Friday, May 18, 2012
Friday the 13th
Last Friday I took the early truck ride into Lakatoro in order to run my usual errands of purchasing groceries, checking email, and withdrawing cash from the bank. I also had the opportunity the talk to the Cultural Center, which displayed an impressive collection of masks, statues, and photographs. It was Friday the 13th. I told the curator about my intention of launching a mural project in my village that conserves and celebrates the indigenous sand-drawings which are bequeathed through vernacular oral tradition. They were very excited about the project and even showed me a book of various sand-drawings which including instructions on how to cast them. But as the day went on, I learned that my truck had left without me and was forced to find another way home. Vanuatu transportation is often dictated by conjecture and chaos. After talking to various people, I finally found one man who said he was going to my village. He told me he had found a truck that would be leaving shortly. When the truck finally arrived, I boarded it, believing it would take me home. But after a few minutes of driving, the driver drove back to Lakatoro and we waiting for hours for another truck to transport the rest of our group that wanted to be taken to the Northwest. The plan was to divide us between two different trucks since our group was too large. But the other truck did not come for several hours. While awaiting the truck, I met a lovely woman from a village that neighbors mine asked me to come to her village and paint a mural there as well. I told her I would alter the grant application to include this plan. Finally the truck arrived and took me back to my village. It was quite crowded and one person stepped on a tea device I had and shattered it. (Luckily, another Peace Corps Volunteer is sending me another one from Port Vila.) I was forced to sit between two loud, inebriated men who would not stop yelling in my ears. We stopped a few times so that people on the other truck could trade cigarettes. People were also reaching all over the truck to retrieve things, without caring that they were touching each other in intimate places. I thought, “It's just like a New York subway. All that's missing is the Lubavitchers, the Mariachi band, and the breakdancers.” We made detours and for awhile I was worried since I didn't recognize the scenery. We passed a large stereo and a small boy dancing. I thought, “There's the breakdancer.” We didn't get back to my village until 11:00 at night. I came back feeling indignant and judgmental. I couldn't understand why the truck would leave without me and several other passengers. I had heard that this was a common problem in my village of drivers abandoning their passengers. I had not paid the driver for the initial ride, thinking that paying him for both trips when I returned was a better strategy. I never believed in the superstition of Friday the 13th before. I now believe.