I was hoping to finish up with a few days of sunny roaming and snorkel adventures but the weather beat me to the punch. It has been raining—tropical flash-flood kind of raining—for days now and there is no end in sight. I have to say that in the moments that the rain stops, the air is 98% wet so that just adds to the experience. I decided to own up to my Seattle-self and head outside anyway. I took my rainbow umbrella and strapped on a backpack and headed out for some adventures of the not so sunny variety. In spots the water ran over my feet and not only was I combating the slip of my foot against the flip-flop, but my flip-flop against the ground. A double slip is slow going so I took a note from the locals and carried my flip-flops. My bare feet stopped the slipping action and with the newly found traction, I put some distance between myself and my room. I took a long walk and then met up with a friend and hopped a bus to a beach way out of town. We happened to find a bus full of people going there anyway so it was a super cheap ride, if a bit more of an olfactory adventure than I was seeking. I made like a dog and stuck my nose out a window and panted for fresh air.
Umbrellas in hand, raining pounding down and sideways, we walked the length of a long beach, crossing a small river that was knee-high and about 20 feet wide that had broken through the beach to get to the ocean. The ocean water was pulled up the river and the river water was rushing out to the ocean at the same time—it was so strange to feel the fresh and the salt mixing in warmth and cold and the dark sand churning all made for an interesting crossing. We got down the rest of the beach and gave up on the umbrellas, we were soaked through head to toe but having a great time. We walked back and were about to head back to town to dry clothes when we spotted a beach bar through the rain. When it is raining that hard forms appear as blurs coming out of hazy clouds of water. Also, I had taken my glasses off which tends to add to forms appearing as blurs coming out of hazy clouds of water. So I was double blind but still “discovered” this little gem. We went into the bar, which was without walls but had one solid roof and comfortable chairs. Fans were whirring from the ceiling which helped to dry us out a bit. We ordered drinks and decided to throw down 200 Vatu (about $2) for a game of pool. We played, much to the chagrin of the locals who do know the rules, with no rules. We knew someone should be stripes and someone solids but the rest was all-in and after numerous failed tries I settled on turning the cue around so the thick end was my shooter and I could slide it into the white ball to make the solid go where I intended it to. It wasn’t fail-proof, but the game did eventually end. We sat for a few hours, watching the ocean and the rain and meeting other tourists and locals who wandered in. A group of 10 rowdy Aussie ladies in their late 50’s and early 60’s came in. They were clad in bikinis and short shorts regardless of body shapes and sizes, many with tattoos or sharply colored hair, or both. One was a chain smoker. They ordered drinks and pondered the weather. They had come because they heard that the owners of the bar will strap an inflatable seat behind a boat and zip across the ocean waves, giving the riders an experience or two in bouncing, jolting fun. We chatted with them and found out that they are the Worlds Masters Women’s Basketball Champions—even with their lack of height, a guard who can’t give up the ciggies, and age, they have conquered the court for the past 15 years together and won the big game this year. There was supposed to be a tournament in Samoa but it was cancelled and the ladies decided to go on holiday together anyway.
The rain paused and two of them went to plead their case with the young man who does the towing. He didn’t need to be asked twice and they all jumped in the ocean and swam out to the boat. The ladies hauled themselves into the inflatable in a most unpolite way which I won’t share, but we were hooting for them and cheering their efforts to get into the floaty vociferously. They waved in appreciation for our cheers and off they went. The screams that came forth from them as they bounced and whizzed across the ocean, as the driver slowed his boat and turned it and then hit the gas were something else to hear. Two by two they went into the ocean for a ride, and two by two they came out asking for a drink and wondering out loud if there were massage therapists or chiropractors in town.
We took another walk down the other direction and passed some houses under construction. One of the locals pointed out that it is a terrible place to live and some Australian suckers will be the first under as the reef here is very close to the shore so will not provide any kind of break for a large ocean wave or tsunami. I think there is a really good rule here, if you are ever visiting or considering land purchase. If the locals aren’t doing it, neither should you. If you don’t have to relocate an entire village of shacks and lives to build your waterfront home, there is probably a really good reason. If the only trees standing in the area are very very tall coconut trees, there is probably a really good reason. I expect stucco, fancy counter-tops and landscaping will all be washed out to sea with a few good storms. The same goes for the little cultural nuances—women get dressed in clothing that covers their bodies here and with the exception of the downtown strip and the tourist beaches, we should do the same. If you are listening to music in earphones while walking, it is socially impolite to wear both earphones, so only use one. And on and on I could go, but I won’t…
I was fighting a cold but it won—as soon as I finished my last shift at the hospital I must have relaxed. After two months with no illness—not a fever, or an infection, or any stomach problems at all—I have been beset upon by a common cold, which I find altogether very rude. After the rainy day adventures I was really ready to be dry and nap. So I did.
I came here to work hard and I actually did that in much better ways than I imagined I would have. I think I used the minutes here well. So with my last two days I am going to relax hard and enjoy the people and the weather, whatever it happens to be. I did look for souvenirs to bring home with me for family, but they don’t make anything here per se, other than Kava, which I am not bringing home. So I am coming home mostly empty handed, with memories of Vanuatu and the mothers, the babies, the midwives, doctors, nurses, and students, the children of Chicken Road and the locals and vacationers who struck up conversation with me as the souvenirs of my heart.
I am ready to come home. I don’t know what is coming next. This experience has grown me. I want to pause. I want to think about what kind of life we want to have. I am in no rush to jump into work. I want to spend time with my people and push a button and watch ice come out of my freezer. I want to hear Julia and Jeffrey laughing and listen to their stories. I want to spend time with my husband and see my girlfriends. I want to write a great book with Jane and share the lessons that so many mothers have taught us.
Thank you all for joining me on this little journey to the South Pacific…Jane and I will continue to post updates here as to the progress of the book-o and the bits and pieces that come with it.
Signing off from Vanuatu (that is, if I can manage to get the internet to work so that I can sign on and post this!)