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  • Arriving in Paradise- Vanuatu December 2005

    With just a suitcase each, Ciana and Jackson (my kids) and I landed in Vanuatu just one week shy of Xmas. No home, no car, no job… what now??? Hope this wasn’t a big mistake.

    We found a hotel in town with amazing views of the Harbour and settled into our one bedroom home, I think we were all hoping it wouldn’t be for too long!  The first day we arrived I took the kids down town to visit the local fruit market and to inspire some idea of what the local custom and culture was all about. I turned around to dazzle them with my wisdom and local knowledge only to discover they were both gone!! Oh Shit!

    Now in many countries of the world, losing your kids on the first day could have dire consequences, but hey this was Vanuatu “happiest place on earth”. I put my panic aside and looked around slowly and called out to them, the local NiVanuatu women were laughing wildly and pointing up in the coconut trees- I followed their gaze and sure enough there they were at the top of a very spindly coconut tree, they had followed the lead of a local ni vanuatu boy and so began their love affair with exploring every inch of this island paradise without fear.

    I had to learn quickly to allow my kids the freedom to explore and find their own safety net! Even when it involved catching a live sea snake and making a home for it in my shoe box. Ah, this snake was to be the first in a very long line of wayward animals that found their way into my home, my cupboards, my kitchen and my heart. I once came home from work to discover a “pride” of village dogs sprawled on my lawn, I lost count after 20 and then discovered some very mangy puppies that had been shampooed and blow dried were happily sleeping in a box with my WHITE bath towel to keep them warm. That’s island living- you never  know what to expect.

    On Xmas Eve  we were offered a home to rent! It was huge, and very sparsely furnished with no washing machine. I was really hoping I wasn’t going to have to take my dirty laundy to the local river and scrub it by hand! After hours of standing in line at the various utilities departments I thought we were set to go. Alas by 5pm I had to accept that instead of turning on my water, gas and power, they had turned it off AND the office was shut for 4 days! Lucky it was hot!  Oh and one other thing the house was missing was linen, crockery and cutlery and FOOD. All we had was one knife and a tupperware container that looked like it has once been a vase.

    So our first Xmas morning in Vanuatu and indeed my first Xmas ever without my family dawned bright hot and early. The kids got the leanest stash from Santa they had ever had, and didn’t care at all. In fact when I served our lean breakfast of saladas with no butter, and cheese on a piece of cardboard and our milo in the “vase” while watching the boats in the harbour from our deck, the kids said it was the best xmas ever. Gotta love them hey!

    As the kids were playing with their meagre presents and I was reflecting on how I was going to get some food when the shops were shut, a car pulled up and the local real estate agent, Sue came bustling in with boxes of linen, crockery, food, and about a dozen wine glasses, I guess she thought I would socialise more than I did.  I was overcome with gratitude and a real sense of belonging. Here was a complete stranger who had realised how little we had and shared with us her belongings. This was just the first dose of community that I was going to encounter in the two years I lived in Vila.

    Just beautiful.

    The day just got better. Within minutes of Sue leaving to celebrate her Xmas day with friends, the local Ni Vanuatu family next door came over to welcome us and to invite us to their xmas feast.  WOW. This type of hospitality was not something I was familiar with.  Next thing you know we were sharing all sorts of unfamiliar foods cooked on an open fire, surrounded by dogs, cats, chooks and one goat and the people just kept on coming. During our time in Vanuatu we lived in two premises, both times we were the only Expatriates living amongst local villages. (Ni Vanuatu is the name given to the local inhabitants of Vanuatu)

    Late afternoon we decided to jump on a bus and head to one of the local resorts for a swim and see how long it would take for them to throw us out. Guess what, they didn’t that day or all the other days that we lounged around their pool and my kids soon viewed this resort as their second home.  We met an Australian family at the resort who became good friends and continued to visit us each year that we lived in Vila.

    Xmas day came to an end, and who would have thought it would have been the best day of our lives! Life was indeed magical, we were living in Paradise, I had realised my dream and for the first time in a very long time, I was relaxed, happy and hopeful. Life was great!

    Then we got sick, really sick.

    Stay tuned

    Visit Vanuatu

    x Natalie

    this is our home in Vila. not bad huh??

    Our Home in Vila




    Published on September 5, 2011 · Filed under: Events, General, Networking;
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