(Republic of Vanuatu, Ripablik blong Vanuatu, République de Vanuatu)
- Location: South Pacific Ocean
- Capital: Port Vila
- Language: Bislama and English
- Population: 239,788
- Total Area: 860,000sq km
- Currency: vatu
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: .93 liters
- The most popular drink: More than any other island in the Pacific, the men of Vanuatu drink the traditional Kava drink nightly, in a ceremony of brotherhood and social status. The high only last for about thirty minutes, but is well worth the bitter taste of the pepper root from which Kava is made.
Vanuatu is a series of islands located in the tropics of the South Pacific Ocean. Although the islands are covered in some of the lushest tropical rain forests in the region, there are actually very few plant and animal species found on land. The sea is another story entirely. The waters surrounding the islands of Vanuatu are very much alive with thousands of different species of sea creatures. To give you an idea of the abundance of marine life in the area, there are over 4000 species of mollusks alone. But not all sea creatures are created equal, and visitors should be aware that quite a few species carry poison that is deadly to humans.
The islands of Vanuatu are home to a resplendent Melanesian culture full of tradition, magic and ritual, and where more than 100 different dialects are spoken. The various tribal groups that are indigenous to the islands each have their own identity which they express in their customs and artwork. An interesting fact to note about the islands of Vanuatu is that the population here is very young. Almost 50% of the population is under the age of 15 years.
Like many island cultures, a primary staple of the Vanuatu diet is fish, which is usually prepared by cooking it on hot stones or steaming it. Very little food in this region is fried. Root vegetables such as Taro and Yams also play a big role in the native cuisine, and exotic fruits such as pineapple, mango and papayas are ubiquitous to the region. Although the ingredients are simple and straightforward, often the preparation of traditional dishes is complex and requires many steps, as roots need to be ground, stones need to be heated and holes need to be dug into the earth where the food will be cooked low and slow all day long.
The people of the islands are simple in their way of life and this is reflected in what they eat and drink. You will not find endless wine lists or dozens of beer on tap, except at maybe a few of the high end resorts. Instead throughout the villages you will find a handful of beverages that are part of the everyday life of the people. These are the Kava drink, fresh coconut juice, Aelan Bia which is a pungent and muddy-looking drink often called Island Beer, and Tanna Coffee, which is the local coffee that is full flavored and wonderful.
One of the most thrilling festivals and events to witness on the islands is one called Nagol, which means “land diving.” Land diving is one of the earliest forms of bungee jumping and is a tradition that has been happening on Pentecost Island for many, many years. The death-defying act is one of a fertility rite where vines are used instead of elastic ropes and tree-towers instead of bridges. While the men risk their lives to prove their masculinity, villagers dance wild dances to encourage bountiful harvests.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Jenna Bruce, Fairlee, VT
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