I'd like to quickly address the 'Big Sista' (that is the correct spelling), the boat transport between islands in Vanuatu. While Boarding...
"It cracks me up how the people here check their chickens in a burlap sack as they would regular baggage," I said. We'd spent the last couple days island hoping on different flights where I'd experienced clucking sacks receiving luggage tags.
"Oink!" - I jump.
Jeff, "I'm thinking that's NOT a chicken."
We boarded the boat at the rear loading dock where cargo was being stored. He was right, there were several squealing sacks roaming around, knocking into one another amongst boxes containing only Lord knows what. Probably more pigs, just in boxes.
Speaking of pigs, after the 7 hour, extremely rocky boat trip (which could have been replaced with a 15 minute plane ride - a piece of information Jeff shared with me an hour before boarding the Sista - curses!), we waited road side in the pitch dark; it was only 3am which meant the sun didn't come up for another 3 hours.
"The truck will come," Jeff said. He explained further that when he lived on the island there was a truck that drove the same road (there's only one end to end) on the island, daily, and that it would be by within the next 20 minutes.
I said a little prayer.
When those headlights came around the corner I had a whole new understanding of, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Years! Years this truck has been doing this. One truck, one driver, one road, one schedule. Years. Also, praise Jeff's memory... because this information isn't necessarily public knowledge. It's not posted on the internet or on a sign somewhere.
The truck stopped, exchanged some words with Jeff in Bislama and before I knew it passengers in the back were lifting my pack and helping me in the truck. At the time I was a bit like a zombie (with it having been only 3am and just gotten off a long boat ride), so I feel it excusable that I didn't immediately notice that the bed of the truck was laced with live pigs bound at their legs and laying on their sides. A man slaps one of the pigs showing me to place my feet upon the animals side for standing.
So there we were, 3am, in the back of a very old pick up truck, with about 10 other people (after a few stops I did a headcount: 16 people). I've got my pigs for shoes, and I couldn't tell if Jeff was excited to finally be on his home island again... but only because I couldn't see his face. It was so dark! When your eyes were open, they might as well have been closed.
Upon our arrival, about 3.5 hours later and after the sun had finally risen, we were greeted by hand shakes and those cheek to cheek kisses French people do. The old people giggled as they shook Jeff's hand and the children gathered in groups yards away, too scared to come close.
"Hum-bot, hum-bot!" they shouted ahead of us, warning the others that the white man was coming.
"I'm just going to tell them that you're my wife," he said to me. "It'll be easier to explain than fiance,"
And just like that, we were fake married in Vanuatu.