Christmas in Northern Vanuatu, Day 14: Gnawing on garlic and sleeping through NYE

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

After lots of sleep, we woke up late per village standards around 9am. We were both sick, so today was not too thrilling.

I pushed myself to take a shower. Colleen’s shower setup reminds me of one in a train car, albeit slightly bigger. The bathroom is a small room with a toilet in the back, and the front is where you take the bucket bath, with a small hole in the floor to drain the water.  There’s no separation, so you can do an “all-in-one” bathroom session. With Colleen’s running water at site, it is easy to fill up a bucket to get the shower done quicker.

The shower on Colleen’s compound is near her house, which is near her family’s house, which is near her neighbor’s house. As I’d mentioned before, privacy is pretty limited. Her family and her neighbors can see when she’s prepping a shower for herself, and with her house’s close proximity to passersby and neighbors, we have to keep our voices down while chatting in her house so as not to have eavesdroppers.

Colleen mentions that her kitchen’s door faces a bench across the compound, where her neighbors sit and hang out. So when Colleen is cooking, her neighbors often wander over, asking what she’s making. Today, I taught Colleen how to make vegetarian curry hand pies.

Getting the curry was an ordeal in and of itself, as the closest store didn’t have any. Colleen wandered around her village asking people for just a tablespoon, as that’s all we needed. She was offered pineapple and fresh fish, the latter of which she couldn’t store anywhere, so she only accepted the fruit. Eventually she returned with a mug of curry powder and we were ready to go.

We made a stack of curry hand pies and Colleen shared them with some of her friends and host family. Everyone seemed to enjoy them.

My throat was still killing me in the afternoon, and Colleen gleefully suggested I gnaw on some raw garlic to help. She told me this was one of her childhood favorite past times, even when she wasn’t sick. These are the kind of people I surround myself with. I was disgusted by the idea, even though I enjoy garlic, and when I finally tried it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was just garlic, after all. It was very spicy. Colleen joined me on the garlic-chewing, and kept on going far after the necessary time (about 15 minutes) because this is delicious to her.

We cut up Colleen’s pineapple and I determined that my throat was so sore that even my favorite fruit here burns my tonsils like lemon juice on an open wound. When I didn’t eat the pineapple, I learned through Colleen that rumors had been spreading as to why I’m sick. Some say it’s because I never rubbed oil on my neck. Others said it’s because I am too skinny. And finally, it was because I don’t eat island food. The thought that maybe I wasn’t hungry was because I was sick didn’t cross people’s was the other way around!

We were still sick by evening time, when Colleen’s host parents extended an invitation to New Year’s church service, from 6pm-1am. We were a bit exhausted to head out, so we instead stayed in and headed to sleep at 8pm. Around midnight, we heard the cheering and hollering in the village before we drifted back to sleep.