For those of you who know me well, know that once I start talking about a subject I love (Vanuatu in particular), it can be difficult for me to stop. Having written a summary of my first solo trip to Vanuatu, it is a little lengthy, so I have split it into 3 parts for blogging purposes.
It has been a number of years since my OE – flying solo then, and now again, into Vanuatu. Visit number six, so I felt relatively comfortable heading back into familiar areas, but without the assistance of others. Once a few mandatory preparations were put in place, meetings were scheduled, to maximise the most out of my time in Vanuatu. Suppliers, contacts, networks and friends were all put into my very non-island time schedule.
Port Vila first stop. Upon landing, the pilot told us, that we were late by 20 minutes and a Virgin Australia flight had arrived 20 minutes early and those passengers were standing in line at immigration before we hit the tarmac! This meant, despite my quick exit from the plane, there would be long delays at immigration – but surprisingly it only took about 30 minutes or so. I was worried I would be late for my first meeting – but I had no need to be concerned. Finishing with plenty of time to spare, I managed to squeeze in another supplier meeting before dark. Sometimes “island time” doesn’t always apply.
The next morning was an early flight to Santo with a jam packed day planned. First stop, Santo Medical to drop off some stainless steel utensils which Lav Kokonas had sourced from our local hospital. Perfect timing as Lyn the administrative coordinator from Australia was visiting and gave me a guided tour around the facility, including the accommodation for volunteers – very nice too. If you have a medical background and considering volunteering – this could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. The Clinic has been operating for 12 months now and the place is looking great. Resources are gradually increasing including this machine that was delivered, by fellow Nelsonian – Ron Bergman, earlier in the week. Some very clever IT people from Australia were volunteering for 2 weeks, so have set up the new machine to be fully operational on a large screen.
I couldn’t raise one of our suppliers by phone, so called into the office, no luck there. Vanuatu timing conspired for me later in the day, by chance the man who I had been trying to contact was sitting in his car on the main street, so we had our meeting street-side. The sense of informality yet being business minded is one of the many aspects of Vanuatu that I do enjoy.
Since our last meeting with World Vision in late 2013, a new kiwi VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad) volunteer has commenced her posting, so here was another opportunity to develop relationships. Grace was able to give me some practical insight into my pending village venture, and after discussions I felt comfortable with the arrangements I had put in place . World Vision gave me a brief on the student Lav Kokonas had sponsored and whom World Vision had identified as being of a suitable calibre to undertake the 2 year agricultural course.
A short drive to Vanuatu Agricultural College to meet Johnas and administrative staff to tie up some lose ends. What a pleasure it was to meet Johnas. He showed me around the College’s cropping area and nursery. A quick learner, Johnas with the ipad in hand and me with the camera, his fellow students were intrigued, seeing themselves in the photos.
Later that evening I had the pleasure of joining Santo Rotary at their weekly meeting. I had been watching the groups progress on practical and real projects including bus shelters, smokeless stoves and tourism promotion. An inspirational evening.
Friday was a short trip to Venui to find out more about the production of their Certified Organic spices and Vanilla products. The quality of the products is very high and the owner a perfectionist. Venui employ ni-Vanuatu in their plantations in addition to training and purchasing produce from many other island across the Vanuatu – ensuring a lasting legacy of quality product into the future. Vanilla production is exacting and Venui are recognised experts in growing, harvesting, curing and producing vanilla products. The attention to detail is evident in the quality of their products.
The following day takes me further into South Santo, into the heart of Virgin Coconut Oil territory, but you’ll have to visit this site again to get the next instalment.