Visitors Guide J

JELLYFISH

There are a few jellyfish about but they are harmless. There are no ‘stingers’ like the ones found off the tropical coasts in Queensland or the Northern Territory. If you come across any, just enjoy the graceful movement coming from something so primitive and, well, basic. I believe it only has one orifice for all bodily functions, they reproduce asexually and there’s not much room for a brain.

JETLAG

Just like hangovers, there’s no miracle cure for jetlag, but there are ways to reduce its effect. Luckily most visitors to Vanuatu have a flight of just a few hours with only an hour or two time zone adjusting. For those travelling from the west coast of Australia, the United States or Europe however, it can be a real concern. When flying, go easy on the alcohol, even when it is free. Alcohol (and tea and coffee) dehydrates the body so, when on board, it’s best to drink lots of water and juices.

One tactic in fighting jetlag is to start adjusting your body clock before you leave, by moving your eating and sleeping times towards those of your destination. Sunlight’s good for adjusting body clocks so, on the day of departure, avoid light in the morning and soak it up in the afternoon if you’re heading west – or, if you’re flying east, get more sunlight in the morning.

My main tip though is, when you arrive, unless it’s night, don’t rush to your hotel room for a sleep. Fight the haziness, eat when the locals eat, take in the sunshine and enjoy the sights until dark. Four flights to Vila each week arrive late in the evening which can give a feeling of jetlag so, if you arrive on one of these and plan to sleep in, draw the curtains – the sun comes up quite early!

JEWELLERY

Prouds (opposite the Post Office) is arguably the best spots to head for upmarket jewellery while the markets and handicraft outlets have local shell jewellery. (see Pearls).

JOHN FRUM CARGO CULT

Cargo Cults basically evolved from Christianity and the have/have not relationship between the colonial visitors and the natives. Naively, the native people believed that by following religion they would one day receive ‘cargo’ – the material goods owned by the white visitors. When the goods weren’t forthcoming on Tanna, salvation took the form of a mythical being, John Frum, who replaced Jesus Christ. Imagine, leading a traditional island life, when planes arrive with men in uniform who bear gifts… and then, at the end of the war, disappear.  Surely it could happen again!Visions of John Frum occurred (and still apparently happen today, in the light of a fire, appearing to people under the influence of kava) and he spoke words of wisdom to the people. He promised that one day the white materialists would leave, people would regain their youth and there would be an era of peace and joy in which custom would return.

The cult followers believe Frum lives in the volcano and they have erected scarlet crosses, wooden gates and bamboo chapels to Frum. The scarlet crosses came from the Red Cross symbol during the war that symbolized free access to western medicine. In one chapel was a life-sized effigy depicting Frum with a white painted face and one leg raised as if he was running and, in front of him, was a wooden model of a plane with four propellers (the carrier of the cargo). As for the name, John Frum, it could have originated in John the Baptist (as in Bislama – Jon from Jesus Krist) or John ‘from’ America, or even a variation on John Broom (to sweep clean). If you think it’s a little illogical and question a follower, you may well receive the answer “you’ve waited over 2000 years for Jesus to return. We’ve only been waiting 60.” You try arguing from there!

JULY 30

July 30 is Independence Day and a public holiday. It is a day of celebration and the lawns of Parliament House and the waterfront in town becomes packed with people from the outer islands who meet up with their relatives to join in the party. Some years the government decides on adding another public holiday or two, depending on the mood of the people and if it falls close to a weekend.

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