Saturday, September 5, 1987 (Continued)

Back to our domestic life. We now have a nanny for our kids. Actually, she's John's, but he doesn't have enough grass for her down at his place, so I told him we'd keep her up here if we could have one of the kids to eat. Before I showed her to Heather and Laurel, I gave them a lecture on the theory of goat-keeping; i.e. you only keep them to eat the babies. She has triplets, which frolic around and harass her anytime she stands still. Amazingly, the kids have only eaten a couple of corn plants in our garden so far. The mother is tied up in various places as she clears bush for me around our back yard. As a demonstration development project, I am doing an unheard-of thing with her - providing water. If they've noticed, everyone probably figures we're crazy.


oats against tropical forest.

The rumnant part of our Lakatoro livestock operation. Photo ©S. Combs, 1987.


We also have a new Coconut Lori, whom we have named "Fang" (guess why). Our neighbour, Aslika, told Holly that we should really give him another name if we want to tame him. Actually, if you work with him, he isn't too bad. He only drew my blood once today and once yesterday. Heather takes him out every day and puts him in a tree, where he spends his time eating berries with the Mala's parrot, Willie.

Heather is desperate for a pet to be her friend. The goats are pretty affectionate, but I guess she doesn't want to invest too much emotional capital in them, as she knows that the cute little blue one will soon be a rug in John's house and one of the others is going to be the guest of honor at a big barbecue.

Big emergency. I just had to go out and rescue Fang from a large spider's web. That will learn him to make unauthorized trips to the big outdoors. His wing and tail feathers have been cut so he can't fly very well. I don't know how he got way up there about 10 feet up in that web between the tree and the roof. He must have crawled up the tree and made a break for the wild blue yonder from there. Maybe he has found a hole between the veranda and house roof where he can get out on the roof. Those spiders (we got big `uns here) have been working on their web for several months. I fixed them by getting a stick and ripping it down. We let Fang loose in the veranda, and I think he crawls out through the space under the screen door. It's pretty difficult for a parrot to waddle to freedom, though.

I've been getting Radio Canada International on my new radio lately. Even though they don't broadcast to this part of the world, for some reason CUSO keeps some schedules in their office, so I picked one up a while back. Just for fun, a couple of weeks ago I tried some of the RCI frequencies broadcast to Western Europe and the USA, and I can get some of them. So, now I know that it was cloudy and 21 in Vancouver yesterday, and Mila Mulrony (Prime Minister's wife) is in big trouble for interfering in the immigration application of her kids' teacher. Wow! If I stay up until 2300, I can get the "World Today" (morning national news) pretty clearly, and at 8:00 I can get "The World At Six" and "As It Happens" poorly. In practice, though, I am at work at this time, except on Saturday (we get it Tues. - Sat. because of being 16 hr. ahead of EDT.) When I get home from work, I can get a 15 minute report at 16:45 of news, sports, weather, and stock market (yawn) prepared for Canadians overseas. You wouldn't believe how useless this news is. Nothing about what is happening in Canada is mentioned - only stuff that External Affairs is doing in Ottawa. That means only stories about Joe Clark (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Brian (Prime Minister). Ho, Hum. I mean, does anyone really care about Joe Clark going to South Africa or the Francophone Summit? Somehow, all the other international news services that I listen to are missing these stories, except for an aside because of that coup in Burundi (I really had to get my atlas out to find that place) [Ignorance was bliss]. Canada made the Bislama version of the local news here yesterday and the day before. Don't ask me why, but they had an identical item both days about how Ben Johnson broke the world record for the 100 metres in Rome. Actually, they only briefly mentioned Johnson, and then spent a long time going on about how Carl Lewis lost. I'm not sure how this got onto the Bislama local news.

I'm just about written out, but I've got to tell you that I finally got my hog. It's a Yamaha 100, so now I've just got to gather up enough courage to ride it around. I took Holly to French Lessons on Thursday. My new counterpart showed me how the fingers on one of his hands are all crooked from a motorbike accident.

In a week and a half, I am heading up to spend a couple of nights with the Small Nambas people. Keith and I are going up with the area's Area Council Secretary to respond to a request for a road and a community building. We will have to walk in one day, but they will still have to walk down to meet us.

This request for a building is really something. These people deliberately live in the stone age way up in the hills. They got someone to type a letter directly to the Australian High Commission complaining that the Government is ignoring them, and asking Australia for a building. It should have an office, an aid post, a classroom, and (?) a recreation room! You have to walk two days to get up there. I wonder if they think someone is going to pack all the cement and roofing iron in? The crazy thing is that, besides the fact that they are all up there to get away from civilization, they could easily build any sized building they want for free from bush materials. And what do they plan to do in the recreation room? Play Ping-Pong? Watch videos? Every village also already has a big nakamal, or men's club building, and this request came from men only. Actually, this isn't the first community building request I've had. People who wouldn't dream of spending a cent on a house won't get together to build a free community hall. Everyone thinks that because they pay the princely sum of 1000vt ($12.50) per year total taxes, the government should build these buildings for them. I don't think I'm quite plugged into the local psyche yet.

There was just a huge explosion outside, followed by loud screaming. I thought someone had been injured by a shotgun, but it turned out to just be someone shooting a wild pig 50 metres from our house, with the usual whooping it up at any excuse following. I must say that ni-Vanuatu have no concept of firearms safety. Hunting this close to houses is not unusual. Rifles and shotguns are carried any which-way and pointed at all and sundry. They are just seen as glorified bows and arrows with no recognition that they are more dangerous to those using them. Kids are always running through here with air rifles.

I'll fill you in on the disease of the week - worms at last (Mother will be so pleased, as she keeps asking if we've had them yet). Laurel is infested, Heather has a few, and I suppose the rest of us have them too. Laurel is probably the source of all of these parasites, as she has to be beaten into washing her hands before meals and lets people comb her hair. Down to the hospital for worm medicine on Monday, I guess. Heather was also very sick a few weekends ago. We treated her for malaria, but who knows what it was, as the lab wasn't open when she got sick. Even here, you always get sick on Saturday morning. Olivier (Malekula's doctor at that time) checked her out, as we were all going up to Walarano that morning. In the event, just Laurel and I went. It was the centenary of the Catholic mission up there, and they had two days of custom dancing. Holly was going to go up on Sunday, but that was the day Olivier's car gave it up.

Tuesday, September 8, 1987

Just a few more words, and I promise that I'll print this out tonight and mail it tomorrow. I haven't done it yet, because I'm reading "the greatest of all novels", as it says on the jacket, Anna Karanin, by Tolstoy. It's pretty juicy, although back in 1870 in Russia, they confined themselves to not even telling you that the curtains blew in the wind. Also, "The Love Boat" wasn't the first thing to run three stories of sex and scandal concurrently. I only have 590 pages to go. I read "The Miko" (sequel to "The Ninja") on the boat (I took around Malekula the previous week) - trash that didn't make any sense.

We took our worm medicine last night. I think I'd rather tolerate a few worms. Now I have some sympathy with the cattle I've treated for warbles. It must have been a systemic insecticide, because Holly and I spent the night feeling sick and with the taste of insecticide in our mouths. It finally wore off this afternoon. We have to do it again next Monday night. Umm...umm, good! Kills five different species of worms, they claim, and it isn't the one with side effects, like vomiting, or the big 30 cm roundworms climbing up your throat to get away from it, so they say. I'm sure glad we brought "Where There Is No Doctor", so we could read up on all of this. To give you the specific dope, the only type of worms we've really seen are pin worms.

Okay, I'm really going to print this now, before I listen to "Waveguide" on the BBC. I'm still waiting for them to apologize for humiliating me in front of the whole world. They didn't even send me a T-shirt for using my letter. (This refers to an incident that occurred after I wrote to the British Broadcasting Corporation in London requesting their how-to-make-a-short-wave-radio- antenna pamphlet. In my letter, I included a reception report and mentioned that I was choosing some of their broadcasts beamed to other continents by referring to a map. Some weeks later, my letter found its way on to their Waveguide programme, on which the commentator announced my name and location and then ridiculed, to the entire world, my map and frequency guide method of locating audible broadcasts. He also announced in his veddy correct accent that (referring to me) "He doesn't seem to have anything very special in receivers; he refers to one as a . . . 'Ghet-to Blas-ta'".)


olourful woven bamboo church with slit drums alongside.

Catholic Church on Vao Mainland. Photo ©S. Combs, 1987.


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©S. Combs, 1987