After the weekend from hell, Courtney and I were both functional again but got into the habit of taking a siesta. My phone ended its holiday and I got a stack of messages which definitely helped me feel better. Things were looking up, one of my friends was coming to visit us around Easter and we were back in contact with the outside world.
Monday saw working practise again. The idea behind this is that the students will be better prepared for adult life. Work practised includes clearing the school ground, helping with building repairs, grass and plant cutting. Sometimes it includes a group of girls being told to go and get the “Missises” dirty clothes and washing them. I have never seen little girls run so fast towards the river, red calico bags streaming behind them, laughter bubbling up from inside them, as that Monday when they had to take our clothes from the sick weekend.
The tanks had emptied out on the Monday, it looked like dry season had come early. We tried tempting the grey skies by hanging our washing out, that didn’t work. In a last ditch effort we put the buckets outside and went to bed. The Small Devil (Shakey the dog) barked during the night and I was about ready to go and shout at her when it started pouring with rain. The rain was so heavy that on Wednesday classes were cancelled and all of the water tanks and buckets were full. Good news for everyone. Or so you’d think.
We had a roof down at the big kitchen made of a green tarp, with pockets for water so that the water could be used for washing. The strain from the water captured was too much and a week’s worth of water came spilling out. Faster than I could process, Kae and Kerina had grabbed the tarp and held it up while the rest of us scrambled for every empty container we could find. Fifteen containers later, we’d stopped the flow and emptied some of the other pockets for good luck.
That night, the sunset was spectacular, purple clouds, pink edges and the sun burning orange at the centre of it all. The trees were dark silhouettes framing the whole thing. It went quite well with punir we had for dinner. It was made from taro, bush cabbage and fish, baked in coconut milk. I think I had found my favourite island kaekae. We also had hard boiled eggs because Courtney had found them lurking in the office. The miniature feast ended with hot powdered milk and crackers and I was really proud that I could and would eat anything put in front of me now.
I started teaching English instead of maths and it was a constant test on my patience. Class six were a united front, class five was divided and class one and two was a bit of shambles. It was the biggest class we taught and so we split the students into groups based on their ability. We had three groups that week, ranging from no English to understand the vast majority. Some of the students were transfers from French schools so I tried speaking French to them to see if they understood. I’m pretty sure they were just as confused, poor things. This was on top of bullying because they really had no idea and were considered easy targets. I felt so bad for them.
Market days happen on Thursdays at Level. The local mamas come up to the school at lunch time and trade for other types of food. Market and school events meant one thing for me and Courtney. Lots of food. We ate eight shaped donuts, which are made from fried bread, there was fresh meat! Fresh meat was always exciting because it tastes so much better and there aren’t tiny little bones in it. Somehow, we also ended up showing everyone our photos that we’d brought with us. We explained who are friends were, our family, what different relatives were called, what a formal was, all the good things. The astra I drove before I left was in the background of one of the photos and I explained that it was my “small truck”. The thing that got the most laughs was my sisters flipping to a photo of me and my boyfriend and then telling whoever we were talking to who he was. Like any family, my sisters found something to tease me about and then they did.
Friday was an important day. Aside from being a public holiday, Courtney and I cooked banana pie with cooking bananas. They’re thick and straight, yellow on the inside and really hard to peel. The best thing was that we were given bush knifes. The machetes we had are about the length of my calf and I wasn’t really sure what I was meant to be doing with it. One thing was for sure, nothing was getting into our little house, even if they made it past The Small Devil.
I ended up at church on Sunday which I was still totally confused by because of the languages but the main messages consisted of “Get behind me Satan”, “Take up your cross and follow Me” and something about Vanuatu’s independence. The ni-Vans definitely know how to sing though.
It poured down on Sunday after church. This was a slight set back as we had just finished all of our washing and had run out of room on the line. We had put some string up inside to hang the last of our clothes up. The line snapped and all of our clothes ended up on the dirt floor. We threw them outside, rinsed them off and stretched them out on the grass for an extra wash. Then we danced around in the rain like hooligans, washed our hair in the downpour and laughed until we were soaked to the skin. Turned out we had very few clean and dry clothes after that and I ended up wearing shorts which was a bit weird and Mamie kept rolling the ends of them down for me.
All of our spare time was spent playing ukulele, reading and just hanging out with our family. Getting a big family all of a sudden is quite an experience but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. We taught them go fish and they taught us island life. We spent more time laughing than anything else. My Mamie and Courtney kept trying to set me up with Roger who was a bit funny around us. I loved being around my family, it was both easy and challenging at the same time but in the best ways. That and they didn’t seem to mind my off-key singing or questionable ukulele playing.
Love from Me and My Backpack