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Living in a Village Recently Destroyed by a Cyclone

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When reading an in-air magazine on the way to Vanuatu it became clear to me that in order to experience the country to its fullest I would have to fly away from the main island of Efate. On the island Santo in the North, there were some of the World’s best beaches and wreck dives like the World famous SS Coolridge. The Island of Pentecost was known for its culture that had been preserved for centuries, where the bungee jump/land diving was invented and still is being practiced (with ropes from a tree tower). But the Island which caught my attention the most was Tanna in the South which had recently been struck by a cyclone and people were struggling to grow food because of ash coming the active volcano on the island, making the soil infertile.

When hitchhiking across the island I was invited to stay in their village, which was less than a kilometer from the volcano Mt. Yasur. We hiked up to the volcano crater during the daytime seeing lava rocks and gas being shot in the air with loud bangs and shaking ground which was scary enough. When going up again at night time the volcano was much more active and my host did not dare to go out on the crater edge. I just had a quick run up to have a picture taken there myself, as I knew there were tourists before that had died from being hit by flying lava. There were probably more than a thousand tourists going up every year, so the fear was irrational but since my host had snuck me to the backside of the volcano in order not to pay any entrance fee I was not sure if this place was just as secure.

Back at the village I tried to help my host catch some fish while he was working as a teacher during the day, but only managed to catch a tiny one due to the reef having been destroyed by the recent cyclone. The cyclone had also destroyed the gardens, killed most of the animals and some people too, so there was little food to get on the island, but the family I was staying with shared the little they had with me. On the menu was cabbage with potato one of the days and rice with sea snails the other. People there were eating sea urchins, dogs etc to survive and I was happy that neither were on the menu while I was there. With potatoes costing ten dollars per kilo it was an expensive enough living on just the basics and I could clearly see that some people were malnourished from that diet. Unicef was precent with several huge tents and was working on sending food and equipment to the island was on its way to improvement. I am still glad to have come at the time I was there to experience the post cyclone life and to be a part of helping the people I stayed with when they needed it the most.

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