In Tuvalu


In Tuvalu…

  • Drinking juice is more common than drinking water.
  • 600MB of internet costs the equivalent of a week’s wages ($20 AUS).
  • Gossip spreads faster and more perniciously than heavy rain.
  • Rain is seen as a blessing.
  • Sugar is everywhere and in everything.
  • Many people have missing/rotten teeth.
  • Raw fish is a coveted meal.
  • Island-of-origin allegiances are fierce.
  • People tend to sleep all in the same room with their family members on the floor.
  • Wild dogs are either very kind or not.
  • Motorcycles are the most common way to get around. It’s far too hot to walk for most of the day, and I’ve seen about as many bicycles as I have cars (which is to say, less than ten and more than five. One bicycle belongs to an Australian expat, one to a Chinese shop owner, and a few to children who always ride with more than one person aboard).
  • Medical care is free.
  • Most everyone below 40 loves Facebook.
  • Everyone wants to know if I’m married.
  • I didn’t “come out.”
  • If there is a cake, it is likely banana cake.
  • The bride and groom don’t kiss at their wedding. PDA, even hand-holding, is taboo.
  • If there is a celebration, there will be more food than seems humanly possible to be gathered in one place.
  • You will not see vegetables.
  • You will be offered tinned meat.
  • The only vegetables are grown at a garden donated by the Taiwanese government that opens for sale two mornings a week.
  • Things that are imported run out. Rice? Stock up. Apples and pears? Enjoy them for the two weeks while they last.
  • Coconut oil is the perfect cure for frizzy hair puffed up by a humid sea breeze.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to take a nap wherever you might find yourself tired. I have slept in the hospital waiting room, a friend’s house, a community gathering space, etc.
  • The heat makes you tired. I have no idea how anyone ever accomplishes anything. I’m so darn sleepy all the time.
  • Jesus is a really bit deal, and the subject of many (but mercifully not all) Tuvaluan songs.
  • I haven’t seen a single book in people’s homes other than a bible, which makes me sad.
  • Christmas gifts are packaged foods from overseas.
  • People you’ve never met will wish you a happy new year.
  • It’s common not to have enough water to do laundry.
  • I learned about as much from living in this scarcity as I did from talking to Tuvaluan experts about it.

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