It is raining and I am sitting at home in the Czech Republic. I am listening to the Vetleng band. My impression is that after all these years of living all over the world, I have become an expert at listening to music groups that nobody has ever heard of. Vetleng is a jungle music group from Pentecost, Northern Vanuatu. They play well. And they take my mind back half a year.
It has been good seven years that I have friends on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. Ever since I lived on Wallis and Futuna. And since then I could not get there. Finally, at the end of 2015, my chance comes. I leave southern Vanuatu and Tanna. A tiny Twin Otter takes me over half a dozen islands until it finally lands on the airstrip at 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 got into the back of a jeep and drove about twenty kilometers along the coast towards the mission of Melsisi and then up the steep hills for which Pentecost is famous. The weather is dry, so the road is passable. What awaits me at the end is a neat bamboo village lost in the jungle and the open arms of Chanel and Monique, the parents of my friend. Thanks to them and 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 pass quickly. We eat taro prepared in all kinds of ways, strange local vegetables, and Dominik catches a local “edible” gecko species for me. From time to time I teach his sister the basics of computer work … at least until the battery of my laptop dies. Luckily, their neighbor has solar panels on her hut, and when the sun is shining, we can recharge. Dad Chanel takes me 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, at Pentecost, kava has its true roots. It is prepared and consumed in a completely 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 to 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 tell me local stories full of ghosts and magic and in return I dig out old stories of my great-grandmother from my memory … despite the geographical distance we find many similarities in both. I learn the basics of the local language and when I return to my bamboo hut to sleep, it is always late at night. Every day is special, though all flow in a calm and steady pace of village life. And there is a great wisdom in this pace. A wisdom that we, people from the “big world”, have mostly forgotten.