Friday 2nd October 2015
This morning we took the dinghy through the reef, keeping a sharp lookout for bommies, to the beach. Then it was a steep climb up the hillside to the ‘Yacht Club’. We were having a mooch about when a young man appeared, who we thought might be the owner/manager, but it turned out he was a teacher from the local Primary school looking for a yachtie who had said he would look at their satellite TV setup to see why it wasn’t working. We said we would be happy to come and have a look at it for him.
The beach where we landed the dinghy. Traditional dug-out canoes with outriggers used by the fishermen.
Steve pretending to carve this half-made dug-out canoe. The Port Resolution Yacht Club.
The yacht club is typically decorated with flags from visiting yachts. Comfy(?) old sofas to relax in with a sundowner.
We recognised the names of many of the yachts that have passed through. Concrete bases and washbasins - all that’s left of buildings.
Willy, who turned out to be the Year 2 teacher, and whose class was quietly looking after itself in his absence, took us to the school. It was a typical layout, with buildings around a central grassed area. He pointed out the concrete base of the Year 1 classroom, and next to it the Unicef tent which was the temporary classroom until it could be rebuilt. Cyclone Pam had a more devastating effect on Tanna than on Aneityum, and their recovery, in what appeared to be an absence of Government help, was slow.
He led us to a very smart, large brick-built building, where he showed us a plaque stating that it had been donated by an Australian lady. Inside was a modern computer suite of a dozen or so computers, run from a bank of solar panels on the roof. This building had survived Pam. Around the edges of the room were shelves on and in which were piled, apparently randomly, hundreds of books. Willy led us through the suite to a much larger room at the back, at one end of which was a raised stage. He said it was used as a dining room. It looked like a typical assembly hall to me, but he didn’t say it was used as such. Perhaps whole-school gatherings are not part of school life here? I wish I had asked.
On the stage sat a fairly old television and a satellite box. Willy took the generator, which looked brand new, outside and started it up, to power the TV. He showed us the satellite dish which they had erected outside on a pole. With everything plugged in as it should be, the TV gave a message that there was no signal. We could only conclude that the satellite dish was not picking up a signal, as all else was correctly set up. Willy thanked us and said he would contact the supplier for further help.
When we asked whether they had a teacher with computer expertise to make use of the technology, Willy said that sadly they did not. They were hoping that the Government would send one so that the children could benefit from the resource. Having seen the lack of other teaching resources in the school, one wonders if the money could have been spent in other ways to enhance the children’s learning experiences. I do not doubt the good intentions and I applaud the dedication and hard work of the Australian lady who made the computer suite possible. I very much hope the children are able to benefit from it in the near future.
At the entrance to the Primary School. A computer suite sat incongruously among the school huts.
We looked at the satellite set-up but could find no problem. The instructions were in French which didn’t help!
We asked Willy if he knew where we could find Stanley or Werry, the two contacts we had been told of for organising our volcano tour. Unfortunately both of them were on the other side of the island in the main town of Lenakel and would not be back until just before the volcano trip set off. He suggested we come ashore again at 3 p.m. ready to go on the trip, in the hope that there would be space in the truck. He also invited us to lunch on the beach near the hot springs tomorrow, and asked us to pass around the invitation to the rest of the boats in the anchorage. In return for lunch, he hoped we would make a contribution towards secondary education for the children of the village, as only Primary school is paid for by Government, and many families cannot afford for their children to continue to secondary.
We left Willy to return to his class, and wandered out of the school grounds and along the dirt road. A ten-minute walk rewarded us with lovely views out over the bay, the most enormous banyan tree I have ever seen and a small village where restoration and rebuilding work was under way. The houses here are mostly built from natural local materials, although we did see some rebuilding that had a couple of rows of bricks at ground level. The local people we met smiled and said “hello”, but did not seem keen to enter into conversation. We stopped to chat to an elderly couple sitting under a tree, and soon realised that their reluctance was language-based - they had only a few words of English and were speaking Bislama, the English-based dialect of Vanuatu. As our Bislama is very limited, it made conversation challenging, but they were no less friendly for that. One lady spoke good English, and she introduced herself as Miriam, Stanley’s brother. We asked if she would let him know that we hoped to join the volcano trip that evening, and she said she would.
Beautiful views across the bay to the rocks at the entrance.
This enormous banyan tree was a tangle of roots. Steve looked very small in comparison.
This village had suffered damage to many of its houses. Some had been repaired, whilst others are being rebuilt.
We returned to the boat for lunch, and got our bags ready for the volcano trip, hoping that our messages had got through to Stanley. Unfortunately, though, when we returned ashore at 3 o’clock, we found that there was no room in the truck for us today. We arranged with Stanley that we would go tomorrow instead. We asked what time the yacht club would be open for sundowners, but were told it would not, as the lady who turns on the fridges to cool the beer and then serves them is not available at the moment.
We returned to the boat a little disappointed on two accounts – no volcano and no beer at the yacht club. No matter, we had plenty of beer on board, and were really looking forward to lunch on the beach and seeing the volcano tomorrow.