Here is some information that we put together for visiting work teams. It will also be useful to our personal visitors (although some things below wont apply because you will be staying with us) and maybe even other people who visit Tanna as well.
Flights to and from Tanna
The trickiest leg of the journey can be the domestic Air Vanuatu flight from air Port Vila to Tanna. The reason for this is that sometimes Air Vanuatu change their flights, are late or do not take all of your baggage. At times this can effect international connections.
There are some things you can do to help this situation:
- Book your international flight with Air Vanuatu on the same ticket
- Have a stopover in Port Villa (to create a little breathing space)
If you are staying in Vila some reasonable mid-range options could be:
(Let us know if you find more)
- Bible – essential reading
- Work/play clothes
- t-shirt and shorts for men
- t-shirt and mid-calf length skirt or dress for women
- Neat clothes for church – again, mid-calf skirts/dresses for women
- Jumper and long trousers (men) for nighttime
- board shorts for men
- board shorts to knee and rash shirt / t-shirt for women
- Snorkel and fins – you don’t need them but there is good snorkeling
- Sun hat / sunnies / sun cream – important!
- Work boots or other covered shoes (for work teams)
- Thongs / sandals
- Work gloves – if you use them (blisters can get infected) (for work teams)
- Insect spray – if you’re into it.
- Toiletries – as you see fit!
- Pillow / sheets / towel (for work teams)
- Drink bottle
- Basic first aid kit and medication – see separate medical information.
- Personal medications
- Camera – it’s a beautiful place and we’ll do our best to get to the volcano.
- Cash – you can’t get cash out on Tanna. You might need 5000-10,000 vatu for sightseeing.
If you want to have a phone connection while you are here you can pick up a Digicel SIM in Port Vila. Bring an unlocked phone or pick up a phone at Digicel for about $30. We also have some spare handsets that you can use. You will be able to charge your phone or other devices.
While there are no end of medical things that can potentially go wrong, here are some of the main things to consider.
- Remote Location
EMTC is situated in a remote part of a remote island and you should come fully aware of this risk. Do not come if you have a known medical condition that requires you to be within range of a hospital or at the very least discuss the issue with your team leader and Tom Richards.
Tanna has a hospital but it is not always staffed by a doctor. Usually, if you went there you would see a nurse practitioner. There are doctors in the capital, Port Vila. Tom Richards (EMTC staff) is experienced in first aid, but has no current qualification.
Due to the remote location you need to have travel insurance in case you need to be evacuated. This is simple to obtain for a short trip.
It is highly recommended that you have all necessary vaccinations for traveling in rural Vanuatu. You need to see your doctor or travel specialist a couple of months before the trip.
There is currently an extremely low risk of malaria on Tanna due to an eradication program. There is no need for preventative medications. This advice might be different to the general travel advice given by your doctor because your doctor’s information might be for ‘outer islands’ generally, not specific to Tanna.
- Cuts, grazes and blisters
Any minor cut is a potential major infection. All cuts, scratches, scrapes, grazes and blisters need to be washed, have antiseptic cream applied and be covered immediately. You will need to bring a range of band-aids and other dressings because you do not know what size or shape your cut will be. You also need an antibiotic cream (e.g. Bactroban) for if it does get infected. You should also have at least a couple of courses of a suitable antibiotic (see a doctor, e.g. Amoxycillin and Clavulanic Acid 875/125mg) within your group.
- Coral cuts
A special mention should be made of coral cuts. A minor miscalculation underwater could put you out of action for the rest of your trip. When it comes to coral, look but don’t scrape your leg on it.
- Stomach bugs
‘Bugs’ is a pretty mild term for what can be a pretty unpleasant couple of days. Your team need to have good hygiene practices, but this still doesn’t prevent infection from outside the team. You should consider bringing electrolytes, a diarrhea stopper (e.g. lmodium, Gastro Stop, Buscopan and Lomotil) and a suitable antibiotic (see a doctor, e.g. Azithromycin). You should at least have these things within your group.
Personal First-Aid Kit
- Various wound dressings for both dry (e.g. Meloline) and wet (e.g. opsite) wounds
- Gauze swabs
- Fixomull and/or tape (to cover blisters and hold dressings on)
- Strapping tape
- Roller bandage
- Pain relief
- Antiseptic cream
- Antibiotic cream
- Consider diarrhea relief (see above) (Should have within the group)
- Consider antibiotic for skin infection (see above) (Should have within the group)
- Consider antihistamine (Should have within the group)
- Consider steroid cream (Should have within the group)
- Consider topical relief for insect bites
- Consider vitamin tablets
We also has medical supplies that you will be able to use and then replace for less common things over and above personal kits. Our personal guest wont need all these things.
Tanna Culture – Things to think about when visiting EMTC
So as to best build relationships and not accidentally cause offense when working cross-culturally, it is good to know a bit about the culture you are entering. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Work and gender:
The division of labour between men and women is fairly equal but the sexes tend to take different roles. Both men and women do the farming. Both men and women are involved in building houses, but usually men do the heavy work and use tools, while women do things like weaving the thatch. Women tend to do cooking and clothes washing. Men tend to do things that look important – like driving trucks or giving instructions.
There is nothing that prevents either men or women doing any particular jobs in the normal course of a work team coming to the college.
Kava is an intoxicating drink that tastes like muddy dishwater. While there is nothing wrong with a little kava in itself, it causes domestic problems and is closely associated with magical and spiritual things. EMTC students are not allowed to drink kava while at college and we ask our guests to follow this guideline. Besides, almost all kava on Tanna is chewed in preparation and even modern vaccinations can’t make drinking another guy’s saliva attractive. If you wanted to try a shell of kava, best do it in Port Vila.
Women mustn’t look at kava been prepared so keep your eyes down if for some reason you pass by. Some places apply a rule that once a man enters a kava drinking place, he must drink and cannot leave until the kava is finished – so look out!
- Dress Code:
The Tannese view of modesty isn’t either more or less conservative than that of western countries, but it is different. The big difference is that women’s thighs are usually kept covered. This means dresses, skirts and sarongs to mid-calf. At the beach it is appropriate to wear a skirt or sarong to the water’s edge and then thigh-covering shorts in the water. Women also swim in t-shirts. It’s not a high-stress issue, just a modesty and courtesy one.
You do sometimes see women on Tanna wearing shorts, but these people are pushing their own cultural boundaries in a way that would not be appropriate for us to do.
- Relationships and gender
Men and women can mix and talk to each other freely, but if a person paid particular attention to a person of the opposite sex, it could be taken as an advance.
- Material Possessions
People in our area generally have fewer possessions and a more basic lifestyle than westerners. One of the ways that people can misunderstand Christianity is as a way to acquire material prosperity. It is helpful if groups coming can keep things as basic as possible.
Tannese reciprocity can be a bit hard to get your head around. Giving and receiving always expresses a relationship – a bit like a hand-shake. At its most basic, if you give me a pig, I give you a same-sized pig back. But it doesn’t have to be a one-to-one correspondence; if you give me a loaf of bread, I might give you a bunch of bananas. Or perhaps if you helped get my child to hospital, I might give you a chicken and a bunch of cabbage leaves. In that way it can be a bit like a thank you. But unlike our box of Rose’s chocolates, it tends to try to even up the score and, when it is uneven, points towards a favour owed within an on-going relationship. You stay bonded together through on-going giving and receiving.
That also means that if there is an existing relationship, that relationship opens up the possibility of giving and receiving, and sometimes this manifests in people wanting to do most of the receiving. That is, a relationship can open up the opportunity to ask someone for stuff. The deeper the relationship and the more wealthy the other person, the more someone might dare to ask.
Sometimes people will ask for things in a way that can be quite shocking for westerners. It is good to be aware of this ahead of time to so that you have an answer prepared.
A much nicer side of reciprocity for westerners is to understand that people’s hospitality and gift-giving is an expression of their gratitude to you. People aren’t always big on saying thank you, but they mean it when they give you a basket.
The community surrounding the college speaks a language called Naka. Students speak a variety of the 10 languages in the southern islands. Most people also speak a language called Bislama which is a creole or, as some people might say ‘pigeon English.’ Usually there are a couple of students who speak some English, but many have none.
Bislama sounds like English and shares many of its words. However, be warned, the grammar is vastly different and at times words have different meanings. Having said that, English speakers and Bislama speakers often manage to communicate just fine with a bit of back-and-forth clarification. Learning a bit of Bislama is easy, good fun and goes a long way towards showing your good intentions. Try the Peace Corps Vanuatu website.