So this particular pic is my favourite. We’re sitting at the edge of the water, in the centre of town. A Dutch tourist offers to take a photo of the newlyweds who are seemingly on holiday (that’s us). The sun is setting and the water has this glazed look that makes the whole place seem surreal. He carefully plays with our camera and hands back a shot that he seems quietly confident about.
It’s only when we get home and look at it on the computer, that we notice something special. This little guy, arms splayed, looking like nothing could get him down. That pretty much sums up Vanuatu.
You walk the streets and what you hear is laughter. This kind of crazy cackling laughter that comes straight from the belly (you can’t beat the belly laugh!). People here in Vanuatu laugh at everything – themselves, tourists, anything at all.
You don’t really see many people on their own either. People walk together and work together. Bus drivers careen across multiple lanes of traffic to stop the bus, full of passengers, and say hello to a friend they’ve seen walking down the street. Everyone here is about friends and family.
Work starts at 8am and breaks for around 1 – 1.5 hours in the middle of the day. Everyone goes home to have lunch with their family, or goes out and has a meal with mates. It makes the meals shared with keyboards seem more than a little ridiculous… Then the whole work thing is over by 4.30pm. This really is a genius model…all with the added bonus of 16 public holidays (take that Australia!).
For an Australian the pace can seem slow, and, well, it kind of is. Efficiency and productivity, those things that are drilled into us from a young age, have a completely different meaning here (and sometimes it isn’t really clear what that meaning is….). Everything just ticks along with the faith that there’s always another day.
This has meant a huge shift for us. We’ve replaced late night take out and conversations about work with sharing lunch and taking late afternoon swims to finish the day. We snorkel, swim, hike, go to parties and have dinner at people’s places, even on school nights, It seems crazy to think we’ve only been here for 2 weeks.
In 2006 the people of Vanuatu were voted the happiest on Earth. In 2012 they get my vote too!