This week I’ve done some travelling around Santo, and a curious phenomena I’ve seen is the practice of placing a bottle filled with water on top of the electricity meter. On Sunday I drove to the Lope Lope river to swim with my flatmate Liz and her sister, as this is where some of their extended family live. According to some, this makes the meter tick over slower. Things definitely work differently in Vanuatu!
At 4.30pm on Monday, a double cabbed ute came roaring into the Santo School grounds. I threw my rucksack in the back amongst supplies freshly purchased from the market and jumped in the back. Off to Port Orly! I vaguely recalled that Port Orly was settled by Catholic missionaries meaning…you guessed it, French and Bislama only for the next 3 days. What a chance to air my high-school French! I was suddenly thankful for my eccentric French teacher, Madame Roux who certainly made her lessons memorable and which I was able to salvage the next day.
A School Council meeting had been called for 8.00am on Tuesday. The meeting was conducted in both French and Bislama mostly because I swapped to French when I didn’t know the Bislama word and back to Bislama when I didn’t know the French word. In Port Orly the electricity runs for two 3 hour periods during the day, once in the morning from 6-9am and then again in the evening from 5.30-9pm. The council talked about how this is not suitable for the school, who as a result, aren’t able to have any ICT classes during the day.
I asked the head cook of the school kitchen about her daily schedule:
M: What time do you wake up?
C: About quarter to 5.
M: What time do you get to school to start breakfast?
C: At 5 o’clock, I start preparing for breakfast. I work by candlelight until the electricity is turned on at 6am. I get the fire going, boil enough water for the whole boarding school to have tea. Asking why they don’t use gas, it is because it would be too expensive and unnecessary. This is common across Vanuatu, with most people actually preferring to use wood fire for cooking.
I too, felt the wrath of the timed electricity blackouts, by heading to the showers around 8.50pm. Right on the dot, the lights went out at 9.00pm and the whole place was plunged into darkness. Groping around with wet hands and trying not to slip over, I found my way back to bed, thankfully guided by the other girls voices in the school dorm.
Lesson learnt: go to bed at 8.30pm like everyone else.
The next morning, like every morning, the first bell rings at 5.45am, summoning the village for daily mass. Somehow, I still manage to be late even though I am staying right next door to the church. The Italian priest, Father Gianni is probably the most respected person in Port Orly, even more so than the village chief. He has spend 52 years in Vanuatu and comparatively, only 24 in Napoli. I am invited to a typically Italian al fresco lunch with Pere before heading back to Luganville. The perfect ending to a wonderful scoping trip to St Anne’s.
Until next time,