Co-experience our trip to Aneityum (Republic Vanuatu in Pacific Ocean), the 5th anchor point of an earth spanning grid together with the Great Pyramid, Angkor, Easter Island and Atlantis. We want to learn about the island, get to know the people and hopefully find an answer to this question: Why Aneityum? Of all places?
Click this link for the first page of this series.
Now you get our first update from Vanuatu itself.
Alas… no pictures in this text, because there’s no time to prepare and upload them. Time’s limited now.
We started this day getting up at 0400, because the plane would leave at 0700. Yawning, you stand ready in the kitchen of the backpackers hotel, trying to get something through your throat. You don’t feel that well at this hour, but everything is well, and we are smoothly delivered at the airport. Standing there in front of the departure board you look at it, trying to find your flight.
After a while searching, and searching again, the inevitable question is made: “What was our flightnumber again?”
“Er…. something like VU053 or so.”
“That’s not there.
By the way… there’s no flight at all going to Vanuatu at 0700.
Pfeww… so at least that’s right (imagine if it wasn’t!), but still there’s the nasty feeling that something’s wrong. So the airport-infodesk is the next logical step. Then it appears that this particular flight number has been re-booked to another company, from VU053 of Air Vanuatu to NZ788 from Air New Zealand, changing departure times in the process.
Oopss… The next remark then doesn’t take much time to be made: “Then we could have got up at 0700 instead!”
Allright… next time, whether you have the official ticket or not, it’s wise to check the website shortly before the flight to see if any changes were made. Sometimes flights are sold to other companies for whatever reasons.
The airport of Port Vila, Vanuatu, is small: one start and landing runway that is also used to taxi the planes. Probably the only big aircraft landing here come from New Zealand or from Australia. For the rest we saw some small aircraft neatly parked on the grass, type Cessna, and some hard to determine planes looking like tiny cityhoppers. In other words… you get the pleasant feeling that you’ve arrived at an end-of-the-western-world airstrip, just like Alaska. There are some small planes going to the various islands and that’s it. Be happy that planes go there after all, and that you don’t need to use boats, consuming all the time of your holiday.
Alfred Bani, the man working at the Vanuatu Ministery of Agriculture, has helped us a lot bringing in the many Akaija’s, and the guys at customs were kind to us. His presence performed miracles. We will need to pay customs tax of course, but it looks like we did good to do it the official way. Bani isn’t just someone, but he’s an authority here, everyone knows him ans respects him. That we didn’t play any tricks is good for both our and his image. And… he actually is a very sympathetic man.
What exactly has gone around about the Akaija we don’t know, but it seems that many people have heard about it. After all… everyone knows everyone around here.
Strikingly fun was walking through the airport hallway to customs and being welcomed by a local Vanuatu band playing traditional welcoming songs. What a great swinging and sultry rhythm and what a welcome you get this way! Wonderful! And they didn’t even raise their hands for money. Because we have some travel-experience now, in and abroad, and we know that nothing is for free. We are used to this, but in fact it’s always annoying: everything is always about money. But no… they just joyfully welcome the visitors. Well… they really made us happy this way!
Our accommodation is a budget motel owned by Jack and Janelle Dihm: Travellers Budget Motel in Port Vila. They are really kind and friendly people! Another recommendation! Unless you like resorts with 4+ stars and servants all around all day. This is down to earth, and yet all is provided for, and the hospitality makes that you really feel welcome and at home here.
Jack and Janelle care a lot about the Ni-Van, the original inhabitants of Vanuatu. Janelle told us that many ‘whites’ look their nose down on the Ni-Van. Not the open discrimination, but without words attitude and behaviour can show disrespect in many ways. Janelle is just the opposite and sees the abilities of these people, who are totally equal to the whites. Naming just one thing: quite many of them speak 4 languages fluently! So we can learn from them! And it’s not only their language skills that we are talking about.
We have had a conversation with lady Di (as we have named her ☺, a friend of Janelle’s), who helps her out when necessary, and she told us something really interesting when we came to talk about the common language of Vanuatu: Bislama. After all there are more languages/dialects than islands, and then there’s the English and French, who were and still are always disagreeing. Well, whatever: in 1986 the Ni-Van decided: now it’s enough! The long wanted souverenity became a fact, the New Hebrides became the Republic of Vanuatu, and the people chose their own national anthem: Yumi Yumi Yumi.
‘Yumi’ is a word from Bislama, the pidgin-kind of language (the official Vanuatu language!) consisting of altered/adapted English and some French words. In this case ‘yumi’ is distracted from the English ‘You and Me’, meaning ‘WE’…
Lady Di added that Y-U-M-I is spelled as: WHY-YOU-AM-I.
And then we come telling them about the Akaija-Iloa, meaning ‘We are One – I Am’.
Can you imagine that we got goosebumps all over when we heard this?? And we had been here for only one hour!
By the way…the entire anthem is about this: We are the people of Vanuatu. In our update on Aneityum we can already tell you that there will be a video recording of Yumi Yumi Yumi, played by the Mystery Island Beach Boys.
Yumi Yumi Yumi (translated):
We We We are happy to proclaim
We are the People of Vanuatu!
God has given us this land
This gives us great cause for rejoicing
We are strong, we are free in this land
We are all brothers.
We are happy to proclaim We are the People of Vanuatu!
We have many traditions
And we are finding new ways.
Now we shall be one People
We shall be united for ever.
We are happy to proclaim
We are the People of Vanuatu!
We know there is much work to be done
On all our islands.
May God, our Father, help us!
We are happy to proclaim
We are the People of Vanuatu!
Below you can watch a short videoclip we recorded on Aneityum, several days later. These are the Mystery Island Beach Boys, and we asked them to play their version of Yumi Yumi Yumi. Enjoy !
We wish them all the luck during the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games wishing that one of their athletes may win a gold medal, if it were only to present their anthem to the entire world. And if not… we will help make it known.
Alfred Bani has shown to us Port Vila, by foot, and later by car. He too reads these updates and he was enjoying the thought of us writing down what he had in mind for us to do and see, our first hours in Vanuatu: walking together, sightseeing through his city, tired, sweaty of the trip. “Now you’ll tell the world what a host I am!” he said laughing.
Well… no worries! He gave us precisely what we didn’t expect, but needed so much: A great help! A tour! A wonderful afternoon! And we may add: A friendship for lifetime! Vanuatu has already made an everlasting impression upon us!
Another first impression is this one
We have experienced India, and me (Wim) also Indonesia… and we are used to broken streets, sweaty hot and humid weather, quick sunsets and dark scary roads. In India and Indonesia everyone wants something from you, sell you something, bring you somewhere for money, whatever… and as a tourist you feel uncomfortable. Here you see, just by looks of it, youngsters hanging around, sitting and standing in open cars, in backyards, apparently without purpose. But appearances are deceptive. Everybody goes slowly, doesn’t mind time, doesn’t rush, adapts to the climate and the circumstances and always has time for smalltalk and when making eye contact: there’s always a big smile! No one wants something from you, just be seen. Like in Avatar: I see you! And in Avatar the indigenous were called the Navi. Coincidence? So when we walked in the dark through dark alleys to the nearest Chinese restaurant, we felt totally safe. Yes, of course some people would like you to step into a taxi, but they don’t address you unwantedly, only when you kind of ask for it by standing on the side of the street obviously waiting for them to come.
So long story short… we really believe Wikipedia and the Lonely Planet are right: In Vanuatu live the happiest people on the planet. Vanuatu has been given this award for the second time now.
And where is that? Yes… somewhere in the Pacific, or as we say in Holland ‘The Silent Ocean’… a small group of islands of which no one has ever heard, save a few people: Vanuatu?
So in fact this mission is already a big success, and we can now return home. ☺
But no… tomorrow we will go to Aneityum.
This evening (next day) we already had an evening with a part of Alfred’s family, which is very connected to Aneityum. We have told them the (Akaija) story, even shown them a powerpoint presentation. And this caused a conversation and exchange of information that was so nice! And important in many many ways. But we will not write this down now… But let us say what they said to us: there’s something to see on Aneityum, and they wouldn’t spoil it by telling us beforehand… So no one did, leaving us wondering…
We need to go to bed now, because the plane to Aneityum takes of at 0730, and we need to get up at 0500…
Believe us… we have yet had another great day!! We met nice, incredibly nice people.
For now we consider ourselves among the happiest people in the world.
Much love from us both to you all.
Nightnight and ‘waitsmall’ as they say in Bislama, saying “please wait a little’. In this case better say ‘waitmedium’ or ‘waitxl’. But we will come back to you. See ya.
Wim & Marianne