Friday, June 29, 2007

Erromango, Vanuatu

June 24, 2006
Dillon's Bay, Erromango, Vanuatu

A good day sail away from Port Resolution, Tanna Island and we were in Dillon's Bay on the east side of the island of Erromango. Named for the plenitude of mango's that grow on the island but darn it is they aren't in season. That's OK because everything else is and true with many of the islands, the locals are eager to trade for clothing, fuel and even DVD's or CD's for produce. We are even getting back into to world of grapefruits much to our delight.
We were greeted by David and Oliver in a vibrant red dugout(outrigger canoe). We would soon learn about David's friendly and entrepreneurial spirit. In many of these towns it is best to get permission before walking about the land because they do own everything are you are literally walking in their yards. David gave us the go ahead and even offered to give us the grand tour the next day. We sent them over to the Kelly's who were anchored next to us and much to David and Oliver's delight they
were soon invited aboard for their very first taste of pizza.

The village of Dillon's Bay sits along side the beautiful fresh water William River, aptly named for the missionary, John Williams who of course met the same fate as most other missionaries. Upon being killed they took his body to a rock at the edge of the river and chipped an outline of his body before they cooked and ate him. On our last day there we hunted for the rock. We think that perhaps the plaque we found now sits where the outline once stood.
David and his sons gave us a lovely tour of the town, following all the way up the river to where they grow their food and draw fresh drinking water from the river. Each family owns a plot of land that is theirs to maintain all the papaya, mango, grapefruit, coconut, bananas, manioc, yams, cassava and sandalwood they can grow. To the unknowing eye it all looked like luscious jungle to us. No fences, no marks, we asked how they know where their is. They just know of course. Down river is a peaceful
looking swimming hole and just below that is a shallowed area of river rocks where at any one time you could find villagers doing laundry together or bathing babies. Just up the hill overlooking it all was an impressive piece of property fenced off for the school grounds. The children on lunch break were eager to show us their classroom and teacher Marianne had to come and see why her students were so eager to be in their classroom on their break. They learn English in school and are soon to learn
French there as well. They are not allowed to speak Erromango or Bislama within the classroom. As always we were impressed with the material they are covering and the quality of their work. Despite this education, most Erromangans stay within the island. Few even venture up to Port Vila because they have found the cost of living there is barely outweighed by what money they may be able to make if they can find a job, especially when nearly everything they need is right there on their island.

On Erromango they only speak 4 languages and they rarely partake of the Kava. It was noticeable as many of the older men in the village looked much more bright eyed and bushy tailed. Long term Kava use must wreak some serious havoc on the liver. We met up with Chief William who welcomed us with open arms and wished us well. It was here that we began to learn again of David's hard working nature. He had been the first out to our boat and invited us to his home for a traditional dinner with his
family. First come first serve when approaching sailors it seems but you have to be careful not to step on local toes. You see, he wanted to charge us for our dining experience, fair by us since it is his food and time, but the village chief often likes to see the wealth the village brings in spread throughout the village. We seemed to make it through this one without causing too much strife, but you can see the importance on making sure you have all the information before you start committing.

We did meet back at David's home and that evening and shared a wonderful meal with his wife Rhoda and quite a few local children. Matthew and Tristan kept them giggling the entire time with silly charade games and some good ole' wrestling. The meal was delicious and we can easily say Rhoda's lap lap was the best we've tasted yet. They had even killed a pig fresh for us that day. What made the evening extra special was the importance David placed on the sharing of stories of our lives, home and
own cultures. They truly love opening their doors to meet folks like us. At the end of the evening we handed out our share of balloons again and I am afraid they may never ask us back again. Even as we rode our dinghy back to our boat, late in the evening in the dark, with the Kelly's, you could hear the never ending 6 balloon salute as the squeaky air continually leaked out of each in long wailing tunes. There are some tricks that kids just inherently know, no matter what part of the globe your
standing on.
your Ohana Kai crew

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