it starts raining, and the mercury drops a good couple of degrees. Today I immediately threw on my swimsuit and almost ran (as much as you can in 90 degree/100% humidity) outside where I alternately sat in torrential tropical downpour and then in the pool. The downside of the rain is the oppressive humidity which follows it.
I’m not sure what I expected from the way Vanuatu looks. It appeared idyllic from the air. Seriously green, palm trees, impossibly blue water, all the tourist brochure stuff, unsealed dirt roads skirting the coast but the drive from the airport revealed dwellings which could be described as shanties. Little huts constructed of corrugated iron and palm leaves which are often clustered around other little huts with long crowded washing lines strung about. Scrawny looking dogs who stand around looking tired in a few places, and the men here seem to either stand around in small groups on the side of the street or wander about. All the women seem to work in long impossibly flowery tropical print dresses and flip flops - they have quick smiles and seem to (correctly) assume I speak English. I discovered that not everyone does though, after a funny encounter with a little girl in the supermarket when I spied an unoccupied basket on the floor. I asked her immediately, unthinking, if it was taken. I may as well have descended from another planet for the look she gave me. I realized very quickly that no, the kids don’t speak English. I asked another man who looked on chuckling, and he kindly translated for me. I was expecting bislama to be the predominant language spoken here, but I’m surprised to find that I hear French spoken just as often, it’s helpful as I really know no bislama, but my French is passable. I hear many of the midwives are francophone so, that should be helpful.Next time I think I'll just ask in french.
The trip to the market was memorable for being 4.00pm on New Years Eve. The place was packed with people, imagine Black Friday sales at Walmart, but at a Safeway, buying supplies for parties. The lines at all 4 checkouts were 10 to 30 people long. The party item of choice seemed to be cans of air with a (very loud) horn attached, but more about that later. There truly is almost everything you could need in there, lots of familiar foods with outrageous prices and local stuff which was more reasonable. The French influence here translates to insanely good French bread (50vt for a batard/baguette). I’m informed that there is a tiny corner shop across the road which sells fresh bread daily and assorted canned goods. Which I’ll have to check out. It was nice to see lots of local tropical fruit and veg. Masses of bananas, and my all time favorite fresh passionfruit (5 for about $1) and the hugest avocadoes I’ve ever seen. Some were bigger I swear than my head. I spied a few avocado trees on my walk home which were heavy with fruit as well so I expect that they will feature prominently in my diet while I’m here.
Ni-Van’s celebrate NYE as much as New Yorkers. I was warned when I checked in that it would be “noisy” and boy was she not wrong. My little cabin seemed too be surrounded by parties, loud island music (kinda a cross between reggaeton and low budget electronica), screams (yeah, real screams - not a nice sound, really), whoops resembling those of howler monkeys, incessant canned air horn honks (the children I assume?), and then later (towards dawn) the dulcet tones of dogs fighting and myriad cock crows. I think one area off to the left of my house still hasn’t stopped its party and as I write it’s 7.00am. Update: the party seems to have moved to a series of car/trucks which are driving about – or more careening, really – past, yelling, honking those damn air horns and generally encouraging everyone to continue the party at all costs. It’s now 4pm. These folks have serious party stamina!
I’m staying at a small "resort" hotel just by the hospital. It’s a cluster of 6 studio apartments and 4 or so of larger apartments. It has a nice pool and a BBQ area. It’s comfy, but my apartment isn’t air conditioned. I suspect it will take me quite a while to get used to the heat. I’m torn by my desire to seek out some air conditioning especially at night. I know though that I’ll be more reluctant to venture out by myself if I have a cool refuge. I confess I find it pretty intimidating to wander about as a solo (visibly pregnant) female foreigner, in a country which is so clearly socially dominated by men, but I notice that there are local women about on their own. I’m conscious also that women are modest with their dress, I’ve not seen any pants worn by women at all, and skirts and dresses fall at least to past the knee. Good thing I’ve never been a short shorts kinda gal. I suspect also that my pregnant belly may deflect some unwanted attention.
Hopefully some of these nights we’ll get some more rain and some cool breezes both of which were absent last night) and in the meantime I’ll throw myself into the pool periodically, and continue to drink loads of cold water. Today (Friday) is New Years Day, and everything is closed, I plan on sticking close to home, recovering a bit from yesterday’s travel, and reviewing some midwifery material. I think I’ll go up to the hospital on Monday morning for my first shift. That leaves Saturday for a good trip to the market for some food shopping and Sunday for some wandering around and finding my feet.
Seems I have excellent internet access though, which only occasionally necessitates a wander out to the pool area where the modem is nailed to the wall. The breeze is nice out here tonight though, off Erekor lagoon.