During our time on Easter island we were adopted by the local Rapa Nui people. Throughout our stay, our new friends spent days and days preparing a ceremony for their recently deceased aunt. We showed up to meet them one evening and they greeted us covered in blood from preparing livestock. The next day we showed up as they were building a giant earth oven and gathering rocks to cook the feast. The following days were spent making jerky, fishing, and collecting other items such as local potatoes.
Our new found friends would work until midnight preparing this island wide event, listening to music and singing ACDC at the top of their lungs in their Rapa Nui accents. They would drink Corona mixed with Fanta (a local favorite) and tell stories about their departed relative.
On the day of the big event, our Rapa Nui friends made sure we invited our entire travel group to the feast and made EXTRA sure that “Charlie el Famoso” was going to be in attendance. Charlie Love is very well respected and loved among the Rapa Nui people for his 36 years of dedicated archaeology work on the Island. We rounded up our group and hit the local market on the way to pick up wine to contribute to the feast.
We were greeted warmly with wide open arm hugs as our friends made sure we had a front row view of what was about to happen. The party fell silent as a woman stood above the earth oven singing a song and saying a prayer to the departed while dipping greenery into water and sprinkling it over the earth oven. The beauty of the prayer made me feel connected to the woman we were celebrating even though I did not know her and could not understand the Rapa Nui prayer.
Once this moment of silence ended, the party became lively again as the men gathered around the hole in the ground serving as the earth oven. They began grabbing the flaming hot stones with their bare hands and tossing them to the side. Once the stones were removed, they grabbed the layer of potatoes which was enough to feed a small army. Next out of the ground came the banana leaves that provided insulation to the oven. Food just kept on coming and coming out of the ground in what seemed like a hole dug all the way to China. Next came the thick, orange local bread that tasted like bananas and then finally, the meat!
Lines formed around the food as the entire town gathered to celebrate and eat. Locals brought frisbees, plastic bags, and anything they could carry a huge serving of food on. The food was incredible! Our friend served us a HUGE portion of meat, bread, and potatoes and then took us over to the pig roasting on a stick where he took a knife, grabbed the pig and cut each one of us a piece and fed it to us with his hands. This pig was cooked to perfection and the meat dissolved in our mouths. I am still dreaming about how good that was!
After everyone had eaten, we relaxed and drank wine with our friends as we watched a pair battle in chess. By this time, Charlie was exhausted from guiding and suffering from a leg injury. The locals carried him princess chair style with two men on each side of him with their arm criss crossed underneath, all the way back to the hotel. The perfect ending, to a perfect party.
I felt so lucky to get a behind the scenes experience of this huge preparation and beautiful labor of love for their aunt. What a way to celebrate life! The Rapa Nui people’s warmth and openness to share this experience with us is something I will never forget.