8-12 Our Friends Left Us

A few of them wanted kava before they left
After the opening of the Health Center, the army made their way down to the beach. They had half an hour or so to hang out and say goodbye to anyone they had made particularly good friends with. It was sweet to watch the soldiers play with the kids, give a demonstration of their ration packs to a group of mamas and general just connect with the community. I wish they could have stayed longer just for the benefit the community got out of that outside contact.
The soldiers all lined up and the rest of us made a receiving line. It was one hell of a receiving line. It was double-sided and went on for the length of a football field. They shook hands with every person in that line. I think the New Caledonians have similar kastom around partings because all of the New Caledonian women were crying and the men didn’t look happy. The French were smiling and saying goodbye in the non-emotional way you’d expect from someone in the West.
Last hanging out with the army.
Before the kiwis boarded, they asked Jason if there was any place that had kava ready early. He said he’d try to get them some.
They boarded the ship and we lined up on the beach to see them off. The soldiers gathered on the deck and waved. An hour later we were still waiting. The people on shore did a round of Auld Lang Syne, which was echoed from the ship.
Jason found some kava and got two big bottles full. He passed it to the second-in-command to pass to them. The poor guy just rolled his eyes and put the basket on the ship. The kiwis came out and gestured at Jason to find out if it was ready. The first one didn’t understand what he was trying to tell them, so another one came out.
Shake hands with everyone
The second guy kept gesturing for Jason to go around to the side and toss the bottles up. I pointed at my basket at the same time Jason gestured at the corner the basket was in. They finally got the idea and looked there, where they found 2 big bottles of kava. They were well pleased.
We waited until they shut the big doors, then we decided we had a kava date someplace else. It was too sad to sit and watch the ship take our friends away. Instead, we went up to the convent and sat on the front porch of the convent and drank kava with the person from the French Embassy who is in charge of the funding (aka hopefully giving money to my community for toilets) and the Sister. When the ship did leave, we shined torches at it in true ni-Van fashion.
It has been odd to have them gone. It was incredibly disruptive to have them here, but then we got used to it and now it feels empty to have them not here. For one thing, everyone is back to staring at me. For awhile, I wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch and that was so refreshing.
Having them here also made me realize how homesick I am. I miss having friends I can joke with in a way that makes sense to me. I didn’t have to adapt my sense of humor to fit the circumstances. I miss having guy friends and not being constantly aware of how that looks to other people or feeling like I might be sending the wrong message. I miss the sense of comradarie I had with friends at home. It has made me lonely all over again.
How very military
It will be an interesting next year in Vila.

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