Monday, 1 February 2016

Vanuatu Weekend Four: Gardens and Visitors

Saturday was the day that Phil, the Australian co-ordinator, and Terry, the in-country co-ordinator, were meant to arrive in our little slice of Pentecost. We got a text saying they were coming on Sunday, giving us a free day.

I discovered the name for the eight shaped donuts is “gateau”, just like French cake. We helped make 47 of them for breakfast and as a result didn't  eat until after 10 because it takes a while to cook them all. I ate two without blinking. The rest of the morning was spent lazing around and reading. Kesia, my sister in year 3, came to collect me to go to the garden. We left Courtney sleeping off a headache and I grabbed my bush knife. In case you haven’t guessed, I love my bush knife.

Turned out I was going to the garden with my family, the ones that are not Courtney’s. Kay dropped me off at my family’s garden. I hadn’t seen a great deal of my family. I taught two of my siblings, Hensley and Firenze, but they live down at Wosak village and my Daddy is a francophone so I had to learn Bislama. My baby sister, Nikki, was not at all impressed with me and spent a lot of time crying. Weird, white girls, I know right. By the end of the day, she was better but I still didn't get a cuddle.

I spent that afternoon with them, eating sugar cane and answering questions before lunch. They had a lot of questions about family and Australia. Daddy is very talkative, Mammy would help when we got stuck with the language. We had banana laplap for lunch with island cabbage. Island cabbage will never be on my list of favourites, but I ate all of it and most of my laplap. I also had pawpaw which I was truly in love with. Firenze, who is in class one for the first time, and I ended up sitting outside while Mammy roasted taro in the garden hut, baby Nikki did not want to join us.

On the grand tour of the garden, I quickly discovered that they grow just about everything. Sugarcane, kava, banana, manioc, yam, taro, kumala, pawpaw, island cabbage and coconut. I planted a banana tree which I was assured would grow big and strong. I also helped Mammy pick island cabbage and wrap it into the packages to be carried back. I didn’t carry the cabbage but I did carry a piece of sugarcane longer than I was tall all the way back to Level and I didn’t fall over once. Mammy informed me that she was going to teach me to weave. They were going to make a proper island girl out of me.

Daddy came to visit a little later and gave me a tin of corned meat, meat blo taro. This was after I had showered, so I was clean and wearing different clothes. He thought I was Courtney because I washing clothes like she had been when he walked past earlier. We both laughed when we established that I was in fact the daughter he was looking for.

This is the time that I had discovered that there was a rat eating my sandals. Turns out that leather sandals are a tasty snack for the rats who lived in our house. I had to keep finding new hiding places for my shoes because everywhere I thought up seemed to not be as rat proof as I thought. I didn’t wear my sandals for the most part anyway. My thongs broke in Mangaliliu and it took a lot to explain why I didn’t wear shoes, so I needed my sandals to stay in one piece for when I did need some form of protection.

Sunday dawned on us with excitement in the air and pig on our breakfast plates. We didn’t go to church because no one really knew when Terry and Phil would be arriving, instead we stayed on station and made banana pie. It amused everyone passing by as we were still fairly hopeless at making fires. My Mammy came past and gave us a hand with that. She also gave us taro and kumala. A lot of the local kids came with her and were intrigued by our cooking. The best part was baby Nikki holding my hand twice!

Terry and Phil arrived in style as Courtney and I were drinking tea. They were walked to the school from just outside the station, surrounded by a group of the men who were singing before they were presented with flowers and baskets. Many speeches were given by board members, Phil and Terry, Dad and a letter from a previous volunteer, Nikki, was read out. The year 1/2s sung the choruses very quietly but word perfect. We were all given morning tea and we presented Phil and Terry with the banana pie, topped with Nutella. Everyone laughed at the pie, not because it was funny but because they were proud of us and impressed that we had tried something like that. Phil was amazed we still had Nutella.

Lunch had the two of us eating out of banana leaves and not being treated as guests anymore, we sat with the women and kids after a bit of talking with the men. The mixing of the cultures was a bit funny. Shortly after lunch Phil and Terry had to leave and life returned to relative normal. The afternoon was spent painting nails, playing ukulele, painting Courtney’s ukulele and writing out the words to Christian songs we could remember so we could teach them to the kids. 

That evening all of our sisters started getting sick with coughs and shivers. They had been fine while the entire village system was about but they ended up falling asleep in the kitchen, poor things. It was a busy weekend for everyone so maybe they were just worn out, the kids were often sick though. Didn’t seem to stop them enjoying themselves for the most part.

Love from Me and My Backpack

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