July 9

It's Wednesday here in Port Vila and while the rain has stopped the wind continues to blow with some force. Forecasts had predicted an easing of the wind by today or tomorrow but new forecasts are now saying things will get ever more windy tomorrow through Friday with wind speeds of 35k perhaps gusting higher. We had planned to go over to Havannah Harbor on the West side of Efate but now we are unsure due to the high wind warnings. Some sources say Havannah is well sheltered and claim it will be fine as long as the wind is Southeasterly which it will be. Anyway, we are 90% sure we will wait at least one more day in Vila.

We haven't been doing much here, that is one reason we are all anxious to get moving somewhere we can spend more time outdoors and in the water. With the cool temperatures and rain we've been having snorkeling and swimming have been postponed.

Today and yesterday we did a bunch of food shopping in preparation for departing. Though we only plan to be out for 10 days or so (before we have to come back to Vila to extend our visas) we always like to be well stocked. This morning I went to the local market and picked up 3 bunches of scallions (which seem to be quite plentiful in this country) about 10 lemons and 20 juicy oranges we plan to squeeze to make fresh OJ. The oranges cost us about US$5 which doesn't seem too bad. Lemons were about 15 cents each and scallions cost about $1 for a large bunch of about 30. Just to give you an idea of what food costs are like here.

On the other hand, we also have a need for non-local veggies, especially green peppers which I can't live without. Broccoli we gave up on after buying some last week without carefully examining the price. When we got to the checkout counter I almost fainted when I found that 2 heads of Broccoli was costing us about US$8. Tomatoes and peppers, zucchini and carrots, herbs like parsley, cilantro and mint are also imported along with mushrooms (US$5 Żlb), cauliflower (priced similarly to Broccoli) and others which we all know and love are all here. Onions and garlic are also imported, from China, and we stocked up on those too. None of this even comes close to the prices for food in New Caledonia, but that is partly due to poor exchange rate between the US$ and Euro (New Cal being French and their currency based on the Euro).

Some things, however, are very affordable here and beef is one of them. Locally raised beef is a huge industry and the meat is very fresh and inexpensive. Ground beef (hamburger) is about US$1/lb. Ground veal is also available at only a little more as are various cuts of veal. Chicken, alas, is very expensive, though in the villages you can buy fresh (i.e. live) chickens for almost nothing. We have not done this as we always travel with a freezer full of meat so as to avoid the complications of buying meat in outer island areas. We did make meatballs and spaghetti last night using half ground beef half veal to make the meatballs.