Capsule Stories IV: Departure Moments Accompanied by Flashbacks

Sign My Shirt? Port Narvin, November 2014

For some odd reason, when we were waiting for the plane that would take us off of Erromango for the last time, Don (Peter’s counterpart and now our good friend) asked us to sign his shirt. Peter signed first, then handed me the marker. The moment I had the shirt signed, I was pulled into the throng of hugs and goodbyes as I was ushered onto the plane, the marker in one hand, its cap in the other. At the last moment, Don managed to reach through and grab the marker. As I stared out the window of the plane, Peter gets my attention to tell me “I told Don you’d end up stealing the cap to his marker.” I looked down to see that the cap was indeed still balled in my fist. Now it’s a month later and I’m typing this on one of the planes carrying us from Thailand to Utah, and I still have it.

Don and Peter Nesi preparing kava, 2013.
Don and Peter Nesi preparing kava, 2013.

Nothing Gonna Slow Us Down Erromango, Nov. 2014

When our aunties, mamas, and papas sang a farewell song to us over a breakfast we couldn’t touch for lack of being able to control our sobbing; then that song starting the waterworks every single time we heard it. Exhausted by the farewells, as they all joined us on the 7 hour hike out of our village to the airport we insisted no tears while we walked. This meant they could not sing that song. Instead, we taught them Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride.” We sang, whistled, and hummed it together, laughing and giggling all the way to the flight that would carry us away from Erromango.

"I've got to keep on MOOOOVIN'!"
“I’ve got to keep on MOOOOVIN’!”

I Scream, You Scream, Some Don’t Scream for Ice Cream Ipota, Nov. 2014

When we had the opportunity to share ice cream with our Erromangan brothers and sisters—the first time they had ever had ice cream (or ANYTHING cold at ALL—just think about that for a minute) in their lives. We (unsuccessfully, mostly) tried to capture the looks on their faces as this sweet treat burned their tongues with its strange frozenness. Our oldest sister (11 years old) tried her best, but could not do it. Before long, most of her ice cream was added to our papa’s bowl.

A little brother (3 years old) would close his eyes, stick his tongue out, and sloooooowly move his spoonful of frozen toward the tip of his tongue like it might do something unexpected at any moment.

Just when we were sure they all hated it (though we didn’t mind, it was still worth watching them attempt it), Nesi (10 years old), emerged from the corner where he had been quietly munching, his empty bowl held carefully in both hands. He walked up to Peter to inquire, “So, how much does this ice cream cost?” We laughed and Peter told him the price, adding, “That’s why education is so important! So you can get a good job that pays enough to be able to eat ice cream every day!”

SO COLD! IT BURNS MA FINNERS!
SO COLD! IT BURNS MA FINNERS!
MMmmm.....so what do I have to do to be able to eat ice cream EVERY DAY???
MMmmm…..so what do I have to do to be able to eat ice cream EVERY DAY???
That wasn't so bad....once it was melted!
That wasn’t so bad….once it was melted!

Flashback: An Adventure Any Boyscout Would Be Ashamed Of Port Narvin-Ipota, 2013

My first time making the trek from Ipota, the location of the airport, to our village (rather than going on the ass-numbing boat ride)— We leave later than planned, but it’s a beautiful day. Raining off and on, we are kept cool, if wet. Most of our luggage is travelling by boat, so we barely have anything to carry; just water, some small snacks, and our mobile phones. Six hours after we left Ipota, we reach Cook’s Bay with just the hike over the mountain between us and our village. The sun is just beginning to go down. Friends in Cook’s Bay ask us to spend the night before hiking up and over the hill because it is getting late. We consider their offer, but we are both aching for our own bed. We trudge on.

Not long after we began up the hill, two unfortunate things occurred: 1) the calm, cooling rain turned into a downpour, turning the steep dirt path into a muddy slip and slide that would be sufficient for snowless skiing; and, 2) being relatively near the equator as well as under a dense canopy, “the sun starting to go down” suddenly turned into just plain dark.

So we hiked up and over an unfamiliar and steep and impossibly slippery hill at night in the rain, with terrible shoes (Peter in water shoes, me in soaked tennis shoes), and no light other than the pathetic torches on our mobile phones—and it was all we could do to keep the phones from getting soaked in the rain.

Our host family (still new to us at the time) called us every 10 or 15 minutes, tracking our progress like worried parents, but also making it more difficult to focus on the difficult climb due to adding the struggle of answering the phone so often. Eventually they dispatched Papa Joe to meet us close to the top of the hill and guide us down the other side.

It wasn’t until the next time I made that hike that I learned I was on a slippery path on a mountain with steep drop-offs, often on both sides of where I was walking—in the rain—at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Just a few hours into my first hike between Ipota and Port Narvin. Aaaah those naive and joyful moments, about to be crushed. (dundundun)

Flashback: She* Gives Me Fever Port Narvin, 2014

When all three Erromango volunteers got dengue fever in succession. Corey first: 106°f fever in the sweltering heat of March in the tropical Southern hemisphere; Peter second, an equal fever and inability to move during the nice, cool, but violent weather of Cyclone Lusi; Me third, 104°f fever that begins as soon as the sweltering heat returns, this time the heat accompanied by renewed humidity and me by a body covered in hives—oh and by frustration/envy of Peter who barely noticed the cyclone go by and enjoyed constant cool wind throughout his fever.

Cyclone LUSI! (those little outlined dots are Vanuatu's islands. Erromango is toward the bottom of the 'Y')
Cyclone LUSI! (those little outlined dots are Vanuatu’s islands. Erromango is toward the bottom of the ‘Y’)

*’She’ because, if I remember right, all mosquitoes that bite you are female. And, of course, dengue is transmitted through mosquito bites.

dengue-fevermoskit

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