Admiration

Written to the women of Vanuatu.

Over centuries the idea of a white supremacy has been enforced and manifested through colonialism in the now so called “developing countries”. But these global roles are ancient and wrong. Ideas about people that deserve real admiration for a forgotten strength.

The net under me moves a little, I sit on a big tree, in the shade, on this hot day. The waves break in front of me, the ocean shimmers in shades on blue and silver, drawing patterns on the water. In the distance a grey island towers. The wind blows through my hair and moves the palm leaves, playing with them. We have the huts for ourselves. We are left alone, finally. It comes as a surprise and an amazing experience. Yesterday night we arrived after three days of hiking. My feet hurt from the heavy backpack, it felt like walking on hot stones. We reach the waterfall, first I hear it, then I see the two big streams of water crashing down onto the rocks.

The locals sit with us. They live in paradise I think. I had these thoughts all throughout the hike, as we passed lonely beaches with lonely huts, meeting people that live far away from big towns. Time here seems to stand still. It has been like this and it will be like this, hopefully.

The occasional stereo, hooked to a solar panel sees globalisation sneaking into Vanuatu’s island life. What more in life do you want than this? I keep thinking. You have a hut, a kitchen, gardens for food, coconut palms, a canoe for fishing and all the time in the world. The abundance of nature in front of your door step. Every meal fresh, local, organic fruit and vegetables straight from the garden. The dream of more and more people around the world. Here, it’s abundant. You walk around and collect mangos, avocados, pow pows or bananas. For dinner you go to the garden and harvest some sweet potatoes, roots like maniok or yam and some island cabbage. Three ingredients for a nutritious meal.

But of course, even here life is not always easy.

As I look into the eyes of all these beautiful girls, as i slowly fall in love with them, with their voices and their smiles, I also become more and more aware of the issue of domestic and sexual violence. I am aware that this is a big issue here, in the remote communities, where conflicts are solved internally by the chief.

But what if you are on the weak end? What if it is done to you and you have to live with it, you have to live with the person that committed the crime? What if it is your husband or a family member? These thought give me so much respect for these women. There is a whole layer to this culture, to every culture that we do not see, that happens in the closed community, without visitors. After a while it shines through little bit, but it barely shows itself fully. For that you need to become a member of the community and then it is too late to decide whether you agree with it. Of course we have the choice. We are lucky.

I grow up in a place and dont like it, I get mistreated, experience abuse or depression, I have the amazing freedom to leave, to earn money or not and to leave, to do whatever the fuck I want. These girls and boys these women and young men dont have this freedom. Hell, I think most of time they cannot even imagine this freedom.

They are busy, every day, with food, children and washing. They don’t have this freedom but when I look in their eyes, when I see them smile at me with the most beautiful, open, authentic smile, I realise they have something else. They live with it, they dont let it destroy their beauty and they happiness. Me, it almost broke me, it controlled me and I left. I ran away, I realised and took the freedom I have. For them and for everyone who does not have the freedom but would live every second of it to the fullest if they did.

But they, they stay and live with it, they hold together, support each other and laugh like nothing ever happened.

I admire them for this strength I did not have.

At night I lie on the beach in my sleeping bag under twisting milky ways and colourfully blinking stars. The waves endlessly crash into themselves  as I am sleeping soundly. Our dear friend Satta is playing his own milky ways on his guitar while he takes us to new heights in our dreams with his voice. He, who just saved the girls in our group from harassment by young local boys. He, who stayed up all night, watching over them, playing guitar to keep the devils in the dark. He now watches over us again, on this clear and moonless night. In my dreams though, the wonderful experience in Musina takes it’s place and Melinda and her friends play water music for us one more time. At the place where the river meats the ocean.

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