Vanuatu’s Heart: Full Of Love Or Hate?

Vanuatu’s Heart: Full Of Love Or Hate?  In my quest to travel to every country in the world, I visited the remote Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.  While on the island I had a health incident which I detail in this port.  This post of my experience began to make the rounds on social media and was met with much negative feedback.  Most readers missed the nuance of my visit to Vanuatu.

For those attempting to travel to every country in the world, many debate what counts as visiting a country.  Some in the chasing 193 community state you must get a visa stamp, others say you must stay overnight, and some have a rule of drinking a local beer.  While I spent two nights on the island, I only saw three landmarks; the airport, the hospital and my hotel.  I spent the vast majority of my time lying in bed.  The trip that I was highly looking forward to; snorkeling in crystal clear waters, standing at the edge of the active volcano Mount Yasur, and meeting local people never came to fruition due to my health condition.  So my post, Have I Really Been To Vanuatu was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

In my post, I touched on the hospital standards at Vila Central Hospital.  As you might imagine, this island nation of 270,000 does not have the same levels of excellence in medical care as you would expect in a city like Boston, Sydney, or Bangkok.  (In fact, one of the biggest advertisements at the hospital was for emergency air evacuation off of Vanuatu.) This is just common sense, and not meant as an insult.  And while I was in the emergency room at the Vila Central Hospital, I imagined the challenges the locals had in receiving medical care.  It must be a scary situation if you have medical needs in Vanuatu and potentially the local medical facilities are unable to help you.

Most of this was lost on the many people who commented on my post on social media.  Some questioned my judgement, many insulted me, and others wished me death.  Very few acknowledged that medical care is limited in Vanuatu or were concerned about my well-being.  Stating the obvious, social media provides anonymity and is a conduit to a high level of vitriol, hate, and victimhood.

Here are some of the comments my post received from a Vanuatu Facebook group.  So this group is called Yumi Toktok Street News and my post was placed in this group.  All the comments you will see after are from this thread.  It is an interesting mix of insults and threats.  The comments come from old and young (and apparently even some loving grandfathers), government workers and teachers, women and men.  Some people take the time to be creative with their threats or insults, while other people offer just crude attacks.

There is an incredible amount of irony in all of these attacks and threats.  Vanuatu in 2016 was voted the 4th happiest country in the world according the Happy Planet Index.  If you shared with me that a nation was voted 4th happies, I would imagine the citizens being easy going and happy go lucky.  So it was quite odd, that a commenter would tell me he comes from the happiest nation in the world and in the same breath wished that I would die.  So I have curated some of the best comments below.

SirTam Melz reaches out with a creative insult (meat sack)

 

Brn Livo wishes I died during my visit. Doesn’t make a great tourism slogan.

 

 

 

This loving grandfather promised to curse me with the local doctors if I returned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like Walter’s creativity.  He takes Vanuatu’s number one attraction, an active volcano and threatens to throw me into it.

 

 

Another well wisher, La Donia, that hopes I die.

Here

 

 

 

A series of comments here, from conspiracy to some basic insults.

 

 

Dky decides to blame me for randomly getting sick while visiting Vanuatu.

 

 

There are many other comments on this thread you can check out as well as my original post on my blog that you can check out.

I was planning and hoping to return to Vanuatu.  I really was looking forward to my original trip.  After reading the comments, there is a small part of me that would second guess my decision after the level of hate (and a couple of death threats).

Vanuatu’s Heart: Full Of Love Or Hate?

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13 thoughts on “Vanuatu’s Heart: Full Of Love Or Hate?

  1. Craig

    Jeez. What a bunch of nasty people. Amazing some can be so heartless.

    I know Ric well. He’s a hard core traveler and knows what to do. Many making comments on that blog site make assumptions and berate Ric. BS.

    Sorry you had to endure such hate. I’m shocked. Makes me wonder if a trip there is worth it. I’ve been to over 100 countries and have never seen such vile comments before. Bizarre. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?GlobalGaz

  3. Matt

    Wow, that is so interesting. The people of Vanuatu are typically so friendly. At the same time they are very patriotic and have a strong cultural identity. I’m amazed at the level of offence that seems to ja r been taken by some. It’s unfortunate bu I would not let it sour your view of such a beautiful country and people. If you can pick up a few words in Bislama they will appreciate the effort!

    Reply
  4. Jeli

    Hi, reading through the comments on Facebook had me sick to my core, I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the death threats were dumb, and as a Ni-van, I want to apologize for the shallow-minded people in the comment section. I agree VCH needs to improve hygiene and cleanliness, and regarding our medical services, we are not at the level of aussi, etc., a lot of tourists use Premedical and private doctors. Wifi is weak, hence gives you the chance to get off the net for a while and explore our beautiful country :). To answer your question, you haven’t really been to Vanuatu, and I hope you come back, perhaps just to visit Yasur volcano, Because I think it will be a great experience, I knew it was mine when I went to Tanna in 2016. And again, we are very friendly and a lot happier than what was portrayed in the screenshots above. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Marika

    I’m sorry, genuinely sorry Craig that you fell ill. However, you also need to understand that the majority of people berating and threatening you have obviously taken great offense to your original article. Which I honestly found to be naive, biased and highly demeaning. We are a proud people and don’t take lightly to articles such as yours. Vanuatu is also very new to social media so a lot of patrons old and young are “full speed no brake” when it comes to commenting and discussions in public forums. They have not the “filter” to discern what may be politically correct to address certain situations/confrontations. What is the purpose of this article ? I see it as Defensive, a bit, Eye for an eye.

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Hi Marika: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am sorry you are so thin-skinned and sensitive since you found my article to be ” naive, biased and highly demeaning”.

      It is surprising that your fellow citizens would be surprised that a visitor would not be happy with a hospital with poor hygiene. And it is sad that they are blaming the messenger.

      And I am sorry the people have Vanautu do not know hot to control themselves since they have “no filter” and this is your excuse for them wishing me death and hatred.

      The point of the second article is to point out the unreasonable response of some people from Vanuatu.

      Reply
    2. craig

      It was Ric, not me that got sick. Ric’s article was not naive, biased nor highly demeaning. The comments he got back were uncalled for. A death threat for an article like that? Beyond bizarre. 100% uncalled for responses to his article.

      People from every nation are proud of their country. Fantastic. But if you can’t take constructive criticism, then your country will never develop.

      Reply
  6. Val Smith

    I’m not surprised at all. I love Vanuatu and lived there for 11 years. The Ni Vanuatu people are in the main a very happy and hospitable race, but they live in the moment. I knew of a Ni Van who was helped with medical care by his employer say,when he was being terminated from his employment because of poor attendance that he didn’t care if he lost his job. The employer then said, I can’t believe that you just said that, I saved your life when you had blood poisoning. He said well I didn’t ask you too. Vila Hospital had sent him home with Panadol. The employer had taken him to a Private Clinic. It is sad but true that the Hospital is inadequate, but the medical staff do the best with whatever they have. With regard to Yumi Tok Tok Stret. It is a forum mostly made up of people who like to vent their inane comments on social media. I hope you are now felling a lot better, and that one day you may return and see the real beauty of Vanuatu.

    Reply
  7. Doctor Sale

    Ric I’m sorry you received a number of insults and death threats in your post on our national social media forum That was wrong

    I’m even sorrier that you generalized the value/net worth of a country and it’s 250,000 + people on the opinions of 50 individuals. That is not scientific and would not hold ground in a court of law. That is a logical fallacy and is an incorrect extrapolation.

    You sound like a nice person, based on your travel blogs and contemporaries supporting comments which is why I feel bad you left with a negative impression of a truly beautiful country with genuinely good people. I would know because I live there. For the past 30 years in fact. That is almost 11,000 more days than the 2 days you spent in Vanuatu to put things in perspective. Vanuatu is also 83 islands , 82 which you have left to see before you can accurately surmise about the state of affairs of Vanuatu.

    You highlighted some valid points of note ; hygiene at the hospital, patient turn-over time, service however once again it would be best not to generalize the utility and function of the national hospital based on a single encounter ( which I agree could have been conducted better) I would know this because I’ve worked at Vila Cental Hospital as a doctor for the past 6 years and despite the patient waiting times, it does some amazing work ( 1500 deliveries, 1000 + operations, 1000 + admissions, 1000+ clinics per year). It provides a great service to the people of Vanuatu ( tourists and locals) despite not having Air-Condition ;). Its funding ( which in term determines daily linen change, availability of gloves etc) is determined by a ministerial budget which may not be sufficient.

    There was massive reaction from patriotic Ni-Vanuatu who do not know you the same way you do not know their country. You self righteously said you offered a ” tongue-in-cheek” take but I and probably a lot of your antagonizers saw it as condescending and even cynical view of the state of affairs. I disagree with the level of threats and insults lobbied your way. If you take time to understand our colonial history is mired in a pseudo-apartheid era as we were ruled and oppressed by the French and English and post-independence we have found a new sense of patriotism ( though several lines were crossed by some of the bloggers)

    How about a nice little social experiment, venture into national social media groups of all 90 countries you have been to, and offer a tongue in cheek critique of some aspect of society and see if you don’t get a few scathing remarks. I’m willing to wager on this.

    So Vanuatu
    1. beautiful volcanoes, beautiful beaches, beautiful waterfalls, fresh organic food, genuinely friendly people ( offline 😉 ) ( Unique)
    2. handful of hot-head bloggers ( same as anywhere else around the world)

    Come back some day?

    God Bless you and look forward to reading more of your travel blogs

    Doctor Sale
    Vila Central Hospital

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Doctor Sale … did I critique and complain that your hospital did not have a GE Brightspeed Elite CT Scan Machine that costs $2,500,000? No. I complained and noted that your hospital does not practice basic hygiene. I am not sure, are you saying your hospital can not afford a mop? Are you saying your hospital can not afford soap? It seems like you are implying that you have a limited budget, that would prevent your staff from mopping the floor or washing their hands.

      So I apologize if you or others find my comments cynical or condescending. But I find it odd, that many people are pointing the finger and attacking me since I pointed these shortcomings out.

      The tongue and cheek article is addressing the question of whether I “visited” the country since I only saw the hotel, airport, and hospital. My comments on the poor hygiene were simple observations (not tongue and cheek) on the poor hygiene.

      I have written many positive articles and some extremely negative articles. The response to these other negative articles have not been met with the hatred and vitriol as I encountered in Vanuautu.

      I did not leave Vanautu with a negative feeling at all. My feeling was I hope I get better and sometime hope to come back to completet my journey to visit your nation. My bad feelings developed after I have the comments on Facebook from some of your fellow countrymen. I find it incredibly ironic that Vanautu was voted the happiest country and you are noting the “genuinely friendly people” in your comments, but all of these friendly people must either not have FB accounts or were offline over the last 72 hrs. The vast majority of comments were filled with hate.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

      Reply
  8. John Patterson

    Unfortunately the hospital (even after the new buildings were built) is totally inadequate. This is mostly because the government refuse to give enogh financial support. This is because all the politicians go overseas for medical treatment at the expense of the grass roots ne-vanuatu people! They would never go to the hospital by choice! That said Vanuatu has to be one of the most beutiful places in the world even if not the happiest. Come back and have another look, you won’t be dissapointed! Not all the locals are as silly as the ones who threatened you!

    Reply

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