The rain drives the tourists off the sidewalks, diminishes the Pacific to a neighbourly size, and melts all my plans like ice cream.
I open the paper and read a wandering, questing letter about the ‘beautiful, innocent people of Vanuatu‘, and ache a little because it’s so nearly true.
In the wall-high mirror, a woman spins her Mickey Mouse umbrella, angles it into the wind, and passes the doorway humming. Her vibrant purple and white island dress is garlanded with ribbons and bows.
An obese Hyundai motor coach lumbers to a halt beside the cafe. Emblazoned in heavy capitals along its side: ADVENTURES IN PARADISE. There is no one on board.
I wrote those paragraphs back in 2003. I’d just arrived in Vanuatu, and was trying to express my first inklings of the nature of the people and the place.
The beauty of Vanuatu and its people has worked itself into the very fibre of my being. The ability to remain gracious and smiling through the most arduous circumstances, to snap out a bawdy joke without missing a beat, to remain impassive in the face of gross affront – these aspects of the national character have impressed, confounded and ultimately seduced me.
But this is no one’s Paradise. Nor will it ever be.