Christmas in Northern Vanuatu, Day 3: Tropical paradise and a few shells of kava

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

After a nice rest in the bunk beds at Eve’s house, we got up fairly early for a trip to Aore resort on the island of Aore. We walked through town, stopping at a few places along the way, one of which was a Chinese import store so I could buy the cheesiest hat I could find, which happened to be a bright blue and orange baseball cap that read “BOY.” It’s awful and I love it.

Looking out toward Santo from Aore

We reached the wharf and hopped on the (free!) small covered boat and waited just a few minutes before it left on time for its 8:30am journey. After a less than 10 minute ride, we arrived on the island of Aore.

Stepping off the dock

The resort was gorgeous. While I was lucky enough to grow up with amazing family vacations, our accommodations on those trips were always Sheraton or Holiday Inn chains, leaving a lot to desire in terms of lush beauty. So, it almost felt like this was the first time I’d ever stepped foot in a fancy, unique, tropical resort.

The inside of the bar/restaurant at Aore.

This is the kind of place with vintage black and white tropical scenes framed on the walls, and perfectly mismatched furniture to make you feel like you stepped into an island-themed living room at a Pottery Barn. This is the kind of place where you order, drink, and then debate the difference between a flat white and a cappuccino. This is the kind of place where you sip piƱa coladas poolside under a straw hut. This is the kind of place where you can snorkel and spot angelfish and shimmering bluefish only feet away from shore, a shore with pristine white sand and dotted with palm trees. I no longer felt like the grungy backpacker that I normally am. I felt like a bourgeois bikini babe who orders chicken pineapple grilled cheese sandwiches and iced drinks to be served to her poolside. This is the life.

A coconut Christmas tree

But, it was also work, so we spent some of our time poolside talking through literacy materials and lesson plans. This is the best work trip ever.

After spending nearly 6 hours at the resort and acquiring an unfortunate sunburn on my shoulders, we all departed on the last boat out at 4pm.

We then walked over to Sydney’s house on the east side of Luganville, which is also located on school grounds and just as luxe as Eve’s home. Two neighboring girls run out of Sydney’s home, pulling her out by the hands, to excitedly greet us. Once we go inside, the little girls peek in through the screen door as we sit and visit for a while.
The kitchen

Sign your name!

Sydney’s home was previously occupied by Carl and Krista from G28, and Carl definitely beautified the place with some handmade sliced tree-trunk tables and a stained glass window in the shower. Sydney has running water, like Eve, and a bathroom with a sink and toilet, and a separate stall with a shower, all inside of her home. She has a gas stove and oven, along with an indoor sink, and two bedrooms, one of which has a queen-sized bed. The living room area has a couch with two arm chairs surrounding a glass coffee table. The entire place has tiled flooring, what I have discovered is ideal here in the hot temps, and also instantly makes a home look classy. Written on the walls in the kitchen are simple PCV recipes and the back of her front door is covered in signatures and hometowns of everyone from previously serving volunteers at her site, to visiting volunteers (like me) and friends and family.

The living room

In essence, Sydney’s house is cozy and cute, with side tables adorned with candle holders and essential oils to perfume the home. It had her personality all around.

The school itself is very large and well-funded, with resources and supplies definitely a non-issue. The school has a kindergarten as well as an elementary, secondary and high school.

Check out the photo debut of my killer hat.
Photo courtesy of Frances

As the sun started to go down, we walked to the Canal View nakamal (kava bar) just a short walk down the road from her home. I’ve never been to Port Vila nakamals, which I hear can range from fancy to low-key (like village nakamals). I’ve only ever been to village nakamals, which are usually a small, unadorned shack with a bucket of kava and dim lighting. Canal View has a tiled trough with running water faucets meant for spitting and rinsing your kava bowls, so as not to dirty the smooth, sandy ground. There are plenty of wooden benches and hi-top tables to encourage mingling. In the villages, you can get washemaot (basically, food that is a kava chaser) but it is basic, like a small bag of peanuts or banana chips. Here, the spread was vast, with generous slices of papaya or watermelon, egg salad on slices of french bread, sausages, chicken wings, and more, all for 30 to 70 vatu. Kava quells your appetite, so with the kava, some egg salad toast and watermelon, my dinner was cheaply covered at under 400 vatu.

Mural behind the washemaot bar

Canal View has a spectacular view overlooking Luganville and the ocean, which made for the perfect setting for watching the sun set. After we’d all had enough (kava here was stronger than on Efate, so 250 was good for me, versus the usual 350), we walked home slightly kava drunk and fell asleep upon hitting our respective pillows.