We had our first visitor at the beginning of April. To be more clear, we had our first American visitor. Our friend, Alyssa, came for a week. It was a whirlwind trip but we enjoyed it and I hope she did, too.
We went to Vila on Saturday April 2nd. We caught the morning flight from Pentecost, not that there is another one, but still, you get the idea. We were in a boat by 6:30 am and heading to the airport. Jason’s mama gave us some boiled bananas and some form of leaf boiled in coconut milk. The leaf was tasty but I can’t remember the name of it. We got to Vila a little before lunch time.
I went straight to the hardware store to get a quote for a water system while Jason went into to town to run errands. At 1:30, we went to lunch. We spent the rest of the day running errands and playing online. Finally, at 11:30 at night we went to the airport to get Alyssa. Let me take a moment to point out that bed time is now 9 pm on a late night. Staying up until 11:30 was rough, but you know how once your up it just isn’t worth the effort of going to sleep? I stayed up until 1:30 am chatting with Alyssa then calling my brother in the States.
The next day, we slept in as much as possible, then went to the Peace Corps office to try to catch some internet. Unfortunately, the internet went down. Sorry to any of you hoping for an email or skype call. I tried, really I did. We finally got the internet back about the same time we had to go to lunch before our afternoon activities.
After lunch, we went on a kayak tour with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. He not only returned to the states, he also returned to Vanuatu. He is trying to start a kayaking company here. We went down to a good snorkeling spot he knew and swam for a few hours. The highlight for me was seeing a Red Firefish. Alyssa and I spotted it on our way back in. Then, we kayaked back to Ifira Island. We stuffed our new puscats in their traveling bags and went back to town for the night.
Monday morning, we headed to Pentecost. We settled in at the house then decided to go out for a walk. What’s the fun in having visitors without a massive walkabout to show off? That was sort of the theme of the trip, I think.
We walked over to Lalbateis and met Tamanok Philip, also known as the Pantsless Wonder. He is one of the high chiefs in our area and wears a loin cloth. We storied with him for awhile and then headed back the long way around. It was fun to see all of our reactions to this place again. I do remember looking at the footpaths and thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m walking down that?” as well as “Wow, this toilet is way better than I thought it would be.” There are things that have become normal to me, that a Westerner does not accept as normal. I was reminded of just what I’ve gotten acclimatized to.
Monday night was kava time. Really, you can’t come to Vanuatu and not drink kava. So, we did. Alyssa took the kava like a champ. The first shell always goes to the guest, which meant she didn’t have anyone to set her a good example. She knocked it back without flinching. It doesn’t taste good. When you drink kava, it comes in a half a coconut shell. You are expected to knock it back like a shot. A shot that looks like dirty water, makes your mouth numb and tastes like pepper and mud. For me, one shell and I’m buzzed. Jason is usually more like three. Alyssa had three and said she barely felt it.
Once we crawled out of bed on Tuesday (kava makes you sleep) we walked down to Waterfall. The walk was hot and sweaty which made the icy cold river all the better. It really is a beautiful place. We spent a while playing and exploring around the waterfall itself then had a mini-picnic in the grass. Someday, I want to walk up to the top of the waterfall and look down, but I’ve been told the path up is bush and unsafe. It will happen, someday.
We walked back and wished for a truck for most of the walk. We got passed several times but no one picked us up. I took Alyssa down to learn a bit of weaving. The woman who has been teaching me was happy to have another person to show and we even got some simboro. Alyssa said it was good. It was fun to translate back and forth, especially when my translations included cultural translations to make things clear.
Wednesday morning, we walked over to Melsisi. Jason had class at 9:30, so we left him there and went back to Vansemakul. Alyssa’s check in time was 1pm for a 2:15 flight back to Vila. Around 11:30, I started looking for the truck to take us to the airport. At 12, I started getting nervous about the truck. At 12:15, I called Jason to ask for the driver’s number to call him and ask where he was. At 12:30, he still hadn’t answered his phone. I found Jason’s papa and asked for a ride down in the boat. At 12:45, we were pushing off the reef and heading down to the airport. At 1:25, we made it to Lonorore and the airport. At 1:45, Alyssa’s plane took off. Typical Vanuatu, the only thing that happens early are the planes.
It was a fun few days, though far too short. My highlight was the hours of conversation. It was great to hear about things from home, to discuss long-term plans, to hear about all the gossip and feel connected again. To know that I am not forgotten and to know that I still have a place there.
Showing this place to someone else was a great way for me to see it again. I got to look at it like I did that first day, as a tropical wonderland, but with a constant overlay of names and memories. It is a unique kind of amazing to look out over a stretch of tropical beach and think, “I had lunch there last week,” or stand and watch a sunset from the grassy spot we refer to as our dojang.