Isabel took celebrating my birthday seriously; she wasn't interested in simply organizing a cake and meal in the evening, no, she'd planned a whole day of activities culminating in a feast with half the village.
The festivities commenced at 7am with a trip in the back of a pick-up truck to her family’s garden. The trip was memorable for the occasional low branch which threatened to decapitate the unwary, the drive along the grass runway where we waited for the plane to take-off and the diverse lush green bush we passed through en-route.
Isabel happily answered our gardening questions as we dug the dinner yam, picked the laplap leaves and attempted to recognise different varieties of yam, cassava, taro, kumara, kava, laplap and nuts.
While the pig was roasting, Charlotta and Patty (from Phoenix, another yacht in the anchorage) were learning how to make laplap - lots of yam grating, though they both escaped the hard work when they grated their knuckles one too many times. After adding grated coconut the mixture was wrapped in laplap leaves and placed in its own heated stone oven.
Isabel is one of two female members of parliament and while the food was cooking she gave us some great insights into Vanuatu politics, the parliamentary system versus the traditional village organization as well as answering questions on the status of women in village life from Charlotta and Patty.
The preparations finished with the kava making, and when we returned a feast had appeared on the table including two birthday cakes; one from Charlotta and one from Vanessa, Isabel's daughter.
Each crew from the three yachts in the bay, were applauded as we downed kava and tucked into the meal to recover from the dishwater taste. Meanwhile the men disappeared for serious unlit shirtless kava drinking and the remainder of the guests tucked into the feast.
Thank-you once again Isabel, family and friends for welcoming me into your family and organizing such a memorable celebration. Your generosity, kindness and friendship has made our stay in Lamen Bay one of the highlights of the trip.
Lamen Bay, Epi: S16°35.73' E128°09.81