What Makes Vanuatu Special – Ruby Allen
Recently returned Lattitude volunteer Ruby Allen from Pentecost, Vanuatu told us exactly what makes Vanuatu such a special place:
A yellow fishing boat bounces merrily through the glimmering turquoise water, nearly tipping myself, my volunteering partner and her copious luggage into that beautiful, shark infested Pacific Ocean stretching along the Coast of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. The tiny speck of land, only a dot on the map rises impressively out of the waves into a cloud of mist. The exotic jungle on top of it will be my home. The people on the boat with me will be my family.
My name is Ruby Allen, I’m 19 years old and I made the decision to apply for a placement teaching and working in communities after spending hours and hours on the internet looking at the endless lagoons, amazing culture and simple contrasting lifestyle the South Pacific offers (it also makes pretty happy procrastination for a stressed A-level student). After looking into it a bit more thoroughly I decided to apply with a non-for profit organisation called Lattitude Global Volunteering, they’re one of the only charities offering gap year placements in Vanuatu (as well as plenty of other remote places). I’ve always had an itch to explore untouched and unknown places of the world. Teaching and living within a community (which stretched as far as sharing a room with my younger host sisters) seemed like such a rare, and rewarding chance to do this.
In December I was sent the news that I would be placed in the North of Pentecost, one of the most non-western and traditional parts of the country. This would be my home for the next 5 months and there I would teach, live, laugh, work in the gardens, go on endless jungle treks and cry over bleeding sores and infections. I was based at a small, francophone school (120 students – though more like 80 actually attended) named Abuanga Primary School. I was there to teach English (as a fourth language) as well as Arts and Crafts, Drama and Music. Overall, though incredible difficult and at times testing, the teaching was very rewarding. One moment I’ll never forget – my top student in class 6 Keitsy, wrote me a note as follows ‘I love Miss Ruby, she is the best on the island and in the world and I like her because she is very kind and she is from England’. This might not seem impressive for an 11 year old…. But when they are writing in their fourth language and have only been learning English for a year and have Bislama (the native tongue) to confuse their English, I thought it was simply incredible. I felt and still feel very proud to be a part of those childrens’ education and lives.
As well as exploring and being known by the entire north of the island. We also took our half term break in beautiful Espirito Santo and spent 5 days in Erakor Village on the island of Efate, a 20 minute drive out of Port Vila before heading to our outer island placements. After my placement had finished, my volunteering partner and another volunteer from the UK Joe Wilde took the opportunity to go and hike up an active volcano in the darkness and watch the sunrise on beautiful Mt Yasur in Tanna before heading into our travels in Australia.
We cried every month but laughed every day. I am yet to visit many countries, continents even – but somehow I feel confident in my explanation of Vanuatu as a country ‘unlike any other’. I accustomed very quickly to this hard, simple, joyous lifestyle, almost ‘too’ quickly. I have two homes now; two families and two very different ways of life. This journey – these people, everything about this trip has inspired me. In ways I find hard to put to paper, I was given a new lease of life, immense, simple happiness and utter peace. It goes without saying, this journey was challenging and Vanuatu – well Pentecost – is not for the faint hearted. Yet my arrival back to the UK brings an utterly new appreciation for that bizarre voyage. There’s something about the Pacific, perhaps, the salt in the sea, the breeze in the bush or the copious amounts of taro you’re forced to eat – it’s magic, it sticks and I will certainly never, ever forget it.