Nambas

We’ve spent our second night anchored behind Awei Island in the Maskeylines. According to the grib weather files, the wind has shifted up to the east, which for us now means that there is no wind in the harbor. Two other boats — Flour Girl and Octurus II — joined us and Firefly in the anchorage yesterday. This morning the boats are lazily swinging around at anchor in little wind under a leaden sky. Firefly just left 30 minutes ago and reported from the entrance of the channel that it was blowing 25 knots from the southeast. We are quite happy to sit tight here for another day or so.

Flour Girl and Octurus are both boats cruising with kids, and it is quite nice for Leo and Hazel to have playmates in the harbor again. We assumed when we took off from the States two years ago that we would encounter lots of other children on boats, but outside of Opua and Musket Cove it hasn’t happened that much.

We started our day yesterday with Jenna leading Sophie school and me doing chores. Our water maker had shut down the other day due to a low pressure sensor reading. This usually happens when the filters get clogged and is not that big of a deal. So I cleaned out all the filters, which were quite icky, and ran the system again. I kept getting a low pressure fault accompanied with an automatic system shutdown. I flushed the system multiple times with no luck. Same error. I finally disconnected the hose that leads into the fitting that houses the low pressure sensor, and was proud to see an enormous amount of water gushing through the hose at high pressure. I reconnected everything and opened up my beloved Sea Recovery watermaker control panel. Much to my surprise, I saw that the wire leading from the low pressure sensor was not even connected to the system’s circuit board. Some other sensor wire — most likely the lead from either the old or the new high pressure sensor — was plugged in there instead and it was telling the system to shut down. Since we weren’t having a high pressure problem — I could tell by reading the gauges — I bypassed the low pressure sensor leads on the circuit board, started the system up, and it ran just fine. I’ll spend some time debugging the new pressure sensors, but many of my friends out here in watermaker survival land have ditched electronic sensors altogether. We still have one that checks for salinity in the water, which is important. But simple is better.

Meanwhile, while all of this was going on, the other boats in the anchorage were preparing for the 2:00 PM dance performance the local village on Avokh Island had scheduled for us. It was a big village with 2,000 people, but they didn’t have as much money as the village in Lameh and were still learning how to work with tourists. The crews from the four boats piled into 3 dinghies and motored for over a mile through some sloppy waves and around a mangrove island to get Avokh. As we stepped ashore, a group greeted us with necklaces made from palm fronds ad a flower. We were then led by Kaiser, our guide, on a path along the shore to the performance area. At one point, he asked us to duck as we walked under a tree branch that was well above my head, because Michael Jordan had bumped his head there last year. He has visited this village twice in the last three years and has promised to return. He must be very tall.

The most visually significant aspect of the native Vanuatu dances are the costumes the men wear as they perform. It consists of a palm frond tied around their waist like a belt, a palm frond wrapped around their penis like a sock, with enough extra frond at the end to pull the sock up and attach it to the belt. Everything else on them was left to freely swing in the wind. They used mud to draw shapes all over their skin. Some of them had another leaf hanging from the belt over their butt crack. A few were adorned with feathers. One had some leaves braided into his beard. They all had bracelets on their ankles that made a maracca noise as they danced.

Needless to say, Jenna was impressed and took many photos. And I now know what I am going to wear as my Halloween costume this year!

They called the dance they performed for us “Nambas”, and I believe it is a variant of the Vanuatu dance unique to their area and dialect. We were arranged in a clearing away from the village, and 4 older men plus a drummer, all in costume, marched down a path and started singing in front of us. Soon they were followed by 18 young men carrying sticks. They stamped, chanted, and marched around for 15 minutes. They performed 2 songs and then they were done. Afterward, we posed for photos with some of the performers. Hazel refused.

We then walked back to the village, ducking under the Michael Jordan branch, and gathered in their community center hall where they served us a snack of nuts, baked cassava wrapped in island cabbage, smashed breadfruit covered in coconut milk, and kava. Vanuatu kava is much stronger than Fiji kava, and just one cup gave me a bit of a buzz.

We then had a very wet dinghy ride back to the boats and invited the three kids — Zach, Khan, and Jarah — over to Sophie for a play date. We told their parents that their presence was optional, and all 4 parents chose the “we will enjoy a kid-free boat for a while” option. Our guests brought over a couple of bags of popcorn, and Jenna made 2 batches of kumara fries. The kids had a great time, playing with Lego around the salon table and then watching The Lego Movie.

It was after 8:00 when the movie ended and the kids returned to their boats. Jenna and I were ready for bed, and Hazel asked us “Mom, what are we going to eat for real dinner tonight?” We gave her a snack and all tucked into bed after a busy and memorable day.

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