Day 135, Year 2: Happy Anniversary to Heather and Jed
Date: Thursday, September 6, 2007
Weather: Rainy, Rainy Day
Location: Suaro Island, Port Stanley, Malekula, Vanuatu

Only four years ago this week, we sailed from Boston, Massachusetts to Boothbay, Maine aboard Windbird with our daughter Heather and her then prospective husband Jed. On September 6, 2003, Windbird sat at anchor just off Spruce Point in Boothbay during the wedding ceremony, and it was at that point that I started to feel as one with our floating home. We had just moved aboard Windbird and being aboard her for the wedding was very special. Family and friends gathered to give Heather and Jed the best possible launch into their new lives together and we were there with our home! Heather and Jed had three wonderful years together, and then a whole new dimension to their lives was added when Sam was born this past January. We are sad not to be with them to celebrate this fourth anniversary, but we are smiling as we call up the rich and wonderful memories of the wedding and reception, the special time with family, and the birth of Samuel Ellery. My understanding is that appliances are the appropriate modern day fourth wedding anniversary gift, but flowers or fruit were the traditional gifts. I’ll anxiously await hearing from Heather to see if she and Jed exchanged gifts this year, or just celebrated making it through another day. Since Heather just returned to work two days ago, I think the best anniversary present in the world would be a happy baby that just might have slept in more than one-hour stints through the night. I’ll report on this one once I hear from Heather and Jed.

Our day was totally overcast with drizzles in the morning, and a full-out rain in the afternoon. We didn’t let the weather stop us, however. In the morning, we went to the mainland to the wharf in a village called Litslip and walked a mile or so to the village of Lakatoro to the grocery store and market. In the US, you buy fresh veggies and fruit in the grocery store, but in this part of the world, you buy fruits and veggies at the market and everything else at the grocery store. I bought fresh bread, eggs, and chocolate cookies for Mark at the grocery store, and then bought a few fresh veggies at the market. We were given papaya by our friends from Uri village yesterday, and we have enough bananas for at least three boats, so we are all set with fruit for now. Mark did buy a traditional grater like one that we saw yesterday. It is the base of a particular palm frond with very rough ridges that allow you to use it as a grater. It will make a great conversation piece once we are back
in the US. Lakatoro is a small town and a World War II monument stands in the center of town. That’s about it. So we started walking back towards Litslip. Just out of town, I noticed a playground. There was a jungle gym all made out of wood–monkey bars, a little climbing tower, a slide, swings, and a sand box. It was so cute that we just had to stop to take pictures. In doing so, we noticed that there was a little one room building which we thought just had to be a school. We knew that the elementary school in Lakatoro has over a hundred students, so we knew this could not be that. We walked up to the building and saw little name tags on pegs for the children on the outside of the building, and I peered inside, I saw the artwork of kindergartners. As we were looking, a young woman and three of her children came to talk with us. Her name was Litin Morris and she happened to be the kindy teacher. Students are on holiday here, but she lives just next to the kindy. I was amazed at how similar this kindy was to one in the US, despite the fact that everything here, including the building, were constructed in the traditional style, using locally available natural materials. There were no desks, only woven mats on the floor, but there was student artwork hanging all around, a tree branch with alphabet cards hanging from it, another with numbers, and a third with shapes. Litin explained that the government kindergarten in Litslip has had no teacher for a very long time, and she started with private kindy to serve both Litslip and Lakatoro. Parents have to pay 1,000 Vatu per term, or 3,000 Vatu per year. That is the equivalent of $30.00 US–not much to us, but a huge amount for the people here. We walked all the way back to Litslip with Litin and her children. She was going to visit her mother and the walk gave us time to learn more about the education system here. She also helped Marie find some mangoes to buy. And by the time we reached Litslip, we were carrying even more bananas. People here stop you and insist on giving you food. They will often take nothing in return. They just want to share with you what they have. It is so special to receive this kind of welcome.

By the time we got back to the wharf, it was starting to rain pretty hard. It was hard to see our boats from the wharf as everything was in a mist. We went back to our boats, had lunch, and waited for the rain to stop so we could go snorkeling in the marine reserve one more time before leaving here tomorrow morning. We waited until 2:45 and it was still pouring, but both Paul and Marie decided to go with us. All I could think is that we all must be crazy. The rain pelted down so hard it stinged our faces and we dinghied out into the wind. We thought we could find the mooring ball we had used yesterday, but we searched and searched and couldn’t find it. We started to heade back, and then I spotted the little orangish-pink ball. It was much closer than we thought, so we had traveled much further than needed. We tied up to the mooring ball and got in the water. Mark, Paul, and I had on dive skins, but Marie was only in her bathing suit. I was so cold from the rain and I knew Marie must be freezing, but once we got in the water, we warmed up. Visibility was not great, but it was good enough to enjoy the fish life. Yesterday we had focused so totally on the clams that we wanted to return to enjoy the fish. And that we did. We especially enjoyed watching two Moorish Idols, the biggest any of us has ever seen. Even though the water was warm, I think we all got cold sooner than normal because we had gotten chilled on the way out. You just want to stay in the water forever to watch all of the fish, but the chill forced us out of the water and back to our boats. Of course, as soon as we returned, the rain stopped and it started to clear. Such is life.

Tomorrow morning we start our trek back south. We will return to Gaspard Bay at the southern end of this island and then make a decision on the next stop south depending on the weather. Some time in the next week or so, we will be back in Port Vila preparing to leave for New Caledonia. That will be the last country we visit here in the Western Pacific before heading to Australia. Fiji and Vanuatu have been wonderful stops. New Caledonia is French and not as poor as these countries, but it is supposed to be beautiful. So the adventure continues.

070906 Day 135 Malekula, Vanuatu–Visit to Lakatoro