Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vanuatu, Tenk yu tumas! by Josje

Nambawan! All of a sudden we are sailing away from Vanuatu and heading north towards the Solomons. Woah crazy! Pull up the anchor and it hits us all at the same time… We're leaving Vanuatu. How did this moment creep up on us? Pop open the champagne! Smiles and goodbye Vanuatu speeches are made while we sunbathe partly naked on the back deck of Delos. Thank you Vanuatu! Cheers to volcanoes, prophets, ganja and nambas. And thank you crystal clear waters for taking such good care of Delos as we sailed through the beautiful reefs that connect these amazing, diverse islands. I smile and embrace the past 9 weeks we spent sailing and exploring Vanuatu. Truly an amazing place which will be in our minds, body and soul for the rest of our lives. Vanuatu even gave us a little goodbye present as we sailed away. We caught a yellow fin tuna which we proceeded to cook straight away. Can't get much fresher than that! Forks in hand, we share the catch and some rice from a big dish. Nothing better than island style… Vanuatu, you taught us well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Getting Stoned with Savages By Josjerama

Let’s go on a little adventure... let’s say it’s about 4:20pm. Think that the colours red, green, yellow and black are somehow more vivid than ever before. Imagine you’re bare foot, sitting on the jungle floor, feeling that warm soft breeze flow past your face and there are heaps of people. Heaps of wonderful, relaxed people. Oh, and also lots of plants. Any kind of plants you can imagine.


You’re surrounded by nature and huge coconut trees tower over you, one occasionally making a loud crash somewhere over there as a coconut falls into the dirt. Life is good, there are no worries. The sun shines warmly on your face and you can’t help but smile. Sometimes it gets too hot though, but it’s all good, because you’ll find yourself an old, wise tree that will shade you and generations to come. Or you can just dip off in the ocean that just happens to be the perfect temperature. 


Feeling refreshed, you walk out of the ocean and see one of the children holding a stick, drawing a picture in the sand. His mini dreadlocks bounce around and he runs away laughing when he sees you approaching. What you stumble upon is normal and recognizable. This guy’s face is on most of the t-shirts that people wear around here.


You figure out that you’re on an island, lets call it Alukelam, plotted somewhere in the group of islands called Vanuatu in the Western South Pacific. F**k yeah, your thinking, your stoked to be here! Oh, but…. oh no. Its at this point that the adventure starts to get a little weird. The story seems to come to life. The environment, the people, nature; its all real. Its almost too real. Your slowly starting to slip back to reality, doing whatever your doing and Bang. That’s it. There’s your little glimpse of our everyday paradise. Delos finds itself anchored in the calm, beautiful bay. And Brian, Paul, Brady and I find ourselves hanging out in a village called, oh I don’t know, Pilem.  Is it a coincidence? How did we stumble into such an amazing place full of amazing things? Who knew it would be like this?  We had an idea… but nothing like this….


We were lucky enough to catch a fish on the way in, so our first order of business is to take it to shore and give it to the village.  Brady handed the fish over and we were automatically welcome. They asked if we would like a tour and then walked away giggling while leading us through their village, so we meander through huts, nakamals, pre schools and churches. We gather an army of villagers behind us and I notice that half the people have dreads. Sweet, I thought, that’s pretty cool. What we ran into next though, we weren’t so prepared for. This guy here:


He was sitting in his little hut, reading the bible. He was surrounded by carvings of wood and stone, all brightly painted and placed aesthetically around his hut.  He came out smiling and shook all of our hands.  Right away he asked if we could take a photo of him.  Of course we would.  He went back into his hut and changed into a silk robe with the price tag on it. In permanent marker it read $500 VT. (About $5 US dollars)


We had to get a photo with this guy. He was pretty cool. Previously, his name was Tom, but he liked Moses better, so he thought why not combine the two. Tomoses was the outcome and he definitely suited it. Oh and turns out he’s a prophet too. Prophet Tomoses.  Has a ring to it doesn’t it? We were then led into his hut and the smell of paint drifted in the air. We were surrounded by maybe 25 brightly painted crowns all carved by Tomoses himself. There was an odd selection of Medieval carvings.  Swords, bow and arrows, crowns, and sheilds were some of the works of art.  We asked if it was ok to try some of the crowns on and take photos. Of course its ok. Excellent. Paul goes for a classic look.


Brady got his hands on the biggest one he could see and I grabbed a funny looking one sitting in the corner. We are still unsure whether the one on my head resembles a tea cosy or a nipple.


And of course, what more to expect from Brian? He grabbed a sword, huge crown and put on his game face (a.k.a the creepy face)…  Turns out that prophet Tomoses is an active member of the SDA church (Seventh Day Adventist) and preaches on Saturdays and yep you guessed it, all of his followers get to wear a crown during the service.  What more could you expect from a Saturday service?? At this point we were all a bit tripped out by what we just stumbled across. So we decided we make our way back to the warmth and comfort of Delos. We slept like babies. The next day Brady swam into shore a bit before us and was passed a smoke the second he crawled from the sea.  We showed up minutes later and took our places sitting on the beach, and hung out with a bunch of dudes, young and old. They decided to take us for a little walk into the jungle. We ended up in a wee clearing just in front of the beach, with a small hut and a garden. They were very proud to show us one of their plants in particular. As they didn’t speak English very well, and we don’t speak Bislamic it was sort of like their way of seeing if we were on the same page. The same level so to speak. And of course we were.  They showed us their plants with pride. We had a pretty good look, took some pictures and nod approvingly.


Brady representing Trautman’s Deli. Holding a smoke up to his nipple? Anyway..

They all smiled and led us back to the main village. One of us told the guys we were big supporters of what they were doing.  With another big smile we were told to wait where we were. He ran into one of the huts and came back holding a parcel, neatly wrapped in a green banana leaf….


Oh wicked, its Christmas time! What to do now??  We were told there is a river near by and it would be a good idea to go hang out there.  Sounds like a nice little Saturday plan so we continued our walk along the beach, through the jungle and out onto the other side. A river here flows out of the jungle on our right and meets the ocean on our left. It’s a beautiful little spot.

We all take a seat under a comforting tree and the parcel is unraveled. I take it in my hand to get a closer look. 

Tightly wrapped goodness in a banana leaf.

Some is taken from the parcel and rolled into a dried banana leaf. 

Which we all then proceeded to smoke. Nothing better than island style… It burnt really well and managed to make its way around the circle too many times to count. As if that wasn’t enough a second one was also rolled, lit and passed around at the same time. Our worlds became nice, light and fluffy. Everything was good, the sun was shining, children laughing and playing in the water… The water, oh man, it looked so good. It was too tempting, so we had to get in and bathe. And that was exactly what we did. We swam across the river and lazed around. We took full advantage of the hot sand, as we spread our limbs and relaxed. One of us happened to look over and see Tomoses and a few others bathing naked across the river. None of us are even disgusted by the sight of an old naked man. If anything, we were happy. We shake our heads with a smile on our face and take in the moment. It was too good to pass.

The people here live such beautiful lives. They live within this complete paradise and they’re constantly surrounded by their family and friends. It would be so easy to just slip away from reality forever and live a life more simple. A life full of joy and happiness. And you can tell the people here are so genuine, so caring and helpful. They always have a smile to send your way, and there’s no doubt it’s a genuine smile. I often wish that everybody could just drop everything and come see this magic. There’s just nothing else like it…
As we lay in the late afternoon sun, we were entertained by the children of the village. Its crazy how creative these kids can be. By having such limited resources in general, they make the most out of the resources that they have. And after spending a while with these people, you soon find out that they have a million uses for everything, its great. So these kids started playing war games with all the things they could find on the sand. Twigs, old coconut shells, coral, and even leaves were all used and each kid had their own aircraft, or boat or machine gun. They were totally engulfed in their games, totally in the moment, enjoying life. They would make blasting noise, trying to destroy each others forts. This was so much better than any video game.

Some of the kids got real keen and took it to the next level. One guy ran into the bushes and grabbed branches and vines. He started tying twigs together to make an extra strong fort, and covered it in leaves.

Boys playing battle ships.

We were mesmerized by these guys for hours. Of course we were, we had just smoked some great local stuff, rolled in a banana leaf and we were lazing around in the sun building forts out of twigs. The thought itself is pretty buzzy. Its not everyday you get to do that. Unless you live here of course, which we all contemplated for a little while. Time was floating by and it  was heading towards dinner time and we remembered we had leftover lasagna waiting for us on the boat. Win. Mouths watering, we said our goodbyes and headed back.

As we were walking along the beach, we ran into a group of people sitting on some logs, toes in the sand, with smiles painted across their faces. And they all had some sort of dreads in their hair. So we decided to stop and chill out with them for a while. Everybody was introduced, and as always , no names were really remembered. But it didn’t matter, everybody was happy. There was a relaxed silence for a few minutes as we all absorbed the situation. We ask if they smoke and they all nod and smile. So Brady rolls a smoke, pretty good size for our standards, and lights it up. When it gets passed around to one of the guys, he shares a loud friendly laugh. He is laughing because for him it’s the smallest smoke he’s ever seen. He looks to his side and around the rest of the circle and doubts its going to make its way around. We all share a laugh.  He says its too small and looks to one of the women who soon disappears for a while and comes back holding something a little bigger. She hands it over to us and says “for you… to smoke on boat”. Oh sweeeeet. We give our many thanks and carry on. The lasagna definitely upheld its reputation. Thanks Brian.

Island size cone. 

The next day we woke late in the afternoon as usual. We met a lady named Danessa who lives in New Zealand, but comes to visit her home town here in Vanuatu, once a year. She asked if we could give her and three other children a lift to the island just across the channel. Yeah of course, we will pick you up on shore in about 15 minutes, we say. Four people turn out to be seven people so including us, there’s now eleven people loaded into the dinghy, which has a rated capacity of 6. Nothing like an adventure we say. So we all squeeze in and make our way to the other island across the channel. When we all arrive, we are greeted by many family and friends who gather around and follow us all down to her home village. We weren’t sure whether she was extremely grateful for the ride or if she was just super excited to be home because she was just bursting with energy and excitement. I figured it was probably a bit of both. She’s like one of those aunties who are always fussing and doing something to make sure everyone and everything is Ok.  We stopped to rest and she was frantically cutting pawpaw and coconut for us to eat and drink. I’m always blown away by the hospitality of these people; always wanting to make sure your ok and doing anything they can to make you feel at home. It was touching.

And before we knew it, she was taking us on an adventure through the jungle to the gardens where they would gather all sorts of fruits for us. In the end, we had accumulated about 7 coconuts, 9 grapefruit, pawpaw, a handful of nuts and seeds, cocoa, a heap of ginger and a huge bunch of delicious bananas. Wow, all of us had our hands full. We were set.

So we loaded the dinghy up and said our goodbyes. Danessa and the gang were so happy we gave them all a lift, it saved them having to canoe over, which is pretty hard work, so they all stood on the beach waving their arms above their heads until we were out of sight.  Danessa was also so happy to be home, and why wouldn’t she be. With abundant fruit and beautiful people, I think she was extremely lucky to grow up here.

We made our way back to Delos and decided to make one more stop onto shore before sailing into the distance. It may or may not have involved another banana leaf surprise. Nevertheless, we all wished we were able to stay in this magical place for longer, but time was upon us and we had to move north. So we pulled up the anchor and sailed off into the distance, where more adventures await us. I was sitting on the deck as we sailed away, and I witnessed an absolutely magical sunset, where the suns rays glistened through the clouds, where all sorts of crazy colours spread into the sky. Good times.

Its crazy how similar Vanuatu and Jamaica are. Not that I have been to Jamaica myself, but if I had to imagine it, this is what it would be like. Its really quite interesting actually, for example, the Vanuatu flag holds the colours red, green, yellow and black. Red representing the blood of the people, green representing the land, yellow representing the sun and beaches, and black representing the skin of the people. The flag also shows pigs tusks, resembling prosperity and in the centre of that, a Namelle leaf which represents peace.

A lot of people here have dreads too, which is unlike any place I’ve seen. And of course, those are the ones that like to smoke. A lot. They also love their rasta hats, Bob Marley t-shirts and reggae music. And its quite funny, if you ask a local about Jamaica, they are quite unaware of the similarities that both countries have. Some don’t even realise the colours  are the same! Some just shake their heads as if they don’t even know where we are talking about. Hah. But nevertheless, although the cultures seem to be insanely similar and they’re worlds apart, it doesn’t matter, they’re both happy as can be. So pretty much, Delos found the Jamaica of the south pacific. And how wonderful it was.

Out here, every single moment is too good to pass. I’m just so grateful to be out here experiencing it. I have to say its often pretty difficult to embrace every single moment. I try my best to absorb the whole thing as best as I can, but it can be a little overwhelming at times. Always being on the move, constantly being surrounded by paradise is almost too good to be true right? Well, its not because we’re fortunate enough to be out here doing whatever it is that we’re meant to be doing. I often wonder what has lead me to being here? But in the end, I figure that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I feel exactly where I am meant to be. Happy days.

Happy sailors on Delos

The end.

Visions in Paradise - by Brady

Before our blog moves on and starts focusing on other islands in Vanuatu there is a story we would like to share. It takes place on, yep you guessed it, Tanna. Unfortunately this is a rather heartbreaking story but the visions and happenings that surround it are indeed interesting. The majority of the information was told to me by our John Frummer friend, Erick Phillemon, at a late night nakamal kava session so I’ll do my best to include everything that was whispered to me.

“Erick, do you have brothers or sisters?” I mumbled into his ear, trying to get to know him a bit better. “Yes, I have one younger brother and two older brothers.” “Do they live here on Tanna?” “My younger brother does but die three weeks ago.” His reply was very non-chalant, then continued, “one brother lives in New Caledonia and one in Vila.” I paused as you sometimes do when the locals talk to you in a broken kava induced English. “Wait, your younger brother just died three weeks ago?” “Yes, he drown while spear fishing, his name is Tom”. Since arriving in Tanna we had heard a few villagers mention a local drowning a week or so before. We asked questions but nobody really told us the story. I really wanted to know what happened but didn't want to pry and speak out of line. “I’m so sorry” I said. Eric reached into his pocket and grabbed his cell phone out. The screen lit up and he started showing me pictures of his brother. He went through them very slowly, and was proud to show them to me. I glanced up from the screen to his dimly lit face and could make out a slight smile. “I’m sorry, Eric. What happened?”

He put the phone away and began to softly speak. “Sunday me and Tom get up and want fish so we walk to Port Resolution with our friend and we take the fiber (fiberglass boat with outboard engine). Beautiful day” He said while smiling and shaking his head back and forth. “Many, many fish. Flat waves. We spearfish and swim all day. Beautiful. The boat is full of fish in afternoon. I tell Tom lets go back and eat fish. We get into the fiber but Tom says no and sees a big fish. He is swimming toward the fish then dive down. He doesn’t come back up…Me and my friend” he continues while pointing to a man stoking the fire. “We swim and dive and look but don’t see him. We think he gets tired and swims to the beach. We drive by the beach and do not see Tom. All day until the sun goes down, we dive.” He paused and looked at the fire. “How long were you guys searching for him?” I wanted him to continue the story. “He goes down at one or two and we look until sun goes down, five or six. We go back to the village and are very worried about Tom. I walk up and down the beach all night until sun comes up Monday but I don’t see him.” I don’t know what to say at this point and there is a moment of silence. I picture losing one of my brothers and what he must be feeling. He spoke again, “We search Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday all day and night but we don’t find him.”

I’ll stop the story there and rewind a few days to a conversation with a woman named Margaret. We spoke to her on one of our missions to find Prophet Fred, who turns out to be her uncle. After 20 minutes of talking with her and hearing her endless stories about having visions and seeing miracles, there is one thing we can say about Margaret; She’s a bit crazy. Here is an example of one of her witnessed “miracles”. She told us a story of leading two tourists to the volcano at night only to get very lost in the jungle on the way back. Her eyes were wide open and she looked deeply at all of us. “We pray and pray all night to get out of jungle. We hold hands and pray to god to let us out. Then big light!! All jungle lights up and we find path out. Because we pray god shows us out of the jungle.” We could be wrong but we came to the more logical conclusion, to our selves of course, that the sun came up. “Have you had any other miracles or visions lately?” One of us asked. “Oh yes”, her eyes grew wider, “there was a boy that drowned and I see him in a vision!” “What happened, what did you see?” “I was praying in church Sunday and I see him spear fishing. He goes down very deep and gets stuck. He shoots big big turtle and turtle takes him deep and he dies.” She stretched her arms wide, “BIG, BIG turtle” “And you saw this when it was happening?” I replied. “yes, yes I see him spear fishing……” Margaret continued and recited her vision again. “So what did you do?” “Nothing, I did not know the meaning of the vision. When I find out he is missing I tell them of my vision…On Wednesday I tell them where he is on the bottom of the sea and point from the beach. Two white man go dive with gas and find him at 24 meters.” “Wow, so they found him because where you pointed?” Our eyes were the big ones now and looked at her. “Oh yes, I see him spear fishing……” Just incase we didn’t understand she told us once again. “……..big turtle take him down….”

Fast forward back to the nakamal with Erick. “So you searched Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and didn’t find him?” The talk with Margaret instantly popped into my head “Did you find him Wednesday?" I asked “Yes! We find him! My mom, Emily, has a dream Tuesday night” So your mom had a vision as well, I thought to myself. “Tom comes to her and says he is cold and sleeping at the bottom of the sea. My mom was very anger with me for not telling her that her son was missing, she cries and yells” “So, your mom didn’t know Tom was missing when she had the dream!?” “No, no. We don’t tell her what happened Sunday because we don’t want her to worry. Tuesday late or early Wednesday morning she runs to my home holding a pair of Tom’s trousers. She says ‘Why did you hide this from me!! Tom is very cold!!’ We walk to the beach to look at the sea then back to Port Resolution. So we wait until the sun comes up and find two French man on yacht with gas for diving. My mom goes to the beach with Tom’s trousers and points to where he is sleeping on the sea. She is crying and pointing and holding tight to the trousers. The divers go deep down and find him there.” How terrible it must have been for her to have her son come to her in a dream shivering and saying he was sleeping at the bottom of the sea.

“Wow, very sad. I’m sorry”. I said trying to be understanding as possible “Yes” he says still half smiling as he shows me another picture on his cell phone. This one was disturbing. It was his brother’s bloated body just after the divers brought him up. We both paused and gazed into the fire for a few minutes. “Do you know Margaret, from the village on the other side of the hill?” I wanted to know what he thought of her and her vision. He looked away from the fire and turned to me with a big smile whispering, “She’s crazy women”. I told him what she had to say about Toms death and asked if he knew about her visions and the role she supposedly played in finding his body. He smiled again and said “Oh, Margaret, she’s crazy women. She didn’t tell anyone about her vision in church until after Tom was found….Why didn’t she tell her vision on Sunday when we lose him??”

By this point Erick and I were well into our stoned kava state and called over for another bowl. I said sorry once again about him losing his brother. He patted me on the back, grinned, and said “lets go have kava!”

A few days later we were finally able to track down and meet with Prophet Fred. We went all out, setting up a tripod and filming an hour long interview with him. Among other things, we wanted to know what he thought of all these visions revolving around Tom’s drowning. The time came and I told him everything I heard or knew about the tragedy then asked “What do you think happened?” Pretty open ended question right? He could have easily told us visions he had or how he was involved in finding Tom’s body like the others but he was very calm and through his translator said “I knew about what happened to Tom and was very upset by it. We are all family. I did not have any visions but many people came to me and we sacrificed for Tom to be found. The next day Tom was found…”

Who knows what actually occurred or what visions or prayers led to the divers finding his body. The interesting fact is that two people possibly led the divers to the final resting place of Tom’s body and Prophet Fred may have worked his magic through the power of prayer. Even more interesting is how Margaret kept going on and on about a big, big turtle…Believe it or not but a few days after Tom was found a big, big turtle was found on the north part of Tanna, about 20 miles away. In the turtle was Toms spear!…..Maybe "crazy woman" Margaret isn't so crazy after all.