1. This date may refer to the time when the European war broke out or when France surrendered to Germany in Spring, 1940. There was a vigorous debate within The New Hebrides' French colonial community over whether they should side with de Gaulle and the Allies, or with Petain and Vichy France. Unlike French Indochina, the French New Hebrides went with the Allies. It would have been tense if they had not, because although French colonialists dominated the expatriate population, the British had their own substantial parallel colonial administration in the New Hebrides. The Pacific War actually started on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

2. Renamed Vanuatu at Independence.

3. The capital of Vanuatu, on the south coast of Efate Island about 280km SSE of Luganville.

4. Ni-Vanuatu (the initial "n" is lower case except when it begins a sentence) is the singular and plural term for indigenous people of Vanuatu, who were formerly known as New Hebrideans. Some expatriates shorten it to "ni-Van", but this is a somewhat disrespectful term.

5. "olfala", an older person, often one's father.

6. "wan boe olsem brata blong mi be i no ril brata be mi kolem hem brata from wan sista", literally "a boy like a brother to me but not a real brother but I call him brother because of a sister". Perhaps a brother-in-law, or the husband of a cousin. All first cousins are referred to as brother, with male siblings being called "stret brata" or "real brother", at least when the relationship is being explained to an expatriate.

7. At this point the narrator seems to restart the interview in a more formal vein. It could be that the interviewer, presumably not a ni-Vanuatu, began the interview without the formal structure that Tommy Wells felt was appropriate to the occasion.

8. Just north of Shark Bay about 15km south of Hog Harbour, about mid-way on Espiritu Santo's east coast.

9. On top of the cliff inland from Champagne Beach just south of Hog Harbour.

10. Hog Harbour is towards the north end of Espiritu Santo's east coast.

11. "mi mi wan boe", "boe" meaning "paid labourer" in this context. Once, a Chinese shop owner instructing an employee to carry a case of beer to my car said, "Boe, karem bokis ia i go long trak blong masta." (Literally, "Boy, carry this box to the master's car.") In Vanuatu, an innocuous request; in North America, a person saying that to a black man would be lucky to escape with a bloody nose.

12. Lawyer cane (Flagellarea sp.) I could not point out this plant, but I do recall occasionally grabbing a thorny vine while climbing a steep slope. Ouch.

13. Near the north end of Espiritu's east coast.

14. "kam doan long plen", probably parachute from planes. Possibly fly down in planes from the Solomons.

15. "Canal" (normally spelled "Kanal"), the name by which Luganville is known (after the Segond Channel on which it is located) on Espiritu Santo. In the rest of Vanuatu, both the island and its main town are known simply as "Santo".

16. Perhaps meaning after the Solomons were taken; bomber attacks on Vanuatu ceased, and the fighting moved north, leaving Vanuatu as a far rear supply base.

17. "oli kilim", they wounded or killed . In the context of a following statement, wounded.

18. Possibly a confusion caused by the Japanese Mitsubishi G4M Bomber being nicknamed the "Betty" Bomber.

19. About 10km SE of Luganville off of Espiritu's SE corner.

20. "ol rij kakae blong wol", "rij" literally "all rich food of the world".

21. Perhaps "Young Pig". The hard "k" and "g" sounds are often interchanged in Vanuatu, as are hard "b" and "p" and some other pairs of consonants.

22. Perhaps the old cowhand prank of sneaking up behind a fellow rider and putting a stick under his horse's tail, causing it to start.

23. "i stap kik we", it is kicking intensely, past tense from the context.

24. The next large island south of Espiritu Santo, its northern tip 40km from Luganville, which is about 50km south of Hog Harbour.

25. Forty-four Imperial gallons, about 200 litres or 55 US gallons. The world-standard drum, still used to transport and store fuel everywhere in Vanuatu except Port Vila and Luganville.

26. An anchorage and French Plantation about 40 km down Malekula's east coast, a total of 150km south of Hog Harbour.


Return to Interview Transcript.

©Stan Combs, 1998.

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