Tuesday 18 May 2010 Port Resolution

After a sleep-in and a long overdue shower Scott and I went ashore around 11:30 this morning leaving Bill and Bob to play around with engine belt drives and topping up oil and such like.

The first target of our onshore activities was a nearby village where Scott gave out some tubes of toothpaste and caps and I delivered some group photos taken yesterday.

We met a bunch of young lads drinking kava under a tree with their machetes by their side and we did our mud brick spiel and discovered the guy in the group who expressed the most interest was Peterson from a village 4km away in the direction of the volcano; which, just for interest continues to spew black clouds of ash high into the sky every few minutes.

We made a time to see Peterson on the beach tomorrow morning at 8:00am so as to walk to his village to show him how to make mud bricks.  He said they had clay over his way and his enthusiasm kind of drew us in.

I was still trying to track David down from the Sunday Worship because he expressed an interest in having some photos taken.  Scott and I made our way back to the main village where something like a feast was being conducted, which it was explained was a fund raiser for the local primary school – which is on a 2 wk holiday break at the moment.

We sat under a tree on the grass and chatted with the men, showing them the mud brick manual, which was passed around from one to the other.  Scott pulled a few ready-make spectacles out of the bag, 2:00 and 1.50 times, and there was immediate interest, particularly amongst the older folk who found it hard to read almost anything.  The man requiring the photos, David, finally came and we took his photos which were of his restaurant hut and general surroundings of his place down on the beach.  He’s wanting to re-do his promotional poster and needed a few extra photos. (We’ll print them out and deliver them tomorrow.)

Then the discussion focused on where to get suitable clay for making the mud brick.  Was there any nearby? … No, it seemed.  “Is this black soil good?”   “No, not the best” we explained.

Maybe there is clay somewhere else?

The I suggested maybe we take the 4wd to where clay is and bring him back.  There was a Toyota ute nearby, but where was the driver?  So the negotiations, in Bislama, continued.  Then young Reynold (who seemed to be a local leader) explained, “The truck needs to go to another place to take these people home, but maybe you go with them and get clay then come back with truck and we then make bricks”  “Sounds like a good plan Reynold”, I said and away we went a short time later, five passengers, Scott and me, plus Peterson (who turned up from our earlier meeting and said we would be going past his village, so he should come too) David, the man whose photos I’d just taken and a couple of others.  Out of Port Resolution we flew down a reasonably good track at maybe 50-60km/h clinging to the steel frame on the back of the ute as branches and long grass brushed past.  Then Peterson suggested we stand up and hold on … “good advice” … from then on the road quality took one almighty dive as we climbed the hilly range in the direction of south Tanna, with the volcano continuing to send ash clouds into the air over to our right.  At times the driver came to a halt as ruts in the road and washed away sections were negotiated with particular care, at other times the speed seemed to reach extreme levels as we bucked and lurched down dreadfully steep sections of road with washed out sections resembling crevasses 1m to 3m deep; evidence of the effect of severe rain and the effects of erosion.

After 20 minutes, the passengers had been offloaded and it was time to make our way home, then the lads pointed out an embankment on the side of the bumpy track which had a reddish look to it and which definitely had the feel of clay.  “Eh good”  Scott and I exclaimed and out came the shovel, as we loaded up the big bag in the back of the ute. After another 20 minutes we had a fair pile in the back of the truck and it was agreed we should make our way back.  Pointing to one of the men who’d been on the back of the truck, Peterson said, “this man owns this land” … “Does he mind us taking some of his clay”, I said innocently … “No he is my brother-in-law, so it OK”

On the way back we dropped half the load at Peterson’s place, (where we agreed Scott and I would walk to in the morning to make bricks with Peterson) then drove onto the main village at Port Resolution where we got down to some serious brick making.  From a hard core of about 8 of us workers and hangers-on, numbers quickly swelled to maybe 40, as the kids gathered around, women milled on the edges and more men and young blokes came to observe proceedings and read the manual which was being passed around.  One old man, Samson, took me to his hut where he had an aluminum mould for cement bricks, he wanted to know whether it could be used for mud bricks, so we gave it a go, with initial indications being positive.

As the light began to fade the brick count was up to 15 or so, with ample clay left to spare.  To move things along a bit I exclaimed, “OK, one brick, one minute!!”  as the mould was lifted from a brick and another was set to be made.  This seemed popular and as we counted, 1,2,4,5 etc the mud was shovelled quicker and the packing and smoothing took on a competitive feel.  There were lots of cheers and squeals as the numbers approached 45, 46, 47 and there was still some smoothing to do before the mould could be lifted clear of the brick.

We said our farewells, promising to be back tomorrow, and made it back to the boat with just enough light.  On the way we passed a few huts and a forest clearing and a woman began yelling out.  I knew it to be where Stanley’s sister Miriam lived and so I called out, “Is that you Miriam?”.  “Yes” she yelled with a squeal as she made her way to the roadside for a hug and a handshake.  “I heard you were looking for me yesterday and when the big boat sailed out I thought you were gone, but I had the children go to the garden and pick some bananas, pawpaws and pumplemouse (grapefruit) for you”, she said with a big smile.  She handed over the goods all neatly wrapped in a large woven flax basket.  “Thank you so much”  we said and as we left Scott made a note to get some more caps, toothpaste and shirts out for Miriam’s family, along with Peterson’s family too.

On our way back to the boat we filled up 4 drums of water and then watched as Bob knocked the top off some tinned meals, which were spread over some of Bob’s wonderful bread – an amazing dinner.

It’s now just after 8:00pm and the guys are all in bed.  I’m falling asleep at the keyboard and in 12 hours we meet Peterson on the beach for the walk to his village.  (bear in mind, Peterson will first have walked the 4km to the beach from his village to meet us, so as to walk us back to his village)  I should mention we met another chap in a nearby village, who is head of the Bureau of Meteorology in Pt Vila.  He’s back in his village after many years away and showed a lot of interest in the bricks.  I said we are meeting Peterson on the beach at 8:00 and he indicated he’d like to come along.  He’d spent a year working in India and had seen mud used in building there.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and I thought we were a medical mission!

Robert Latimer