12 Sept 2006
Thanks for the e-mail re COFOC reunion. That sounds a good idea to me. I’m not sure yet when I will be in the UK but if I am around I would like to attend. I sent out a newsletter a few weeks ago but as I sent it as a bulk mailing it might have finished up in the Spam box so I’ll tell you a bit of what I am doing.
I’m still in Vanuatu with VSO. I came out in July on a three month posting yet I am still here although doing a different job. VSO keep finding me different things to do tempting me to stay on which isn’t very hard to do. Vanuatu is an easy place to live. The climate is good, about 30c at the moment, with warm seas, beautiful beaches and fantastic snorkeling; the people are friendly and easygoing, the pace of life is pretty slow although that can be frustrating in the workplace. There are problems of course. Its now the cyclone season and one hit the north of Vanuatu a couple of weeks ago but didn’t come down to Port Vila thank goodness.
There are 9 active volcanoes – 2 under water – but not on Efate Island where I am. Earth tremors are commonplace and it’s a bit disconcerting to see the cutlery dancing across the table. But I think the major problem will come in the not too distant future. Some 40 percent of the population are under 15. They get a reasonable education and come to the capital – Port Vila, population 30000 – looking for work of which there is very little. Already one can see shantytowns on the outskirts and urban poverty is probably the worst there is. In the villages away from the capital and on the outer islands no one goes hungry or without shelter and they have strong community structures all of which is lost with urban drift.
But this place must be an anthropologists delight. The 200000 population is spread out on 83 different islands speaking 106 indigenous languages. Most Ni Van will speak 3 languages: their own village language. Bislama, which is the pidgin lingua franca and either, French or English depending on which educational system was followed. I think the number of languages reflects the diverse origins of the people and also that until recently, contact between communities was not common. If you saw people from the next village you didn’t stop to discuss the price of fish but hightailed it to avoid the cooking pot. The last officially recorded act of cannibalism was in 1969 but rumours abound in the outer islands.
Officially it’s a Christian country but laced with Melanesian promiscuity and a strong belief in black magic. It sure is interesting and I’m enjoying my stay here very much. Anyway, I won’t rabbit on and I’ll close with wishing you all a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year. Or if I can show off my Bislama “Mi wishem yu wan bigfella happi Krismas mo wan gudfella niu yia.”
Best wishes, John Ramsey.
PS. I attach a couple of photos. One is the view from my balcony and the other some outer island friends.
PPS. Some of us might like the idea of rekindling old flames.