"Oh, he's gone to Santo" ...meaning the island of "Espirito Santo," or substitute any of 80+ other islands they might have gone to.
It's a common response here in Vanuatu. You go into a government or business office, and the ONLY person who can actually help you is not available because they are on another island.
Sometimes they have gone for business connected with their employer or their position, sometimes it's a family matter.
If family, it's usually because of a death or a marriage. Both can take a week or more.
There is a good intra-island transport system in place - by air or by sea - and the locals are used to zipping about between their home island and where they normally live and work.
But why would they be the ONLY person who can help you?
Think about it: the entire country has only a little over 300,000 people. Neither the government nor business are so big that they can afford to have a lot of redundant staff. On the positive side, they are small enough to give very personalised service - even in government offices.
And anyway, they will be back next week - or the week after - so what's the problem?
This mentality is called "Island Time" and it's endemic not just to Vanuatu but all the South Pacific islands I have ever had anything to do with.
I railed against "Island Time" when we first moved here, but you get used to it, accept it, and even enjoy it sometimes.
No, I don't mean in a "gone troppo" sense, lying in a hammock with a cool beverage that has a little umbrella in it, lulled into inaction and complacency by the warm days and nights. Of course, it's nice to do that sometimes too!
I mean you start to realise there are more important things than business and making money. You'll agree those more important things are too easy to forget in the west. Instead, here you make time for the more important things too. It's why I don't work (for cients) on Mondays. That's "family day" in our 2-person household.
It's also why I have a restricted calendar for consultation calls - I want to make sure there is time to give great service to the clients I already have.
It also depends on what's going on in your life. No sense polishing the brass on the post-iceberg Titanic!
For you, dear reader, making time for the more important things might mean getting your "Plan B" house in order.
So about that consultation calendar. Here's where to get on it: https∶//in.vu/cal
Lance (time-conscious) in Vanuatu