10th of December 2019, Charismatic happenings

It is 12 o’clock midnight. I’m not on watch anymore, but my bio-rithm wakes me up anyway. I find the stepping-on-crew preparing Cup-’O-Noodles in the galley and think to myself” “Oh well, Rome wasn’t build in one day”.

During the Sunday Service last week, I spent 15 minutes preaching about “the Temple of God”, and how we have the duty to take care of our bodies. In an attempt to raise the awareness of our crew regarding the health-issues involved in the local diet. As an example I asked Arina to grab three items from the galley. One bowl of “Cup-’o-Noodles contains 78% of our daily intake of Sodium. Ramen noodles does 84%, and Spam tops it off with 150% in one can (and this is the LESS SODIUM version that we serve on board)! “Te Atua e maeka inanora” (God lives in all of us), I preach. The crew nods and continues to break down the temple.

Miraculous things have happened since the Departing of our dear friend Takateke. The ‘coincidences’ of our fishing activities were ongoing. With the spirits of Takateke (expert lure-maker) and Tetaaka (master fisherman) lingering in the Foc’s’l, we had another incident that asks for attention. Because of the death of Takateke, the captain decided to alter our course to Fanning Island, where his family lives. Five miles out of the island the fishing-bell goes crazy. Both fishing-lines are firmly hooked onto a big-ass Tuna. We manage to land the beast on deck and throw in the lines. “Ding, ding”, another hit within seconds. And another one, mere minutes later. One more tuna on Starboard, then one on Portside, then another, and so on, until we have FIVE big fishes assembled in the scuppers. This is unpresedented and captain Anika concurs, we donate the fishes to the family of the deceased. There will be a big gathering after the upcoming funeral.

During my last night-watch I entered the Foc’s’l and felt eerie. My body goes cold and I know that there is something wrong. “I’d better pay attention now”, I think to myself. When I check one of the freezers in the Foc’s’l, I find that it is not warm on the outside. Opening the lid I see water dripping from all sides. The freezer was unplugged. On my way out the Foc’s’l I grab onto a handhold and get shocked by a loose electric wire. I thank the spirits for the fore-warning and hurry back to the deck.

While we enter the lagoon of Fanning on Monday morning, I see the white coffin on the hatch that Carson and Anika have build out of lumber. We tie onto our mooring and officials of Police, Customs , Immigration and Health board the vessel, dressed in disposable white plastic. As soon as clearance has been achieved, the family of the departed are tendered-in from shore. The scene is heartbreaking. The wife and six of Takateke’s children slowly find their way towards the Fore-deck, where the body is presented in the pristine-white coffin with a big red cross on the top. As soon as the lid is lifted, the children start grieving deeply, and the wife collapses on the deck. This is the moment to call in the
“Charismatic-team” from shore.

Charismatic is the name of an old book of prayers that is held in high esteem on the Kiribati islands. It has magical powers. With it, the leader can ‘see’ demons and if “somebody is hiding”. The Charismatic team consists of five people, dressed in white-and-red robes. They take position around the coffin and the ceremony starts. The leader holds a prayer, a song and consoles the family. Then each of the members of the team start chanting their own ‘prayers’, in a language that I can not determine. It sounds like Middle-eastern, or Mediterranian, with a lot of gutteral sounds. Totally different from the local language. When I ask one of the members (our agent Johnny from Teraina) how he learned this magical language, he told me the story. After many years as a “Charismatic” he suddenly started to talk like this in his morning prayers. On a visit to Hawaii, a Tuvalu-priest overheard his prayer and he told Johnny that he understood his chant. “It is LATIN”, the priest explained.

After the chanting, I was asked to open the “Charismatic” magical book of prayers and choose a text. “At random”, I find a text that is read by our Super-cargo Teraititi. Apparently the chosen text has magical powers. It regards “punishment and “judgement”, and the wife start sobbing. She loved her husband so dearly.

The next day, captain Anika joined us to attend the funeral on shore. The ceremony started in a small thatched m’aneaba where the coffin is covered with flowers, leaves and a mosquito-net; The body is obviously defrosting because of the lack of cooling facilities on the island. After a sermon by a local priest, our strong crew hoists the massive coffin onto their shoulders and move it in procession towards the grave yard on the sea-side of the atoll. The grave-site is dug into solid coral. Local custom has it that the ‘family-grave’ is opened. Bones of fore-fathers are carefully removed and saved. The corpse is then placed in the bottom of the grave and covered with huge slabs of coral. After this the family-bones are re-installed and the grave closed. This process is too much for the wife to bear and she collapses. To see her and the tiny kids grieving, it’s heart-breaking.

We are underway to Christmas-island now with 19 passengers and 20 tons of copra on board. ETA is the morning of the 12th..