Monday, September 04, 2006

Port Vila, Efate Again

Port Vila, Efate (8/31 - 9/4)

We happened to be in town on Friday night (Sept 1st), when we heard about some dancing culture show that the USP rugby team (University of South Pacific) was putting on to raise money for a rugby trip to Fiji.  The tickets were only 500 vatu (about $5 US) each, and the show would included dances from all of the South Pacific Islands, put on by USP students.  You'd think we, along with all the other cruisers, would've learned by now ... we all showed up 'on time' ... and wouldn't you know it, us whities were the only ones there!  About a half hour later locals began arriving, and even they were early for "Island Time".

The event was held at a local 'club'; with a bar, t.v.'s, and gambling downstairs, and a stage area upstairs.  The stage had been decorated with randomly placed balloons -- looking like something an eight year would do.  Laughing, I said to Chris, "It's obvious the rugby boys are the one's who did the decorating!"  The two MC's for the night were a lovingly looking ni-Van women, elegantly dressed, and "Bianca", a cross-dresser, with just a bit too much bouncing energy.

The show started nearly two hours late ... truly island time, but was quite entertaining.  Students from Tahiti, the Solomon's, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, PNG, and Vanuatu performed local dances, songs, and music.  It was a lot like watching a high school talent show, but the energy and laughter were catching, and the traditional dances still remarkable.  The difference between the college men and village men really emphasizes how difficult (physically) local village life is;  while the college men appeared soft and many of them just a bit overweight, village men are typically either pure muscle, or merely skin and bones, but with minimal flab.  Our favorite performance of the evening was the ni-Van string band.  A boy about eight years out came out with the group carrying a large wooden box, with a stick strung with a string, attached to it.  I had no clue what that box could be, and then the band started up, and the instant the kid propped himself up on top of the box and started to the strum, the entire audience burst into applause.  The instrument is a bass, and by moving the stick farther out, and stretching the string, the bass changes tone.  The box was practically as big as the boy, so he had to throw his entire body into it.  It was amazing to watch and hear!

After the show, we walked back to the boats, stopping in at the local open-air market, to see if any stalls were still open and if we could get some fresh bread.  We hadn't really ventured out in Vila at night, and it wasn't until now that we realized a large portion of the women and children who worked the stalls, slept here overnight.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable it must be, they are protected from rain, but not the cold night's air, and they are sleeping on hard cement, with only a woven mat for cushion.  But many of the women live far outside of Vila and taking a bus or truck in daily is just to expensive, so they travel in on Monday or Tuesday, stay through the week and return home Saturday afternoon.

On Monday we went into the resort on Iririki Island to see a snake dance performance.  It was a short performance, with only about ten men performing, but it provided a good taste of a dance normally performed in the islands farther north (where we would probably not make it to).

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