2015 Vanuatu, Pentecost
It is raining and I am sitting at home in the Czech Republic. I listen to Vetleng. My impression is that after all the years spent living around the world I became an expert in listening to music groups nobody ever heard of. Vetleng is a jungle music group from Pentecost, north Vanuatu. They play well. And they turn my thoughts half a year back.
It has been a good seven years I have friends on Pentecost. Since I lived on Wallis and Futuna. And ever since then I could not get there. At last my chance comes at the end of 2015. I am leaving southern Vanuatu and Tanna. A tiny Twin Otter carries me over half a dozen of islands until it finally touches down on the airstrip of Lonorore. After a bit of searching I manage to find my namesake Dominik from the family of one of my friends, a missionary sister. We sit down on the back of a jeep and drive about twenty kilometers along the shore towards the Melsisi mission and then up to the steep hills, for which is Pentecost renowned. The weather is dry so the road is travelable. What awaits me on its end is a tidy bamboo village drowning in the jungle and open arms of Chanel and Monique, parents of my friend. Thanks to them and to Dominik … just to avoid confusion, I have been given the local name Tabisal … I will remember this remote corner of Vanuatu for a long time. The two weeks I have planned to stay flow away fast. We eat taro prepared in all possible ways, strange kinds of local vegetables and Dominik catches a local "edible" gecko species for me. I, at times, teach his sister basics of computer work … at least until my laptop’s battery dies. Luckily their neighbor has solar panels on her hut and when it is sunny, we can recharge. Dad Chanel takes me with him to work in the fields and on long walks through narrow valleys and steep hillsides, to crystal-clear streams hidden deep in the jungle and every evening to the nakamal. Here, on Pentecost, the kava has its true roots. It is prepared and consumed in a totally different way than on Tanna. In the Melsisi language it is called "sini" and it is strong. Elders and young men in the nakamal introduce me into the local life and I like to compare the differences and similarities in the life and mentality of the locals and the people of Tanna. They recount local stories filled with ghosts and magic and I, in return for it, dig out from my memory old stories of my great-grandmother … across the geographic distance we find many similarities in both. I learn basics of the local language and when I return to my bamboo hut to sleep, it is always already late in the night. Every day is special, though all flow in a calm and steady pace of the village life. And there is a great wisdom in that pace. A wisdom that we, people from the "big world", have mostly forgotten.