We are back in Port Vila – the biggest city in Vanuatu. We went to shore today carrying one of my woven baskets from the island of Pentecost. Pentecost is the island where we spent quite a bit of time during this trip – it is only about 150 miles north of Port Vila, but is about 10,000 miles away in terms of lifestyle. When we were at Loltong Village in Pentecost we were invited to a local wedding and ended up having a wonderful experience watching both the Christian style wedding in the church and then the traditional wedding celebration complete with a dozen pigs and local woven marriage blankets (but no pigs in a blanket) exchanged as gifts between the families. This was the wedding that we had noted the bridegroom seemed completely zonked by kava both on his wedding night and the following couple of days.
Anyways, as I was carrying my little Pentecost made pandamus shopping basket into town today we made a shortcut through a small restaurant. A young man who works at the restaurant greeted us and said he recognized the basket as being the kind they traditionally make at his village. When I told him I got it in Pentecost he said that is where he is from and that his sister had recently been married up there. He told us his sister’s name and would you believe it but hers was the wedding that we had attended!. He said he never met the bridegroom as he had been living in Port Vila for years. We had taken photos at the wedding and given them to the bride and groom for presents so tomorrow we will print out some more and give them to our new friend… What a fun coincidence …
Now that we are back in Port Vila we actually have to buy fruit. I was thinking today about how important the acquisition of fruit has been on our journey. It is most often our primary conduit to friendships with the local people – much more so than in any other place we have visited. Some examples:
Lamen Bay, Epi Island: We meet Winnie – an older widowed woman who after a few minutes of conversation with her on the beach invited us over to her house. We sit on her tiny veranda and and she presents us with a large pamplemousse with apologies that she has nothing else to give us. We bring her magazines and books, reading glasses, and warm socks (which she asked for).
Loltong Village, Pentecost: A charming old guy named Patrick who lives right near the beach asks us if we have any extra engine oil that he can use for his small generator which has not been working for some time due to lack of oil as well as fuel. We bring him the requested oil. Next time we see him he brings us a basket of passion fruit and a bunch of bananas.
Wandering around Loltong we make a little detour through a path that leads to a beach. Woman name Eliza comes out to ask if we need anything. We explain that we are just looking around. She leads us back to her house and gives us bananas. We continue to receive fruits from her throughout the trip. We meet Eliza’s husband, another Patrick, who offers to walk with us (Fran and John were with us then) up to the top of the steep mountain road that leads out of their village. We are exhausted, but exhiliarated by the views. The walk is a piece of cake for him. At the top is his amazing garden where he and Eliza cut fresh green coconuts for us to drink.
Gilbert, from Labultamata village to the north of Loltong, gives us a tour of his garden and describes his innovative plans for improving the village’s horticulture and as we proceed he continuously cuts samples for us to bring back to the boat- island cabbage, sugar cane, papaya, pamplemousse.
Evie and Dickie, a young couple with 3 kids offer to get us fruits and vegies from their garden. We exchange these for children’s clothing, books and chocolate.
We accumulate so many pamplemousse that we start marking them with magic marker to remember which village and which person we got them from. The pamplemousse last for weeks so they are the perfect boat fruit.
Lolowai, Ambae Island.
Celia, the young woman who runs Celia’s restaurant (the only one in the small village) offers us ginger, bananas, papayas, coconut and local vegies (shu-shu). Rachel, another woman who runs a small shop there insists on giving us fresh peppers, local apples, tomatoes – just because she seems to like us. She also insists on giving us one of her handpainted paraos (a cotton wrap you can wear when it is too hot for other clothes). We have to insist on buying something from her shop or she will just give it all away.
Narovorovo, Maewo Island
We befriend Kelley, a young hip man who shows us around the village. Stopping to meet one of his many uncles on the way – an older guy with grey matted hair,a beard and few teeth. The uncle immediately calls to one of his children and within minutes presents us with a pamplemousse. Next time we see him he does the same thing. We return with fish hooks and lolly-pops.
Port Olry, Espritu Santo Island
Village market – this time we have to buy our fruits, but once again it becomes an event. We ask if there are bananas and an older woman runs off to gather some from her own trees. Young coconuts are cut open as drinks and we sit and visit with the ladies running the little fruit cooperative. We take pictures and promise to mail them back to the village when we get home.
Hog Harbour, Espritu Santo Island : We walk to the local cooperative – run by friendly women who have apparently made many improvements to the store since taking it over from the men. The little village is filled with pamplemousse trees all dripping with large ripe fruits, but there are none for sale in the store. When we ask where we can buy some, she points out the window to a group of young people sitting across the square. She tells us to go across the street and tell her son Billy that his mama wants him to climb a tree and pick us some fruit. We go and her cute, shy son scrambles up a tree, walks across the roof of the house, over to another tree and proceeds to pick and toss fruit to us until we tell him to please stop as we have more than we can carry.