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Date: 16 Aug 2008 00:31:05
Title: Losalava, Gaua Island, Vanuatu - w/ pictures

14:12.408S  167:34.118E
 
Note:  This version has pictures attached.
 
We escaped out of Lakona Bay with no further canoe encounters and safely anchored between two giant reefs off the village of Losalava on the north side of Gaua Island (picture 1 - our boat anchored in Losalava Bay).  Soon after we arrived, we deployed the dinghy and headed to shore on a quest to deliver Jonathan Johnstar's soccer shoes, shorts and t-shirts that we had brought from Lakona Bay per his mother's instructions.  The usual welcome party was waiting for us on shore as we approached - this time it was a teenager named Christopher, a bunch of smaller kids and a few women.  As soon as we set foot on the black sand, we told Christopher that we had something to deliver to Jonathan at the primary school.  'Oh yes, Jonathan,' said Christopher, 'he was here waiting for you, but had to return to school.'  Waiting for us?  How did he know we were coming with no phone service on the island?  Don and I decided that it must have been a smoke signal or something.
 
Christopher asked if we knew where the primary school was.  We explained it was our first time in Losalava.   'No problem,' he said, 'I will take you.  But it's a fifteen minute walk, is that ok?'.  We've run into questions like this before....maybe because we live on a boat the people think that we don't like to walk or don't have the stamina for walking.  In any case, we always smile to ourselves when asked if it is ok to walk.  Along the way we learned that Christopher was from the neighboring village, had finished ten years of school (that was all the nearby school had to offer, although it is starting to add higher grades now) and is hoping to attend the new agricultural college in Luganville on the big island of Espiritu Santo next year. In the meantime, he told us he hangs around the village, works in the garden and likes to read books in both Bislama and English.  We got the feeling that guiding us to the school and back was a diversion Christopher was happy to have.  We trudged through the bush on a muddy track and at one point crossed a small stream via a 'bridge' made from three tree trunks laid side-by-side.  Christopher practically danced across the trunks in his bare feet and Don had no trouble, but for me it was like walking a tightrope over a chasm.  It really wasn't that bad at all, but thirteen months on a boat makes for extreme clumsiness on land.
 
The primary and secondary school grounds looked well kept, as did the surrounding gardens.  As we approached the primary school, Christopher instructed one of the younger students to fetch Jonathan for us.  During this whole event, we noticed that no last names were ever used.  It was just understood that we were looking for Jonathan and everyone knew exactly who he was.  As we waited for Jonathan to appear, a large group of kids surrounded us, quietly staring.  We fidgeted, felt self conscious, smiled and said hello and they smiled back a little and some of them whispered a greeting.  We recognized Jonathan immediately when we saw him on the edge of the clearing even though we hadn't met him before.  He was the spitting image of his older brothers - beard and all.  As he came closer to the assembled group, we could tell that he was completely mortified by all the commotion and attention.  When we smiled and introduced ourselves, he barely raised his eyes to meet ours and didn't say a word.  We handed over the soccer gear and then we all stood awkwardly.  We said a few things to him about his family and how much we enjoyed Lakona Bay and he said nothing.  After a few more awkward moments standing amidst the giant group of quietly staring kids, Don and I looked at each other and said, 'Ok then, I guess we'll go back!'.  Christopher took the hint and said he would take us back.  As we were leaving, the embarrassed Jonathan did mumble a quick thank you as he turned to go.  Poor guy.  Nothing like a couple of old white people crashing your school and causing a commotion with a message and a package from your mother.  How embarrassing for a teenager.
 
On the way back, we asked Christopher to take us to the village and introduce us to the chief so we could pay our respects and ask proper permission to anchor in the bay.  We did tour the village, but the chief was nowhere to be found.  Oh well, we tried.  This village was also purely traditional with only thatch huts like those in Lakona Bay, but the general atmosphere was more prosperous.  Probably the two nearby schools and medical clinic had something to do with it.  We thanked Christopher for his help and offered him a t-shirt for his troubles.  He seemed pleased and promised to bring a canoe out with some fruit for us later.
 
True to his word, Christopher showed up a few short hours later in a canoe with his two younger identical twin brothers, Gerry and Terry, and a basket full of grapefruit and passion fruit.  That brought us up to a total fruit count of fifteen grapefruits, four passion fruits, an entire stalk of bananas (with 50 or more bananas), and the unidentified prickly green fruit we received in Hog's Harbour (which by the way we did identify as a soursop with the help of a tropical fruit guide we have on board....unfortunately, this identification was completed too late for the fruit...it had pretty much decomposed by the time we cracked it open - oops).  All in all, we are pretty sure we have enough fiber on board to keep us going for a while.
 
Christopher asked if he and his brothers could come on board.  We said yes and led them to the cockpit where we chatted for a while.  Well, at least we chatted with Christopher, his 8ish year old brothers sat quietly starting up at the rigging, occasionally stealing glances at Don and I.  I was wearing shorts - a big taboo in Vanuatu where women are not supposed to show their thighs - but I figured hey the boat is our turf.  Now and then Christopher would have a whispered conversation with his brothers in Bislamic.  He asked them several times if they were ready to go and they simply shook their heads no, and continued to stare around.  Probably they were hoping for an invitation to go into the cabin, but we didn't offer - still a bit paranoid about unwanted guests that might be left behind.  Christopher did tell us that the village in Lakona Bay has a radio, so they were able to call the school and let Jonathan know we were coming with his soccer stuff.  Shoot, and we thought smoke signals really existed.
 
We gave the boys one kid-sized notebook each and a set of colored markers to share.  They seemed to think this was fabulous and broke into the plastic bag to check out the goods almost immediately.  They discovered that the notebooks have a multiplication table on the back cover and thought the idea of using it to cheat at school was a good one.  Great - now we are accomplices to a ring of cheating children in the Vanuatu school system.  After a while longer, the kids finally decided it was time to go (and maybe finally decided the invitation to go below was not coming) and they loaded back into their canoe.  Picture 2 shows Christopher and his brothers in the canoe.  One of the twins is holding up the bag with the notebooks and pens in it and all are wearing giant grins.  Very cute kids.
 
We spent one quiet night in Losalava and left the next morning for the town of Sola on Vanua Lava Island (the next island to the north), but the weather was ugly, probably making for a rolly anchorage near the town, so we called an audible and headed to Waterfall Bay on the west side of Vanua Lava instead.  More on our Waterfall Bay adventures in the next entry.
 
Does anyone need any bananas?  If not, it looks like another marathon round of banana bread is in our future...
Anne

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