The water sparkles. It is so calm. It is glassy. It is such a deep blue colour. There is hardly a breath of wind. There are no flying fishes just yet. The dolphins are nearby. A school of fish swam past on a typical tropical summers day. The place I call home is Lumete, a little paradise nestled along the coast of South West Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu. This is my true turangawaewae. The next six years of my life will be spent in Dunedin-an absolutely stunning slice of New Zealand. I have been secretly falling in love with a surburb there called Roslyn. Maybe it is because I will have a special historical connection for the next big life project-a Writing Contribution Towards Vanuatu’s Childrens Books for the South Pacific World War II Museum! You can check out this incredible project here where you can contribute too: https://southpacificwwiimuseum.com/In 2019, I will be embarking on another completely chapter of my life that will really challenge me in many ways. I will be studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin specialising in Health Sciences (I have a couple of Postgraduate Qualifications in Health Sciences from 2007). I am excited by the challenge and I am looking forward to becoming a student again. Though weighing it all up, on reflection I have concluded that losing my full time income will be my biggest challenge of all. With it comes the massive reduction in my networking skills as I give my resignations to all the community organisations I have been heavily involved with through the years. But on a positive note, I look forward to creating a completely new set of networking community. A wonderful strength to have. Wellington, New Zealand the Coolest Little Capital in the World has been my home for 18 years! I have lived and worked here for nearly 16 years. I will miss it greatly as I will transition. I have made Wellington home (in fact it is Porirua City) and really settled here; made lifelong friends who became my family and supporters and susbstantially grounded myself in the community work and contributed where I can. But I’ve been greatly fascinated with New York, dreamed about Paris and Geneva, wined and dined in Port Vila, loved and explored Melbourne and Noosa, and lusted after London and Shanghai. A huge part of me craves to travel the world. After a couple of humanitarian missions with the New Zealand Red Cross, I’ve got the travel bug. I must admit I’ve come home and all I wanted to do was get up and go again. There is no wrong in that. I felt like I have set myself financially well to do that; to travel the world, and delve into the eat, pray, love!But despite all, I have a special place in my heart. A sacred space. A tribal land. A turangawaewae. A sacred turangawaewae where I grew up as a little girl. My playtime was spent outdoors here. A little international tropical paradise. An untouched paradise. This is a very special place where special memories were formed and nurtured. A place where I learnt to work hard to garden and produced on the land.A place where my ancestors gathered and built their lives. They fished. They collected shellfish. They hunted. I did the same many decades later. They performed their traditional dances here with all their sacred rituals. This sacred place became my tribal land called Denemus. Lumete became a place where my family settled. They built their nest. My late first baby nephew was buried close to the beach. My mother Ruby and I shared tears as we spoke about the lack of basic obstetric and medical care in our area. Paul Race Isno died at 5 months prematurely as my sister struggled with prenatal bleeding; a very dangerous condition many pregnant women had to endure in very remote rural areas of the world. I learned how to weave coconut and pandanus mats and baskets on the beach. We learned basic traditional herbal medicine. We learned to look after ourselves on the reefs. We learned how to swim. We sang tribal songs, our waiatas at sunsets and listened to our famous family story of “Nitivenbetep.” We celebrated with bonfires and roasted sweet bananas instead of marshmellows on the beach. We skipped and hopped with banana ropes. We slid down hill slopes in large coconut husks. We climbed trees and harvested fruits. We sliced papayes to feed the turtles in the shallow the sea waters. We collected the thousands of seashells on the sea shore and made them dance. We soaked special young trees in the sea water for weeks to create our grass skirts for our traditional dances. Peter, my Father worked hard on the land. He planted a lot of coconut species. He faced a lot of criticism from his decisions as he took over from my grandfather who had passed. He believed in crop farming instead of livestock farming. He transformed 6 hectares of land from livestock into a coconut and cocoa plantation. In between this plantation, he grew vanilla beans and coffee beans. Ruby, my Mother worked tirelessly with him planting a lot of legumes especially beans to help fertilise the soil. The Vanuatu Government had not invested productively in agriculture in the early eighties so Peter and Ruby found relief in subsistence farming. They cultivated the land. In 1994, the first fruit of a coconut was harvested. Peter fed his critics (one of my distant grandmothers) with his harvest. There was a lot tears and apologies from her as she realised the outcome of the decision. To this day, this six hectares of fertile land has consistently produced income and food for our family. Peter ensured that our extended families and relatives benefited from his projects too. Peter became so environmentally protective too. He invested in his self education about marine life. He invested his time and skills into protecting the ocean and the reefs. He was involved with breeding sea cucumbers. He went fishing. He dived around the reefs to grow new coral reefs on the edge of them. He applied the Namele leaves as a taboo sign on the reefs to keep the locals away so the marine life could recover. The New Year of 2017 was all about family time. It was significant. The Denemus tribe had never been reunited at a single family meeting. The Denemus family came together on our tribal land, lumete to repair our relationships and to plan our future businesses together. We had so many broken relationships. We had so many fractured bonds. We neglected our land. We failed to honour our ancestors. We failed to move back onto the land and nurture the place. We left everything to my father Peter to develop the land by himself; something I struggled to understand still. An international slice of 6 hectares with exceptional water views and greenery was under developed. Perhaps it’s the best thing for now? I found myself apologising to my cousins. They had held grudges against me for so many years. I apologised to my eldest Aunt Janice-something I never understood too but it was what my cousins wanted. It was the right thing to do by them. It was very emotional. I was tearful. But my father honoured me and for the work I had done internationally. His family did the same. I felt honoured. It was huge.
But the biggest win that day was my introduction of the transformation of part of our Lumete land. There is some land being allocated to me to build a potential international childrens museum.
In front of the family, I was to head that project. This was a given order and honour by my father Peter, the Head Chief of our Tribe and Land. He believed in my project proposal. He supported it fully. He backed it. He saw the generational benefits of it. He saw a deeper insight to it. He saw the largest potential for development and understood the benefit for the whole family and the Bay. He wanted us to dream and plan ahead. He wanted us all to work together. I had to be accountable to the land. I had to respect the tribe and the customary chief. Without hesitation, I agreed wholeheartedly. The girl who is building a museum has a long term project to complete. These are her life goals. Her dream. A significant legacy. Lumete is her turangawaewae. Denemus remains her turangawaewae.
A South Pacific Tropical Paradise awaits for goals to be fulfilled.