From the Prariies to the Ocean and Vanuatu


JULY 1, 2016

I HAD to be in Sydney for work in late May, but didn’t want to spend the week afterward on vacation in Australia — too much like the United States for me, especially with its coming parliamentary election. That’s how I found myself driving across an island, under a volcano, over an ash plain and through a forest to a tiny village called Lamakara on Tanna, an island in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu. This particular village is home to the John Frum movement, which believes that an American with that name who appeared there more than half a century ago is the Messiah.

“We are happy to see you,” said Isaac Wan, the bearded village chief, who was surrounded by rail-thin men in tattered Western attire. “Thank you for coming.” His English was pretty good.

I shook his withered hand in the hot sun, then presented, with ceremonial panache, $20 and some goody-bag trinkets from Australian fashion week. Giggling children emerged from behind trees and pigs snorted in gardens where chickens clucked and yams grew.

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