Vanuatu: Paradise on Earth
Vanuatu has 69 inhabited islands and, remarkably, at least 105 indigenous languages, of which over 90 are in daily use. This represents one language for every 1,600 people, the highest language density in the world. The official languages are French, English and Bislama, a pidgin language, widely spoken and seen on official signs and advertising hoardings.
To an English speaker, Bislama appears comical, almost childlike. But its simplicity conveys an unambiguous message to the reader, if not always to a listener. This can be seen in the following examples, taken from a Government building, a market stall, confirming the size of basket a purchaser can expect, a mobile phone top-up stall (there’s no time like the present to call a loved one), and a polite request to close the taxi door slowly, rather than slam it.
These need no comment, other than to mention that the helicopter on the remarkably small landing platform can be hired for nighttime visits to the live volcanoes in the north of Efate.
Ratua is a small island off the coast of Espiritu Santu. We were collected in a fast launch as the sun was setting, for three days of relaxation and tranquility. Our accommodation was a wooden hut, imported from Indonesia, with its own beach. Not that this mattered, as there were only three other couples staying on the island. One of our most enjoyable experiences was to take a wooden canoe early in the morning, to see the abundant fish in the clear waters. We were rewarded, as we were told we may be, by the sight of a large turtle, which briefly broke the surface, gracefully rolled over and returned beneath the shallow waters. The sight of the one, graceful creature, was probably more memorable than if we had seen many. On land, there were small lizards with bright blue tails and many brightly-coloured insects feeding in the ponds and gardens.
I was fortunate to be able to accompany my partner, who works in international development, to visit a small school on an island with its own language. We were driven for an hour and a half to a remote beach,where we had to hail a dug-out canoe (pirogue) from across the water, 250 metres away. We were rowed across; an enjoyable but slightly worrying experience as the pirogue was so low in the water and I was carrying my partner’s laptop. The children were delightful. They enjoyed the attention from their visitors and showing their work. It was surprising how young some of the pupils appeared. The teacher was rightly proud of them. She also introduced us to her pet pig.
Business as Usual
I just had to include this image. An interesting synergy between two businesses.