Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The Ambrym Reunion That Almost Wasn't
Life in Vanuatu is rarely consistent. Sometimes it drives you. Other times, it works ideally. Late last month, as I prepared for my trip to the neighboring island of Ambrym to visit Allegra, another volunteer, with my friend Mi Lee, I learned that Mi Lee's plans for walking to the other side of the island to join us had been usurped by her host family's fears of black magic, as she had planned to walk with her host brother. I also learned that there would be no trucks to the airport on the day of my flight since it was a public holiday. People warned me several times about black magic, but only warned me about the problems with the trucks after it was too late to make a contingency plan. I ended up having to charter a truck part of the way to the airport and pay a substantially higher fee. I also got a text from Mi Lee that she'd gotten a flight to the other side of the island to meet us at the last minute and planned to surprise Allegra. We both met on the same flight, which experienced fog and never landed at our destination. Instead, we landed in Port Vila, the economic and political capital. Of course, since it was the airline's mishap, the airline had to cover our accommodations. Two French tourists and one boy student were also meant to land in Ambrym and were held up. I used the time to purchase supplies, conduct research, and meet other volunteers. Mi Lee learned that a research paper she co-authered on fish societies and the influence of DNA is about to be published in a scientific journal. We ended up going to Ambrym two days later on a special plane that had been arranged just for us. It was also the smallest plane I have ever seen. I bought a baguette, Emmantelle cheese, and red wine to take back to Allegra's house, and we all celebrated together.