My favorite thing about Maewo is hands- down (/obviously) the children. We’ve got five year olds who are completely independent; they can walk about, look for food, and cook it—all on their own… as five year olds… Expert bush whackers, professional tree climbers, and certified BAD-ASSES, these Ni- Vanuatu children on Maewo continue to blow my mind every day.
On Fridays, when school is over a plan is made and a squad is compiled. It’s decided on this particular Friday, we’re going to the Fence Bullock (or cow paddock? Farm?) to eat nakavika, something like a flowery apple. Glatina, Tanisha, Lavlyn, Kavina, Keisha, Salini, Owen, and I change out of our school clothes, grab our bush knife and half-sacks, and head to the bush. We climb up the hill to pass through Rarava, a giant water taro garden area where there is a beautiful river sourcing the purple root crop with life. We find Estella and Chief Clifford who are pulling out taro for Sunday because Sundays are lap-lap days.
We say hi, cross the river, and begin to gather these fan-like leaves to wrap our nakavika. Tanisha chops a burao branch and peels off its bark to use as rope. Something like 40 minutes later, after hiking in the bush, we reach the Fence Bullock. We begin the search for nakavika; we find a nakatambol tree and Salini grabs some wood and begins stoning the fruit to make them fall down. We find a nangai tree, Kavina breaks the hard nut open with her bush knife.
The squad broke into two groups when we reached the Fence Bullock and after rounding half the farm, we find the other group by the house on top. This is also where we find a nakavika tree bursting with lush red fruits waiting to be eaten.
The girls squeal in delight and grab bamboo sticks and begin poking the nakavika as they rain down on us in sweet bunches. Owen climbs the mandarin tree and sacks the tangy -sweet gold down to open hands. Our bellies are filled with fresh fruit, but we haven’t roasted our wild yams yet. The girls go look for more nakavika while Owen and I (mostly Owen) start a fire to roast the yams.
While we wait, we hear the girls singing out as they come jumping and running happily back. They didn’t find any more fruits so they sit down and begin parceling the ones they found with the fan-like leaves and fastening them with the burao bark. Everyone’s laughing and having a great time. I look at these kids and I sit quietly in awe. Such beautiful children, so smart and able— they are the most wonderful beings I’ve ever met and I love them all.
The sun begins to gleam and its rays shimmer through the scattered trees. As the fire begins to die, the smoke creates an illusion of glimmering rain, the afternoon breeze alerting us that it’s time to go home. We quickly divide up the wild yam, fill up our half-sacks, and begin to head down back to the village. Each of us with lots of nakavika to share with our families, a bush knife in the right hand, and a roasted wild yam in the left. We fly down the hills and arrive home as the sun is setting, always making it back to the village just in time. I feel blessed to have spent another beautiful day in paradise with my little warriors.