13.11.2017 By Stephen Soole in Vanuatu

Time has flown by, and in so many ways, lots has happened, yet in others, so very little.

Is it what I expected? Has everything gone according to plan? Am I fluent in Bislama? The answer to all these questions is: not at all.

I had expectations, have expectations, but those expectations are nothing compared to what I have learned, what I’m still learning, and how life has moved on. The language, on the other hand, is a work in progress that I think will take longer than the 2 year assignment.

Volunteering is far from easy, it’s demanding and challenging. No matter how well prepared you think you are for the task, the reality is, you can’t be. The variables are numerous, and it’s as much a leap of faith as anything.

Watermelons anyone?

There are things that have amazed me, surprised me and even shocked me. There have been emotions, of joy and happiness to loneliness and home-sickness. There have been moments of apprehension and reservation, along with astonishment, appreciation and reward.

The constant in all of this has been change. My feelings have changed significantly compared to how I felt at the beginning. I have learnt that the more I think I understand, the less I know. 

I have learnt that if it appears there is no logic to some things, that’s because there isn’t any, and I have learnt that, out of the blue, when least expected, something occurs that reminds me why I’m here and what a privilege we are given.

This opportunity is a reward in itself.


Obstacles on the way to work

I have learnt the importance of friends, colleagues and family in sharing, supporting, laughing, crying and celebrating.

I have met remarkable people, doing wonderful things, selflessly, and observed quiet leadership happening, without fanfare or title, at the core of society. This gives me optimism.

I have found a nation whose people, like the whenua, are resilient, yet a nation whose people, like the whenua, are also vulnerable.

So what of the time ahead? I have accepted that every day is different, that there will continue to be days when nothing of substance is realised, and days when you question the point of it all. But also that there will be days where everything clicks and the point to it all is clear and the purpose of your being here is clear.

I have learnt; Ko ia kahore nei I rapu, te kitea. 'He who does not seek does not find'.


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