12 August 2009 | Espiritu Santo
Michael and Jackie
Oyster Island resort's other owner, Grant has lived here much of his life and organised a trip for us to a local village. The village was in the heart of the island so it involved many miles of rough roads to get there. The scenery of the island is mainly overgrown bush adjacent to extensive grazing land. The road, probably originally military was mostly straight with farmland to the left, originally developed by Grant's father and bush to the right. The bush was peppered with small traditional villages. The villages tend to have thatched roofs and rush walls made from pandanas leaves. Around each village there are extensive garden areas. In Tanna we had visited a Kastom village who were used to tourists and put on a bit of a show. This village was just an ordinary one going about its business. This village is a satellite village of a larger village elsewhere and the chief is currently living in the other village. When tribes get too big, some people start up a satellite village elsewhere. The two parts of the tribe get together for various celebrations. We were greeted by the witch doctor, herbalist, Neville who demonstrated the various herbs he used, including one which would stop malaria and another which would stop someone shooting at you. He is currently teaching his skills to one of his sons who will take over the role from him. He also showed us with great pride his bow and arrow which he used for shooting birds and fruit bats. The arrows were made out of bamboo, with tiny metal barbs he had made out of wire. His ten children and three grandchildren surrounded us posing for photos and demonstrating their skills with the machetes. Age is rather a vague thing and children are referred to as pikininis, ten plus, fifteen plus etc. and when you get to fortyish you are referred to as an old fellow.
The village consisted of a series of huts surrounding an open central area the size of a football field on which the children slithered in the mud and played. The rain was pretty heavy. Armed with banana leaves as umbrellas we toured the gardens with Grant translating from Bislama. The village has a water supply from a standpipe. We noticed electricity meters at the entrance. These were put in as a condition for cables from a hydro electric scheme passing through the village. However,no one can afford the charges so none of the huts have electricity. The villagers subsist on what they grow in the fertile soil and sell their surplus to market. They refer to their lifestyle as Kastom since it is an assertion of their traditional way of living and system of beliefs. MOst people in Vanuatu live in such villages and speak their own tribe languages as well as French and Bislama.