Day 134, Year 2: Struggles
Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Weather: Just a Beautiful, Sunny Day with Moderating Winds
Location: Suaro Island, Port Stanley, Malekula, Vanuatu

Today was a truly beautiful day. We spent a fantastic day with the people of Uri village today. Ranger and Windbird motored across the mile wide bay in our dinghies this morning to seek permission from the chief of Uri village to snorkel in the marine sanctuary. We were greeted at the beach by a delightful and very polite young man, Misael, who led us through the mangroves to his village. There we were met by several of the villagers and dozens of their beautiful young children. The village
only has about 100 people living there and we felt that there were almost that many children. We met George and his wife Mothey. George is the principal of the school on the mainland in Lakatoro. Students there are on a two-week vacation, so that is why George was on the island. We then met George’s father, Ericross, who was a delightful man of 65 who has retired from teaching first grade for 26 years. As we stood and talked to villagers, some men returned from fishing, and the new chief, Jackson,
was among them. Exactly thirty days ago, Patrick Willie, the former chief died. Jackson is his son and took over the duties of being a village chief. The former chief, Patrick Willie, was was the brother of Ericross, and also the brother of John Morrison Willie. John Morrison is a politician and has been elected to Parliament on two different occasions. He is presently running for office again and was off island today, attending meetings in Port Vila. We started to become totally enthralled with
the interconnections of all the villagers, but our goal was to gain permission to snorkel in the marine park, so we were sent on our way with Ron and John, our guides. Ron is the young son of Ericross and turned out to be a fantastic guide and new friend. The marine reserve was just fantastic–giant clams of many colors and big, beautiful reef fish. We took Ron back to Windbird with us so we could get on dry clothes before returning to the island for lunch. We copied the pictures we had taken
both in the village and underwater on CD for Ron. The village has a video screen with a DVD player. We wanted to share the pictures we had taken, and Ron was pretty sure a CD would work on the DVD player.

We returned to the village with Ron and had lunch. It was a delicious stir-fry over rice. Since today is the end of the thirty-day mourning period for the deceased Chief Patrick Willie, a big feast was being prepared. We got to see traditional laplap being prepared which was a very special treat. We then spent time with Mark and Paul working on an old bicycle that Ron owns. They actually got the gears working, but the tires need to be inflated and we don’t have the right connection on our hand
pump. We were invited to stay for the special dinner tonight, but we explained that it was a very long dinghy ride home that we didn’t want to tackle in the dark. But we were truly honored to be asked.

one of our struggles is whether or not to stay here one more day. If we do, we will sacrifice good winds heading south, but at this point we think we will stay and have less than perfect winds the next day for our trek south. The other struggles we are having are of a much more personal nature. We have spent so much more money than we had planned on this circumnavigation to this point that we are starting to have doubts that we can afford to continue. But how can we not continue? We have seen
and experienced so much, but there is so much more out there. But can we really afford to fly home to see our children? But if we can’t, can we really continue? For me, continuing on totally depends on being able to fly home to see kids (and the grand kid). These are some the questions that pose our struggle right now. In less than six-weeks we will be headed to Australia, and then our hope was to return to the US to see family and work for a few months. We have tried to find possible job opportunities,
but nothing has come through yet. Right now we are just not sure what we are going to do. We could stay on the boat in Australia but be unhappy because we could not see our children or we could fly home and enjoy our visit, but be constantly worried because we have spent money that we do not have. These are the struggles.

And just today, we heard from our daughter who returned to work for the first time since Sam was born. She is also having her struggles. I hope she won’t kill me for sharing part of her email for today, but I think it perfectly outlines the struggles that young women have, being torn between family and work. Here is what she had to say: “I was confident enough about Sam’s care that I wasn’t a basket case about being away from him. I just felt really disoriented at work … Where am I? What do
I do here? Science articles looked like they were in a foreign language and the idea of doing genome analyses and writing Perl programs was totally beyond me. So it’s going to take some time to ease back in. I told Jed I feel mildly schizophrenic, like I have two personalities, one of which has been in serious hiding for seven months. It’s going to take some time for scientist Heather to re-emerge and find a way to coexist with Sam’s mom. But I’m sure we’ll get there. Practice makes perfect, and
we’ve got lots of time to practice! Sam and I reconnected this afternoon by nursing for a while, going grocery shopping (something I used to hate doing is now one of my favorites … I put Sam in the Baby Bjorn and we check out all the colors,textures, people,sounds, etc.), then taking a nice long nap together.”

070905 Day 134 Malekula, Vanuatu–Uri Marine Reserve Giant Clams
070905 Day 134 Malekula, Vanuatu–Uri Village