A Travellerspoint blog

August 2006

Party time

August has been the month of weddings! Over the past few weeks there have been hundreds of locals trudging food (taro, green bananas, yams and bullock) from one village to the next in preparation for the big events. Sometimes these bundles of food can weigh up to 30kg and most villages are a few kms apart. In Vanuatu there is still a bride price to be paid so the family of the groom has to find food and money to give the family of the bride. We decided to go to the last wedding for 2006 – it was said to be the biggest yet….and it certainly lived up to expectations.

Over 200 guests gathered for the occasion and the food was piled up high. After the ceremony in the church, we all moved to the house of the groom to give our presents. I think plastic bowls and plates were the “in thing” with the couple receiving over 50 of them! It’s always such a weird contrast at weddings...in the background is cheery string band music but in the foreground is mothers and auntie’s grieving over the ‘loss’ of their daughter as she moves from the house where she has grown up to the house of her newly found husband.

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(Matt covered in talcum powder after just giving his present to the bride and groom)

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After the presents had been piled up high it was time to eat! Weddings on Ambrym offer one of the rare occasions where locals get to enjoy some red meat. Everyone is fed a plate of rice and bullock in a tent that can house about 30 people (made from coconut fronds and local thatch) so the guests eat in shifts until everyone has had their fill.

We moseyed on back to our bungalow mid afternoon but the party went on all through the night.

We have also had some nice thank you and farwell kakai’s (food) lately.

The first took place in the old custom village of Fanla. One of the highest ranking custom chiefs, Chief Maghekon invited us to come to his village at 2pm for a thank you kakai. We arrived at 2.30pm but typically the locals were on island time so no one was around until 3pm. We were anticipating eating with the village but around 4pm Chief Maghekon appeared with a bundle of lap lap. They made a really nice speech to thank us for our efforts and then gave us a carving and three bamboo flutes and sent us on our way.

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(Matt standing with some of the big men of Ambrym – chief Maghekon is on the right)

The second thank you was in Fanrereo about half an hour up the hill from our village. The guys made Kava so Matt had some with them and they also killed a chook for us. We helped roast it on some coals and it tasted delicious! All the villagers brought food, layed it out for us and once again lathered us with presents (carvings, flutes and mats).


It feels so nice to be appreciated for the work we have done over the past 12 months. The big party with the whole North of Ambrym is still to come!

Posted by pippamatt 21:59 Comments (0)

Worldly advice

Here's a little advice we have been given (from Pippa's brother Nigel) about readjusting to life back in Adelaide. We welcome any more suggestions! We will need all the help we can get!!


If you see a big white box in the kitchen – it’s called a fridge and it’s where you’ll find food keeps for more than a day!

Don’t go looking for milk in a tin – it actually started life as a liquid and can also be found in the big white fridge.

The silver metal things in just about every room are known as taps, they provide instant access to water – even hot water!

There’s no need to use the bucket in the laundry to flush the loo. Just press the button at the top of the cistern and it does it for you.

Don’t shake hands with everyone you see in Blackwood, they’ll think you’re weird. Learn to ignore people you don’t know, don’t even smile at them.

There’s no need to drop your head when entering a room, you won’t hit your head, not even when standing fully upright.

Having all your colleagues and work tasks within walking distance is a ridiculous notion and no fun. It’s much better if you can space all your appointments at least 20km apart.

OK, that’s enough training for one day. More soon.

Posted by pippamatt 16:23 Comments (2)

Water back on!

We have had a few e-mails with people worrying about our lack of water supply. To put your minds at rest, the locals have fixed the problem with the spring and the wells and water tanks are full again! Yipppeee, showers every day are a real treat…let alone being able to flush the toilet!

Only 21 days left on Ambrym!! Looking forward to seeing you all very soon!!

Posted by pippamatt 22:26 Comments (2)

Mother nature out in force

In the last week we have had a mini drought, three earthquakes, a tsunami warning, a cold snap, a land slide and some stunning sunsets.

The water supply for some villages is getting desperately low. The well where we source our water from is down to about 30cm (when full it is about 3m deep). We were fortunate to get a recent sprinkle of rain but it wasn’t enough to fill up the water tanks. The water source for the North of Ambrym comes from a natural spring high up in the mountains but the spring has either dried up or there is a leak in the pipe some where. Either way, we are down to having a small bucket shower every three days, getting some local mammas to do our hand washing (using a small spring near the sea), flushing the toilet once a day and being very conservative with our drinking and cooking water. We really are Waterwatchers now!!

We have also had a series of earthquakes recently with a big one happening on Tuesday morning (7.0 on the richter scale). The big quake went for about 30 seconds shaking the whole house from side to side. Around 3 or 4 hours later an old man and a blind man came ambling up the hill with all their possessions (rice, clothes, pots, etc) as a tsunami warning had just come in from a nearby village (50 min walk away). We had a bit of chuckle with Nurse Rose’s family about the sudden exodus from the village (especially given that a tsunami would have hit at the very most 1 hour after the earthquake) but thought we should use the teleradio to get the straight story. Sure enough we heard that the tsunami warning had been cancelled and if a tsunami had of come, it would have happened soon after the earthquake (ie hours before people started evacuating from their houses!). We rushed down to tell our ‘family’ the news of the cancelled warning and found they were moving their last load of possessions up high into the mountains. They had already moved all their pots, clothes, pictures, photos, suit cases, etc and were about to move their mattresses to sleep in the bush for the night. They all had a good laugh when they realised they had moved all their stuff up the hill for no reason.

That night there were a few more smaller earthquakes. We awoke to a huge crashing sound and thought a tree had fallen close to our bungalow. We couldn’t see anything nearby but in the morning found that about 50 m from our bungalow a whole hill side had collapsed, taking a number of trees with it!

Yesterday was cold! I know we shouldn’t complain – it wouldn’t even have been close to Melbourne or Adelaide weather but we had our full winter woolies on and slept under our sleeping bag and blanket.

As a final gift, mother nature gave us probably the best sunset we have seen yet!


Posted by pippamatt 17:10 Comments (3)

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