2008 South Pacific, Vanuatu
Videos from this trip
Vanuatu is an archipelago between New Caledonia and Fiji, about 1 600 km off the coast of Australia. Around eighty islands are inhabited and people are speaking there well over a hundred indigenous languages. A lot of languages means also a lot of different customs, traditions and lifestyles. And because the vast majority of the population lives in villages, which for decades have not changed much, it is a really different world compared to the our one.
I set off for Vanuatu at the end of 2008, during the time I lived on Wallis. All I had was some contacts to missions in different islands and one month of time to discover what is it like in Vanuatu. I spent about a week on Efate, the main island of the country. More specifically, it was in Montmartre and Lololima, two missionary schools a few kilometers from Port Vila ... and that's already pretty much in the wilderness. Especially Lololima ... rainforest by your doors, incredibly beautiful azure waterfalls hidden in the jungle just a hundred meters from the mission. Around there a flowing river full of shrimp and hardly I will ever eat fresher ones than those I ate there. I have spent my time there with a dozen of young boys of my age from all over Vanuatu, who were preparing to enter the seminary. Would that be a heaven on Earth? Maybe ... in any case, every day we eat the same thing: boiled manioc and papaya ... and malaria prophylaxis drugs. But that goes with it. From Lololima I went back to the "civilization" in Montmartre. With Sacred Heart brothers, who lead a missionary school there, it was really fun. One of them took me to a journey around the island. By car, of course. Efate can not be walked around on foot in a day, as Wallis. Saturday night is dedicated to a "soirée" around kava. I must admit that Vanuatu kava is the best.
For some ten days I moved on to Tanna island, to the mission in Lowanatom. Here we are the last outpost of electrification, so we luckily have the current, but even better is that some twenty meters from our doors we have a tropical coral reef ... and brother Antonio is a guide that knows perfectly its secrets. The food is a little more varied than in Lololima, but volcanic ash from the local volcano is falling into it. Mount Yassur is announcing itself from the other end of the island. One day I went to visit it. A spectacular sight. The next day we go with brother Antonio to missions in Lamlu and Imaru in the center of the island, the "middle-bush". One has to pass through the rain-forest, following tiny footpaths, through bamboo villages. We go barefoot, it is really better than with shoes. Strange feeling ... as if time had stopped. Time ... back then, I could not even imagine I will be back in this mission in five years to work as a computer science teacher with the local children. Life is full of surprises, isn't it?
The last island of my Vanuatu missionary journey was Espiritu Santo. I have been taken in charge by the Marist sisters (SMSM) in the school of Saint Michele not a long way from Luganvile. On that occasion I have visited Fanafo, the Jimmy Stevens village in the center of the island. Even after all those years, his flag still flies there and, quite proudly, guys are walking around in nothing but their nambas. Here we are in the "brousse", the jungle, as they call it here. Just for the feeling I left myself convinced to go diving to the Million Dollar Beach, where Americans during the war inadvertently created an artificial reef of military equipment thrown into the sea. Pretty sight indeed with all the coral fishes. On the beach I cut by accident my toe with a sharp piece of military junk ... apparently American guns are dangerous even after sixty years. Luckily one of the nuns is a doctor and puts my toe back together again. After a week with the missionary nuns I say them goodbye with a heavy heart ... and it is also a goodbye to the whole Vanuatu. Some of the friendships that I have established here, will persist for long years and will affect my future life.