Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I am writing this from the Sydney airport as I prepare for my flight to Vanuatu. Once there I will board a twin-prop airplane tomorrow morning which will take me away from Port Vila, which is remote by most people's yardstick, and to the island of Tanna...which creates new definitions of remote. I will be off the grid for the duration. There is no grid in Tanna. Some have heard of the internet, but believe it is a ghost.
I will be living with and around the people of the John Frum movement, learning about their ways, interviewing them about their beliefs, and trying not to be a nuisance. I will also try not to die in the volcano.
I got in touch with someone who hosted a cultural exchange with Tanna, and these four Ni-Vanuatu men came to New York City this fall. Here they are in a nice apartment in Manhattan, strangers in a strange land.
Now I will be the stranger. I am hoping to find these men, and ask them on Tanna what they remember of their trip to another world. What stays with them, what sticks in the craw. I hope to ask them if it ever speaks to them in their dreams as they sleep back in their own world.
I hope to represent my people well. I hope to listen, and ask questions, and know when to be silent. I hope to shed my preconceptions like a snake sheds skin, but never pretend to be objective, never let myself be voiceless. I hope to tell the truth.
I hope to be safe, and I hope to be back in a few weeks.
at 11:58 PM