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We Give Thanks for Ramen, Wreck Dives, and No More Kava

Dark or white meat? Green bean casserole or yams? Garlic mashed potatoes with gravy or stuffing? Pumpkin pie or vanilla ice cream? One helping of each please; to start. We wish. Such a plethora of options were not sitting on our table. Rather, it was ramen noodles or… ramen noodles. “Ash, would you like some baked beans?” I inquired. “It is either that or tasteless BBQ chips,” I told her gently. Ah, Thanksgiving in the South Pacific. We were really missing home.

BVIs - RandomWe started our day by awaking to the numerous animals at the Motel Blue Pango on Vanuatu’s Efate Island. I put the kettle on the stove, prepared coffee, and we read novels as the surf crashed in the background. Finally, 1:00pm rolled around and we headed for Nautilus Dive Shop. After the required four pages of release forms, we were headed out to sea. While diving the Konanda wreck, we were afforded the rare opportunity to witness Plymouth colonists and Wanpanoag Indians share a feast together. Maybe it was the depth of 80 feet that blurred our vision. We did have an underwater tea party complete with barnacles and seaweed.

The divemaster, Paul, was nice enough to invite us along for an excursion into a small Vanuatu village to taste kava. Kava is a popular drink throughout the Pacific including Hawaii and comes from the root of the namesake plant. The beverage is always consumed in the evening prior to dinner then followed by rest as the main effect is a relaxed feeling. We were to meet at the Port Vila Casino at 6:00pm, but of course we arrived at 6:15pm and they were long gone. I was quite bummed, but decided that the Cincinnati Bengals never give up so I shouldn’t either. Thus, we flagged down a minibus ($1.00 each way) and headed for Pango Village, a town of 2,400 souls including squatters living in the forest. The friendly driver directed us to a shack with a faint red light on top, indicating they had kava prepared.

Kava Down the Hatch Kava Bar

We meandered into the sand floor “bar” and surveyed the situation. Four men were shooting pool as we made our way to the corner where a young gentleman sat with a red bucket and several small bowls. “Two 50 vatu bowls,” I said. And with that, he handed us two cups of the dark green substance. We sipped the peculiar drink like hot cocoa until a friendly local named Samuel befriended the two clueless gringos. SamuelAfter both complaining of numb tongues, he instructed us on the proper way of drinking the local beverage: you chug it down then spit the remnants in the sand. The pungent drink could not be described as delicious. Maybe awful is a better adjective.  Not wanting to offend our hosts, we marched along. Samuel went on to tell us about Vanuatu’s rich culture then guided us to another kava bar, this one serving a more potent elixir. Outside the establishment, sixty men (local women are not allowed to drink kava) sat in the shadows, smoked cigarettes, and spit. We patronized two additional kava bars before saying goodnight to Samuel. I wanted to send him our photo together, but he didn’t have an email address. So he came by the Motel Blue Pango the next morning and dropped off his mailing address. If just one half of the globe’s population were one half as beautiful as the average Vanuatu citizen, the world would be in great shape.

By now the kava had Ashley and I relaxed and wanting to rest. But it was Thanksgiving! So I whipped up the traditional meal. Traditional meal of backpackers that is: ramen noodles and baked beans. Did I mention we were missing home? We did our best to stay busy and not imagine the smells of freshly baked turkey. But this won’t be a Thanksgiving we will soon forget. Both of us are thankful for everything in our lives. Principally our friends and family. And thankful kava won’t be on the menu next year.

If the above story has bored you to death, let’s hope this major motion picture will raise your heartbeat. After reviewing the short film below, Ashley exclaimed, “this is so Greg.” You be the judge.

Gobble Gobble Gobble.

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. View taxis on Vanuatu’s Efate Island like the plague. Opt for the minibuses with a red “B” on the license plates instead. They cost about 10% of a taxi and will get you to the same destination in a similar amount of time. Plus, they are everywhere and easy to flag down.

  2. Prepare to pay island prices for everything (see expensive). The only cheap item in Vanuatu is beef, its main export.

  • meganmckibbin

    Um, I just now watched this video and that is SO Greg it's ridiculous!! Ahahaaha! I cannot believe that's where you were for Thanksgiving – so jealous! Love and miss, Meg

  • fofs

    Meeegan – Ashley wrote the script, not me. Hollywood will never be the same!

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Meeegan – Ashley wrote the script, not me. Hollywood will never be the same!

    - Greg

  • http://followourfootsteps.com/2010/11/25/fof-this-date-in-history-thanksgiving-in-vanuatu/ FOF This Date In History – Thanksgiving in Vanuatu | Follow our Footsteps
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