Dreaming of Vanuatu

While we in the Pacific Northwest are starting a winter-less spring, and the Northeast is awaiting yet another snowstorm, it doesn’t seem to have hit many Americans’ radar that there are four tropical storms in the South Pacific.

Photosource: weather.com Four cyclones at once have only been recorded once before.

The biggest, Pam 15, is passing today almost directly over Port Vila, Vanuatu, a category 5 hurricane with winds over 150 miles per hour.

Photo credit: Grace Whitmore

Six months ago, Vanuatu wasn’t on my radar. We’d never heard of it, not until our daughter, who volunteered for the Peace Corps, received an assignment there. Now, I often dream of Vanuatu — big, colorful, vivid dreams.

It’s hard to let go of your children, and really hard when they decide to go far away, even when it’s an amazing, courageous and wonderful thing to do.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 6.13.28 AM

It might be harder though to adjust to the idea that the world she’s just started to get to know, the new friends, the culture and the wonderful people, are all under threat.

The 80-plus islands of Vanuatu are northeast of Australia, and until the 1980’s known to westerners by the colonial name, New Hebrides. It’s the birthplace of bungee jumping, and home to live volcanos. A 2004 “Survivor” series was set in Vanuatu. Ambae, the island where our daughter would live and work as an IT specialist, was the inspiration for James Mitchell’s “Songs of the South Pacific.”

Vanuatu was featured last month in the Bill Weir’s TV series “The Wonder List”, which highlights countries that are just about to be forever changed by westerners.  He described it as Hawaii without hotels.

Some of Grace’s new friends. Photo credit: Grace Whitmore

Some of the islands are hilly, with villagers protected from rising seas, but many are low-lying and vulnerable.

And all are vulnerable to storms.

It’s impossible to pin any one storm on climate change, but scientists assure us that more storms, and more violent storms are on the way.

The Peace Corps volunteers have been evacuated and are waiting to hear about the fate of the people they have come to know and love.

Above: our daughter’s “little brother” runs away with her kite.

Have you, or has anyone you know volunteered for the Peace Corps? Where? Has that country been affected by climate change? 


  • An excellent post! I admire your daughter and I share your thoughts on seeing children take their place on the world stage! It is their time now! They will do amazing things!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know about this string of islands either. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity for your daughter, but I can imagine how difficult it is to see her venture off and worry about her safety. Hopefully the storm won’t be too severe for the island’s inhabitants.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hope everyone escapes the storms safely! Great piece. I think you raise an interesting idea that speaks to the importance of traveling and seeing the world. Without experiencing those cultures firsthand, many people view these remote locations as if they aren’t real in some regards. We’re so far removed that it doesn’t seem like a real threat to real human beings. I think one of the greatest benefits of travel is that it helps to bridge this divide. Glad to hear your daughter is volunteering and making a difference around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent point. Our ethics dictate that it is wrong to steal, say, a car from someone else. But our ethics aren’t big enough to encompass the problem of millions of us each taking one small component of a car from someone far away, or worse, using up the resources that would allow a future person to have a car. Travel, however, especially deep travel, where people learn new languages, make friends, learn about the traditions of others, helps a mind become big enough to see how what we do reaches far beyond us.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Thanks for that post and background. I’m glad Grace is safe, and I hope the people there will be safe, too. The photos give a good idea of what you’re dreaming about!

    Liked by 1 person

  • And we don’t hear about these areas of the world.

    I watched your little video. How wistful and dream-like for those children ….in recent memory like a dream. Their world will change rapidly.

    I’m sure you’ll learn lots from your daughter via her experiences.

    No I don’t know anyone who went to that island. In Canada, we did have govn’t programs for providing skills while working overseas in some defined developing countries. But that program was cut over a decade ago by the federal Canadian govn’t.


    • That is interesting about the Canadian overseas program. It makes me even more amazed that the US still funds this kind of a program.

      You guys get national health insurance, though, so we have nothing to be smug about.


      • I looked up CUSO now –it looks like a Canadian-American program. I volunteered in a library during university that provided info. on developing countries for those working overseas, local teachers and children. That was….waaay back over 30 yrs. ago.


  • A fine post, Julia.
    i was caught in one of those storms in The Philippines back in 1987
    and it was frightening to hear the sheer power of the wind and to observe as it took away all the trees in the garden of my guests’ house and their three barns; luckily, the house was able to withstand the force but it was touch and go.

    Best wishes



  • I am so glad that your daughter is safe along with the other volunteers Julia. Yes, I saw that the area got plummeted. And as climate change and the manipulation of our weather through chemtrails and HAARP continue, we’re going to see huge storm systems more than ever before. We are living in crazy times that’s for sure.


    • This was an impressive storm. The Peace Corps staff stayed behind on the island when the volunteers left. They are OK. We’re waiting to hear how soon, and if, the volunteers will be allowed back to help with recovery.


  • so much to consider. haven’t been pear-annoyed by HAAArp for a while. hafta chekkit again.
    BALI HAI, indeed. was it a M Crichton novel about climate change, in which a mean sea level rise of 3′ or so makes a BIG DIFFERENCE in places like V? Greeeaaat photos by Grace, whom i assume is the afore-mentioned daughter?


  • The storms battering the Pacific and places like Vanuatu definitely have not been our radar, and we appreciate your post for this reason. We’re glad to hear your daughter is safe, but our hearts go out to all those who were impacted.

    While we have no direct experience with the Peace Corps, we have definitely seen the impacts of climate change first hand to the large quantities of icebergs calving off of Greenland that we saw in Newfoundland, to the almost vanished glaciers of Glacier National Park, to the severe drought and wildfire damage in California. We definitely have found that spending some time in these places makes us more aware and concerned, and makes the challenges they face harder to ignore. For us as well as our kids, seeing things first-hand has an impact that no amount of reading about the issue can.


    • It is pretty jaw-dropping, and impressive, what you’ve done with your family. Looking forward to following along as they grow, and learn, and begin to express and act on what they think about what they’ve seen in the world.


  • You must be so happy to watch your daughter make such selfless and honorable choices with the direction of her life. I would want to throw a parade for my kids (or any local ones I might know) who decided to do such marvelous volunteer work with their hard-earned skills. I have a friend whose son was in the Peace Corps–and listening to him tell the tales of his son’s days in a small African village were equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. Incredibly hard work, and hugely satisfying.
    I’m so happy to hear that Grace is safe, and so pleased for you as a mom to have someone to love who is unbelievably loveable.
    Cheers, J.B.

    Liked by 1 person

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