Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Life Among the NiVans

Without games, toys and electronics, kids find ways to
play games and have fun. They loved the balls we brought!
In Vanuatu, the languages are English, French and Bislama. Bislama is a form of Pigeon English or what we might call Pig Latin. Actually there are as many languages/dialects in Vanuatu as there are islands – something like 83! There was not much intra-action within the islands so each developed its own communication style. They do not understand one another any better than we understand their native language. And since Cyclone Pam, the aid workers have found a tribe living in caves in northern Tanna that no one knew existed and they have a completely different language!

The little ones are not too sure of "white people," but the
older ones are eager to follow us around and watch us.
Both the French and the British held land in Vanuatu, which was finally given independence a short while ago. In fact, we will be celebrating their 35th Independence Day while we are here. We have heard that they are “wasted” for several days and it is not always best to be in Port Vila. We will be on one of the northern islands by then. It should be a quieter celebration there.

A number of new house are under construction.
Last year we made friends with the tribe on Avokh and saw a little of their lifestyle. We noted that they are less developed in the business of tourism than many islands we have visited across the Pacific. In addition to taking clothing, food, tools and educational materials to Avokh, we are also documenting ways other islands attach tourists (i.e. yachties) and glean a few bills from their pockets! There is little in the way of entrepreneurship here. They believe in the “Cargo Cult” left over from the wars when the USA left a lot of things behind. Now they truly believe if they pray for something, it will come from the skies just like all of the stuff dropped from planes years ago. In a way, we are reinforcing their thinking by bring stuff for which they pray! Self-motivation does not seem to be a high priority in success.

Port Resolution, like many of the villages we have seen, has a market where handmade items and fruits and vegetables are available for purchase. Usually a visit to a village means an audience with the chief along with a gift, a village tour, sometimes a food tasting and almost always a stop at their “market.” This market could be a building or it could be a table or mat on the ground. The villagers hope you will make a purchase – and we always do just to leave a little money in their hands.

Serah's Café and family
Since Port Resolution is a tourist destination for people wanting to visit the active volcano on Mount Yasur, they have a cement block building for their market. I bought a blow horn seashell for 1100 Vatu or $11 USD. Someone had been enterprising enough to find the shell, clean and polish it and offer it for sale resulting in a little money in his pocket.

In addition to a few shells and shell jewelry items for sale, there were carvings, woven baskets, purses and fans, and a limited supply of fruits and vegetables. I am sure in other years the food items would be plentiful and the yachties would buy. We took photos to share with our friends on Avokh as we are encouraging them to find ways to get a little money to purchase the things they need.

A typical island kitchen: no running water, no fridge!
A lovely young woman, Maria, took us on a walk through the different villages so we could find specific people for whom I had messages and letters to deliver. On our walk, the full picture of the damages from Cyclone Pam became evident. Many houses were destroyed; we saw new construction everywhere. Construction materials are somewhat limited until the leaves come back to make roofs. There was a lot of fallen tree wood available to building and canoes.

Men fishing in canoes under the direction of someone
in a tree on the hill using his cell phone to tell them where
he sees the  fish! A form of modern technology!
Dennis went with Patrick and his wife to see a garden. The islanders spend the days working in the garden as it is their main source of food. We might picture a garden as we know it: tilled soil, neat rows of plants, few weeds as they are pulled when small, a sprinkler running, etc. Here a garden is plants among the bush! There is no tilling: there are no rows. The weeds are the jungle and demand daily attention or they will take over the garden in no time.

White Sand Beach; there is also Black Sand Beach in the
area below Mt. Yasur volcano.
I stayed with Patrick’s children and Maria as I chose not to do the climb to the garden and back. We went to the edge of the cliff to watch the men fish in the bay. Several of the men were up in trees with their cell phones! Not for better reception, but to direct the men in canoes with nets as to where they could see the schools of fish! They go out in the canoes at certain times related to the tides to catch fish as they flow into the bay or back out of it with the tidal water.

Patrick's family
Patrick also let us see the new house he was building. The construction was very sound and made of materials from the land. It is just one large room where they sleep. It appeared that their mats were under a plastic tarp to keep them dry. When the house is finished, a kitchen will be build nearby. There are no dining rooms and no furniture of any type. Sit, eat, and sleep on mats. That’s it!

Inside their new house

It was very disheartening to see so many of the large old breadfruit and mango trees fallen or broken up as we walked through the villages. It will be a year before they produce fruits. There were no hanks of bananas growing anywhere. Some palms had a few coconuts which provide coconut water for the thirsty. At least, we saw water pumps there in Port Resolution and it looked like they were getting clean water as well as collecting rain water. I wonder what we will find in little Avokh?

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