are only 50 feet or so from the sheer limestone outcropping, so we can hear her clearly, even though her voice is soft.

During the day there are many children on the beach at our stern, and up high on the cliffs or jungles above.

But at night there is only one, a small child who we have never seen, but whom we hear singing in the darkness each night somewhere on the rock wall near the boat. Her voice is gentle and beautiful and she sings in some local tongue which we cannot understand, but if we come on deck at night, we can hear her.

It is a wonderful thing to hear and experience, this child singing in the night.

I don't think she is singing to us. I think she is singing to herself, and we are just eavesdroppers.

Hearing her makes me wonder about her life, her hopes, and dreams. She comes away from her home and family each night by herself and finds her way to this cliff where sings her gentle song, alone in the dark. What is going through her head? Is she wondering about her future, trying to make sense of the world, or just going over the day's events? I think about what future she might have in the village, when she becomes older and marries. When there are children to tend and a house to keep, will she still have her dreams?

All over the world I know there are children who struggle to understand the world around them, who feel hunger, or are sick; each one a unique person who sees the whole world just through their own eyes. The wonder of this, and the immensity of it, touches me.

The children are not always sad. In fact they are mostly a happy bunch. Here at Ebora it is mostly the children who make this place a delight for us. They come in groups during the day to watch us or shout for balloons (to which we answer patiently, "Balloons finished", or to sing. There is a tree, or the remains of a tree, leaning out over the water, all gnarled roots and broken limbs, barely hanging on to the spongy limestone rocks which themselves are barely hanging onto the cliff, and the village girls come to it during the day. Five or ten or twenty swarm on it and look down into our boat. They chatter like monkeys. We wonder how they keep from falling off onto the rocks below, or why the tree itself does not fall off. We also wonder at the timing of their coming and going. How do they decide it is time to go to the tree and watch the Dim Dims (us)? What makes them all at once pick up and leave?

Of course at any given moment we may hear a small voice at the side of our boat, and there will be one of the village's shared canoes with one or more boys in it. They bring some bananas or other fruit and ask for things, like exercise books for school. Judy will always trade with them.

At other islands the men have come to trade or ask for things, or in some places, women. But here at Ebora, only the children come out.

In addition to the girls who come to the tree, and the boys who come out in the canoes, there is also a group of little boys around here who hang out together. They are smaller than the girls of the tree, maybe three or four years old. They are all naked and brown, and they are boisterous. They shout at us quite assertively and throw rocks at the girls (just out of range, thankfully) or three of them climb up on some planks and do a little dance choreographed by a fourth, singing. They have a rock they climb on also, but it is to jump from, not for watching dim dims. And during the day we hear the sound of the plunge of their bodies into the water, mixed with the jungle sounds of birdcalls and cicadas and the lap of the waves on the rocks, and everything else which is going on in this village where we are staying.

There is a lot of sound here, but at night, there is just one small child singing

Click here to see all the photos from the Louisiades

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Papua New Guinea

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