Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Saturday 26/12/2009 - Boxing Day / Family Day

In Vanuatu, Boxing Day is also called Family Day.
We didn't expect much to be open either yesterday or today, but Vanuatu is different, maybe it's because of their reliance on tourist dollars. It made for a refreshing change of pace from the vacant shops of Brisbane on Christmas Day and the chaotic rush of the Boxing Day sales.We loved the snorkeling so much yesterday that we decided that there was no better way to spend today than with more snorkeling.Today we made our way to Iririki, a small (and extremely touristy) island a short barge trip from Vila ocean-front. We arrived just as the barge was about to leave, we bought a ticket from the ticket vendor and made our way on board the barge. We then consulted on the barge charge, it seems inordinately expensive, but we vaguely remembered the vendor saying something about redemption of our ticket once we were on Iririki.Once on the island we made our way to reception to see where we can redeem our barge tickets. Apparently, when you pay the barge cost, once you get onto the island you can redeem the full price in drinks and food, which was pretty cool.We found where you can hire snorkeling gear, then took a stroll around the island. It was a really hot day and it was great to be walking shin deep in the crystal clear water.

Hubby discovered this little guy doing his best to camouflage himself from us ...

And I discovered something that reminded me of home ... sensitive weed, the kind we used to have where I grew up. It's strange the things that bring back memories of times past.

On our way around the island we saw these people walking into the water, it looked pristine, so I took a photo, if for no other reason than to remember where to come back to for a swim. As it turned out it was the best and most recommended snorkeling spot on Iriki.

There were many carved tree ferns on Iriki. Some of which looked as though they were just casually waiting for something interesting to happen.

After some snorkeling we decided to see how 'the other half live' and evaluated the lunch options on the island. When I say 'the other half' I'm not speaking of hubby, or the poorer portion of the population, on the contrary, in this case what I mean is to see how the 'richies' live. Iririki is strange like that, it's beautiful and pristine, very clean and pleasant and swarmed with wealthy white people. I'm glad that hubby and I prefer to see the rawer, more guttural side of life whilst traveling. The Iriki-type people are missing out as far as I'm concerned and they can have it.

We picked a restaurant that served Coconut Crab, a local delicacy and accepted our redeemable ferry tickets. It was served (as you can see with rice and salad and a side dish of Kumala Fries. Sweet potato chips - mmmmmm.

And it was DELICIOUS! So much so that if I concentrate really hard I can almost taste it again. As with all crabs it was a bit labour intensive, but for me well worth the effort.

As we were leaving to return to Coconut Palms we saw this guy setting up for a demonstration of some sort, So I asked if I could take his photo. He agreed wholeheartedly and instantly struck a pose for the camera. He'd obviously done this millions of times before. It was staged, but cool none-the-less.

We took advantage of the return ferry wait time to get some last 'happy snaps'.

After dinner we invited Tony to have some drinks with us after his shift in reception finished. We'd bought some tequila duty-free when leaving Brisbane Airport quite cheaply. The look on Tony's face when we read from the label on the bottle "Worms are for lovers" was classic, it was even more animated seeing as only moments previous we'd commented on how we thought he should have the worms. LOL
We drank all of the tequila and some port that we'd purchased in Vila on the way home from Iriki. We discussed all manner of things including but not limited to:

1. Our new friend Moses, as mentioned a popular lad known throughout Vanuatu.

2. Marital practices and taboos including the topic of arranged marriages - Tony told us how his potential wives were picked from distant relatives within his age-group, this group of potential mates tease each other in a friendly way, in ways they're not allowed to tease other distant family members. Tony and Katura had their choice of potential spouses within this group, but both chose each other - a romantic notion.

3. Totems, Sorcery and Herbalism - Tony told us that Vanuatu is still home to Totemic religious ideas along-side the more prevalent Christianity. Your totem animal comes with it certain taboos. A restriction on predation of your totem animal (not so uncommon in religiously totemic societies) it is also forbidden to touch your totem animal, for fear of scabies. We were told the story of someone whom was 'of the turtles' once they touched a turtle and broke out into a rash immediately. I was reminded of our visit to the Vanuatu Public Hospital where there were posters covering the walls both inside and out informing patients of the cause, care and treatment of scabies, at the time I found it strange that the hospital had isolated this issue to advertise so heavily, but now it all made so much more sense. We discussed herbalism also. Tony told us that there is a herb in Vanuatu that if a man were to eat it, he could 'take' any women he desired. He related how if (for example only) he wanted to steal a woman from her husband he'd eat this herb and breathe on her, instantly she'd forget all the feelings she had for her husband and she would then rightfully become his. I found myself much more cautious of random breathers after this discussion LOL

4. Chiefly Customs - We discussed the multiple wives topic, I found it interesting that a chief can take up to 10 wives, but all must fulfill differing roles in the chiefly home. One wife to clean the house, one wife to wash the clothes, one wife to be the primary procreator etc etc. At first when I'd heard that the Vanuatu culture condones the taking of multiple wife's I thought it a tad disconcerting, but after our discussion with Tony on this topic I realized that the taking of multiple wifes by a chief was in fact doing the first wife a favor, as she'd no longer have to do all the wifely duties. In fact some wives are very encouraging of her chief taking other wives.

5. Tattooing, hunting and sand drawing - we spoke of tattooing and how it is traditionally done, the historic significance and it's past and present social acceptability. Tattooing is quite socially acceptable in Vanuatu. We couldn't find one tattoo shop on Efate, and were later told that tattooing is done in a more traditional way (by hand). We spoke of the hunter-gatherer sexual division of labour, much like the island cultures closer to home, women are traditionally gatherers which includes 'gathering' from the sea.

6. We also discussed Dwarfs and Midgets, an interesting and informative discussion indeed. Tony told us that dwarfs and midgets (small people) were spoken of on the islands of Vanuatu, they lived in caves and would assist and sometimes hinder the local peoples lives. It is bad luck to touch a midget, if you were to touch a midget, the only way to escape with your life and sanity is to grab hold of him and not let go. Midgets are shape-shifters and can transform into a variety of forms, if you hold onto the midget until he again returns to a man he will grant you wishes. We later bought a book that explained more about 'the short people' in Vanuatu. I'll give a quick review of the stories I've read from this book at a later stage.

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