August 1, 2008


(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For a links to previous posts you can go here)

I don’t really remember much before going to Vanuatu. There are random memories of the first year of school, playing with my friends. I can’t even remember when it was that Mum and Dad decided to go – as far back as I remember, we were going to go to Vanuatu one day. (Though it was really only about a year before we left that they decided). We left for Vanuatu in September of 1992. I was 6 years old and Joshua was 4.

The last night in Australia was a haze of saying goodbye to family and being fascinated by an international airport.
In the plane we are mainly surrounded by tourists. As we take off a young guy suddenly yells out “We’re all going to die!” which I’m sure his friends found hilarious but Joshua asks in fright “What did he say?”
To which Mum quickly replied “He said ‘We’re going up into the sky!’”
I had been given a new toy, a Polly pocket, for the plane ride. On the plane I dropped it right when we were about to land and Dad had to go searching under the seats in front of us. (As a side note, if you are going to be giving a gift to a six year old girl as a distraction on a plane trip something that has pieces less than a centimetre long is probably not a good idea).

It was dark when we landed in Port Vila (Capital of Vanuatu), almost midnight. There was no fancy walkway into the airport, we walked down the stairs and across the tarmac. The humidity is still high even at this time of night. You can feel the wall of heat as you exit the air-conditioned plane; the warm air swirls up and engulfs you.

We walk to the terminal and head into immigration to show our pass ports and all that. We join a long line of tourist and watch a few people go through the gate for residents. Suddenly Dad remembers “Wait a second, we’re not tourist, we can go through that gate.” We change lines and speed through the checks, leaving all the tourists behind.

We are being greeted by Ps Kalsakau, the Principal of Talua, and Ian Scott, another missionary from Australia who lives at Talua with his family. Ps Kalsakau is the biggest, blackest man I have seen in my short life and I stare up at him with wide, frighten eyes. I am tired and overwhelmed by the number of dark skinned people I can see and they all seem to be watching us. Ps Kalsakau and Ian herd us onto a mini bus and we drive into town. There is not much light, but the moon seems much brighter than the moon I am use to – everything is lit up by this bright misty grey light. I see coconut trees, a few groups of people walking around and houses made out of corrugated iron. They take us to a house in town owned by the church and we thankfully go to sleep.

That was our first night in Vanuatu.


Vivienne said...

Hi Erin, This is Vivienne from NZ. I got to your blog site through Rachael's. My family and I spent 2006 and 2007 at Talua, while my husband Jon taught English and did the bursar work (2007). I taught our 4 kids (3in 2007 as our 14year old stayed in NZ). We are now back in NZ - Jon is a Presbyterian Minister. We will always be very affectd by our time in V. The 4 kids, aged 6-13 when we first arrived,learnt Bislama very quickly and are taking some time to adjust back to NZ life. They miss the wonderful advantages of living in a community and always having something to do out and about and plenty of people to do it with. I found it the hardest being there, probably because the teaching by correspondence was just hard work. All our kids had attended 'normal'school and found it difficult to adjust, and I am not a trained teacher. For me it was also hard to mix with the women as I was involved with the kids for much of the time,so lonely at times. Jon struggled at times with health issues but really enjoyed being able to help in so many ways. He had previously been a farmer and found that all of his life experiences came together to be useful at Talua. He found it much more rewarding in many ways than working in Parish Ministry.We will always have a strong connection with V and can identify with lots of your mixed feelings. God Bless, Vivienne

Erin said...

Hi Vivienne

I'm always so glad to meet people who have lived in Talua. I can relate to alot of what you said; I know Mum found it hard teaching Joshua and I and all the time that it too up.

Dad loved it in Talua and he was able to use alot of his practical skills as well as his pastrol ones (he also battled with his health - including many bouts of Malaria).

Yes, one of the things I miss most is the sense of community, being able to just run across to a friends house and always have something going on.

I hope that you continue to read my memories, and please share any of yours.

Jenni Smith said...

I remember the Polly Pocket story. We thought it was funny but I guess it wasn't at the time!

Erin said...

Hehe, I laugh about it now - but as a 6 year old it was devastating!

So glad you are reading this - let me know if you think I should add to any posts :)