It was a Sunday and besides church services, there was no activity on the island. I was a day of rest, and the day before school started back in session for me. In the afternoon, the teachers hired a television and VCR for an afternoon foreign movie with subtitles. We asked the typical questions one asks when watching a film with no sound, who was that, why are they doing that and how did that happen? The German film came from a local family who had a son working overseas for South Pacific Marine Services. Renting out their equipment, they earned a little money for purchasable goods. “Wealthy” families had at least one relative working overseas remitting pay monthly.
Wages for seafarers were around six thousand Australian dollars annually. Coveted domestic skilled employment earned between twelve and twenty-one thousand Australian dollars annually. The average annual household expenditure on the main island was around nine thousand Australian dollars.
Remittances paid for school fees, community events, church obligations, and imported daily household items such as soap, tinned foods, and even Tabasco sauce. Outer islanders required fewer financial resources than those living in South Tarawa, money was still essential, especially when it came to church contributions. Remittances represented significant financial resources for seafarer families and the larger social network which benefitted through developed redistribution systems. And though beneficial for our Sunday screening, it was not without pain that this happened.
I would eventually work with young men hoping to work on these cargo ships. I helped prep them for the exams, brush up on their English, and worked with them to file applications. I worked with one student whose brother worked months at a time on these ships. When I go, I go for a long time. I spend a year or more away on one contract period. I do it all for money. For my family. It helps them here. A few years ago, I made six hundred dollars a month, now I get more than a thousand dollars a month. It is hard and lonely. But, at least there is something for my family at home.
I eventually lost interest in the movie and began looking around the compound. I spotted an old basketball court. I brought a basketball with me not knowing a court existed in Kiribati and was itching to play. I waited for the movie to end before asking Biita to play. He was hesitant, but after encouragement from other teachers, we went to the court. Much to Biita’s delight, we spent only a few minutes on the court, the sun was too intense. People of Tamana were proud to be followers of strict religious rules and playing basketball on Sunday was against the rules. As a Catholic, I was informed that Catholic missionaries were stoned off the island. I feared being seen as a religious outsider at best, and a Catholic missionary at worst.
Tamana KPC, PC: Salote Mataitini