Day 121, Year 2: Back To My Roots Arts Festival, Day 2
Date: Thursday, August 23, 2007
Weather: Another Beautiful Day
Location: Nebul (Rodd’s Bay), Ambryn Island, Vanuatu

Today was just so fantastic. I can hardly believe that I am really here and it is almost impossible to describe the feeling you get from deep within when watching and participating in the dances performed. You can feel the energy build as the men dance the same dance their ancestors danced long ago. The tamtam (slit drum) keeps the beat, and the rhythm of the drum and the stomping of the feet stays with you long after the dances are over. I feel so privileged to be here in Vanuatu and to be participating
in this three-day festival. Before I go into the details of the day, I want to mention that Paul on Ranger is much better. His high temperature is now back to normal and his leg is very red and sore to the touch, but he seems to be bouncing back. Christina on the yacht Christina from Sweden is here and she is a nurse. She has been overseeing the progress and is advising Paul and Marie on what medications to take. She has been wonderful, and due to Paul’s tenacity, Christina’s advice, and Marie’s
watchful eye, Paul is actually hopeful that he will be able to attend the festival tomorrow. It is a very long walk, probably two to three miles, but at least it is a fairly easy walk. He, as with all of us here, was so looking forward to attending this festival, so we really hope he can make it for the finale. Mark’s infection seems to be under control for the moment, so everyone is on the mend. I also want to mention Chief Justin. He has been our guide and “mentor” throughout the festival,
trying to help us understand what is happening and how it fits into the culture here. He was so pleased yesterday when we said we have a son with his same name. Tomorrow evening, I think he is planning on hosting a kava session for the men and will further explain the meaning of much that we have seen. Unfortunately, women cannot attend a kava session, so we will remain on our boats while the men are on the beach. Bummer!

This festival is most definitely a National Geographic moment. The kastom dress for men is the penis shield woven from Pandanus leaves. The penis covering is attached to a wide belt around the waist. Attached to the back of the belt are a myriad of leaves–each man has a different arrangement of leaves that signify his rank. There are some men with feathers attached to the top of their heads, some that wear flowers in their hair, and some with nothing in their hair. That’s it for the men. Women
wear only a grass skirt with a necklace of banana leaves that are twisted in their hands until they shred and can be woven around the shoulders and back and down the front. So hopefully you have some picture of the kastom dress. Today we witnessed a Yeng Dance which has something to do with the planting of yams and the celebration of youth. The Yeng Dance involved the carrying of a very colorful geometrically designed huge three-dimensional triangle held high above one young man’s head. It is
very heavy and he had to concentrate totally to keep it held high during the duration of the dance. Evidently there should have been a second one, but somehow they couldn’t find it, so a second young man stood beside the first, but without the beautifully decorated triangle above his head. This dance was done with half of the men wearing seed pods on a braid wrapped around their ankles. These seed pods make the most wonderful jingle when they stomp their feet. After the Yeng Dance, we were treated
to the women singing the songs they sing when a person of high rank dies. We then saw demonstrations of sand drawings. These are like repeated geometric figures with an added dimension depicting a pineapple, or sea birds, or the fruit of the yam, and on and on.

When Napong Norbert (Principal Norbert) announced that we would have a short break (lunch), Chief Sekor invited all of the women attending to come with him to visit a kastom village. No men allowed. So off we went, but we actually just walked to the opposite side of the festival area where there was a temporary hut erected and all of the women dressed in kastom style were gathered. They were inviting us to shed our clothing and put on the grass skirts that they wear. Christina was the first to
rip off her shirt, followed by Idunne of Blue Marlin, Sally Christine of Convergence, Rose of Rendezvous Cay, and Jill from New Zealand (not sure of her boat’s name). Cynthia of Arctic Fox, Donna of Scot Free II, and I were just a little more hesitant, and by the time we felt comfortable with the idea, there were no more grass skirts. She who hesitates is lost. So we took pictures while the five women were transformed into kastom dress, face painting and all. Then we found out that they would
be going back out to the festival area and dancing with the ni-Vanuatu women. Were they really ready for a public showing? Well, Rose of Rendezvous Cay chickened out, but the other four went out. It was great fun, and the local women seemed to really appreciate that people from outside would participate. Actually all of the locals really got into this and a great time was had by all. The afternoon activities included black magic demonstrations and then one last dance of the day. This was a
dance performed as part of a circumcision celebration. As it came to a close, we were all invited to come and participate. It was a great day.

After an hour and a half walk back to our dinghies, the first crew to arrive all gathered on Scot Free II’s dinghy and just sat there and talked about our day. It was then that I tried to figure out just how many of us are here. There’s Windbird, Ranger, Arctic Fox, Convergence, and Rendezvous Cay from the US, Blue Marlin from Norway, Diva and Christina from Sweden, Scot Free II of Canada, Tempe Te from Germany with crew from Switzerland, Slow Motion from Germany, and a yacht from New Zealand.
Blue Marlin has eight-year old twins, Diva has ten-year old twins and a twelve year-old, and Convergence and Arctic Fox both have fourteen-year old boys. This is only twelve boats, and I think there are actually more, but it is dark and we can’t see to figure out if there are more. Mary Christine, the single-hander from France, was here yesterday, but left today. I found out this afternoon that Randy and Sally Christine on Convergence were the original owners of West Marine and Randy is now the
Chairman of the Board. You just never know who you are going to meet out here, but whatever we all did before, the playing field is leveled out here. We are all just people on the boat next door.

We topped our day off with a dinner of yellow-fin tuna that Mark caught on the way in here. What more can a humble being ask for? Well, there is one more thing and that is good weather. We had reports of northwest winds coming our way tomorrow, and yesterday Principal Norbert promised that he would talk with the weather gods and make that not so. Northwest winds in this anchorage would not be good. So today the GRIB files are showing no northwest winds. Ambryn magic has played it’s hand once again.

070823 Day 121 Ambrym, Vanuatu–Back To My Roots Festival, Day 2