9-20 Weddings in Vanuatu are Still in Vanuatu

The first full bus.  It got fuller.

A few weeks ago (I’m really far behind on blogs, I’m sorry) a fellow PCV got married. The wedding ceremony was sweet, touching and short. The bride and groom looked radiant. People cried. The decorations were elegant and fit in around and among the tropical location beautifully. We ate, we drank, we danced, we partied. It was, all in all, a success. But straight up success makes for a poor story, so this blog is less about the wedding and more about getting to the wedding.

We met at Anchor Inn around 1 pm to catch buses. At 1:15, we found out that the buses wouldn’t be there until 1:30. At nearly 2:30, we were still at Anchor Inn. By we, I mean about 50 people. (It was not a small wedding.) After a short conversation with the now very stressed bride, they canceled the buses. We were to find our own transport.

Lovely lanterns in the tree

Telling a group of people here to “find their own transport” is like telling a bunch of bears to find their own honey. Out came the cell phones. Half the group went outside to flag down a bus, half called their friend/family member with a bus. After a brief burst of chaos, we reorganized. The cafe manager and a few PCVs emerged as the strongest leaders and started loading up buses. Loading the buses was a complicated feat of politics. The buses that had been called had to be filled if/when they arrived, otherwise it might spoil the relationship between the bus and the person who called. However, that required waiting for those buses to arrive while the other buses in the lot saw a good thing and tried to get us on their bus instead. I stayed out of it.

After about half an hour, I ended up on a bus with Jason, two PC staff and all of the staff from Nambawan Cafe. It was a crowded bus. Then we stopped to pick up the laplap and some more staff members. There was no way we were all going to fit on that bus, so we called a second bus and broke up the group. That left our bus full at 14 people.

We were having a blast playing music from people’s phones and generally goofing off in the bus. I mean, we were going to a party. We got to the really big hill by Lelepa Landing. All of us were happily unaware of how much weight we were putting on the bus. When the brakes and engine started smoking, we suddenly realized that loading 15 people in a van that is old enough to vote might not be a good idea. Especially once that van is pointed downhill on a curving road.

The driver stopped the vehicle on the shoulder by putting on the parking break, slamming on the normal brakes and turning the van a bit sideways. We all got out in a hurry. Which left us standing on the side of the road, half an hour outside of town, 20 minutes from our destination and an hour late to a wedding.

Joel provided music for the ceremony

The bus that had come to pick up the laplap and last few people saw us on the road. Rather than wait for it to go, unload and come back for us, we opted to pile in. (Because overloading the bus worked so well the first time, we thought we should do it again.) We fit 18 people plus a laplap on that bus. The laplap took up two seats. I made good friends with someone, who’s name I still don’t know.

We arrived at 3:30, an hour and a half after the wedding was supposed to start. We had time to get a coconut and a glass of wine before the wedding did start. I sat on a mat with the cafe staff, because it was more comfortable than the benches.

The wedding was beautiful. The scenery was stunning. I enjoyed myself. Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves. It was good.

8-8 My Life is Not What I Expected: Part I-Have-No-Idea-How-Many

Fancy-shmancy invitation.  I’m important.

My work with Wan SmolBag hs started to get noticed. Two weeks ago, I received a very pretty, formal invitation to a screening of a film at the Australian High Commissioners Residence. The film, “Trashed,” is about waste management around the world. It seemed interesting and like a good chance to talk to some people, so I went.

I can’t talk to white people. Seriously. Jason and I showed up, shook hands with the person doing the greeting and then wandered out onto the porch. We started by joking with the ni-Van catering staff. Most of the white people, primarily Australians but a few New Zealanders and a Brit or two mixed in, were on the porch. The handful of ni-Van guests were on the grass just off the porch. Jason and I gravitated that way as soon as we ran out of jokes for the servers.

We started by chatting with the peons. The Lord Mayer’s son and driver (hold on, who has a Lord Mayor? Who calls them “Lords” anymore? I guess, the English colonies…) were hiding at the edge of the light. We got to chatting with them. We must have seemed like more fun than the people the Lord Mayor was talking to (or he was worried his driver was getting too tipsy) so he came over. We struck up an interesting conversation.

The owner of RecycleCorps, the only company in Vanuatu doing recycling, came over. Then the conversation got awkward. I disagreed with several of his policy opinions and, me being me, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. Before any of you who know me too well start worrying, I was very polite about my disagreements. There were no swear words involved. But, I continued to disagree. I don’t like to lie, not even by omission and especially not about important issues. So, we politely danced around our disagreements and I got the distinct impression that he considered me a stupid idealist. (I can’t help wondering if that was heightened by being a 28-year-old female. If I’d been a middle-aged man, would he have viewed my opinions differently? Or if it had been Jason voicing them? I digress…) He found a polite out of the conversation and Jason, the Lord Mayor and I started a new conversation with the Japanese Aid country director and head consultant. Both of the Japanese development workers are lovely people and we had an interesting conversation about potential survey methods of property lines and waste management for Port Vila. That lasted until we went to watch the movie.

Movie poster.  Go find it.

The movie was interesting. I would recommend it as a starting point for anyone interested in waste management options in the first world. I don’t think it effectively addressed the needs of the developing world and I was not satisfied with the depth of some of the information presented about research being done, but as an introduction for the general public, it was a great start. The information is accessible, the numbers are clear, the presentation is excellent with a good combination of horrifying and beautiful photography. Seriously, go check it out.  http://www.trashedmovie.com/

After the movie, the caterers came around with food again so we wandered back outside. We once again failed utterly to schmooze with the one white person who came our way. Instead, we had an interesting conversation about plastic bag taxes and reducing the use of plastic bags in Port Vila with the Lord Mayor. It seemed like the idea of a plastic bag tax was brand new to him, which is a bit surprising. Still, if I planted the seed of it in his mind, that’s something.

A bit later, he offered us a lift home. His driver had been drinking steadily since arriving because as the Lord Mayor put it, “He has to come to all these things and then he gets bored, so I drive home.”

In short, after a 3 hours event with a mixed group of ni-Vans, developement workers and ex-pats, Jason and I befriended the ni-Vans, had a lovely conversation with the development workers and utterly failed to connect with the ex-pats. We are going to be so weird when we get home.

5-5 Judo Tournament (I swear it isn’t martial arts infidelity!)

Yeah, what his gi says…

A few months ago, Jason and I started training with the Judo club. We started training with the Judo club because we want to be training. With people. I’m sick of training alone. It gets boring to do nothing but the same form, over and over. Even doing techniques against Jason gets old, because the same thing happens every time. I know how far his wrists bend, I know where his center of balance is. Before any Hwa Rang Do people read this and think we’re cheating on HRD, I promise we aren’t. Well, we are but only due to lack of options. I know that Jason wants to go back to HRD and is viewing this as a chance to improve his throws and take downs. So, I swear it isn’t infidelity.

The women’s division.  Note how much bigger I am than all of them…

About three weeks ago our English-speaking instructor, Ted, announced a tournament. ( We have a French-speaking instructor, as well.) It was limited to the club we’re in, because he didn’t think there were enough competitors to invite other countries in the South Pacific. At practice one day, Jason and his partner and me and my two partners (uneven number of women) were all working near each other. Ted walks over and says, “After class, all of you register for the tournament.”

After class, we all registered for the tournament. Two weeks later we had the tournament.
Me and Florence.  I was having fun.

Judo has rules that I haven’t fought under in a while. No touching the face or head, not even in ground work. No small joint manipulation, which includes wrists, knees and ankles. Not attacking for 15 seconds or so counts as stalling and gets a penalty. And it is possible to win on a good clean throw. We both had to readjust a little.

Judo competitions are done by weight class. Unfortunately, there were only 5 women competitors and all of them were not anywhere near my weight class. I asked if they’d prefer to have me fight the men because the rest of the women were fairly close in weight. I would feel like it was an unfair win if I won by growing bigger. After a bit of discussion, they agreed that was a good idea. Then I felt bad because I thought I was forcing my way into a division I didn’t belong in. So I talked to Ted and explained it to him. He talked to Florence, the French-speaking instructor, and they put me back with the women. As Jason pointed out, sometimes my sense of fairness gets a little out of control.
Jason and the boys, waiting for their divisions to start.

I got a penalty for stalling in one match, which is not too big a deal. It doesn’t affect scoring until you get more than that. Otherwise, my matches went well. I won 2 on throws and a third with a hold down. I do think my weight made a difference, but that is the risk of fighting in an open division. And the other people there ranged in belt rank from white to black. I lost my fourth to Florence, the French-speaking instructor who used to train with the French national team. I’m not upset about that loss.

Jason also took second in his division. He lost one match to a brown belt and won the rest, mostly on holds and tap outs. From what I saw, he got a couple of good moves but I didn’t get to see much since our divisions went at the same time.
Jason’s last match.  He won on the tap out.

I learned to score the matches because there was a shortage of people willing to do that. The scoring makes sense once you understand that the three numbers on the bottom are not a 3-digit score but are rather 3 columns of number representing the different types of points. Then it all makes sense. Before I figured that one out, I was really confused.

We finished at 1 pm. It felt early to be finishing up a tournament, but I’m used to HRD tournaments that have 5 divisions for each participant. It was nice to finish early and get to have some of my day left over to do other things with. I kind of would have liked a few more matches though.

4-1 Karis Came to Visit!

Enjoying the sunset at kava bar

A few weeks ago, Jason’s sister, Karis, came to visit. It was awesome. It was also a very different experience having visitors this time than it was the last few times.

First off, on the island, taking a week or two off to hang out with family was no big deal. I mean, we tried to organize it loosely around the school schedule, but only loosely. It just wasn’t that big a deal. This time, we had to specifically take time off from work to host and we had to do all the official stuff like submitting paperwork and talking to bosses as we did it.
Once we had the time off, using it was very different. On the island, we could fill an entire week just living and when we had guests, that’s what we did. Maybe we’d take a walk to the waterfall (just over an hour each way) or to the garden (about an hour each way) or we’d go visiting in Melsisi (just under an hour each way) but mostly we hung out, cooked on a fire and relaxed. That was the island pace of life. Now, we are on town time and it shows. We expected ourselves to keep Karis busy and entertained consistently, everything from going out to kava to meeting up with volunteers for chances to hang out and chat.
Swim-up bar at the resort

Then there was the difference in town activities. When we lived on Pentecost, town was time to eat out, get internet and be white. Now, town is where I live. I have internet, cheese and whiteman time whenever I want (mostly, though the internet is still pretty poor). That doesn’t mean I don’t like to be on the internet, but it does reduce the compulsive need to be on any time I am anywhere near a computer. The same goes for dining out. Though I enjoy going places that make food I don’t know how to cook, the expense starts to make a dent in the Peace Corps budget, so we only go out once in a while. Even things like eating rich foods or spending on extra buses is a stretch. All of that influences hosting. Hosting this time was more of a balancing act between being on vacation and being in normal life.

It wasn’t all a problem though, what we lost in expense and laziness, we made up for in convenience. By living in town, we didn’t need to travel to pick up Karis or rent a room in transit from one island to another. We had things like a fully-stocked kitchen and a shower, all the time. We know where the best restaurants are and when they are open. We know where to go for kava and how long it will take to walk there. We have friends who do fun and interesting things like American dinner night. We have a life here, one that we can invite people into.

Karis’ visit went really smoothly. We had no travel problems (again, living in Vila is easier) and the timing on most everything worked out. Karis got her SCUBA certification while Jason and I were at work the first week and then she and I wandered around town at the end of the week. They went to Tanna from Sunday to Wednesday and left me a bachelor in my house. Even that timing worked out well for my need for some personal space.
The one low point was when Preston and Shelley were supposed to come for a few days and Air Vanuatu canceled their flight. I don’t see how Air Vanuatu is having a positive impact on tourism when they do stupid things like that. I was really disappointed that they couldn’t make it. We found other ways of amusing ourselves. We went SCUBA diving, which finished Karis’ certification and started Jason’s and mine and we wandered around the markets. Karis and I spent a day at Le Lagon, pretending to be tourists with other Volunteers. We went out to kava almost every night, though not everyone drank every time. We went shopping in the market and at the tourist stalls by the water front. Karis followed me to work and listened to ridiculous conversations in the Peace Corps office. I think she got a good impression of what our lives are like here.
It was fun to have her visit. Each time we’ve had visitors, we’ve enjoyed it. It is a chance to remember how awesome and special this place is and how lucky we are in our friends and family. This really is a unique experience and each time I share it with people from home, I get to see it fresh.

7-11 The Beer Saga

On Pentecost, we drink kava.  Pentecost produces huge amounts of kava for immediate consumption and for sale to other islands, Vila and a very small portion as export.  When Man Pentecost has had a bad day, he heads to the nakamal to work his frustrations out on a kava grinder and relax with a shell or six.  He does not grab a beer.  Beer is for special occasions and is drunk with intent to get good and drunk.
The French officers were not impressed with kava.  They wanted their beer.  So, they went to the big store and bought beer.  They bought up all the beer that wasn’t Tusker (local beer, worse than Coors Light); that is all 32 cans.  Yep, that was all the beer in Central Pentecost.  It didn’t take 7 army officers to go through 32 beers.  In fact, it took about four days.  The ship doesn’t come through for another week, and even then there is no guarantee of beer. 
They were extremely kind and shared their beer with us, but I think we finished it.  On Tuesday, they bought all the Tusker at the big store, all 18 bottles of that.
Because I am in Vila, and because they were nice to me and I like to help, I offered to try to bring back some beer.  Now, I’m flying which means I have a 5 kilo carry-on limit and a 10 kilo checked baggage limit.  Then I have to pay overage.  I explained that situation to them via Hannah who was kind enough to translate. 
After much discussion, they decided that yes, I should bring back beer.  After some more discussion, they decided I should bring back as much beer as I could get on the plane and they would pay whatever overage to get beer.  That conversation took about fifteen minutes.  At the end of it, I was also asked to bring back 10 rolls of garbage bags. 
Before I wandered off, the doctor came sidling over to me.  He speaks English, though he speaks slowly.  He asked me, “Do they sell rum in Vila?”  I said they do.  He asked me, “Do they sell white rum in Vila?”  I said they do.  He asked me, “Can you bring me back a bottle of white rum?”  I asked what size.  He said 1 liter.  He thought about that a bit more and asked me, “Can you bring 2 bottles of rum?”
I guess I am now an alcohol importer for the French army.  It will be really interesting trying to get all this on the plane.  The rum can go in my carry on with all my clothes and I won’t let them weigh that.  The beer is a different story.  I think I’ll have to borrow the medical office’s scale to find out how much a box of beer weighs, in kilos.  Then I’ll have to print off or write a bunch of signs with my name on them and tape the boxes up well enough that they will not be recognizably full of beer.  I’ve shipped stuff in alcohol boxes before, but I’ve never shipped the actual alcohol.

7-9 Combat Rations

Combat Rations in all their glory

To all of my friends in the US armed forces.  You are getting jipped.  Seriously.  Your food sucks.  Or maybe you just aren’t French enough.

When I responded to Hurricane Katrina, we ended up eating Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), or US army combat rations, for at least 1 meal a day.  We would deploy from base at 4 or 5 am and get back well after dark, so lunch was always an MRE and sometimes parts of dinner or breakfast were, too.  Generally, there was a couple of packets with either powder or paste that you mixed together and then put in another packet that does some chemical reaction and the whole thing heats up.  In the case of the “Mexican” option, you would then smear the whole thing on a tortilla and call it lunch.  Otherwise, you ate it with a spoon.  There were nice treats like chocolates and powdered gatorade but the quality of the food left a lot to be desired.
We had a demo
Yesterday, we got given a French combat rations as a sample for lunch.  It contained such magical items as cheese, chocolates, caramels and good peppermint tea.  For the omnivores, there was Mexican salad with beef and beans and a chicken soup thing with significant chunks of chicken.  I did have the beans out of the Mexican salad and they were tasty.  There was also a packet of soup, pate, crackers and cookies, coffee, cocoa and 3 different candy bars for dessert.  That is a wider variety of food than I eat in about a week here.
We split that one ration pack between the 4 of us.  Another surreal moment in a day full of bizarre and surreal moments.  Hannah and I were still in our ‘church clothes’ aka island dresses, sitting in the middle of their floor eating French army rations we were heating on the included flame heater. 

The happy face of delicious food

My life has taken some truly unique twists and turns in the last year or so.

7-9 Officer’s Mess

I think I can check something off my bucket list.  It seems like everyone should have a goal, military or not, of being invited to dine in the officers’ mess.  I can mark that goal as complete.

We went to church.  After church we were just bumming around and chatting with our English neighbors when the head of the French army encampment came wandering over.  We got to chatting, and by ‘we,’ I mean him and Hannah because he spoke very little English and I speak no French.  After an hour, he offered us some of their combat rations.  Then he invited us to dinner. 
The Mess Tent is the one in the middle

He said to come around 7:30 for apperetif.  What?  There are many confusing things about that statement these days.  The first one is being told a specific time.  My time works along the lines of “morning,” “lunch time” and “evening.”  Then of course, there is the part where 7:30 is about an hour before bed.  Seriously, I get ready for bed around 8:30 and read for a bit then fall asleep.  7:30 is late.  Then of course, the word apperetif.  It took me about fifteen minutes to remember that in French, that means alcohol.  What?

We showed up at 7:30.  We even put on real clothes, like you know, a long sleeve shirt and a clean skirt.  Jason showered for the occasion.
We did in fact stand around and have a cocktail hour.  Of course, the cocktails were VB, twisties and peanuts, and we were standing on uneven grass that was edging towards ankle deep mud, but whatever.  Still a cocktail hour.
The guy on the right is the head honcho

Then we sat down to a three course meal.  Again, What?  I live on a piece of tropical rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  My variety of food more or less consists of taro, yam and cabbage.  We had cucumber salad with a really nice dressing as a first course, mashed potatoes and duck as a second course (I didn’t have the duck) and beneits with nutella for dessert.  That is more variety of food than I have had in months.  And again, it was a surreal combination of three course French meal under a tent, sitting on folding camp chairs, at a folding camp table on a slope that if I picked my foot up off the edge of my chair it tipped back in a rather alarming way. 

To top off an excellent evening, I had a really fun conversation with the woman who I think is the sergeant in charge of their logistics.  She spoke a little English, not a lot but I think it was an issue of being out of practice rather than not speaking it.  I thought she did great.  Jason told me later that one of the other officers referred to her as crazy.  I agree, but she’s totally my kind of crazy.  We had a conversation that had a lot to do with hand gestures and curious looks and occasionally asking the doctor to translate for us.  I felt bad for Alexandra who was stuck dealing with both of us being all riled up and crazy like. 
We managed to talk about nakol, which involved me running down to the school office to grab my laptop and show videos, AIDS and the work that Alexandra and I are doing, her background as a Cameroonian who immigrated at 16 to France, and several other topics.  I was eating slow due to the number of hand gestures I needed to make.  I mean, I talk with my hands anyway but let’s say that it was good there was plenty of space between me and the guy on my right, otherwise I might have accidentally stabbed him with my fork.  (ps-There were real forks and plates.  Not leaves with my hands…)
Jason was sitting by the main English speaking officer.  They had a lively conversation going, though the only thing I caught of it all evening was the word “tipskin.”  I guess they were talking about nakol and the circumcision rituals.  Or something.
I had a great evening.  My life is truly bizarre.

7-5 Feminism in the Army

The French have invaded and brought with them women soldiers.  This is awesome.

This is awesome for many reasons.  The first reason is that I like badass women.  The second is that it reinforces the things I, and the other women volunteers, have been saying for the last two years.  We keep saying that women can be strong, that women can do “men’s work” and that women can be their own boss.  We keep saying that women are as smart and as capable as men.  We keep saying that women can lead their own lives and control their own reproduction.  Now, there are 16(ish) women in uniform running around Melsisi.
I hope the girls take note.  I hope the women take note.  I hope the boys and men take note.  It is possible to be a woman and be strong and independent and still be part of a community.
On a more personal note, seeing the women made me miss my badass women friends and the men who support and join in the badassery.  I miss being around women who don’t say “the man is the boss” and who aren’t afraid to speak their mind.  I miss the sense of camaraderie of accomplishing something together.  I miss having friends of both sexes and feeling like I am part of the group, not the outsider.
The French army has made me homesick.  How odd.

7-5 The French Invaded Melsisi!

Light two lamps, the invasion is coming 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.

*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.

6-1 Travel Woes, again

This is becoming a theme in the blog, but here is one more example of “flexibility while traveling.”
While Julie was visiting, Jason and I had set up an overly-complicated plan to connect on Pentecost. The plan was that Jason and Julie would catch the morning flight from Vila to Pentecost and watch land diving. That same plane continues on to Santo then turns around and does the same route going back. I was going to catch the plane in Santo and meet them on Pentecost about the time that land diving finished and we’d all go back to the village together.
This was a nice, tidy theory. The reality was a bit different.
On Friday, I got a call from Air Vanuatu saying I’d been moved to a Sunday flight. (They’ve added a Sunday flight during land diving.) I called Jason who was in Vila to go find out what was going on. He got me switched back to the Saturday flight. The camp was in South Santo, which is about an hour from town. I jumped on the early truck into town, just in case. I figured I’d hop out at a good restaurant, have a nice meal and get some internet then go to my 11:30 check-in.
We got in town and I pulled my bag off the truck. As I’m standing and waiting to say goodbye to people, Jason called. He had just checked-in for his own flight and asked about mine. It was cancelled.
I throw my bag back in the truck and jump back in. Being in town isn’t going to sort this out, but maybe I can get space on the flight going to Vila and transfer through there.
At the airport, the flight has a 20 person waiting list. The plane only seats 65. The flights were too full and there was no way I could transfer through Vila to get to Pentecost. The guy at the counter felt sorry for me and sent me to go talk to someone in the back office. I chatted with the guy in the back office for an hour. He dealt with about four other people while I waited and chatted and played politics and Peace Coprs.
I was hoping to get to Vila and wait for Jason and Julie there for a few days. The nice man got me on the plane to Vila, though still no chance of a transfer through to Pentecost. I would get a refund of 5000 some vatu (about $50) because I was no longer going to Pentecost. I went back to the waiting area and sat with my friends.
Five minutes before boarding, the guy from the back office came out and found me. He asked, very nicely, if I would give up my seat to someone who was supposed to be on this flight. I couldn’t very well say no, so I went with him to sort the situation out. We got to the counter, I handed him my boarding pass, and asked for my luggage back. (They had deemed my backpack too big to be carry on.) I had to go get my luggage ticket.
I came back from getting my luggage ticket to find a chain-smoking white guy speaking Bislama to the Air Vanuatu office guy. I hand him my luggage ticket. He goes to go find my bag. He gets about three steps away and the white guy says, “I’ll just take the Wednesday flight.”
They gave me back my boarding pass and I ran to get in line before something else could keep me off the plane.
We arrived in Vila and had to wait for our luggage. The domestic terminal is one big room with check-in on the left and arrivals on the right. The luggage comes in on a trolley and you go grab your bag.
I glanced over at the ticketing counter and see the name of my airport still on the sign. Curious. The name is only up while check-in for that airport is open. I wandered over, just to check and see.
Yes, there was another plane leaving for Pentecost. No, it wasn’t full. Yes, I could change my ticket and go there.
The nice man at the ticketing counter went and talked to the guys in his back office who changed my ticket around again. They re-set the ticket as a transfer through Vila, which means no extra charge to me. The flight was actually leaving at 3:45, so I had a few hours to kill. I checked-in and hung out at the terminal.
We boarded. There were 4 people on the flight, including me. At 4:45, my plane landed on Pentecost. Jason and Julie met me at the airport and we went to Vansemakul. We arrived in the dark, but all of us were there.