Sep 25, 2003
I’m finally getting around to reading Chasing the Monsoon by Alex Frater, a British travel writer who once visited Paama to see the villages that his grandfather, Maurice Frater, ministered to when he brought the good word of Scottish Christianity in 1903. This book (it includes an inscription to Erin and me that Alex penned in his London flat when we visited him on our way home from Vanuatu) is about Alex’s travels through rainy India, but it opens with his childhood years in Vanuatu and Fiji.
Alex’s father was the sole doctor in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu’s former name), and during WWII he shipped the family off to Australia but stayed to coordinate health care when the American G.I.s came in. This passage surprised me:
A flu epidemic followed the measles; another measles epidemic followed that. At one point [my father] later told me, the island group’s entire indigenous population seemed on the verge of extinction. It was a nightmare of Old Testament dimensions and it kept recurring.
Yet another chronicle of how imported disease can decimate native populations. Thank goodness the Ni-Vanuatu pulled through with their resilience (and the help of donated American penicillin, according to Frater’s father.)
Anton Zuiker ☄
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