Thursday, October 1, 2015

Independence Day (or Week)!

The landing on Lutes, Uliveo is in a sheltered area behind
the mangrove trees so it is an easy place for arrival - that is,
if you have safely made it across the barrier reef!
Vanuatu is a relatively “young” country in terms of independence. For years, they had been ruled by both the French and the British – at the same time. As a result, part of the population was educated in French and the balance in English. The two countries had disagreements on how Vanuatu, then known as New Hebrides, should be governed.

Lutes is a well laid out and very neat and
clean village with straight "streets" and hedges.
While the two powers fought over this, the people went about their business and each island had its own native tongue. This is why there has been little interaction or communication between the islands of Vanuatu of their history.

A view inside a typical home. Note: no furniture! Mats R It!
As a result, there are over 160 different languages or dialects in all of Vanuatu. They often cannot communicate with another island. Therefore, the new language of Bislama is being developed and taught. I have noted that the little children really don't understand my English and often look toward an educated older child or adult to translate.

This is how the ladies spend the time during the football game.
Their Independence Day is celebrated on July 30th. We have heard that it can be a wild event and that the celebration may go on for days with little work or business being done anywhere. Our plan was not to be in Port Vila for the celebration. We intended to be on Avokh or Awei, away from the large crowds.

(We later learned that it is not a "wild" event, but rather a drawn out one as it went on for days so nothing gets done!)

The kids found other things to do during
the football games. It was an all day event!
As it turned out, the weather and wind determined where we would be. This is often the case with “best laid plans of mice and men!” Since S/Y Caduceus was anchored at Lutes, Uliveo (oo-lee-vey-o), they suggested we join them for the holiday. It was only a short distance away, still in the Maskelynes. It was time for all of us to have a little R and R (rest and relaxation) – or as Martin says, “knees up.”

A colorful sight on my walk through the village.
We were looking forward to the down time and being with other cruisers for a few days. Sometimes it is just nice to hang at anchor and relax. Cruising is much more active than you might think. Especially when you are constantly going to shore and back in a dinghy.

The school here is very nice.
 Uliveo, is a much larger island with three large villages, the smallest (Lutes) is larger than all of Avokh. The school is very large and has boarders from the other islands. We brought rice and milk powder ashore as we learned that there is no governmental support for the boarding students room and board. So we gave it to Stuart who is in charge of the boarders. Since this is an upper school as well as primary, many of the students are from other islands.

This is the oven for the boarding school.
Maybe we should have brought flour
and yeast as well. I don't think the
students are well feed.
This is also where the main dispensary is located and Dr. Elizabeth has spent a lot of time.

The Dispensary Boat is supposed to take the nurse to Avokh to run the baby clinics and check on patients needing care on a regular and as-needed basis. It appears that the nurse has been making the mothers and babies cross rough waters in canoes or sometimes in the Dispensary Boat for which they pay to come to her!

I have a feeling that Dr. Elizabeth will be filing an interesting report when her tour of duty is over here. She is a volunteer, but they will be moving on to Indonesia soon and will rejoin us in the World ARC in a year.

Martin on his way to play the bagpipes.
He is a true Scotsman.
As it turned out, Dr. Elizabeth and Martin were the guests of honor for the Independence Day celebration on Uliveo. Unfortunately (or not), they missed most of the morning activities because no one told them!

Once they were finally contacted on the boat and went ashore, they sat on the stage. We somehow got added to the mix just because we were from the USA. Sitting on the stage to watch two football games, girls doing formation marches, listening to speeches in a foreign tongue, etc. was not exactly a celebration for all of us.

The church is this village is very large. The missionaries
did a good job of establishing Christianity in these islands.

The cleanest "restrooms" on the islands
is found at the Kindy schools.
Dutifully, Martin stayed put all afternoon and into the early evening when he played the bagpipes for the lowering of the flag. He was in his Scottish attire and was quite an attraction. After all, he was a man wearing a skirt and the islanders found it amusing, but he got rave reviews for his piping!

This is what it looks like inside. At least, it is
 a step up from what we found in rural Russia.
Dennis stayed with Martin most of the afternoon, while Elizabeth and I went for a walk to the village of Pelange.  The villages on this island are well planned communities: straight “roads” (walking paths) crossing at right angles to make “blocks” and hedges separating the road from the “yards.”

Grave markers. The phallic symbolism here is strong.
They also have a lot of banana and breadfruit trees right in the villages. Because the island is flat, this concept works. The village on Avokh is build up the side of the hill. There isn’t even enough flat area for the children to play football.

How to keep your pigs out of your yard!
One of the highlights of each village we have visited is to see the Kindy school - or as we know them, Pre-school. The Butterfly Trust in New Zealand has a mission to support education and health in rural Vanuatu. They work alongside communities to improve their access to health care and education and have been doing so since 2009.  Their focus has initially been on the south and southeast of the island of Malekula, but the Trust currently has projects on Tongoa and Ambae as well.
The "roads" connecting the village provide
a lovely walk through the bush or forest.

When we were in New Zealand, I saw canisters for Butterfly Trust donations, but I thought it was to save the Monarch butterflies. I later learned about it as Dr. Elizabeth has been working through the Butterfly Trust. Now we have visited a number of the Kindy sites and seen the water catchment systems and playscapes funded by the Trust, as well as the classrooms themselves.

Our guide showed us some of the foods being prepared.
During our village tour and my walk with Elizabeth on another day, we saw normal village life: women cooking and weaving, cemetery, kitchen gardens, neat yards, kids playing, etc.

She has peeled this root vegetable and is
now grating it to make laplap.
Our guide in Lutes introduced us to a man and woman who were cooking. Apparently, they run a "take away" business: they prepare the food at their house, then take it up the road where there is a free-standing counter. People come at dinner time and buy prepared food from them. Sounds like the version of a food truck!


Tasty octopus, anyone? Not for me!

How about some snails? I think I am vegetarian!
Dennis had developed a serious infection in a cut on his left shin and has been seen by Dr. Elizabeth several times for shots and medication. I am quite concerned about it, too. He needs to keep it out of the sea water so I pull the dinghy up as far as I can and then call the men who are watching me to come to help. They will help if you ask, but they don’t rush out to offer! Hopefully, the infection will be under control before we separate our travels from Dr. Elizabeth and Martin.

There are mud crab holes everywhere in
these islands. But you never see a crab!
There are a number of ways to get hurt in this environment: cuts from shells in the water, scrapes and cuts from working on projects. bruises from a variety of sources, catching colds from the village snotty-nosed kids (adorable, but runny noses are disgusting - no Kleenx here!), worms, bad water, and ... Our systems seem susceptible to things that don't bother the villagers. Dr. Elizabeth said their skin is so tough that she can hardly get an injection needle through it!

More mud crab holes. I am surprised there are not more
sprained or broken ankles! I guess the children often get hurt.
Here is another way to get hurt: stepping in a mud crab hole. They are everywhere! But you never see the crabs except when it rains hard and they get flooded out. Once they hear or feel footsteps, they disappear.
This is how you stay warm in winter here. It
was 73 degrees, but to them it is cold!


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