*For all the non-American readers (and the Americans who don’t read enough American classics): During the American Revolution, Paul Revere and about 4 other guys were sent to warn the people of New England that the British forces were on the move. Along with the verbal message that was passed, they were to light lamps in a lighthouse: one if by land, two if by sea.
The French army is doing some good-will building stuff with the Vanuatu government. The Ministry of Health selected the Melsisi Health Center for an upgrade to a mini-Hospital. I’m not totally sure what that means, I’m not sure anyone outside of the Ministry is sure what that means, but it sounds pretty good.
There are now 81 French soldiers, 6 New Zealand soliders and 6 ni-Vans from the Vanuatu Mobile Force (which encompasses army and police) running around Melsisi. Technically, I think the French and Kiwis are marines, but whatever. They arrived on a Big Ship. Seriously, the ship was nearly the size of Melsisi.
We walked over to see it because we have become man bush smol. What else did you think I had to do today? (Actually, I had scheduled a workshop for this morning but it got canceled on account of the Big Ship coming, so I had something better to do but it was canceled.) They were scheduled to debark at 0600. Of course, this is still Vanuatu, even if it is the French army. The Brisk, one of our cargo ships, came at about the same time. The smaller and more nimble cargo ship slipped into shore and unloaded while the French Big Ship was still dancing around. They didn’t actually debark until around 7:30 or 8.
The community did a really nice welcome. They lead the delegation of French officers to the sports field with a kastom dance where all the students in Melsisi – kindi through year 13 – sang the French national anthem, the Vanuatu national anthem and the Penama provincial anthem. They did it up proper on the kastom dance, they were all in malmal in their tsips (aka, red mat loin clothes). Even the women took their shirts off and did the proper red mats, though some of them did keep their bras on. (Proper kastom dictates that people be mostly naked. I love the tropics.) The kids did a good job on the songs and the kindi kids were super cute. They were really well-behaved through the speeches. I guess ni-Van kids are as good at waiting as their parents.
The speeches were shorter than I expected. I think the weather contributed to that. I didn’t understand most of the talking because I still don’t speak French, but the general gist was “We’re glad you’re here! Yay!’ There were several officers, a representative from the provincial office, a representative from the chiefs of the area and a representative from the Ministry. The chief is a friend of ours, so we made sure to take some good pictures of him in his red mat loin cloth with the military brass.
While the speeches were going on, the grunts got the job of modifying the beach for landing. The beach is pretty sharply angled, which wouldn’t do. They got to dig gravel for an hour or so. Poor guys. Before the boat could come in, they had to check to see if the reef had space for them to beach. They sent down two scuba divers. (Badass moment of the day – diving knife strapped to the calf. I want one.) The scuba divers gave the all clear, the diggers made the beach the right grade and the ship came to shore.
They just doubled the number of vehicles in Central Pentecost, I think. They brought off 3 camions, an SUV and a fork lift. That about sums up the number of trucks we have. Then the soldiers got off and started carrying things up the hill.
We left when they were still unloading. I guess I’m not that much of a man bushyet.