September 12, 2008

The River

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




It is hot and Mum and Dad decided we can go down to the river to cool off. The Scotts and our family and anyone else who wants to tag along assemble at the gate. Us kids want Dad to find out if we can take the truck so we don’t have to walk.
“But of course,” says Ian “We’re taking ‘truck blong Adam’”(Adam's truck)
We groan. This is Ian’s way of saying we will be walking. We’ll be going about the way Adam would have – on our feet.

The walk down to the river is along the main road between Luganville and the point. That said, it’s all dirt – white and cream coral that twists and turns and marauders along between fields of coconuts and hills covered with greenery. There is one particular corner called ‘Rubbish corner’. It is tight, with a huge cliff of coral rock coming up so that you can’t tell if anyone is on the other side of the corner. We listen carefully and stick to the side in case a truck comes rushing past. Most of the other times we spread out along the road, the kids out in front in various groups and the adults behind. If a truck does come past we all rush to one side of the road and wave enthusiastically at the people on the truck.

Finally we get to Navota farm, walk down their driveway and in front of the buildings. You can hear the soft sound of waves crashing. There may be some women sitting on the veranda having a rest who we call hello to. There are chickens running around and pecking at the ground.
To get down to the river you have to clamber down a steep slope. At one point it may have been a set of stairs cut into the side of the dirt cliff – but with the rain and traffic it is a muddy slippery slope that we descend.

At the bottom is the river. It is encased by black volcanic sand and twists it’s way to the sea. We never swim in the sea because there is not reef around the beach to protect it from sharks. Besides the river is so much fun you never even think about the sea. Every time there is a cyclone the course of the river changes. Sometimes it turns to the left, sometimes the right, once it went straight out to sea.


The river is lovely and fresh. At it’s edges it is shallow enough for the youngest members of our party to just paddle along, but in the middle the adults can just stand. It is the best way to cool of after a particularly steamy day.

The very youngest of the group will swim in swimmers if they are westerners, or naked if they are Ni-Vanuatu. The rest of us swim in clothes. Then there is no need for special swimmers and it makes swimming much more modest. (I still hate swimming in swimmers because of that. How liberating it was to go back to Vanuatu and swim in clothes again!)

Finally the air gets a bit cooler, and the adults gather up our things. I hate to leave and will stay in for as long as possible before having to run after the group that have already left.
The walk home feels longer than the walk to the river. My skirt sticks to my legs and my thongs flick up stones that stick to my skirt. Joshua might ask to be carried and one of the students will indulge him because he is little and white and adorable.

At home we try to convince Mum that we don’t need to shower because ‘mifala stap swim finish' (we already swam)(the Bislama word ‘swim’ is used interchangeably for going swimming and showering) but for some reason Mum doesn’t agree.

1 comment:

Katie said...

It makes me smile to read that you find swimming in clothes 'liberating' - most Aussie kids would find it confining!