Paradise. I think I’ve finally found it. I’m sitting in the main salon, swaying in the gentle roll of a small, shallow bay, fringed by a white sand beach where the local fishermen keep their wooden outrigger canoes. The sun just set pink and purple over the palm and banyan trees that cover the low-lying island.
How did I get here? Just a week ago, I was in Evanston, IL, running through the torrential rain that punctuated the end of my graduation ceremony from Northwestern; then I drove across country with my friend Hannah to NY where I embarked on a marathon of flights: from NY to LA, from LA to Brisbane, Australia, and then from Brisbane to Port Villa, Vanuatu, where Mom and Dad were waiting at the airport.
We spent the first two days in Port Villa, the bustling urban capital of this island nation, population 210,000. We stocked up on food at the “Nambatu” grocery store (just say it phonetically and you’ll get the meaning) and the open-air market, walking around (and shvitzing our heads off), and sleeping what seemed to me to be absurdly long hours (although to cruisers, 11 hours is standard). On the second night we had “sundowners” with the couples of three other boats. We drank wine and toasted to our various accomplishments, including my graduation, two recent wedding anniversaries, and the successful capture of a wily rat that had been eluding our good friends on Intiaq (he had just sunk his teeth into a nice piece of salame when the trap sprung and, well, that was that).
Yesterday we did a mini-sail over to another bay for an afternoon snorkel, before heading out for an overnight cruise to Malekula and Tomman Islands. Although I planned to be a good crew member and stay up as long as I could, a combination of jet-lag, fresh air, and an anti sea sickness pill made it physically impossible for me to keep my eyes open. I did manage to get myself on-deck for Mom’s 1:30-6:00 AM shift, and I watched the stars and then the sunrise through intermittent naps.
A long, slow sail paid off when we arrived here at Millepe bay, protected by Malekula on one side an Tomman island on the other. Almost as soon as we anchored, villagers began tentatively canoeing out to say hello. A boat of young boys brought eight pamelos, a boat full of girls brought bananas and grapefruit. We gave them toys, lollipops, and t-shirts in return. Soon after, we went to shore to pay our respects to the chief and see the village. The young chief greeted us, as did the same young girls who had paddled up to our boat. One of them spoke English particularly well, and they all guided us through what we learned were actually three separate villages, but which they refer to as Millipe. Although there are only 100 inhabitants between the three villages, each has a church of a different denomination. They took us to the Seventh Day Adventist church in the first village, with beautiful wood carvings and gardens with engraved stones in front of the thatched praye
r house. An elder man showed us inside the prayer house, and donned the ceremonial church sacraments, including a wooden crown, spear and sword (we aren’t sure this is exactly how the Seventh Day’s do it in the US). We walked along a beautiful path between the villages, swept clean and lined with manicured bushes and flowers. It was as if we were in a tropical garden. Along the way, the girls and a growing party of children and relatives pointed out the island’s bounty: lemon, guava, grapefruit, pamelo, banana, pineapple, papaya, mango (not in season!!!!), all kinds of tubers, cocoa nuts, coconuts, green vegetables, fresh chicken eggs—they offered and we gladly accepted.
We finally arrived back at the beach where a group of men were preparing kava, a special intoxicating drink enjoyed by the men in Vanuatu. In fact, Malekula is known for its particularly potent variety. Dad was invited by the chief for a kava session tomorrow afternoon—“chief and chief” he said, smiling.
A beautiful sunset kayak ride with Mom rounded out this ridiculously amazing day, and now its time to get my 11 hours.
Allay! (Goodbye in Bislama)
(PS Our position is S16 degrees 34.722 E167 degrees 29.545)

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