I think a special entry needs to be made for our friendly quarantine officer Tamba.
Before we left Efate we wanted to meet Tamba again as Myra had bought his children a few gifts as a thank you for him treating us so well during our stay. Tamba was the first person we met as he boarded the boat to check us out on our arrival in Vanuatu. He was a quietly spoken man who carried out his job professionally and politely. Poraic offered him a beer and we sat and chatted. This was a trick Poraic used as its very difficult for somebody to take things from you once you had given them something !! We chatted to Tamba and he talked about Vanuatu with pride and told us some places to go and visit. He left us as he had to check in some other boats but it was a good start to our stay, a very friendly and welcoming guy proud of his country.
During our stay we bumped into him a few times around town and we always had a good chat with him. He helped us out with our visas for Papua New Guinea as detailed in another entry below and was even going to arrange a meal for us at his house with some traditional home made food. As he had to work all over that particular weekend it never happened and he was very apologetic, he really wanted to do it for us. Anyway we met Tamba down at the waterfront bar the night before we were due to leave, we had a couple of beers and Poraic asked him if he would like to come for lunch on the boat the next day with his family. He accepted and said he would make some traditional food and bring it with him.
The next day he turned up with his wife and three children, also there were two other ladies who were cousins of his wife. We had joked the night before with Tamba about how weddings were arranged on the islands. Its still done the old fashioned way by offering a couple of pigs to get a new wife, the bigger the tusks the more valuable the pig !! We thought maybe something had got lost in translation and Tamba was bringing his wifes cousins as a proposition for me and Brian !! Turns out that the two cousins had come across from a neighbouring island and had come to stay with his family, the two girls would look after his children whilst he and his wife went to work. He would in turn house and feed the cousins and look after them until they had got married. Apparantly this was quite common, you look after your family come what may no matter whether they are brothers/sisters/cousins, etc. Only way Tamba could see them go was to find them a husband or for them to find their own husband.
We had a great day on the boat, we ate their local food which was baked banana wrapped in cabbage leaves with a chicken leg on top. The banana didn’t taste anything like banana and to be honest was a bit tasteless, surprising as i thought it might be quite spicey. I had two portions though as they had made a lot of it and it took a long time to prepare, an hour to get the fire hot and two hours to bake, didn’t want to seem ungrateful. We chatted for the whole of the afternoon and learnt a lot more about the island, traditions and his family. Although Tambo had lost his parents his grandparents had outlived them, one reaching 115 and the other 112 !! Must be something to do with eating home grown vegtables and not stuff packed with e-numbers, maybe theres something in all this organic stuff afterall !!
Tamba had 12 brothers and came from the island of Ambrym, he was lucky and got a good education, came to Efate to work and got a job with the quarantine office. He has seen the country change with the increase in tourism and is positive about the future, they seem to be managing it well, educating the children and managing the environment instead of just trying to take all the cash they can. Tambas father had left him and his brothers some land back on his home island, part of the land had been given away so a local primary school could be built. Poraic wanted to twin this school with a local school back in Ireland so they could find out about each other and maybe send some gifts to help support them. I hope this comes about and both Poraic and Tamba were enthusiastic about wanting to progress it. Watch this space.
Tambas youngest son was becoming restless so it was time to say goodbye to the whole family and take them back ashore. We had made a good friend and we all agreed that it was sad to be saying goodbye, we had only been here two weeks but it seemed like longer. Some of the guide books say that Vanuatu is possibly the happiest country in the world, it could well be true. The people are happy and friendly, there doesn’t seem to be any racial tension or underlying problems, they are genuinely nice people with a happy outlook, although a lot of the country is very, very poor they are proud of Vanuatu.