Expectations and Reflections

I realize this space has been pretty quiet for the last few weeks.

We’ve been moving a lot and there has been a fair amount of exploring; us trying to squeeze as much of Vanuatu in before we leave. And then there is the endless everyday-ness of living and travelling on a sailboat; equipment failures, provisioning, clearing out with government officials, doing laundry in a bucket by hand, watching weather, trying to arrange parts to be shipped to remote locations, stressing about arriving at a new anchorage without suitable light, keeping up with writing assignments. Such is the ebb and flow of life.

The problem is that there has been so much flow recently that during the ebb times I am content to sit watch the local fisherman paddle around in there dugout outrigger canoes or enjoy a quiet beer in the company of a sea turtle or a dugong. I have been content to be in the experience.

I also realize that even though we’ve spent almost 5 months in Vanuatu I haven’t written too much about the place.

The thing is I don’t know what to say yet.

Vanuatu has kinda been my unicorn in the South Pacific, a place that seemed wild and remote. A place where men still wear penis sheaths made of leaves, people still believed in black magic and lived on the foothills of active volcanoes. Where curled pig tusks and woven mats are considered legal tender and where rituals such as land diving (think bungee jumping using vines off a rickety bamboo tower built over solid ground) are still preformed during yam harvest time. Where religious groups not only include the usual list of Christin fundamentalist converted by missionaries but also cargo cults formed during WWII whose symbol is the medical red cross they found on shipping containers and sects that worship Prince Phillip of England.

And all of this is still true. But in most places, even on the smallest islands, it is hidden behind cellphone towers and prepacked food and western clothes and the tourist dollar. And there are pros and cons to it all.
Vanuatu has both failed to meet my expectations and exceeded them. It has delighted me and confused me. I want to stay but I feel like we could be here a dozen years or more and never get to really know the place or the people or the intricate social dynamics.

it is not possible to stay. As proven once again in March this year when cyclone Pam rolled through Vanuatu, this is not a safe haven this time of year. So as I struggle to digest our experience here I am also looking toward a new horizon; the Solomon Islands. Our weather window for sailing north is opening later this week, which means our porthole in Vanuatu is closing. I am sad to set sail but excited about what we’ll find in the next anchorage. Passages always clear my head, so there will be more about Vanuatu and our time here soon.

Love,
H&S

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