For those of you who are feeling a little envious of our idylic tropical paradise we thought you might like to know some of the realities of everyday life here on North Ambrym.
(1) Sleep ins do not exist here, even on a Sunday morning. Everyone is up at first light (5am) with many rising before hand. Most people are beginning the 1 hour trek up a steep hill to their gardens by 6am. We’ve been dragging ourselves out of bed at 5.30 so Matt can walk down the hill in time to pick up our loaf of freshly baked bread.
(2) It is really hot at the moment. During the middle of the day the best place to be is in bed, on a hammock or on a matt under a tree. The full sun feels unbearable. Most middays there is little breeze. Luckily we remembered how to make those paper fans we all used to make at Primary School. It works wonders to cool us off in the sweltering heat. Once it cools down enough to walk to the beach we generally go for a snorkel in the clear water.
(3) We have no running water. This isn’t too much of a problem as we can siphon water once every few days from a well about 50m away.
Every container we have gets filled and then stacked away to be used when needed.
(4) Privacy is scarce. People here live in such a close-nit communal way. When one of us is alone and spotted by a local it is not uncommon for them to hang around making awkward conversation for 30 minutes until the other one of us returns, at which point they quickly say farewell.
We have been looked after by a grandmother and her 2 grandchildren since we arrived. They have been warm, caring, patient and nurturing but now we are ready for our own space. We share a kitchen and dining area with them, and so cook and eat together every night. Our hygeine and food preparation standards are quite different so we are regularly grossed out by one thing or another – whether its scale encrusted fried fish, ants swarming over fish being kept for a following days snack or cats running over food, plates and food preparation areas. Dishes are generally washed in cold dirty water. We’ve been introducing the idea of clean warm water with mixed success. I’m sure we will miss them when they go back to their usual house in the village but mostly we are looking forward to having our own space, giving the kitchen a spring clean and making it off limits to all but dead animals.
(5) Although our Bislama is improving we still struggle to understand what is going on at times. A simple matter like finding out what time the local store is open until took 4 conversations to resolve. Even then we weren’t sure if the last person had said it was still open. We ended up just walking there and having a look.
(6) Without electricity and no fridge, we don’t get cold drinks, although this we have only occasionally missed. Water from the well or juice from a freshly picked coconut is fairly cool and we occassionally have a cordial for a treat.
(7) Food had worked out a little better than we originally thought. The store is quite well stocked with flour, corned beef, tomato paste, rice and we are able to buy eggs and most kinds of vegies. Fruit is free, you pick it or it is given to you. However we have just eaten a traditional Sunday lunch loaded with heavy starchy vegetables and Laplap. The locals work hard and eat a lot to get the energy they need for their hard days work. Food at this lunch was carefully shared out equally among 30 or so people. Our plates arrived with a pile of heavy vegetables like yam, manioc, kumala (sweet potato), pumpkin, cooking banana and taro with a little coconut cream on top to help swallow it all down. We did our best but could only get through half our lunch and left feeling like we had eaten a car tyre each.
Throughout all this we are having an amazing time. The locals have lived this way for generations and we don’t hear anybody else complain so we don’t either.
The people are amazing, generous, welcoming and are happy to share what they have with complete strangers.
We are blessed and continue to try and make the most of our amazing adventure.