Tropical Island Escape . . . and more
While my intentions are to write a regular Wednesday Blog Post, I have already failed by missing the last two Wednesdays. There was I believe, a fairly legitimate excuse.
My husband and I had managed to purchase a good package deal for a holiday in Vanuatu, a group of islands in the South Pacific which used to be called the New Hebrides. The trip included four nights at a resort in Port Vila and a week staying at a house owned by friends in Luganville, on the island of Espiritu Santo.
We chose Vanuatu partly to escape the stresses and pressures of life – my main intention was to get away from phones, computers, mobile phones and yes, even the social media – to escape that pressure of feeling ‘I must check Facebook or Twitter’ and even, ‘I must write my blog post.’
I had visited Port Vila more years ago than I care to remember, but the Port Vila of today I found totally unrecognisable. Among the beautiful resorts and one high rise superior hotel, we fought with the traffic to cross the main street. Yes, there were locals and tourists and cruise-ship passengers, but somehow Port Vila’s heart seemed lost to me. Beside the five-story hotel, lies the market, where villagers, mainly women, come to sell their produce. Here they sleep for 3, 4, 5 nights, or however long it takes to sell their sweet potatoes, fresh ginger, bananas or live chickens. They sleep on the ground under their stall tables, many with young children and babies.
So, we escaped to the villages around the island of Efate, of which Port Vila is the capital. Here the islanders are living as they always have, some in traditional huts, others made of tin. Nothing is done in a hurry, it is too hot to move fast, but the smiles on the faces of these people make up for any amount of time you spend waiting for a drink, directions or a pig to cross the road.
We passed schools on the edge of the sand and health care centres and hospitals. It is not free to attend school, so each child in a family is given ‘a turn’ to see if they are ‘bright’ enough to continue. The ones who don’t, go back to the village. The heart breaks.
I had the privilege of spending an hour with a small group of students at a missionary school in Luganville, on Santo, the Zion Teaching Centre, a pre-Bible school, which is run by a wonderful American missionary called Crystal who teaches bible studies as well as other subjects and Geslane, a native Nevan, who is teaching English and Maths and life skills. At the moment there are five students, all girls in their early 20’s – for now the boys won’t venture in – but maybe one day. These students are reading primary level books at the moment and what they need are more books – books they can have read to them and books they can read themselves. Sadly, I had not one of my books with me – a lesson to all to always take some of your books with you – you never know who you may meet.
There is a library in the centre of Luganville where children and adults can go to read books, but they cannot borrow them. Hopefully, with the help of SCBWI and author, illustrator and publisher friends, I just might be able to do something about this.