Our volunteer in South Tanna, David Keppen, had some items stolen from his property a few months ago. This is kind of shocking to me, since the culture and island life don't really leave themselves open to this sort of behavior. Plus, at least for me, it's easy to develop a family-like repoire with your village where they would feel very ashamed if anything, especially a theft, occurred. In fact, it's been my experience that they are very protective of me and my belongings. On the other hand, man will be man. And when you have flashy things like CD players and digital camera's I suppose you open yourself up to any possibilities. And of course people from outside your village are just as capable of theft as anyone.
So David had some items stolen right from inside his house. He talked to the village about it, had some meetings and so forth. No one seemed to know what to do, and David wasn't about to let it go. If someone knew what had happened they weren't sharing any information or they were too ashamed for one reason or another. David needed to appeal to a higher power - higher than the village chief. Turns out his village had a suggestion. They told him to go see "The Clever". "The Clever" - David had never heard of him. What kind of person was this? what sort of special powers does someone that goes by that name possess? But David had little other choices and in any event this all sounded rather intriguing, so why not humor everyone. And so David went to seek out this mystical sounding individual.
As if he had stepped into the Matrix seeking the wisdom of the Oracle, David found himself climbing hills, jumping rivers, and crossing forests of lush green tropical flora in hopes of having a face-to-face with the all knowing, all powerful Clever.
Upon meeting the Clever the interview process began. There was no pomp, no ceremony to the occasion. Just enter the hut, sit down, and wait for your turn to speak. What is your name? where did you come from? what is your business here? and so on. The Clever understood the problem and declared his ability to help David and restore his possessions.
But first he needed to communicate with his underlings.
The Clever reaches to the ground by his side, where David notices for the first time a selection of small stones and random sticks and rocks, and makes the carefully considered selection of a small, plain looking stone. He then nonchalantly places the stone into his ear. Then, while holding a finger to the inserted stone, and looking absently away from David, makes like he is placing a cellphone call. To David's great credit he stood by patiently and politely while waiting for the call to go through. Then when there was an apparent connection The Clever begins speaking out loud providing details of the situation at hand, periodically pausing to get clarification from David.
"Yes, that's correct... a Peace Corps Volunteer", he says to the... stone.
Then quickly turns to David:
"Uhm... What did you say your name was?"
"Ah yes", then turns his face away, "He says his name is David Keppen". Then to David again:
"And you are from which village?"
"Ah yes", then looks towards the ceiling while continuing his call, pressing the stone solidly into his ear, "He's from High Hill and he had items stolen from his home..."
This line of behavior continued for some time before The Clever purportedly hung up (pulled the stone out of his ear and carefully returned it to it's special place on the dirt floor) and explained that all was going to work out just fine, he would have his items returned shortly. David thanked The Clever, and took his leave without asking any questions.
Returning home from work the next day he found on his doorstep his CD player and digital camera and the other random items that had been taken. No indication of where they came from or who may have taken them - but there they were back again with nary a scratch.
He later came to learn who the most likely suspects where, as did all the villagers, and he decided to let it go - to not follow up by "pressing charges". The village, however, insisted upon have a "Sorry Ceremony" as a way for healing and moving forward. More about "Sorry Ceremony's" in another post. Couldn't we all use a Clever.
Love the name.