After the conference I will be traveling to Sydney for one week - my 36th birthday present to myself. In Sydney I will rendezvous with Robert from San Diego who will then return to Vanuatu with me for an additional 10 days. This will be an incredible experience not just for him, but for me as well - to get to play Tanna tour guide to another American will be very validating. Most volunteers experience frustration after service when they realize that no one back home can ever really truly understand what all the stories mean for that person. There's a lot more going on that can never make it onto a blog or into a photograph. So having even one person that understand even some of this crazy place with first-hand experience will be pretty awesome. At the very least I need one other person to taste Kava, and to eat Tanna soup while sitting on the dirt floor or Dora's kitchen while fighting off a pack of starving dogs.
I have some good stories to share - namely my experiences with the cargo cult named "John Frum". In short, they worship the American military and spend their days awaiting our return when we will shower them with cargo to enrich their lives. As if. I got to watch some of their 50th anniversary ceremony and even presented the chief, I mean.. the "Admiral", with a gift for which I earned myself a commemorative t-shirt and some seriously suspicious glares. Then we ditched out to swim in the hot springs at the base of the volcano.
Then I've got a couple stories from life on the "Field Survey" trail. We've been engrossed in a massive survey from every area of the island. We are examining each coffee farmers plot of trees and compiling a ton of data. guess who does all the compiling? It's been hard work, physically and emotionally, but Matt and I have been having a good time (mostly) seeing all the different villages from all corners of Tanna.
My camera broke which I'm hoping to get repaired in Sydney. But luckily I have photos to share from John Frum and a few from the survey. For now I will leave you with this...
This is a grave in Mele, just outside the main city of Port Vila. When I stayed in Mele during the holidays flew past this grave day after day in a speeding mini-bus and always marveled that it was always covered in fresh vibrant flowers. It wasn't until I had to walk one day that I realized all the flowers were plastic. How did I not guess that before. I've never even seen these kinds of fresh flowers in Vanuatu before. And the shiny, silvery christmas garland is a special touch on many graves.