Thursday, March 01, 2007

Freshwater: Why Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana Didn't Meet JFK

Alan Freshwater e-mail to me 12/06:

I thought you might like to hear some of what she told me of what Biuku told her when she last saw him. She also has a recording made of Biuku telling the "Kennedy" story.

Biuku told June that when he was due to go to the US for Kennedy's inauguration, he was not sent because he did not speak English.

It seems that a local family of some influence with the British administrators at the time had persuaded them that Biuku and Eroni would get lost if they were sent. Biuku thought this had been done simply out of envy or spite. Funnily enough it is from a member of the same family I had been trying to retrieve Kennedy's letter.

Anyway, be that as it may, in the end, another local, named Ben Kevu, was sent to the inauguration instead. Kevu was an interpreter for the Americans during the war. It was felt he would be better able to communicate.

When Kevu returned he told Biuku that Kennedy had looked at him for a moment, then told him he was too tall. (Kevu was very tall - Biuku was quite short). Kennedy had told Kevu that he was plainly the wrong person. He knew how tall Biuku was, and Kevu was not Biuku. Kevu told Biuku that Kennedy had made it quite plain to him that he was disappointed and that it was Biuku and Eroni whom Kennedy had wanted to meet again.

Biuku told June that before Kennedy left the Solomons, he had told Biuku that he was going to try to be president one day and that when that happened he would send for Biuku to visit him in the White House. Biuku also told June that Kennedy had said to him that he would take the coconut with him when he went, and would keep it. He told Biuku that one day Biuku would come to visit him, and Kennedy would show the coconut to Biuku again. June says this is exactly what Biuku told her. He said they spoke very rough Pijin to each other at that time. June said that telling the story was always a source of mirth to the family as Biuku imitated the way he and JFK spoke pijin to each other.

I am going to get June to translate the recording and I will send you a copy along with a transcript and translation.

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