Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change

Lost voice

harvesting-coconuts-002I lost my voice over the weekend. It quickly slipped away, from a normal rounded tone to a strangled caw within minutes. I’d been feeling crook for a few days but thought little of it. I even joked that I’d just been talking to much, easy to do in this town, where you can’t walk down the street without someone starting up a friendly conversation. After a couple of days twisting out what few words I could and still feeling ropey, I eventually went to find a doctor at the (only) hospital. When I arrived, the ward was hot. Only a few ceiling fans and lights seemed to work and no one seemed to know where the doctor was. Sitting opposite, a row of young mothers lined the wall, holding tightly on to limp babies. One father kept wringing out a towel in a cup of water and using that to cool his child. The doctor finally arrived, and I – the only white guy in the room – was waved in first. To my shame, I didn’t refuse. It’s some kind of virus; I have antibiotics with me and I’ve found my voice again.

On a happier note, I went for a swim today to wash away the last of feeling sick. Afterwards, drying in the sunlight, I heard a thud. A coconut landed in the shallows. Another followed. A crowd of boys swooped to pick them up. Looking up, there was this kid, grinning from the top of the palm tree, maybe 15 metres high. Still smiling wide, he slid down the trunk, a nut the size of his head scooped under one arm. Isn’t that just wonderful?

ps. I’ve been invited back to Tinputz tomorrow, to spend a night with the five fathers who came over on the first boat from the Carteret Islands. It’s a great privilege, particularly as I made a bit of a mess of trying to talk to them amid all the excitement of their first arrival next week. And on Friday, I leave for the islands themselves. It’s going to be a big week.

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