Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Vanuatu: Preparation

Hi there,

As most of the posts on this blog mention, I went to Vanuatu, in case you didn’t know that before, you do now. I kept a journal while I was over there of the things that happened to me on a mostly day to day basis. Now I’m home for awhile and thought I could use all my tiny detailed notes to share my Vanuatu with other people.

A blog post will go up about Vanuatu regularly. For the most part, each post will be about one week in Vanuatu, in a week one through to week whatever it was style. There will be some posts that break this trend because some events are just too big to be sharing a post with others. I’ll try to include photos, funny stories, things that you think really can’t happen to you and anything else that comes to mind while I’m working on them.

I suppose I should start with an introduction to how I got to the point of me and my backpack getting on a plane bound for a tiny island nation I knew very little about. At some point in year 12, I woke up one morning and decided that I could not go through with my life plan to become a vet. Years of dreaming about this job and knowing exactly what I was going to do with my life suddenly seemed useless and I had no idea what on earth I was going to do with myself after graduation. My mum and I went to the careers office and long story short; I decided to take a gap year.

I had never considered a gap year before but I knew one thing, I didn’t just want to be at home for my gap year, I wanted to travel, but I also wanted to help people. I went looking for ways to do that and was given some information about Lattitude Global Volunteering. Lattitude had programs in different countries that sent volunteers off to do different things, some placements were teaching, some were sports coaching and others helping with medical care. There was a pretty big list of countries to choose from and I had my heart set on teaching in India. One of the things that might have helped me make that decision was that I love the way Indian women dress and I would have a really good reason to wear such beautiful clothes.

So, I filled out the forms and went to an interview. Turned out there were problems with getting visas, the guy I met at the interviews warned me they might not be able to send people to India and took down other preferences. Vanuatu wasn’t a place I knew much about, I knew it was near Fiji, was tiny and that French was one of the official languages. Everything I knew, I had learnt from the Wikipedia page. I speak French and the opportunity to use it made me list Vanuatu as a possibility.

Several weeks later, I was at the careers expo with my friends, trying to find myself a new university course to pursue and eating free jelly beans when my phone went off. I had a text that said something along the lines of “Congratulations, your suggested country is: VANUATU”.  I was excited at the time; I now knew what I was doing once I finished school. At the moment, I didn’t realise just how much that tiny country would change my life, or how much was going to happen to me in the next year. That one text message may have been the thing that started my mad adventure that ended with me crying for half an hour on a flight away from an island without power and running water for the general population.

The next few months were spent preparing to go to Vanuatu. I had to get a full medical and my injections were up to date, get anti malaria tablets, make sure I had enough medical supplies for a small army and that the clothes I was packing were culturally appropriate. Somehow I managed all of that, finished year 12, had my appendix out and not get completely overwhelmed with everything.

I thought I was ready. I’d talked to my placement partner, Courtney from New Zealand, and we had done some plotting for when we got to Level Mission Primary School, which we were fairly certain was in the middle of the middle of nowhere. I had skirts in my backpack, soccer balls in my carry on and a ukulele under my arm. I felt like I knew what I was in for. I was not as prepared as I thought. Life has a funny way of getting you all settled and pulling the rug out from under your sandals.

Vanuatu really changed that for me and taught me a lot. I am now proud to call Vanuatu one of my homes and a lot of the lovely ni-Van people family. Stay tuned for what happened when I got there and just how different things were. Here’s a hint, there were rats and nothing can prepare a person for some of the toilets I have seen.

Love From Me and My Backpack

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