Vanuatu, a country in Oceania left me speechless earlier this year. A distant familiarity; a place I had heard of but never imagined what it looked like.
I have been reluctant to speak of my experiences there, I still cannot believe that in this time and age there is still so much inequality, that many people who look like me are still suffering in unimaginable ways. For an African villager, what I witnessed left me stunned.
It is important to note that islands that makes up Vanuatu have some positive aspects worth mentioning; a lot of amazing amenities for vacationers; kindness of the people, the clear blue waters, simply pleasing to the eye. The upside of it really, as an ideal vacation getaway, is that the place offers a chance to experience something different, peacefully. And almost everything you consume will be organic; the people are well versed in making the best out of their natural resources. You can immerse yourself in boat rides, heading to their multi paradise islands yet I felt that for any normal person you bask in all the islands offers with a sense of guilt.
I was filled with discomfort in Vanuatu than anywhere else we have ever been; the way poverty coexists with wealth was not justifiable. I believe their economy thrives on tourism but it does not seem like the leaders have done anything to benefit the rest of the population, it is a familiar case of ‘the poor gets poorer and the rich get richer’; no one seems interested in bridging the gap.
I discover a lot about the native people of Vanuatu, their history is fascinating and yes, they are the very first group I met to have been proud about their Cabalist nature, it was unreal for me. I just could not take in the pleasure of seeing them reenacting their past for our consumption and a bit of coins we offer as we tour their world, some of the things were too extreme and some older men seemed embarrassed. You could see that there is simply no other means of survival than the dance they put up and showcasing their remote homes to us…this has been a concern of mine for years now, where black people constantly have to act like they enjoy dancing all day long in the heat just to put something on the table.
In Vanuatu I stopped taking photographs of people, I looked around everyone was fascinated and just wanting a picture with them, it felt so wrong because we all know where that goes, social media for unnecessary clout.
There’s just not much I could have done on my end, but I have a change of heart, to offer a helping hand where I can and support in any non-monetary ways that I possible can.
Whether on vacation or work travel, I will always be mindful of the places and people I meet along the way. Compassion goes a long way and “we are the ones we have been waiting for” indeed.