Kiribati 22 May: Eita - Tatirerei

A moving reception in Kiribati

It was an early start to catch the 6am Air Nauru flight to Kiribati.

What a great airline! They gave an efficient and polished service and tasty refreshments between each of our Island hops to reach Tarawa.

Bonriki International Airport services the Island Nation of Kiribati.

We were met off the plane by T Mr. Tabotabo Auatabu: Principal Social Welfare Officer (Ministry of Women, Youth & Social Affairs), the main organiser for the Peace Run here in Kiribati, our guardian angel who is guiding us through our time here. He is translating for us but also self-givingly and compassionately looking after all our needs.

Followed by the media, Tabotabo guided us to a VIP lounge welcoming room decorated with traditional crafts and paintings.

The Vice President of Kiribati, Hon. Kourabi Nenem welcomed us warmly, saying that although the Islands may seem isolated geographically, they are deeply committed to peace in the world and support the belief that peace begins with each of us. He spoke of how traditionally the people of Kiribati have a peaceful and harmonious culture but how changes in today’s society can erode the fabric of the community. He expressed his support for peace and stability and the need to protect the most vulnerable. He blessed us as is traditionally done for health, peace and prosperity.

The Hon. Vice President and his spouse receiving the Torch of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run.

The Peace Run Torch-Bearer Award was presented to James Henry for his contribution to peace in Kiribati society.

James Henry holds the Peace Torch with the Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth & Social Affairs.

The Hon. Vice President having a quick photo with the team and the youth who will be running with us before he catches his flight to Fiji.

Final arrangements of the Peace Run program here in Kiribati. We only have 24 hours here so every moment counts!

We drove from the airport to Eita Maneaba (community gathering place) for the traditional welcome.

Each team member was taken by the hand and led into the Ceremony.

As we entered, everyone stood and sang for us.

MC Kourabi led us through the ceremony.

The chief Teboco explained the ceremony is to introduce us to the gods of Kiribati so that they will know us, support us and take care of us while we are here.

Stacey Marsh from New Zealand, as the leader of the group, was given a necklace that blessed the Peace Run and would give us safe passage during our time here.

We were all then given two symbolic gifts – the head garland and coconut water. This mwaneaba is dedicated to the god Auriaria.

Stacey gave a fine introduction to the Peace Run and we finished by shaking the hand of everyone present, followed by the passing of the Peace Torch.

A heartfelt musical group played to give us a few moments to relax.

The Minister for Labour, Mr. Ruateki, was also present and thanked the community for the cultural ceremony and for our presence.

The real running started with a group of fine young athletes to accompany us.

Tabotabo is explaining our route.

Our friendly Police escort ...

We were concerned the young runners would be extremely fast and that we would expire especially in the afternoon heat. However, they were extremely considerate and patient ...

... as we ran the length of this uniquely beautiful atoll.

We are most grateful to Itinaibo Aukitino, an excellent photographer who took some incredible shots for us whilst recording for his own use, to pass onto local newspapers. Itinaibo captured the entire event.

We arrived at our accommodation, Fema Lodge, where we had a quick stop to drop off our bags. Here we are greeted by their sweet team.

Meeting the locals before going to the Roman Catholic Church Community.

We then continued the run to Tiantaake Mwaneaba. The young children playing in the street outside found us very entertaining.

Ereniko gave a prayer to open the ceremony.

The leader expressed his gratitude to have his community chosen and wished us all the best.

Kario received the Peace Run Certificate of Appreciation and “Grace”, a print of a painting by Peace Run founder, Sri Chinmoy.

Soon after we left the Church it started to pour down!

We were a little a head of schedule so took a few moments at the waterfront to relax.

The sun was setting as we ran onto Tatirerei Mwaneaba – Tabotabo’s home village.

As Kiribati Uniting Church is Tabotabo’s Church he was asked to be MC.

Waioreta Mwakaea said a beautiful prayer as the community gathered to hear about the Peace Run. Some of the children cleverly guessed our countries and we enjoyed a resounding singing performance offered by them.

Pastor Baiteke Manaraara received the Certificate and another print of Sri Chinmoy’s artwork, entitled “Serve Humanity”.

The print and certificate were passed around to everyone who all took great interest!

We were treated to an excellent meal, which we ate in the traditional way of passing the food around the circle.

Tabotabo, with his selfless nature, drove us back to our lodge and we settled in after an inspiring and uplifting day.