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MARTIN

Saving the Best Till Last in Nauru
 
I was in Nauru five days and I spent every day looking at the same wall.  I had one brief tour of the island’s interior, but the rest of every day was in the heat, trying to remain under a faulty tent for shade, usually ten hours a day.  Under the circumstances, it was a little hard to meet a lot of people and do the usual things I do when I travel.  I saw no little market places.  Nauru had no buses.  There were no taxis.  There really weren’t any kind of destinations.  And besides, when I travel, I don’t normally go out at night.  I went back to my hotel every evening in recovery mode, falling asleep early. Then, I faced the heat all over again.

So, the final day of painting, I felt a little sorry for myself because I hadn’t had my usual experiences.  But, the universe decided to smile down upon me.  First, people showed up to see the mural progress.  Then, they took so many photos of the mural, of me with the mural, of themselves painting the mural and of me surrounded by them.  And why, you may ask, did it happen on the last day?  Because, they heard about the project on the national radio station.  It was news to me.  I hadn’t really done a radio interview, but the dialogue from the television segment worked well.  I hadn't actually seen the tv spot, at that moment, but I came across intelligible.  Nobody really wants to look stupid on national programming, no matter which nation.
The family who owned the storefront for the mural had six sons.  I didn't meet all of them, but I liked the ones I met.  Number Two son was the first person I encountered at the mural.  He painted the first day and he treated me to a cold bottle of water.  I liked him immediately.  I looked forward to getting to know him, but he disappeared for the rest of the project.  Number Four son showed up on day two.  Another fine son. Another bottle of water. Another disappearing act.  Sons Number Three and Five entertained me on the following days.  Three also bought me water.  I was convinced these kids were raised well and told their mother.  Much to my delight, on my very good final day of painting, all four boys visited at various points of the day.

As I painted the final strokes on the murals, which you should know were the eyes, the rains began.  Tropical rains.  Flooding rains.  Soaking rains.  And, thankfully, cooling rains.  They didn’t last long.  They didn’t ruin anything on the mural because the winds came from the proper direction.  Besides, I’m fairly convinced that all paint was cooked dry as soon as it was applied to the burning wall surface. 

The storm clouds disappeared as quickly as they arrived.  And, with the clearing came the best treat of the day.  Aquinas, one of my painters from day one, also performed in a traditional dance troupe that recently represented Nauru at an international program in Guam.  There were no performances while I visited the island, but Aquinas relented after incessant begging, and showed up for a photo shoot.  Not only did he look tremendous in the outfit he created especially for me, but he sprayed himself up with coconut oil.  He smelled delicious.  There were about nineteen members of his troupe, but Aquinas assured me he was the best looking member.

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And, if you need F.Y. I. like me, here goes.  The complete attire for his Eamwit tribal costume was called an ekirira.  The Eamwit are one of the original twelve tribes on the island, represented on the twelve point star on the Nauru flag.  The skirt, which he himself wove from coconut leaves, was an ebweni.  Aquinas said his great grandmother passed that skill down to him.  Orange, woven throughout the costume, represented the Eamwit people.  The black and white bands stood for the black notty bird as well as the white dove. The big shell on his hip was mother of pearl while the smaller shells on the necklace were found on local beaches.

I wasn't sure I was going to get a portrait photo while in Nauru.  All fears were set aside.

As I returned to my hotel for my final night, again in recovery mode and about to fall asleep way too soon, I had to smile.  I spent five days in Nauru basically looking at a wall.  I didn’t have exactly as much time as I would have preferred, and there was a good dose of stress along the way, but I still managed to have an excellent cultural experience.  And, I pulled off an incredible mural, number 48, with the help of some very wonderful people in the Yaren community. 

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.