How many people can you fit into a mini bus? In Canada the answer to this (in question format) is: “how many seat belts does the mini bus have?”
In Vanuatu the answer is also a question, it’s: “how many people need to fit?”
The answer in this case was seventeen. The equation involved laps and folding chairs. The occasion was the office Christmas party which took place on Monday the 28th of November. The math got even more interesting on the way back when seventeen people and a piano (don’t ask) had to get home without the van. The end result was thirteen people and a piano in the back of a pick-up truck. I’m not sure if the fact that some of those people were pikini (children) made things better or worse.
Though, at the end of the day (and by that point it was), more people in this world get around in the back of trucks than in the front of them. It’s a fun, bumpy and slightly crowded adventure for me, but for more than half the globe that’s just life.
Anyways, Christmas! Christmas is a wonderful holiday. Back home it usually involves snow. Here, it involves Father Christmas arriving to the beach-based office Christmas party in a kayak and throwing candy at some very excited pikini. Sleds might be Santa’s normal mode of transport, but the kayak caught the spirit of the season better than Rudolph ever has. Look at him heft his paddle in triumph over the waves!
There was an office Secret Santa. I ended up with a museum t-shirt and quite a bit of nice fabric. I feel a bit bad because it’s enough to make a dress, and I don’t have a clue how to make one, but I think that’s what it’s meant for. I’ve resolved to figure out how to turn this fabric into an island dress before I get home.
There was beach volleyball. I was whatever the opposite of an asset is for every team that had the misfortune to pick me, but since no one was keeping score it didn’t really matter. There were also baby sea turtles. They weren’t happy sea turtles. This one hit me with its flipper repeatedly. If this turtle could talk it would be saying: “PUT ME DOWN PUT ME DOWN PUT ME DOWN I HATE YOU AHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”*smacks stupid person in the face with a flipper*
The sea turtles were there as part of a conservation/attract the tourists program. Baby sea turtles are collected off the beach after they hatch and then kept in tide pools until they’re big enough that they won’t immediately get eaten when released onto the reef.
Back to Christmas. The kaekae! I’ve never seen so much kaekae! Forget turkey, there was a whole pig – head, trotters and all. And chicken, and beef, and fish, and coconut crab, and mysterious sausages and meatballs. And laplap (a sort of moist bread made from mashed kumala, taro, manioc, or banana with meat added). And roasted kumala, taro, potatoes, plantains. And salads. And pasta. And rice balls. And bread. And tropical fruits.
Mi kaekae tomas! Mi fulap finis!
Then I went swimming (and was mildly surprised when I didn’t sink) in the nice warm ocean. I got a kayak ride out to a coral atoll with a co-worker. Then more beach volleyball. Then more swimming. Then attempting to get on the kayak with another co-worker without flipping it – the tide was coming in by this point and the water was getting choppy. You could stand ankle deep on a bit of reef by the shore and then the tide would come in and splash you up to your chest. We figured out how to getting into the kayak after ten or so capsizes (I later found out that the people watching us on shore thought that we were intentionally capsizing the boat for the fun of it since we were laughing so hard… yep, it was completely intentional. We’re actually very skilled at sea kayaking and um… something something. I’ve still got bruises a week later, but it was so worth it).
(the balloons in the above generic beach picture kept popping loudly at random times as the air inside them heated up and expanded)
And then it was dark. Which leads back to the beginning as seventeen people load into a small pick-up truck and happily make their way home from Tara Beach, which is a beautiful beach, maybe the most beautiful beach I’ve seen in my life. But the people were what made the day and I’m so happy to have been here to share the beach with them.