Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ah . . . The New Hebrides

What are the New Hebrides? That's Vanuatu baby! This island chain was ruled by a succession of foreign governments. French, Brits, and then with WW2, the Americans came in and built real roads, deep water ports, and airstrips. That gave rise to one of the most interesting aspects of this exotic locale: The Cargo Cult.

Turns out the locals witnessed first hand the immense production capabilities of the mighty USofA. They watched as tons and tons of cargo arrived daily. Trucks drove out of airplanes and Coca-Cola was stacked in piles taller than the chiefs house. It was overwhelming for these primitive people. When the war ended and the Yanks packed up and left, the cargo dried up. They did the math, and reckoned that if they made wharfs and landing strips, and stood around like soldiers with fake wooden guns, then the cargo would come back. They're still waiting. When asked about the waiting period, one believer said, "How long have the Christians been waiting? It's only been 60 years for us."

2nd most interesting fact: They speak Bislama. That's pidgin English. There are only 200,000 Ni-Vanuatu (what the people are called) and they are very isolated from each other on their different islands and secluded villages. Hence, they speak a myriad of languages and can't understand each other. Somehow, English won out, and they adopted it as their national language, but not the English we speak. Check out these examples:

"Long God yumi stanap" - "In God we stand" You see this one everywhere. Money, buildings, everywhere
"Lukim yu afta, tata" - "See you later, goodbye"
"Tank yu tumas" - "Thank you very much"
"Wannem taim plen i fall down?" - "What time does the plane arrive?"
"Mi laikem" - "I like it"

And my personal favorites (remember, "blong" means "of". As in "belong"):
Eagle - bigfala brown pijin
Dawn - taim san i kamup
Unconscious - ded
Dead - ded finis
Spear gun - muskat blong solwata
Snorkel - paep blong pullem wind
Too fat - fatfat tumas
Too skinny - bonebone tumas
Womb - basket blong pikinini

Eve Mecham was the governor of Arizona and was impeached for many reasons, but one was that he referred to a little black kid as a cute pikinini. Here they say it all the time. Perfectly acceptable, and man are their pikininis cute.

See if you can figure these out:

Piano - i gat tith, sam i waet, sam i blak
Violin - yu scratchem belli i kri

They look like pygmy Fijians. They seem more reserved. No big "Bula!" upon meeting them. That's ok - their goofy pidgin English keeps me laughing nonstop.

We ended that damn passage early on the morning of the 5th. I was prepared to come into the bay in the dark since I didn't want to hold off and wait for the sun to come up. It seemed very straight forward but all of sudden there was a flashing red light right in front of us that wasn't on my charts. We stood off in 25 knot winds with boarding seas just powering into it for 2 long hours. Sometimes everything sucks and you just need it to end. We were spent, and 4 days of sleep deprivation makes you do stupid things. After we got the anchor down in the quarantine zone and passed inspection, I pushed the button on the throttle to disengage the tranny so I could rev the engine to pump up the amps that I would need to lift the anchor with the power sucking windlass. So stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. That goddamn button sticks and I know better, but again, my head was on overtime and all synaptic nerves were sleep and food starved. Stupid. We had to get towed to a mooring ball.

I fixed it all, and actually, it's better than ever. That button will never stick again. I changed all the fuel filters and mopped out all the water under the floorboards. Barraveigh is ready for the next slugfest. Do your worst yu freakin solwata!

Capt Bobby Bislama

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