‘ you know why we smile all the time here’
‘umm.. because you’re happy?’
[big smile] .. ‘you know why….. organic food! No chemicals! Good water, fresh vegetables! That’s why we smile’
It’s true. The water is as clear and bright as the smiles. Maybe there is something about the food; a fine bag of cherry tomatoes has kept us in high spirits for days.
Port Vila, hustles and bustles along, a stream of minivans and music that winds its way around the bay. Dusty feet sway along dusty streets against a back drop of lush tropical paw paw, cassava and hibiscus.
The market is the hub of this town. It’s a magnet, drawing families down from the mountains and across from the islands, to sell their excess produce, exchange news, and enjoy the big smoke. They will stay until everything is sold, sometimes a few days, before heading back home. Trestle tables bravely hold mountains of produce, a high tide of legs hides tiny children between baskets of banana leaves… A raised eyebrow, a palmed note, and a deal has been made. I have a bundle of eggplants bigger than the child peeking out from behind his mother’s skirts.
We are on a mooring just out in the harbour. It feels so incredibly good to be living on a boat again. She is lovely, a 44ft ft cutter that is all bowsprit and portholes and old-school timber fitout. Anna Rose. The first day was a barrage forgotten things clamouring to be remembered. The feeling of using a foot pump for water, of getting bags wet in the dingy and stubbing toes on unfamiliar cleats. I had forgotten how good ‘boat food’ is. Some ramshackle assortment of spices, beans, cabbage and peanuts that would be weird anywhere else, is prime fare on a vessel that has already eaten its way through the ‘good things’ cupboard.
Last night, with a belly full of food, I watched the full moon through a porthole, it’s the tiny things that grab you. The slap of waves on the hull as we bob away at anchor, nestled in water like mercury, wrapped up in the soft sounds of island music drifting across the night. Do you ever feel, maybe, that the skin you are in, was made to small to hold you? That any minute now, you will burst and spill out the sides, tumbling in the water and leaving nothing but a yahoo in your wake? Full moons will do it to ya.
Right now, the steamy heat of the day is finally lifting and the town is stretching out its sweaty limbs in anticipation for the night ahead. The music has started up, and the sun is slinking away behind the hills, in island style it’s knocking off early. We are too. It’s happy hour and my friend is back, smiling as usual. I grin too, as I anticipate an icy sunset beer, life is good… it must be all those organic veggies.