I am currently living on the island of Tanna, a southern island in the archipelago of Vanuatu, an island nation in the southern Pacific ocean (think east of Australia). In theory, I’ll be stationed here to help do food distribution around the island (serving something like 30,000 people!). I’ve been here already 4 days, which has flown by! However, today has been by far the most memorable day I have had in a while. It’s already a bit late, and I’ll have to the same thing tomorrow, so this post will be brief. But I just wanted to explain quickly, how my day went.
The day here begins at 7am. We meet for breakfast, which consists of bread and coffee (today, we were lucky enough to get fried eggs – a rare surprise). Sometime between 7:15 and 7:30, we meet for group devotions, prayer, and daily planning. By 8am we were down to the warehouse, loading trucks for our distribution. Today’s site was Lowinimahapen (far North Tanna). Although only being about 25 miles away, it takes well over an hour to get there due to road conditions (dirt roads, up and over several low mountains). The scenery is absolutely stunning: you climb this dirt roads that snake their way up the mountainside. For many portions, you can see all the way down to the coast – and then out to the seemingly endless ocean. The island is made of lush, green plants. Occasionally you’ll see wild horses evening roaming the slopes.
We spent most of the day distributing food to the village. Near the end, the chief came and told us that they were going to do a thank-you ceremony for us. Not being completely sure what this entailed, we tentatively agreed. It started out with the whole village surrounding the small field we were using. They then proceeded to bring out a pig, several woven bags, and woven mats. This was all piled in the center, where the chief stood. He then thanked us profusely (through a translator, as they all speak Bislama, but this village’s “formal” language is French, so they spoke French with us). Afterwards, I had to give a few words as well – and accept the gifts in front of the whole village by laying my hands on them. I thought we were done as the gifts were moved off the field.
I was then more surprised when the whole village came out onto the field, and began to sing and dance a traditional song for us. For almost 15 minutes, this went on, everyone was involved (including young children) as they performed for us. To keep rhythm, they stomped their feet – this quickly created a dust cloud around the whole dance party as the field was made of dirt.
Watch some of it here:
It was amazing to experience – watching these people dance, sing, smile, and laugh, despite having lived through one of the worst storms possible (cyclone Pam). They had hope – and it was contagious.