I haven’t been sick, I haven’t gotten Malaria, and I haven’t gotten Giardia. So why has a doctor visited me? Well, earlier this month my big brother, Oliver, graduated from NJMS and is now officially a doctor! He’s just gone home to move his butt all the way from good-ol New Jersey to the sunny California capital of Sacramento. He’ll be doing his residency at UC Davis, cutting people’s ears, nose, and throats for the next five years. I often wonder how my parents raised such different children and couldn’t be more proud of my big brother.
Last week, he flew into Port Vila on Sunday. Yes, my brother who doesn’t particularly like the ocean or leaving home flew all the way across the world to a little island nation called Vanuatu to see his baby sister. After traveling about 20 hours, he landed in the city and explored for a bit. The next day, as he went back to the airport to catch a flight to Ambae, I was walking to a neighboring village with my host sister and friend trying to avoid being hit by the central Maewo “bush monsters” called Naoles.
Vonica, Nalene, and I got on a fiberglass boat and sped into the vastness of the sea. Seeing Maewo from the middle of the Ocean is magical. The morning sun rises behind the dark shadowy mountains, sending rays of golden light across the clear blue sky. The ocean shimmers a sense of calmness as the boat cuts through the glass-like water. I am so exited to be picking up Ge ge (what I call my brother– it means older brother in Chinese); I look to my sister who is equally as excited to meet my brother/ nervous to be leaving Maewo for the first time. After an hour of flying fish, soaring sea birds, and sprays of salt water, we arrive at the black sand beach wharf of Lolowai.
When I arrive at the airport, my brother is already there waiting for me. I jump out of the truck to hug my pale brother; he looks stronger from all the rock climbing he’s been doing in Thailand, but pale like a medical student who never leaves his cave.
When we get back to Maewo, he meets the fam, and we follow my host dad to go gather naura or shrimp. We hike up the hills, eating fresh cacao, pomplamoose, mandarins, oranges, navel, nangai, nakatambol, and whatever fruits/ nuts we find on the way. At night, my dad grinds Kava for my brother ( Kava is a root that can get you fud up and the way they make it on Maewo is they take coral stones and grind the kava until it becomes a juice). The kava is strong and after only one shell, it’s got my brother giggly and feeling doped. Tonight is the first night my brother tries lap lap- grated taro, stone- baked into a cake like mass with coconut cream smothered on top.
The next day, we wake up early and a little kava hungover. Vonica and Nalene have agreed to take us to the ranch in the middle of the island and are waiting at us in the village. I grab my bush knife and Ge borrows the headmistresses’s. The four of us hike for about an hour, passing through coconut plantations and deep bush. When we get to the ranch, Ge climbs a coconut tree while Vonica, Nalene, and I pray that he doesn’t fall down. Impressively, he is able to get four coconuts, one for the each of us. We spel smol as we drink the cold green coconuts, it’s electrolyte- filled water dripping down our thirsty throats. At the ranch, we collect over 100 nuts called navel, sit down, and chop them with our bush knives. It’s funny to see how useless we Americans are at using these giant machetes while the Ni-Vanuatu have been practicing all their lives using great precision to split open these egg shaped nuts (among other things).
On the last day of my brother’s visit to Maewo, we go snorkeling in front of my house. We’re both pretty scared but obviously don’t admit it to each other till after we’re out of the water. My brother gives a talk about what his job entails and about the diversity of the United States of America. Afterwards, we go fishing with some of the boarding students. Only one girl finds anything, Keyline hooks 3 fish and kills an octopus… with a stick. No idea how she did it, but she killed an octopus… with a stick. We bring all the food back to my house, the kids cook the seafood with capsicum and four-corner beans and we have a feast. We sit outside my house on a pandanus mat, story, laugh, and enjoy delicious food (yes I eat the seafood as well now.. I am no longer a vegan 😦 wah).
The next day, we say goodbye to my family and they send us off with a gigantic baked water taro filled with coconut cream and two big bags of nakatambol. We wave goodbye to Maewo and words can’t describe how happy I am that my brother came to see my life, my village, my family. Naioa hemi save se mi stap mekem wanem lo middle lo Sot Pasifik.