The boat is coming!
6:00 The church keeper beats on an empty gas canister hanging from a breadfruit tree. The Fihu family rise quickly, put on their church clothes and quietly join the other members of the community crossing the open field in the centre of Nareabu Village. In the church, Nareabu’s only cement building, one of the women lets out a high, piercing cry, the first note of the morning psalm.
6:30 On his return, Selwyn looks for privacy on the stretch of beach that slopes down from his yard. The beach and the bush are the village’s only toilet facilities. Minutes later, a man runs by, shouting “The boat is coming!, The boat is coming!” The white silhouette of Compass Rose 11 is passing the coral reef on its way to the main town of Buala. The ferry has been out of service and everybody has been waiting for its return.
Michael, Selwyn’s oldest son, does not have a minute to lose. He is now two weeks late for the beginning of the school year at college in Honiara, the nation’s capital. His sister, Jennifer, managed to get to her school in Honiara before the boat broke down. With his jeans, T-shirt, and earring, Michael already looks like a city boy. Now he rolls his few possessions in his straw sleeping mat and scrambles down the mud slope between his home and the beach, where Selwyn is waiting in his tree-trunk canoe to row him to the reef.