Saturday 15 May 2010 Port Resolution

As Bob got stuck into sorting through a newly discovered sub-floor compartment on Chimere full of spare parts, hoses, old pumps, electric motors and general brick-a-brac (including Christmas decorations stored away by the previous owner) Scott, Bill and I went ashore to meet up with Jack in order to “make em mud bricks”.

A young lad of about 14, Jonathan, was also with him on the beach, plus a few other younger hangers on.  As we approached, Jonathan did the talking … “Jack is my big brother, but he speak French, not much English, but I speak English.  Before we start, we have presents for you, orange, mango, pawpaw and also this woven bag, made by our mother”

We thanked them profusely and then made our way, single file up the hill, through the village and to a clearing in the lush tropical forest. As we walked through what looked like the Garden of Eden, Jonathan would point out the different trees that we passed … “that’s a lemon”   “This one a orange”  “that one mandarin … that one pawpaw … mango … guava … cumquat”  and then there were some we can’t remember.

“They were planted by our ancestors.”  said Jonathan.

The orange tree didn’t look like an orange tree, but there definitely were things that looked like oranges at the top of the high spindly branches.  “How do you get them down?” I asked “No problems” said Jonathan “this little boy here he climb anything”  To demonstrate, “this little boy” clambered up a nearby coconut tree with ease, then slid back down again just as easily.

“This soil good?” inquired Jonathan.

“Is there anything more sticky … clay?” I replied.  So we walked a bit further up the hill to where the local pigs wallowed in a small pool and indeed there was clay, just under the surface.

As we dug and mixed and shovelled and made the bricks we chatted with Jonathan and Jack, and after a while Jack’s wife Sarah and baby Eveline (who we’d met on the beach yesterday) turned up, plus Jonathan and Jack’s mother.  We made a jolly band in the forest and of course there were several other kids of all ages gathered around and as the first bricks began to appear out of the wooden mould there were exclamations all round.  From the reaction of the women to the photos in the manual and the idea of cooking with less smoke and needing less wood or fuel I sense there will be a lot of stoves built in this village. The idea seems to have caught on.

In the course of our muddy work I asked how it was that Jonathan spoke English and his brother Jack spoke French.  As Jonathan explained ..”because there are tourists come here to see the volcano, and the hot pools and steam on the beach and tour ships, our parents thought it would be good if we both spoke different languages, so I go to the English school and Jack was sent to the French school.  We also speak our village language and when we go to our mother’s and father’s villages we speak their languages too.  And there is also the national language Bislama.  There are 21 languages on Tanna”.   (and these are completely different languages)

So our young friend Jonathan spoke English, French, plus three local village languages.  Then there was Bislama, which he said he understood, but as yet he couldn’t speak it.

Quite embarrassed we each admitted that we only spoke English, although Bill claimed a bit of Dutch.  Then we explained that right across Australia, which is really big, there were lots of languages, but everyone spoke English.  “yes, it’s a continent” said Jonathan.  He’s going places is that Jonathan.  He then carried on his head two sheets of 3 metre corrugated iron up the forest track from the village below to keep the rain from spoiling the bricks – on a slippery track we had trouble walking up holding a day pack!

After several hours making bricks, Bill and Scott went to a different village to meet the lady that runs a “shop” but there were no eggs and they thought better of the donuts.  But they met Stanley, our friend from last year, who said he’d talk to his brother James about learning the mud bricks in his village.  Maybe we’ll see him tomorrow, but it’s Sunday – day of rest – so there may not be much brick making done until Monday

Back on board Chimere, after a big day’s brick making we finished off some cleaning and set about making dinner.  Tonight it was Bill who stepped up to the plate – rice from two nights ago, tuna (complements of John West) sweet potato and chocos from the village plus soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. – beautiful

Bob’s knocked out another lovely loaf of bread from the oven and last night it rained so heavy we managed to catch a little bit of water off the deck and into the tanks.  I think it’s time to eat some fruit, the bananas, paw paws, grapefruit and oranges are starting to build up in the cockpit.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and more mud bricks.

Robert Latimer