Resting and socialising in Port Vila
30 July 2012 | The seawall, Vila Harbour
We have just about done what we are going to do outside the metropolis, and we are enjoying ourselves here on the seawall and around Vila. Last weekend we had an invitation to lunch with Aloi Pilioko at his home, and we had a lovely afternoon. Shane Freeman, just retired as head of ANZ Bank for Vanuatu and South Pacific, loaned us his 4WD and we drove out to Pango to Aloi's place. We found we were also to meet Georges Liotard and Marie. Georges was a resident of New Hebrides, as it was called then, when as a young French photographer he recorded Kastom rituals and daily life in Malekula, Santo, Tanna and Pentecost. He also set up the first tourist agency here in Port Vila. Georges' work has been collected and formed into a display at the Museum and Cultural Centre. One of his friends from that time, now an old man also, Chief Delkon, was also at lunch and it was nice to see them reliving older and simpler times. Georges is not going to go to the islands as, he says, he doesn't want to sadden himself by seeing the social and cultural changes that have occurred since that more naive and sunnier time. Aloi put on a great meal, and despite the halting knowledge we had of each others' languages, we got on really well with Georges and Marie. We had brought along a bottle of French wine and they came with a bottle of South Australian Shiraz!
Yesterday was Independence Day (30 July). The principal celebrations were at Independence Park above the town, and there we set up on a pandanus mat with Ed and Ellen from "Entr'Acte" and saw military parades, band music, trooping the colour, flag raising and a long but interesting speech from the President. He spoke of the past 32 years and his vision for the future. Prominent on the dais were the diplomatic personnel from mainland China, and French troops took part in the parade. Absent were Australian troops, the Australian Federal Police (recently expelled on 12 hours' notice from Vanuatu following a diplomatic snafu at Brisbane Airport which our people could have done differently) and also absent was any significant mention of Australia in the speech. As mentioned previously, the Chinese are making great political and economic inroads here and we need to restore ourselves to the position of first friends of the Vanuatu Government. After the speech the President was driven back to his Residence in a government car - Chinese-made.
Today Shane on "Monja" left for home in Australia via the Banks and Torres Islands in North Vanuatu.