Sunday, November 29, 2015

Port Villa, Efate, Vanuatu Islands

November 29, 2015

I had a record sleep last night of 10 hours—jetlag no more… We departed Auckland just after 9:40 AM and arrived in Port Villa on Vanuatu Islands group 3+ hours later.  We waited for E/S Leben, who were just arriving one hour after us, coming from Tanna, where we might go for part of this visit. 

NZ Airlines treats us as though we have lots of miles with them; we have a Frequent Flyer number but not many mile points.  We asked for bulkhead seats when we were in LA and got them.  If they don’t sell them for $100 a seat, they do give them up on the travel day.  We also have bulkhead seats coming and going from the islands—nice.

I was surprised as we walked down the stairs off the plane that we got hit with a stiff wind.  It was refreshing in the humidity, which still seems different to me than the climate of West Africa—it has a tropical feel to it. 

Even though they say that they are in a drought, the island is quite green and beautiful, very rural and not ‘city-developed.’  On the plane we saw islanders, aid workers, and vacationers.  The people of this island remind me of Haitians.  They apparently speak a sort of pigeon English that we might be able to figure out a little bit.  If they are a chief or a pauper, they all dress the same, in casual and sometimes holey clothes, so we’ll make sure that we’re respectful of whomever we meet!  No more insulting chiefs!  As we got off the plane we saw two men who identified themselves as members.  They have come to bury the contents of a container that the church had sent that got stuck in red tape and rotted in port—this happened to us in Kenya and it is such a waste.  We also met a man in the airport who was a taxi driver who said hello and introduced himself as a member. 

Our bungalow is roomy, and very close to reception, food, the water and the Internet.

E/S Leben, who are from Germany, are quite enthusiastic and fun to be with and their English is quite good.  They have a truck to drive, and say that there is little traffic with no stops signs.  They informed us that there are no dangerous varmints or snakes or even mosquitoes that would give us malaria (just itchy bites).  A big surprise—you can drink the water!  We saw on our drive to our bungalow downed trees here and there, but otherwise did not see the destruction from the cyclone.

Our bungalow has tiled floors, is roomy, and has some amenities.  Internet is out by where one eats and Leben’s say the food is good.  As we sit near the reception area we can still see the water.  It is more like a very wide river here.  They have a small pool, and both the waters we dipped our hands in felt inviting.  We were told that if we used their fancy air conditioner it would cost us money each day.  So whether we use it a lot or a little, it is paid for by the day.  Electricity here you see, is very expensive.

The small pool, pleasant water.

They dropped us off so we could unpack and get settled, and came back to pick us up for another Thanksgiving dinner later that afternoon.  By car from here they are only 5 minutes away; walking takes 15 minutes.  It is lovely here but I already know that I’ll be longing for a quick swim at the end of each day! 

As I walked out on the deck I saw several star fish lying near the shoreline—so awesome! 

The dirt path winds around each bungalow and is edged with beautiful flowering plants.

The water next to the eating area.  Inside this little lagoon shown here there were several star fish, all differently colored. 

Mathias Leben picked us up at 3:30, we visited, and then went next door to where another couple lives to have yet another Thanksgiving dinner.  The places they are staying in, in this complex, has an electronic gate.  The apartments appear to be quite new, with tiled floors; they sit right on the water and have a generous deck.  There is a bathroom of course, a closet, and a small kitchen, but the bedroom is also the living room.  They have enough room for a small table at the side or at one place, a couch and TV. 

We were surprised at the number of people at this dinner: the couple that owns the complex, who have been working for months to restore the place since the cyclone destroyed the structures near the water; they are just now about to fill the swimming pool.  There was a young couple that had just moved here from Spain, another tenant who was from Germany, and then several mission couples: one nurse, the Mission President, his wife and two daughters, an education couple, the couple that takes care of the mission president, and a missionary couple.  It was quite a feast, with some friendly people.

During the cyclone everyone stayed with the mission president till it was safe to return to their little homes at the water’s edge.

When we got back to our bungalow I showered—the water finally got hot, for a few seconds, went back to cold; I moved it back and forth from hot to cold, and then the hot water would come on for a few seconds, long enough to shower off or soap up.  I think we have to talk to the manager…but at least I managed a good shower, just in very short spurts….

There’s no TV so we went to bed early.  They do have a library here though, but then I brought my own.

Love, from Vanuatu (Otea Island)

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