Monday, September 1, 2008

Magic of the Washtub Bass

"You will remember this for long time" Anna said not as a question but more like a statement as she held my hand swaying to the beat of the washtub bass. I thought about it as I gently held her strong hand in mine, watched the light fade and old ladies dance to the rhythms of Vanuatu and replied with a smile in my heart, "Yes, yes I will."

We were on the beach below the village of Nebul where we landed dinghies onto the rocky sand and guided them up to high tide with the help of local men onshore for the past few days to go to the festival. Tonight was a potluck farewell party of sorts. Many of us had been there longer than 5 days and the festival that had called us here was over.

I have been nowhere else in the world where we have shared food and danced under moonlight skies to a string band that walked from two villages away, carrying ukuleles, a guitar, a washtub bass and a variety of other instruments while fireflies head for the stars and women hold hands and dance together when the darkness falls. "Chchch, chchch", the ladies hiss while we move our feet forward and back slightly turning our hips, as they Ni-Van women have likely done for hundreds of years. Some sing the Bislama words to a song I interpret are about love and beautiful Vanuatu. I'm not sure if it is for my benefit or because they love the tune.

Throughout the evening they ask where my husband is. A perplexing question for me, as I do not see many of their husbands anywhere. He is drinking kava I respond, with Zebulon, (Gar's new best 19 year old friend). "He is there", the women point enthusiastically many times throughout the night. They don't ask when we all can see him chasing the kids and trying to pull them up to dance with him. Usually they play "run away" and then return as dance partners. Shy boys hold his hands and move their hips and feet and copying Gar's expressions.

"Maybe you will have children next year" the women murmur as we move to the beat and they watch my husband with their children. "Maybe next year," I whisper, because it is easier to offer the possibility and also because I loving watching how much the kids love him. Auntie May, a round soft lady with a black mole on her nose, squeezes my hand and tries to lead me to something that involves waltzing to a string band. She squeals when I try to spin her and I can see our smiles, even with no light.

We have been dancing for a couple of hours, most of the other cruisers have dinghied back to their boats and taken empty plates and cake pans home with them. I linger a little longer, knowing this is the end of the magic of Nebul and tomorrow everything will be different. "Last one", the ladies who are still dancing with me whisper. Women older than me hold both of my hands and two kids cling to my skirt as I move my feet searching the sky for fireflies and storing my memories for a long time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your journey is truly fantastic! I will be checking in often to look for new posts and to see where you are. I only wish I had know about your trip earlier so I could have been following you from day 1.
Enjoy the experience, keep sharing.

Dan Billings