February 6, 2009

Why don't you give me a call?

(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 blows my mind that Talua now has Internet. That I can read Rachel's blog (even though its got it's slow points) from Talua is just crazy.

When we first arrived in Vanuatu there was no phone line in Talua. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to go into Luganville (the town on our island). One of the reasons Mum looked froward to her weekly shopping trip to town, was to ring up and talk to family.

In town we then went to the big Telecom building. The foyer was a large area, with high ceilings, and big lazy fans which turned the air. When you arrived you went to the clerk and he would place your name in the queue. Then you sat on some wooden benches and waited. On one wall was a series of phone booths.

When it was your turn the clerk would call your name and tell you which phone you could use. Mum went into the booth and used her phone card to ring up some of our relatives in Australia. The number of the phone we were using was printed above it. Mum would let our family know the number and then hang up. Then we waited in the booth for the phone to ring.

It was alot cheaper for our family in Australia to ring us than it was to phone from Vanuatu to Australia. There was always the anxious wait while we called Australia, trying to work out what the time was in Australia and hoping they would be home to answer.

Sometimes Mum would write in a letter when she hoped to be in town and at what time she might ring, but you couldn't ever guarantee that you actually would be in town, or that the phones would be working. So at was a bit hit and miss at time.

I only remember using the phone like that a few times. I wasn't normally allowed into town - it was mainly during holidays when there was room on the truck.

I can remember the joy in our second last year when the phone came out to Talua. We could call at any time we wanted (well, when the phone worked). We could call on actually birthdays or on Christmas day.

At first there was a public phone near the drive way that anyone could use. It was near enough to the library so that if it rang someone was around and could run out to answer it.

Then there was one in the Principals office and in the staff room. Dad was the Dean of Studies our last few years and that meant there was one in his office as well.

I remember Mum and Dad sitting in his office, Joshua and I mucking around on the veranda, watching a game of soccer across the road until the phone rang again and Mum called us in. The pressure was then on to make those few expensive minutes matter .

Here is Joshua using the public phone in Talua.

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