Continuing our series, today you get #3 and #4 of the reasons I like living in Vanuatu.

 

RECAP: #1 was the people, #2 was the freedom...

 

#3 is the whole "South seas tropical island" thing. Vanuatu has some spectacular scenery. Most of it is close to the ocean — it's a collection of 83 islands after all — and we love beaches and sea views. Palm trees, lazy hammocks. The clear, turquoise-coloured water. It's like being in a mirage.

 

There are so many places to eat or just enjoy a quiet beverage, with a water view - harbour or ocean or inlet.

 

But there are also live volcanoes, blue holes, amazing diving, deep-sea fishing, jungle zipline, and if you go out to dinner you are likely to see exciting local dance routines and hear entrancing live music.

 

#4 would be communication. There are three official languages. English, French and Bislama. Bislama has a short but colourful history as a pidgin developed over a hundred years ago between the locals and the traders in Beche-de-Mer (the word Bislama comes from this.) Also there are over a hundred local island languages.

 

So a child grows up learning his local language, then at primary school he learns in Bislama and at high school he is taught in either English or French (or both). So almost every local can speak at least 3 languages, and many of them four; yes, even your gardener is usually multilingual.

 

This makes for some delightfully amusing signs, where sometimes the 3 main languages are mixed together in the one sentence. I had to laugh when not long after we arrived I found this one next to a small bell on a shop counter: "Kill belle and wait small." You see, the word "kill" ('kil') in Bislama means "hit" and "wait small" is an anglicised way of writing the Bilama phrase "wet smol" meaning "wait for a short time." And how the French-looking "belle" got in there is anybody's guess!

 

So the shop owner was trying to tell customers to ring the bell and he'd be there in a moment. But a tourist would certainly find the sign puzzling!

 

I tell English-speaking Westerners who ask about it: "Bislama is easy to learn and hard to master." Easy to learn because the vast majority of the words are derived from English. There were only about 700 words in the language when I came here in 2016. In a couple of months you can be up and running in Bislama. More and more I hear English words being introduced.

 

But... it's the grammar that can be tricky. Because there are few words, many do double-duty — or even triple-duty — and their placement in a sentence becomes important; it can drastically change the meaning. To the initiated, it's not hard though.

 

Bislama is not on it's own in this aspect. Just think: As a reader of English it would be rare for you not to know whether a sentence containing "bow" referred to the front of a ship, a device that shoots arrows, bending from the waist, or a way to tie shoelaces!

 

Its very much a living language, and many new words are being introduced, even since 2016 when we arrived.

 

The widespread use of English makes blending in and becoming a part of the community quick and easy. It is a huge benefit to walk up to any produce stand and communicate with ease. No matter where you go, you can talk with locals.

 

So get your purchased citizenship while the programme is still available.

 

Start with a consultation here: https∶//in.vu/cal

 

Lance (in his hammock) in Vanuatu

 


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