Yesterday as I was driving to town, I slowed a little as 2 small pigs ran across the road in front of me and started browsing on the verge.
People walked and drove by unconcerned. The presence of the pigs rasied as little interest as it would have had they been dogs.
Vanuatu is a pig-loving country!
Pork is quite a large part of the diet, pigs themselves are quite valuable, and they impact life here in many ways.
If a family gets together for a festive occasion, it's normal to have at least one roast pig shared between all present as part of the meal.
I read in the local newspaper of a man who had commited a petty crime getting his sentence reduced because he had performed a custom ceremony (showing his repentance) and presented a number of gifts – including money and a pig – to his victim.
The national Coat of Arms features a pig tusk, even the flag of Vanuatu has one on it. A Chief might wear an especially fine specimen or two on a necklace. There is a jeweller in Port Vila specialising in jewellery (mostly bangles with silver or gold and precious stones) made from pig tusks. Expect to pay from 1,200 to 3,000 USD and more for a highly polished and enhanced finished tusk as a bangle.
In the villages there are elderly women whose sole job is looking after a pig. The family provides her with housing, food and clothes, and she cares personally for the one animal. Often for many years until the tusks have grown full circle and more.
There are island language words that describe how close to a circle a tusk has grown.
And pig tusks are money.
Yes, you can use them as a medium of exchange, and especially on the outer islands people regularly do so. On at least one island there is even a “bank” containing probably thousands of tusks.
You and I are accustomed to seeing images of thick metal doors on massive hinges which seal the gold and money of a bank away from would-be thieves. The tusk bank is a “grass hut” (literally a house constructed of wood and palm leaves) where bunches of tusks hang from the roof by cords made from coconut husk, or hang on wooden pegs. It give a whole new meaning to the term “piggy bank!”
There is no safe, no locks. Converted to fiat currency there are hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – worth just hanging there for all to see. Nobody tries to steal because everyone is convinced that the tusk bank is protected by spirits. It's not worth the risk of certain retaliation from those spirits.
How does this add to your life?
Think about it. Are these tusks any less secure, any less useful, than fiat currency or crypto currency?
I am not suggesting that you invest in tusks. My wife Adeline did buy one she liked at a market. It had not been polished or shaped, and at about USD400 was relatively cheap for a full-circle-plus tusk where the point well passes the base. She is an artist, so she used a hand-held electric grinding tool to clean it up and polish it herself. She wears it as a bangle without further adornment, but is looking forward to the “one day” when I will add a silver point and cap for the base. (I used to make jewellery on a former life, but I need to rebuy the tools and materials I need for that.)
So today's email merely offers a hopefully interesting insight into a different way of doing things.
Yes, and to help you see that when you live here in Vanuatu, your life view will be expanded in so many interesting ways.
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Lance in (piggy bank) Vanuatu