Monday, 5 May 2014

Where the Hell is Tuvalu: Philip Ells (Tuvalu)

How does a young city solicitor end up as the People's Lawyer of the fourth-smallest country in the world, 11,000 miles from home?

 Everyone dreams of ditching the rat-race, jumping off the treadmill, turning their life on its head and doing something worthwhile, but Philip Ells turned that fantasy into a reality. Imagining turquoise seas, sandy beaches and lush tropical trees, Ells flies off to the Pacific island state of Tuvalu armed only with his Voluntary Service Overseas briefing and his hopes of finding paradise...
Nothing, however, could quite prepare him for the reality of life on Tuvalu. Housed in a filthy, humid bunker, Philip learns to deal with the heat, rain, murders, incest, recalcitrant islanders, bizarre constitution and the unforgivable crime of pig theft, along the way realising that you never look a shark the eye or ask the octogenarian Tuvaluan chief why he sits immobilised by a massive rock permanently lodged in his groin.

In this hilarious dramatic and insightful book, Philip Ells describes with self-deprecating wit the collision between himself and the Pacific Islanders' sometimes extraordinary behaviour.

Part travelogue, part biography, this is the often hilarious tale of how a city lawyer ditched the rat race to live on the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as people's lawyer for a little over two years. Ells kept a diary of this stay in Tuvalu and this forms the basis for the book. It is a relatively short read of around 278 pages, and a colourful tale filled with humour at the often non-sensical ways of the Tuvaluans. During his stay Ells also travelled to neighbouring (relatively speaking as the nearest other island group is 1000 miles away) nations of Kiribati and Fiji and he tells of his time there as well, filling in for the people's lawyer there during periods of absence. What makes this such an interesting book is the colourful characters and the way in which island life is described, which really brings it to life.

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