Day 120, Year 2: Back To My Roots Arts Festival, Day 1
Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Weather: Picture Perfect Day
Location: Nebul (Rodd’s Bay), Ambryn Island, Vanuatu

Black magic, definitely black magic, took over today. We had a wonderful day at the arts festival, but then we came home. Mark downloaded all of the pictures and videos that we took today, some from his camera and some from mine, but somehow mine vanished from our computer. I have looked forward to this day for so long, and it was excruciating to know that all pictorial traces of it were gone. Cruisers are always willing to share, so I’m hopeful that I will be able to get some video from today,
as well as still photos. But I lost the pictures of Mark catching the Yellow-fin Tuna yesterday and my great photos of the volcanoes of Ambryn as we sailed up the coast. No one can replace those, so we will just have to be happy with the memories.

We went to shore before 8 AM this morning and gathered with all of the other cruisers that are here. We walked as a group through the village of Nebul and on to Magam. Here we met Chief Justin, Chief Sekor, and Principal Norbert (pronounced as Nor-bear). We didn’t know at the time that Chief Sekor and Principal Norbert would be the stars of today festival, but we did now that Chief Justin would lead us out into the bush to the festival site. It was a good hours walk on to the village of Saint
Louis (pronounced the French way) and Olal, and then on inland into the bush. Once we arrived at our destination, there was a period of “check-in” time where we all paid admittance to the festival. Finally we walked through the hanging palm-frond “gate” and entered the site. We were met there by about twenty male members of the community who were dressed in kastom style (only a leaf wrapped around the penis and attached to a belt around the waist). The belts were decorated with all sorts of natural
leaves hanging this way and that, and most had feathers on their heads attached to their hair in some fashion. They sang and stompted the Vanuatu dance as we followed them to the actual festival arena. I found this welcome dance to be most fascinating. Men who had been dressed just as we were only minutes before, transformed into the traditional kastom dress. Chief Justin stayed with us as our guide, but Chief Sekor and Principal Norbert (principal of the French secondary school three kilometers
further into the bush from the festival site) made the transformation. Principal Norbert acted as the MC of the day and he explained everything in English and then in French. It is always so embarrassing to be only an English speaker in these situations when locals speak at least three languages. We were treated today to male dances, female dances, and the Namamki Grade dance. The latter is when village chiefs advance by performing the grade dance. Today we witnessed two chiefs doing this.
The festival far exceeded my expectations. I thought that I would just be watching a tourist show, but this festival seems to be a true attempt to help the villagers remember their past, while at the same time putting on the show for tourists. On Friday, Principal Norbert will be bringing his high school students to experience this trip into their past, and I’m looking forward to meeting these young people and hopefully to talking to them about their impressions of all of this.

Paul on Ranger didn’t get to go with us today. He has a high temperature resulting from what we think is an infection on his leg. Yesterday Mark went on a course of antibiotics to fight a skin infection on the top of his foot. The slightest bite or scrape out here can result in really serious infections. Mark is holding his own, but Paul is still fighting a high fever. We can only hope that he will be better tomorrow. I doubt that he will be able to attend the festival tomorrow, but maybe by
Friday he will be able to make the trek with us. Friday’s highlight is the Rom dance with the fantastically beautiful painted masks, so I am very hopeful that Paul will be able to attend.

070822 Day 120 Ambrym, Vanuatu–Back To My Roots Festival, Day 1