Tuvalu

Country #66

Needle in haystack,
Get away from it all, where
Remoteness is life.

I visited Tuvalu in September 2015, on a work trip. What an eye-opening experience.

To say that Tuvalu is a small country is an understatement. The thin slither of atoll of Funafuti that sticks out of the vast surrounding sea can feel a bit like another world, one where things laid back, time moves slowly, and remoteness is a fundamental aspect of people's existence. As for the outer islands (which unfortunately I didn't get to visit because of bad weather during the weekend), I can barely even imagine.

A particular highlight was renting a motorbike, learning how to ride out, and then zipping up and down the island several times for something to do. I found the types of houses that ordinary people live in really interesting - so open, often with barely any walls or curtains so as to allow the breeze to come through the house. It makes for a very open community feel, where everybody knows each other and privacy is either something of a luxury or just something that people don't need or want.

There was a football tournament taking place at the far end of the airport runway, which attracted a fair crowd. As my Tuvaluan colleague said, if you get 30 or so people in one place in Tuvalu, that's quite a large amount. When the plane lands and takes off on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a significant proportion of Funafuti's citizens gather around the airport to see people off and to check out who is arriving.

Of course being in Tuvalu comes with the burning heat during the days when it isn't raining, very limited food/drink choices, and few discrete 'things to do'. But I suppose that's part of the magic of this country, which could so easily, in a parallel universe, be just a semi-forgotten set of outer islands of a bigger country, but instead has the fairly bizarre combination of feeling like it's at the very edge of the world whilst having things that independent countries have (like national Government buildings, a National Library, International Airport, etc.).