Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tanna - Cultural Village and Departing

We wanted to make the most of our short time in Tanna, so we decided to visit a village and receive a cultural tour on the day we were leaving.  We didn't fly out until 3pm and the tour was in the morning, so we had plenty of time.

We hopped into the resort's 4X4 and headed off towards the jungle once again.  Our driver stopped at the main part of Tanna on the way to the village, where we took some time to look around the market.  I wanted to buy one of the woven bags as a souvenir, and general use.  Each island has their specific tradition of weaving and I actually liked Tanna's the best.  You can see a traditional bag in the picture of the market below.

Those are some cucumbers!

The main port in Tanna, directly across from the market

After a few minutes of looking - buying food isn't really a choice, as you don't know what contaminants might be lurking - we hopped back into the car and headed into the jungle.  These roads weren't too bad, certainly better than the ones heading towards the volcano.  I took a picture, it's still a bit blurry from all the bouncing, but at least it gives an idea of where we were!

The typical roads in Tanna

We had no expectations of what this tour would be like.  The only thing we knew was that this was an authentic village, they weren't putting on a show for the tourists.  How do we know that?  Well, partially we trusted what we had been told but, more importantly, we had walked by a village close to our resort and seen lots of villages on our trips around the island.  Grass huts were the norm, as were gardens, cattle tied to the fence, and chickens roaming freely.

Statue of the chief
Our tour guide was a lovely young lady that had been picked by the chief to go to school and become fluent in English, French, and Bislama (the local language).  She is now teaching some of the children school.  Not as easy a process as one might think.  Firstly, the families of these children had to negotiate with the chief for two weeks before school was even considered.  Secondly, the children have to be fluent in the village's culture before they are able to attend school.  I would love to know more about how the children are actually picked - is there some sign of intelligence that's important to the tribe that is picked up on, or is it the more respected families that are able to learn?

We were welcomed with a necklace made from reeds and a flower - similar to a daffodil - and then allowed to enter the village.  We were given a small fruit to taste and some lap lap to try.  This is a traditional food on Vanuatu that has some sort of tuber, coconut milk or cream, and is wrapped up in the island cabbage.  All of this is wrapped up in banana leaves, placed in the ground, and cooked through.  It looked a bit like the layers in lasagna.  The boys were polite about trying, but weren't too thrilled with the taste.  We thought it was fine, just a bit bland.  Some are cooked with chicken or pork and more seasoned - I would've been interested in trying that.

Serving the Lap Lap
It is fairly hard to imagine being a woman in this type of culture.  There are parts of the village that only men can be in, but in all fairness, the same holds true for the women.  Only men are allowed to drink Kava - a drink made from the root of the Kava plant, which has sedative properties.  The women respect the men during these daily ceremonies, thinking they are becoming strong.  Women from other villages are arranged to marry the men by the chiefs of the villages.  Upon marriage, the woman is no longer allowed to visit her family or even speak her language.  I can't even fathom marrying someone I didn't know and then not being able to communicate with the others in the village.  They must learn the new language very quickly.  I also suspect that they are just too busy to get very bored or lonely.  They make what they eat, their medicine, and clothing from what is around them.  Everyone looked very fit!

Our boys took everything in and luckily didn't say anything that could be construed as offensive, albeit unintentional.  You never know what a six year old might say upon see in mostly naked men as a normal form of dress.  Both boys were concerned about the whispering and giggling going on by the other children.  We assured that the kids weren't making fun of them, but that they were something of interest.  Have to admit, I've never been quite that much of a novelty before!  Will spent the whole trip having his blonde hair rubbed by strangers, which he found very strange.

Our tour guide leading us into the village.

Making fire.  Also, their hair is short, which means they are eligible for marriage

A Kustom welcome dance.  The women sang as well, but didn't dance.
This is also where many ceremonies and celebrations are held.

This is why I think travel is so important.  We learn so much about the world around us and are given the ability to respect others.  I can't fathom living this way, but they do and seem very happy about it.  The world is a very big place, yet so very small.  We watched as the village children played a version of tag - or tips, if you're an Aussie.  I feel very blessed to live where I am/have living/lived.  But would these people trade how they live?  I'm honestly not sure?  For example, not everyone on the island is very happy to be gaining electricity.  It is seen as an invasion to them, whereas I can't imagine life without.

I'll get away from my serious thoughts now.

We headed back to the resort, packed our bags, had lunch, and were driven to the airport.  We go to check-in and learn that our flight has been cancelled and they are not sure when we'll be able to leave for Efate.  About the time we were getting ready to call our travel agent - with a fair amount of reluctance since it was Christmas Eve -  the owner of our resort pulled up in her truck.  They had noticed that our plane hadn't arrived, so she called up Air Vanuatu to find out what was happening.  When it became clear that we weren't leaving, she headed out to pick us up so we could return to our room for the evening.  She assured us not to worry - Air Vanuatu would be paying for our room and food and she was on top of finding out what flight we would have.

We decided to spend some time at the pool, then clean up for dinner.  We let the boys have a swim in the resort pools most day, it really helped with their swimming confidence, which was lovely to watch. When we sat down to dinner, we were informed that our flight was leaving at 8am on Christmas Day, so we needed to leave the resort at 6:30am.  They assured us we would be able to have some breakfast in the morning, even though the dinning room didn't open until 7am.  We assumed toast and jam would be the answer.  Wrong!  The owner's husband came in early to cook us anything we wanted.  We ate some lovely pancakes served with a fresh fruit platter and some very yummy Tanna coffee and were on our way to the airport, where we were greeted by...

Santa chucking lollies to the pikininnis

Not to mention our plane!  We said hi to the friends we had made the previous day at the airport and got ready to board our plane.  I was able to pull our my camera for this trip, so enjoy!

Our boarding pass.  We found this hilarious

Look - the cockpit!

So long, Tanna!  Thanks for all of the lovely memories!

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