Port Vila: first impressions

First impressions can be curious things. I’ve looked back and cringed at my own naiveté at times. Occasionally a place and a people can open up, and let you see truths that you would never initially imagined.


First impressions can be like that. A willingness to learn, and a readiness to be wrong helps.


Being underprepared and walking in blind can be valuable. Observations aren’t tinted through a lens of expectation and assumption.


Some places refuse to be peeled like an onion; they won’t show you their heart – and all you have to go on is that first impression. A superficial understanding.


I don’t know how much these islands will let me know them. It will take time.



The clouds sit low, blending with the mist – making a cocoon of closeness. Rain is fat and warm. Unfamiliar plants seem to have erupted out of the ground only yesterday. Ferociously vigorous.


Port Vila is a hybrid. A dual track economy.   The waterfront is for the cruise ship passengers, up the hill is for the others. It is a jarring contrast between the Billabong surf shop on the narrow main street, the open-air vegetable market (my new happy place), and the Chinese vendors selling plastic buckets and rice.


In the short time I’ve been here I’ve seen no evidence of the violence and harassment Canberra told me to expect. Even so, I’m acutely aware of the weak locks and unbarred windows of my flat. I place my peace of mind in the care of the French speaking security guard. He patrols from 6 to 6, I’m told.


My comfortably humble flat is well cared for and more than enough for me. It’s in a bit of a remote spot, and I’m grateful for the silence. I’m enjoying my evening solitude, a counterbalance for the full days.


I know very little about these islands, and I understand even less.


I start work on Monday. I will very gently participate in island life, and see what these hills and people will reveal to me.


I’m pleased that I don’t know what to expect.   I’m also pleased that there are no monkeys.