When Sefo and I went to Wallis in January, I stayed for 2 weeks. I then left to return to Australia for a while, and Sefo stayed to find a job.
These 2 weeks were full of ups and downs! Let me share a few to hopefully paint a bit of a picture of this relatively unknown place...
In Wallis they have beautiful fresh flowers and the ladies make up wreaths which they wear around their necks to give them a nice perfume. Men and women both enjoy wearing them. They are given as gifts and if you arrive at the airport you are sure to be given a few! When we arrived at the airport Sefo's mother picked us up and gave us a few of these wreaths to wear around our necks. They smell lovely,but their smell is also very strong. Sefos mother is excellent at making them (and uses the most beautiful flowers from her own garden).
The country is Catholic. All of the locals are Catholic and worship to the Virgin Mary. There are beautiful statues all around and church is a big part of their culture. Before leaving Australia I asked Sefo if there were any particular clothes that I needed to wear to church, as I knew it was tropical I was taking all of my summer clothes. I had been to church with Sefo in Australia and knew that everyone here wears anything that they feel comfortable in. Sefo said no. I should know by now that boys dont really think a lot about clothing!! Unfortunately for me when it was time to go to church I put on a pretty singlet top. His mother saw it and asked (via Sefo as we dont speak the same language) if i had anything more suitable. Sefo asked me to show her all of my tops that might be suitable. In a procession that followed I held up each of my tops and his mother shook her head at each one!! In the end we settled on the original one I was wearing, despite it exposing my shoulders. As we were leaving the house, Sefo's dad looked at me and said something which I couldnt understand but which sounded quite brash. I asked Sefo to translate and he said that his dad was just wondering if I had anything more suitable to wear. After the whole debarcle of trying settle on a top which got his mothers approval, I really couldnt take, what I perceived to be, critisism.
Im a fairly sensitive person and his fathers comments, combined with me feeling like I was letting Sefo and his the family down (despite not really knowing any better!) bought me to tears. I was so embarrassed, but I really dont know how to stop crying once I had started. Sefo didnt seem to think my top was a very big deal and tried to reassure me that it was fine, but it was just a little bit too much for me! I had a short drive to the church to compose myself before I knew I was going to be introduced to a lot of locals (and extended family), and now knowing that I was not suitably dressed. What a disaster. We got to church, and I was the only white person there which made people look at me even more (and probably notice my clothing, although in retrospect maybe looking different meant I might get away with wearing different clothes!) Im not sure where the French people go, or if they dont attend church.
Every week at Church Sefo's father helps the priest with the service so his mother, Sefo and I sat up the front, with our handheld fans while I watched all the other locals arrive. They were all wearing big tops (mostly white) which looked lovely on them, and they wore anything on the bottom, many bare feet or in thongs. It was so hot inside. I fanned and fanned. We stood, sat, knelt. There were prayers and there was singing and guitar playing and it really was lovely. Until everything started going fuzzy. It was so hot and the smell of the flowers around my neck were making me feel hot and itchy. I knew I was going to faint if I didnt sit down. I whispered to Sefo, asking if I could sit. He said no. I said I was going to faint. He took one look at me and said I should sit down. Apparently his mother later said she thought I was being lazy! When Sefo explained to her that I was going to faint she was very understanding. My gorgeous fiance said that part of him wished I did faint because then he could have played the hero and carried me outside! I thought I'd had enough attention paid to me already!!
Kareoke is a popular Saturday night pastime!
Sefos friends, a married couple with 2 lovely boys, have a friend who comes to their house with his amazing Kareoke set up! It is set up outside and they put a big projector screen against the house, with fancy computers and massive speakers! They have 3 microphones and some really daggy 70s and 80s music!! The music is a mix of English and French songs, and although they dont speak English they certainly know all of the words! It was funny as they would give me the microphone every time an English song came on, but because the music was so old I really didnt know many of the words! They would all be singing along while I would be reading but have no idea of the tune! The only one I really knew was Kylies 'Locomotion'! They set up a table outside and cooked up a nice BBQ -the boys all sat at one end and the girls at the other. I went to chat and sit with Sefo for a while - until he pointed out that I should rejoin the girls and they dont tend to mix it up there!! I think it might be a chance for them to have a girls night and a boys night - but all together!!
They have supermarkets in Wallis with lots of different food, just not many different brands of hte same foods. The cost of living is quite expensive though so most families have access to a plantation where they grow their own food. Sefo's family have a plantation where they grow taro, yam, breadfruit, pineapples, bananas. There are coconut palms everywhere and mangoes also in his backyard! Often the bird get the fruit, especially the pineapples but the fresh fruit is amazing! The starchy vegetables are something that taste really different for me, and I'm hoping that I will get used to it.
Due to the French influence they have lots of bread - baguettes, pane chocolate, croissants! Yum! They also eat lots of pork, chicken and rice.
On Sundays (church is Saturdays afternoon usually), Sefo's family normally makes an Umu, which is where they cook food underground, wrapped in banana leaves. They cooked food in coconut milk, which they make themselves and often cook a whole piglet. Cooking the food this way adds a strange smokey taste - something else to get used to!
The island is tropical - a bit like Queensland hinterland. WIth palms, green long grasses and blue skies- until they turn grey with an afternoon storm! Its much hotter than Fiji/Cairns, and probably more like Darwin (although I've never been there). There is one set of lights and one roundabout. There are no road signs, but most of the roads are paved. But beware when driving (on the right hand side of the road!) of pigs! There are not many police but there are also not many cars. People drive all the time, there arent many walking or riding bikes, probably due to the weather. The main island has beaches, but not particularly beautiful ones. Sefo said that the people have used a lot of the sand for making concrete -to the detriment of the beaches. But its only a 10 minutes boat ride away to some smaller islands. And these really are a tropical paradise. White sand, blue/green clear water. The best snorkelling I have ever seen.
Sefo and I went and camped on one of these islands for 2 nights. His grandmother had built a hut there, so they keep chairs, have a table and have rigged up some deep freezers to catch rain water so after a day in the water you can have a wash to get rid of the salty water. We made fire to cook a BBQ (the fish Sefo had caught spearfishing). We lugged a tent from Australia and plan to do quite a bit of camping when I move there - waking up to the water lapping at the sand a few metres away is just beautiful. We spent the days snorkelling - cliffs of coral and the most amazing tropical fish. Sefo has a spear and he sinks to the bottom, holding his breathe and waits for the fish to come. Then...POW,,,we have lunch/dinner! Its amazing to watch him underneath me holding his breathe, silent and waiting. A real hunter! I cant wait to get back to the little island and do some more camping with Sefo.