Christmas in Northern Vanuatu, Day 17: Leaving Vinmavis for Luganville

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

Today, Colleen and I wake up at the crack of dawn to catch a truck into town. We find out that one truck left already, chartered by Neil, for him to make his afternoon flight. This makes no sense, as the truck ride is under two hours to the airport. No need to charter it a full 8 hours in advance and leave others in the village stranded. There are four trucks in Vinmavis, and two of the drivers are Presbyterian, and not driving today since they were out late with the bonani last night. So we now have one remaining truck option.

As we walk to the store where the trucks pick everyone up, we watch the fourth truck drive past, loaded with men heading into town with produce. As I’ve learned in Vanuatu, not all options are always lost, and things always work out.

There are about six other people waiting for a truck at this point, but Colleen and I become the excuse for them to wake up one of the hungover Presbyterian truck drivers. Colleen warns the woman who is about to make the call to the driver, “I saw that driver ‘dancing all night!’” as she makes a gesture of holding a beer bottle to her mouth. The woman isn’t dissuaded and continues her call. “There are Peace Corps that need to get into town!” we hear them tell the driver on the phone in Bislama. As much as we are told to integrate, it’s sometimes nice to use our privilege as outsiders.
While the group waiting for a truck was a decent size, as the truck pulls up, only three other people hop inside. It’s the emptiest truck we’ve ridden since my arrival in Malekula.

When the bars over the truck bed hit your head because you're so tall, just stand up.

The woman in the truck, Colleen’s host sister, notices Colleen isn’t wearing her glasses. Colleen explains that she’s wearing contact lenses, and we go on to explain what those exactly are. Someone else asks us why so many white people need it the food we’re eating? I explain that a lot of us have them not because of our diets, but because our health care allows us to get checked every so often, and we are provided the precise eyewear we need. Around here, it’s rare that you see anyone with glasses, and if they do have them, they’re often not the correct prescription. I go on to explain that while I conduct reading assessments at school, I often wonder if kids are illiterate or rather, they don’t have good sight to read anything that is before them on a piece of paper.

The road to Lakatoro
We get into town very early and sit on a bench to wait for all the shops to open. One man walks toward us and informs us that there’s a Peace Corps volunteer “over there” driving a truck. I tell him that’s not possible, as PCVs are not allowed to drive in-country. He insists, and we all watch as the driver of the truck gets out...and it’s clearly a Ni-Van. The man squints at the driver, and then laughs, realizing his mistake.

This store sells (practically) nothing!
Once some shops open, Colleen insists I head into one of the stores that she finds hilarious because it sells practically nothing. We go inside...and yeah, it’s pretty funny. There’s so much space, and so little product! What a weird and wonderful place this is.

Like, nothing.
Tristan and Nhia, our fellow volunteers who are from other parts of Malekula, arrive in town. They get cash while Colleen heads to the post office with three tasks on her list: check for a package, exchange money, and get stamps. She returns saying they don’t have her package, they refused to exchange her money (she’d have to wait in another long line), and they are completely out of stamps. I laugh, and thank the lord I have the Port Vila post office, which, while annoying, at least always has stamps.

We head to the one and only restaurant in Lakatoro for a mid-morning snack of french fries. After our snack, we part ways, leaving Colleen to hang around to wait for her flight as Tristan, Nhia and I head to the ship.

Before heading to the wharf, we make a quick stop to the downtown market, and I grab a few avocadoes for 30 vatu each. They are SO CHEAP.

We purchase our tickets on the ship, and then step out quickly to grab some snacks at the neighboring wharf market, which sells everything from rice and chicken to juice to pineapple to sweet potato chips. I get banana chips and we all hop back on the ship to the top deck, the same spot that Annalisa, Frances and I got last time.

Here's a photo of a toddler on a cell phone because she's cooler than you and I thought you'd wanna know.

We spread out, and I take a nap as Tristan and Nhia play cards. After my nap, I pay for an exorbitantly expensively priced Sprite at 250 vatu, but it is the coldest beverage I’ve had since Luganville and I appreciate every ice-cold sip.

Around 4pm we arrive in Luganville. I’m now the “seasoned pro” of the three of us, as the two of them haven’t been to Luganville yet. We grab a taxi, which I explain is cheaper than a bus, and we go about 3mph all the way to Sydney’s house. We drop off our things and head into town to Attar cafe, where I devour a Big Burger with “the lot” (an egg and bacon) for 950vt.

I enjoy the internet while everyone else heads out to Sydney’s for the night. I walk back to Eve’s to shower and sleep. Tomorrow is my last full day in Luganville before heading off to Keevon’s site in the bush.