Monday, September 06, 2010

Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, which was formerly the New Hebrides. The British and the French both had a presence here and at one time there were two systems of government, the French would follow their laws and the English would follow theirs. Independence was declared in 1980 and Vanuatu just celebrated their 30 year anniversary at the end of July. There are over 100 local languages being spoken in Vanuatu at the moment as well as Bislama which is a pidgin English, it is written as it would have sounded coming from an upper crust English man. Here is ea, thank you, is tank you tumas, of is blong, or belong, ex. The Vanuatu Ministry of Culture would be Vanuatu Ministry Blong Culture, it is very interesting to try and decipher the signs that are written in Bislama. Vanuatu is an island nation with over 23 islands, but it seems each area on an island has developed their own language, we were making an effort to learn some of the language on Tanna but once I figured out they only spoke it there, I gave up. The children are taught French and English at school, so once they are done primary school they should have a working knowledge of 4 languages. Each island has there own culture and dances so we are looking forward to learning about each as we explore further north.
Port Vila is the seat of government so we took a walking tour and saw the parliament buildings, the residence of the President, which was surprisingly humble, the court house, the national bank, the big Catholic church, etc. The bank building was huge, it had better be because the exchange rate is a 100 to 1, so you walk around with 1000 vatu bills in your pocket as well as 5000, and they don’t go very far here. We figure it is rather like Yellowknife prices here, good thing we stocked up the boat before leaving Fiji.
We went to the museum on a Sat. morning and were lucky to come upon a cultural demonstration. A fellow was teaching cultural arts to school children and he explained how the sand drawings were done and how a story accompanied each one. Then he had some of the kids’ show us their drawings, the kids had been chosen to attend cultural expositions in other countries. As well as the stories and drawings he played the pan flute and sang and then he played the Vanuatu national anthem on these very cool bamboo instruments that were liked a percussion swinging xylophone, I guess you had to be there. It was fascinating.
There a big high weather system that has been causing high winds since we arrived. We are planning on leaving Port Vila today to go to a quieter spot for the evening and then heading further north tomorrow. Both Barry and I have infected cuts in our legs, I got a scrape when we were walking up the volcano and did not care for it right away. Barry cut his leg in Fiji and it never healed and then started to become inflamed awhile ago. I have managed to clean mine up and get it under control, but Barry’s did not respond as well so he is on antibiotics now. It just reminds you of how careful you have to be with even the smallest cut.