Perhaps it was the small scale of the airport building which gave me a cosy feeling from the beginning. Or the smile of the first Tuvaluans I met when I stepped out of the building. Or the lack of taxi drivers, money changers, street sellers, tour guides or others attacking me; I just walked out of the small building, stood in the sun, and decided which way to go in search of accommodation. In any case, I felt at ease at once upon arrival, and when I then started cruising the streets of the small town, this feeling was only strengthened. Tuvaluans greeted me, smiled at me, stopped to talk to me, or simply waved at me from a distance. At the same time, I always had the feeling they let me be: they just went on doing their thing, and greeted the curious passer-by without ever disturbing him.
Kids were especially kind and open. How often did they yell "Hello" to me, or "Bye" when I walked on. They ran to me to have their picture taken, and had big fun when they saw the results. On the first evening, while I was sitting on the small quay jotting out into the lagoon from the town, three girls were playing around me, running up and down; whenever I pointed my camera at them, they took position and posed with two fingers up, there was no way to ask them not to do it. Like the other kids I would meet later, I was surprised by their command of English. I found out that marbles is a popular game here, and with a lack of tiles on the ground, the kids would just make holes in the ground. I realized I had not seen any kid play marbles back home - since long replaced by video games. At some times, kids would walk with me for a while until they just ran off again. Only once was I surprised when a kid asked for money, but otherwise, their joy had that child-like innocence.
The grown-up Tuvaluans, too, were kind and welcoming wherever I went on the island of Fongafale. While walking around, some would stop to offer me a ride; mostly, they would smile and wave at me in passing by. Many carry their kids on their scooters, sometimes holding them in their arms while driving with the other; traffic seems harmless: distances are small, and people don't seem to speed, adding to the relaxed atmosphere. It was all too easy to get in touch with Tuvaluans: virtually everyone seemed pleased to talk, share experiences of life, helping out where possible, no matter in what conditions they were living. On a rainy Sunday, I went to church, which offered a children service. Many people were dressed up in white, while the kids were wearing all sorts of decorations to make them look even better. Up until the very last day of my stay, just going out into the street and seeing and hearing the people smile, gave me a good feeling in a most natural way. It was a little sad to leave, but at the same time, I felt grateful for the welcoming feeling I had had during my stay.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tuvaluan people (Tuvalu). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tuvaluan people. Read more about this site.