Smol Nambas

September 26, 2004

Smol Nambas

When we last wrote, we were still at the southern islands of Vanuatu and headed towards the capital city of Port Vila on Efate. We had been away from the “big cities” for nearly a month and looked forward to a grocery store of decent size again.

Port Vila is located within a very large harbor on the island of Efate. The city itself is protected by another small island affronting it. With very deep water between the city and the small island, tying to a mooring was the safest way to go. They cost $10/night, not cheap, but wonderful not to have to worry about Satori drifting off while we were not aboard.

We looked forward to meeting Juliet, the sister of cruising friends of ours. We knew only her first name and that she and her husband ran a family business selling washers and dryers. After a few false tries and asking around, we found Juliet and surprised her. She was a great help to us in finding several parts needed aboard Satori – always helpful to turn to someone who has lived in the area for a while. Then she surprised us by offering the use of her mooring while we were there in Vila. Their boat was normally tied to the jetty with the mooring used only during heavy and adverse winds.

It turned out to be very fortunate to have access to the mooring, as we were to spend a much longer time in Vila than planned. You may remember that we finished a huge project while in Whangarei…removing the 11 pilot house windows in order to have the frames anodized and then to have the lexan rebedded in a product that promised never to allow leaking again! As you can probably guess, the windows were leaking worse than ever before and had to be rescued. The “professional” outfit in Whangarei that did the bedding job did not totally desert us. The owner shipped us 12 tubes of caulk and Sander prepared to work on the windows again. We left them in place and carefully removed as much of the old caulk from the outside between the frames and the lexan. He was not happy about what he found as the caulk had never even reached the bottom of the frames. With the lexan more scratched than ever, the job has been redone and the verdict is out about whether this will hold or not. We have had some fairly heavy rain since we did the job and a leak in one window so far.

It was not all work and no play as we joined several other cruisers to rent a van and tour around the island of Efate. At one point on the northern side of the island we stopped at a lovely spot for swimming/snorkeling. There was a stream running into the harbor that provided us with lovely sweet water to rinse off after our dip in the salt water. Photo #1 was taken there. We got away from Port Vila in the middle of September and headed north towards Luganville.

Banan Bay, Malekula Island is the home of a family group of Smol Nambas (Smol translates to small). Nambas are the penis shields worn by the men during special ceremonies. Other than special head dresses and anklets of clicking shells, this namba is the only covering the men wear! The chief, Willy, is the father of seven men and many grandsons. Willy is all of 79 years old and he is still the center of the dancing.

When we first arrived in the village, at the appointed hour for the ceremony, we introduced ourselves to the chief. He asked where we were from and then admired Sander’s T Shirt. This was a dark blue shirt that we had bought at the second hand store in New Zealand. It took the fancy of the chief to the point that he said; “I like that shirt…you give it to me!”

Sander said that he would think about it but not until after the ceremony because he did not want to get cold. That’s pretty funny to think about when one considers that the men then took off all their clothes for the dancing. Before we went into the village Sander was joking about the village CD, wondering if it was working. The only musical accompaniment to the whole affair was the beating of a stick on a hollow piece of wood and singing. One of the men from the village announced each dance by explaining the celebration involved…a wedding, a circumcision, an advance in grade within the village. Then the singing and beating of the stick began. The men did a quick step, stomping and circling around on the loose dirt raising the dust all round. Sometimes the men would circle right out to the guests keeping eye contact the whole way, but in such a joyful way that one had to admire their tenacity. In Photo #2 you can see the chief in the background with the gray hair (second from the left). The young boy in the front is Noah, 11 years old, the grandson of the chief. Actually, we think that all of these guys were either sons or grandsons of Chief Willy.

When the dancing was finished there was a little chit-chat between the two groups and then the meal – appropriately called Lap-Lap. We were each given a coconut with a small hole in the top for a drink. On a ground mat they placed a large weaving of coconut leaves in which they had cooked chicken with coconut milk. Around the outside were pieces of taro, a ground root that gets beaten and mixed with water and then fried. Photo #3 shows the cruisers at the table enjoying the food. It really was quite good!

Before we went back to Satori, Sander surprised the chief by taking off his shirt and offering it to him. It was a small item since it only cost us $1…so nice to be able to make someone so happy.

We did a lot of trading on the way north to Luganville. We insisted that we wanted to trade rather than giving things away. That often meant taking yet one more papaya when we already had several aboard, but the trade allows both sides to feel good about the whole thing. It only gets tiring when the small canoes come to the boat at 5:45 AM wanting to trade. Then we are ready to head for the city again and get some peace and quiet.

Now we are in Luganville and will hope to find an internet here to send this message out. From here we will continue to island-hop north towards the Solomons. The next chance to send out a message will probably be in Guadalcanal, 4-6 weeks from now.

We will be sending in position reports as we move north. You can follow our jumps on the web page by clicking the "Station locator" button. We will be thinking of you all as we continue our travels and hope that you will stay in touch with us on our Satori address.

Best regards from,

Jane and Sander