Hello friends! I hope you are all having some happy holidays this year. I know I sure am.
I’m writing today from the world’s fourth happiest country! Can you guess where I am? Extra points to those of you who have even heard of this country before!
I’ll give you a few clues.
- It’s the most linguistically diverse nation on the planet
- It’s the most dangerous country concerning natural disasters
- They invented bungee jumping
- They practiced cannibalism until the 1960s!
So where in the world is this place?!
Vanuatu is an island nation in Oceania, or the south pacific. There are 13 larger islands and around 70 smaller islands where over 100 different languages are spoken.
The main three languages are English, French, and Bislama which is a pidgin English. I hopped over to check this unique place out. Although it is one of least commonly visited tourist destinations, those that do go there rank it as one of their favorites.
As soon as I arrived to the capital, Port Vila, I overheard someone attempting to speak Bislama.
“Mi no savee” a tall man said with a Swiss accent. A local woman was trying to offer him a ride to her bed and breakfast but he could only tell her that he didn’t understand. I hopped in to help.
“Hey! She’s offering you a ride to her bed and breakfast. Tourism is a huge part of the economy here despite it being so hard to get to!”
“Ahh! Thank you,” he responded. “It’s very hard for me to understand Bislama, especially because my English is only mediocre at best,” he laughed.
“No worries! I’m happy to help. So, what brings you to Vauatu?” I asked.
“I’m here studying the culture of this unique place for the Swiss government. You see, this is one of the few tobacco free places in the world, and now they are about to ban junk food to become an all organic region by 2020.”
“Wow! That’s so cool!” I chirped.
Just then the woman who had been offering my Swiss friend a ride chimed in in English. “Yes, there are many good things about Vanuatu! We also speak English here,” she said smiling. “Do you want to see dugong, or sea cows, while you are here? They are plentiful here in our bright aqua seas. I believe they are endangered in other parts of the world. Or you can see where bungee jumping all started! It’s very impressive. Our people jumped off a tall man-made platform with vines tied to our feet.” When she told us this, that’s when I knew I was in for one serious adventure!
Next thing I knew we were off, driving with active volcanoes in the distance. “So, besides tourism, what are the industries here that support these islands?” I asked.
“Well, agriculture, cattle, and offshore finance mainly,” our host answered. Like everyone we met here, she was very friendly and happy to answer all our questions about their culture.
“Port Vila is on our main island, Efate, which has the main port. This is where all our trade happens. We used to export coffee, cotton and coconuts when we were controlled by the British and French. We didn’t have many rights back then, but we finally were able to become sovereign in 1980. Much of what we eat is from here, sustainably raised. We drink kava and eat fish and gourds that grow here. “
Once at the bed and breakfast we found more tourists waiting for dinner to be served. Among them were French businessmen. “Hello!” I chirped. “What brings you all the way to Vanuatu? Since it’s a 33 hour journey from the closest continent, I’m always curious as to what brings people here!” They smiled.
“Well, we are here importing machinery to the island. Since it is such a small island, they have to bring in machinery, fuel, and food that can’t be grown locally. However, that industry is apparently about to change.”
I nodded. “Yes! I’ve heard, very exciting.” “
Yes, but we would like to have a meeting with their council to discuss exactly what types of food will be prohibited,” they stated. “They have to import many foods, so we need to find out which ones are considered ‘junk’.”
I hopped up excitedly. “Do you need a interpreter by chance? I’m fluent in all languages!”
They looked at each other and nodded in agreement. “Well, we could always use the help. Our English isn’t perfect, their French isn’t always as good as their English, and with the local accent and dialect thrown into that mix, something may get lost in translation.”
Happy to have found another opportunity to help out, I hopped up again in excitement. “Great happy to help!”
Vanuatu is indeed a beautiful and friendly place, and if you are up for the adventure, it is definitely worth a visit. I can’t wait to see where I end up next!