Tuesday 21 July 2015

Tap Tap Tap go the sticks on the stone floor

Sunday morning I awoke early as normal 5:30 AM and decided to get ready for church (which on Sunday is at 7 AM, every other day it is at 5 AM).  I quickly had some granola and shaved.  I got Bill to drop me off at the boat ramp and was on my way to town at 6 AM.  I walked up over the hill and down to the main road (about a quarter or half mile).  I likely walked another quarter mile or longer before hitching a ride into town.  The couple had 7 children, a young girl and baby in the front seat with the parents, an older girl in the back seat with me and 2 boys in the box of the truck. 2 children were not in the vehicle.  I got to the main church in town at 6:28. At 6:30 the bells began to peel. There were already a few people inside so in I went.  at 6:40 a fellow arrived and sat 1 row up from me and across the aisle.  He had a 12 string guitar which he proceeded to tune.  He then started to play (practising his songs for he morning) and singing along with the most melodious voice. A real treat to listen to him quietly singing.  In Jimmy Cornell's guide it tells that the people of Wallis are some of the best singers around.  I knew I was in for a treat once I heard this fellow warming up.  At 6:45 the bells rang again.  The seats around this fellow were starting to fill up and he was busy passing sheets of words out to the choir. The seats of the church were starting to fill as were the ones around and next to me. A middle aged lady arrived and sat 1 row in front of the fellow with the guitar and also started to warm up her voice.  What an incredible sound.  The church is made of bricks cut out of lava and there are some bricks cut out of coral as well.  Stayed tuned and I will post a picture of the church and the bricks in a later blog when I have an internet connection. The floor under the pews is concrete but the hall ways and the area around raised area at the front (perhaps it is called the dais.  The alter boys and men of clergy all came out - 15 perhaps more of them -dressed in white robes.  6 or 8 fellows came in carrying long staffs with a carved cross on top and carving the first foot or 2 from the top.  The staffs were 7 or 8 feet long with a spiral groove carved into the rest of the staff. They surrounded the raised area at the front and 2 were in the corners of the church at the front.  Suddenly the fellow at the front of the church banged his staff on the stone floor 3 or 4 times.  The bells started to ring and the priest entered.  There was a short prayer or welcome in Wallisian and the choir began to sing. The most glorious sound burst forth from the mainly female choir with 3 men.  A real treat to the ears.  As the service progressed I would watch the lips of the fellow with the guitar and was able to add a bit of bass to the most melodious sound as the choir and a few of the congregation sang.  At some point the priest would sing a phrase and the congregation would repeat it.  During the 14 minute sermon or address from the priest I was able to understand 3 words that he repeated several times Papua New Guinea...  Once the offering was taken once again TAP TAP TAP goes the staff on the stone floor.  Several of the others with staffs had obviously moved to the back of the church (which had 250 to 300 people in it) and suddenly they all started tapping their staffs on the stone floor.  The fellow in front of me had tapped the floor several times during the service.  Following the offering communion was served.  At the end of the 1 hour 20 minute service I went and went over to the fellow with the guitar and said "Excuse-Moi". I then asked if he understood English.  He replied no so I told him the music was very nice and thanked him very much in French.  I turned to go and he extended his hand and I shook it.
I quickly walked the quarter mile to the highway where I would need to try catch a ride so as to arrive before all the church goers had left.  I was picked up by 3 ladies and one had lived in Australia for 6 months and could speak pretty decent English.  I asked her why they tapped the sticks on the floor and after asking and going saying tap tap tap she finally got what I was asking and said "It's to let people know to stand up".

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