Wild West or Island Paradise?

So many stories there are to tell.  First, my plan was to blog several times per week, but going on an adventure means internet access is spotty at best.  In this developing nation, it also means the price of internet is sky high.  So, like most people, I use a plug in modem, called a dongle in these parts, and prepay for service.  The other day, I spent $7US for 100 Mbp, and have spent as much as $70US for 3 gigs for 30 days.  It’s called “topping up” when you buy more data.  To make this clear, to watch a movie on a computer, would use 3 Mbp.   So, if you want to watch a $70 movie…  While I was topping up at Digicel, on a monitor was an ad for new and increased home internet speed for a whopping 1.5 Mbps and 15 Mb of data for one month of service.  So, most people find free wi-fi at cafes on shore.

Life is so different in a developing nation.  Here, people ride standing in the backs of pickup trucks, flash laser lights at airliners, and drive ATVs down Main Street.  It’s a place where you can shelter your money at any number of “banks”.   Also, real estate is popular if you don’t mind the lack of fire hydrants, and fire department that can’t afford to put petrol in their trucks.  People have been known to offer to buy petrol to get an ambulance.   This is Port Vila, the nation’s capital– a  place where the streets feel like the set of a western in paradise.

Here, people are known as the happiest on earth.  The Ni-Van smile all the time, and are friendly and helpful.  In contrast, men also beat their wives, and force them to have sex.   There’s huge corruption in government, which was recently challenged when 11 members of parliament were sentenced to prison for skimming money from donations sent to help rebuild Vanuatu after last year’s cyclone.  There is one Vanuatu on the surface, and another behind closed doors. Honestly, it’s pretty much like anywhere.  What I like about the recent convictions was that they actually happened unlike wealthy nations where corruption rarely sees justice.   Also, from arrest to sentencing, it only took about two weeks.   Crazy, huh?

Back to Ni-Van men for a minute, a friend told me that I could go to the beach at Breakers Resort, and swim at their beach and use their pool, and so on, as long as I at least bought a drink.  How did I not know that sooner?  Usually, I don’t consider myself a resort person, but it was a hectic week–actually a hectic couple of weeks.  Needing time alone, I grabbed two swim suits: one bikini and a one piece just in case.  I jumped in a bus–a minivan–and was off.

After settling in and having a few sips of the most crisp sauvignon blanc I’ve ever tasted, a male server approached me while I was resting on my lounge chair, and asked where my husband was.  Seriously, this was my get away from everyone day.  This was my day to reconnect with myself.  But, the staff is made up of underpaid Ni-Vanuatu workers.  They must think that working at a resort is their chance to get up close and personal with white women as it’s the goal of many Ni-Van men to marry white.  White means wealthy in Vanuatu.

So, I put the nosy server off by saying, I didn’t know where my husband was.  He asked if I was married.  I repeated that I didn’t know where he was.  So, the server asked if my husband was doing other things today, and I took that as a chance to end the conversation by saying, yes.  “I’m here, and I don’t know what he’s doing today”, which is true because I don’t even know who my husband is yet.  ” The server just slinked away, thwarted that yet another white woman was unavailable.

Now, those of you who know me know that I’m not married at all.  But, if you tell a Ni-Vanuatu man you’re not married, you’ll never get away from him.  At this point, I was almost ready to ask the management to ask their employees not to ask guests unsolicited personal questions.  It’s bad for business.

Developing nations are like the wild west.   Any place that is developing which the wild west was, in its day, is like a free-for-all.  Also, I’ve taken to keeping my head down around Ni-Van men when I want to avoid making eye contact.   As for going to Breakers, I realize you’re never truly away from everyone even when you want to be, and I’ll definitely go back.

Love to my friends and family in Omaha, Ohio, and the rest of the U.S., but I’m not ready to come back.  Smile


Published by: So the World Goes

What began as a data collection endeavor, following Cyclone Pam, has become an adventure that has taken me from Vanuatu's central islands on to the north, and back, spending time in remote island villages and cosmopolitan cities, all while living on boats. Since I arrived in August, Vanuatu has experienced a 7.3 magnitude earthquake and the jailing of 14 government officials, for corruption, the last of which brought a UN warning of riots. Luckily the latter didn't happen. But, from flying fish to the red glow of volcanoes, I wish this waking dream could last forever. Frequency of Posts While the intention was to blog almost daily, either being at sea or experiencing limited internet access, has put me way behind on posting. The upside is that there are still many stories to share, the lack of internet access being a story all its own. That said, life in a developing nation that toggles between old the world and the new, is both romantic and frustrating. So, please be patient as I must also be. Contact me at lydiaajohnson@gmail.com

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