Some of you might read the heading to this blog and ask yourself, "where in the WORLD is Vanuatu?" Well, I can help you with that question a little. It is in the South Pacific along with Samoa. It is situated between Fiji and New Caledonia (and if you don't know where that is, it's near New Zealand.) I came here for a weeklong vacation since I had a week off from school. PC are in this country as well, so I thought the first thing I should do was notify the Country Desk that I was in country like all good volunteers should do (those of you who are PCVs are probably rolling your eyes at me right now). But, seriously, there is no bond stronger than that of another volunteer even in another country. And, they live in the country so they know the place (hopefully) and are probably just as eager as the rest of us to show another volunteer how they have it worse off than you (something we all try and prove to each other).
So, I came in on the same flight as PC Samoa staff and was whisked away to my hotel, where I promptly ran into 2 volunteers here (one is an Australian Aid the other PC). I found my way down to the office where they furnished me with my mandatory life jacket and mosquito net and I was set. Waiting around in the office for 20 minutes I started chatting with a trainee who mentioned some volunteers were having lunch down at a local PC hangout in Vila (everyone calls the capital city Vila instead of Port Vila). I had lunch and hung out with 3 volunteers the rest of the afternoon.
That night I met 2 other couples also staying at my hotel. One couple is from New Zealand the other is from England. We all clicked fairly well and headed off for dinner and our first experience with Vanuatu kava. If we had known anything about Vanuatu kava, we would have known NOT to eat before we drank it... lesson learned. In Vanuatu the kava is a lot stronger than in Samoa (where we call it 'ava). In Samoa volunteers can drink a whole bucket of the stuff, in Vanuatu one cup is enough. It is known for being the strongest kava in the south pacific.
The next day I met up again with the other 2 volunteers staying at my hotel and we hung out for the rest of the day. We had lunch, went all over the city trying to find kava packaged so I could bring some back to the volunteers in Samoa, and just had a blast. The PC had to run to I chatted with the Aus Aid the rest of the day. That night we went out for kava. We started off fairly early and had a few cups, then ate dinner. Back at the hotel we met up again with the 2 couples and the other volunteer and sat around chatting and watching tvs most memorable movie quotes (playing on the tv).
After saying goodbye to the other 2 couples who were travelling to other islands or heading back home, I was invited by the Aus Aid to visit the island he volunteers on, Nguna. Since I didn't really have the money to head to Tanna (where the volcano is) and wanted to do something I little less touristy, I agreed. He lives off the north side of Efate (where Vila is). It was a really fun couple of days. 2 other PC live there as well. The first night we all hung out and chatted over a fire on the beach right in front of their place. I stayed at a cute little bungalo a few houses away. The lady that owned the place was so nice, she gave me a present when I left (a purse).
The next day we all went snorkelling on what I would say is the most beautiful reef I have ever seen. Tons of different colors of coral, millions of fish, giant clams, turtles. It was a little rough since the tide was coming in, but it was definitly worth it.
And now I am back in Vila. I would say this trip has been great. Ni-Vanuatu (locals, or ni-van) are really similar to Samoa. They are friendly, treat everyone like family... Their houses are different, not the open fales, but more thatched or tin. They speak Bislama which is like pidgeon talk, so it's easy to pick up... though I prefer Samoan. I will post some amazing pictures when I get back to Samoa tomorrow. I know i am lucky to be able to travel here and see these beautiful islands while i am close, although living in a south pacific island sort of kills your desire to visit all of them. Vanuatu was nice because it's such a volcano country. Every island has craters or active volcanos on them.
Until next time...