Home' Rotary Down Under : February 2015 (NZ Pacific) Contents TRAVELLER
| 54 | ISSUE 569 FEBRUARY 2015
visions of its splendour splashed across
travel brochures around the globe and
it has been used as the backdrop for
many movie and commercial shoots.
This is one location you definitely want
to avoid when the cruise ships are in
dock, however – not just because of
the hordes of tourists, but because
locals hike up the price of everything
from taxis to taro. This goes for all of
Vanuatu, in fact.
Leaving the coast behind, Santos’
inland bodies of water are no less
impressive. The impossible blue of
the Matevulu Blue Holes is beyond
postcard-perfect. Formed by springs of
fresh water rising to the surface through
layers of limestone, the underwater
landscape is as sharp and clear as the
lush jungle surrounding the pools. The
temperature is “fresh”, but not icy like
our hinterland rock pools – resistance is
futile! A short voyage down Ri Ri River
in traditional dugout canoes reveals
another blue hole, just as mesmerising
and just as deserted.
Our Vanuatu vacation has shown us
many of the country’s most spectacular
landmarks and filled our bellies with
strange, culinary delights. We have dined
on lap lap banana soup, namumbay
simboro and nangai nut salad, eaten
local poulet and
Santo beef on the
beach and ordered
café and clafoutis
in French from a
Port Vila pâtisserie.
We have wandered
through the largest
in the South Pacific, and watched the
women of the Leweton Community
make musical magic with nothing but
their hands and the sea.
The highlight of our Vanuatu
vacation, however, is nothing you will
find in any guide book. It’s no hidden
gem, no picture-perfect vista, no
unpronounceable dining experience.
In North Afate we drive through the
tiny village of Emua and pull up in
the playground of Emua Community
Kindy, where we are greeted by school
chairman Kalsong Manau Gershom. It’s
a big title for a little school: a corrugated
iron shed serves as the one and only
classroom and the playground consists
of three brightly painted tyres, a large,
fallen tree trunk and some monkey bars.
Inside, we are greeted by the shy
smiles of 27 pikininis seated on grass
mats strewn across the concrete floor.
Inhibitions soon dissolve, however,
as their teacher, Manau’s wife, Lucy,
instructs them to stand and prepare for
their first performance. In what is fast
becoming a common theme, we are
treated to more stories about food as 27
not-so-little voices belt out a rendition
of Watermelon – a poem about fruit –
followed by a melodic version of Jesus
Gives Us Paw Paw.
This is the village’s only kindy. It
caters for three to six-year-olds before
they move on to Grade 1. The kindy’s
only financial support comes from the
children’s parents, who pay 2000 vatu
(about AU$23) per student per term.
Despite the obvious lack of school
supplies, a happier bunch of pikininis
you have never seen. They clamber over
each other to see pictures of themselves
on our cameras and squeal with delight
as an ex-teacher among our group
demonstrates the words and actions to
One Finger One Thumb Keep Moving.
They want for nothing, although
perhaps not in the Western sense of
the phrase, but we have come bearing
gifts nonetheless. Bags and boxes
overflowing with pencils, crayons, chalk,
rulers, erasers, sharpeners, stickers and
books are presented to Lucy. She accepts
them graciously and says, “God has
answered our prayers”.
Outside the children play happily,
oblivious to any lack of educational
necessities, as Manau speaks of his desire
to provide them with desks and chairs.
Our group of Rotarians and Probians
vow to approach their respective clubs
and begin the fundraising process. Trade
Travel Director Mark O’Brian makes
a note to contact Air Vanuatu about
transportation of the equipment.
It is here in this tiny school, with its
cramped, stifling classroom, that we
truly come to understand the meaning
of “land of smiles”. The school is now
a permanent fixture on the Trade Travel
Vanuatu itinerary, and support for
Manau and his students is a continuing
project. For further information on the
complete tour visit www.tradetravel.
com.au or call 1800 034 439.
Kindy learn the
ins and outs of
One Finger One
Lap lap banana
soup at Iririki
to any lack of
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