Where The Hell Is Tuvalu?: How I became the law man of the

Philip Ells was a lawyer in London and he was burnt out He decided to escape his high pressure job by volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas He was sent to Tuvalu to be the People s Lawyer That job is basically serving as a defense attorney for anyone who needs one There aren t native lawyers available for people The prosecuting attorney was also an ex pat.This job came with some problems that he hadn t expected In Tuvalu there just isn t much crime It is also customary to g Philip Ells was a lawyer in London and he was burnt out He decided to escape his high pressure job by volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas He was sent to Tuvalu to be the People s Lawyer That job is basically serving as a defense attorney for anyone who needs one There aren t native lawyers available for people The prosecuting attorney was also an ex pat.This job came with some problems that he hadn t expected In Tuvalu there just isn t much crime It is also customary to go to the police and write out a full confession immediately if you commit a crime Everyone pleads guilty That makes life for your defense attorney much harder His main job was to try to get the sentences as short as possible for his clients by whatever means necessary This led to most of the island residents calling him The People s Liar He filled out the rest of his time by writing threatening letters to government officials of behalf of citizens That can get awkward when you then meet the officials socially or over tennis.He also inherited Laita, a secretary translator paralegal with his office She feels that the less he knows the better He can cause fewer problems that way.This book is written about his two years of service in the 1990s That means that the community in Tuvalu, had very limited access to the outside world There was no internet and mail may not come if there were extra passengers on the plane From Google Maps This is the main island of Funafuti The town is on the eastern side From Wikipedia This is the whole island nation The islands are spread far apart and there was a boat that tried to make a circuit of them about once a month Sometimes it brings back fruits and vegetables Most of the time it doesn t which leads to ex pat fantasies of the joys of a potato.The ex pats and the natives of Tuvalu never truly understand each other The author writes about this with self deprecating wit He comes to appreciate the quietness of the island especially after being loaned out to Kiribati and working for seven weeks on many horrific crimes in that country in addition to a Constitutional crisis.He may have even been able to do some good such as helping teach a three day seminar on the legal rights of women in an area where domestic violence is not taken seriously by the police.This is an unusual memoir in that the epilogue tell what other people in the book are doing now but never updates what the author did after leaving Tuvalu.This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story Well written and surprisingly entertaining and informative read recounting the experiences of a young British lawyer doing 2 years voluntary service in Tuvalu in the 90 s It highlights the struggle between customary village justice and the forces of post colonial law Well worth a read as it gives great insights into Tuvaluan life on a remote Pacific island before mobile phones and the internet and describes well the often majestic setting. Where the Hell is Tuvalu describes the two and a bit years Ells spent working as the People s Lawyer, or the People s Liar as came to be known, in the world s 4th smallest independent nation during the mid 1990 s Focusing on his job and ex pat life among the Tuvaluans, Ells self deprecating humour makes this an interesting read and stands almost alone as the only travel book written on this country.Disillusioned with the corporate world at the grand old age of 23, Ells decides to enroll with V Where the Hell is Tuvalu describes the two and a bit years Ells spent working as the People s Lawyer, or the People s Liar as came to be known, in the world s 4th smallest independent nation during the mid 1990 s Focusing on his job and ex pat life among the Tuvaluans, Ells self deprecating humour makes this an interesting read and stands almost alone as the only travel book written on this country.Disillusioned with the corporate world at the grand old age of 23, Ells decides to enroll with Voluntary Service Overseas VSO , an international development charity, and picks up a posting to Tuvalu, situated smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.With a total land area of 26 square kilometres and a population of close to 10,000, this is a nation that few will have heard of, which also applied to the author who spent three months pondering whether to take the assignment Previously comprising the Ellice part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony Kiribati making up the Gilbert component , the country only became fully independent in 1978 It s admission to the United Nations in 2000, means that it is the 6th newest UN member bizarrely beating Switzerland which only became a member in 2002.Where the Hell is Tuvalu mostly concentrates on Ells interactions with other palagis pronounced pah langis , the law cases he works and his daily life as an ex pat on this tiny island Naturally, most of his dealings with the Tuvaluan people is through the work he undertakes in his job as the People s Lawyer It is in this role that he defends his clients mostly against charges of pig theft, traffic offences and drunken fighting However, on loan to Kiribati his cases become muchgruesome, including rape and child abuse which signals asomber tone to this part of the book.Given his visit to, and Tuvalu s close historical connection to Kiribaiti, the book naturally lends itself to comparison with J Maarten Troost s book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals While Where the Hell is Tuvalu contains a greater number of funny events that take place, Troost s superior writing ability makes his book the pick of the two by some distance That said, there is still plenty that appeals within Ells offering.Suffering constantly from giardiasis, we probably learn way too much about his bodily functions than is absolutely necessary with this knowledge usually imparted by way of humourous events that occur to Ells Ells considerable efforts to also become immersed in the Tuvaluan way of life ensures that we also get glimpses of some of their customs, which he observes in an entirely by non judgemental fashion There s also illustrations of some of the steadfast friendships he makes during his time on Tuvalu, both with other ex pats and locals.All up, Where the Hell is Tuvalu is a good read, told in humourous fashion and one which provides a bit of knowledge on what life on Tuvalu is like Given the dearth of books available on this tiny Polynesian nation, this is definitely recommended for anyone wanting to find outabout Tuvalu So long as you re able to find it Are you a lawyer thinking of a career change Why not volunteer to be the People s Lawyer in Tuvalu Your experience, sadly, will be completely unlike Philip Ells because we are in a technological age, now, and when PE went to Tuvalu 1993 1994 , he was heavily reliant on irregular boats bringing post for news of the outside world.This was a fun read, of a world long gone and soon to be physically gone too if the sea levels keep on rising , and of the tensions between volunteers as outsiders, Are you a lawyer thinking of a career change Why not volunteer to be the People s Lawyer in Tuvalu Your experience, sadly, will be completely unlike Philip Ells because we are in a technological age, now, and when PE went to Tuvalu 1993 1994 , he was heavily reliant on irregular boats bringing post for news of the outside world.This was a fun read, of a world long gone and soon to be physically gone too if the sea levels keep on rising , and of the tensions between volunteers as outsiders, business people as outsiders and a traditional community and tensions within that traditional community concerning women s rights, violence and change PE provides insightful comment and manages to stick to the volunteer mandate of observing and not judging What is he doing, now, I wonder I can probably google him How does a young City lawyer end up as the People s Lawyer of the fourth smallest country in the world kilometres from home We ve all thought about getting off the treadmill, turning life on its head and doing something worthwhile Philip Ells dreamed of turquoise seas, sandy beaches and palm trees, and he found these in the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu But neither his Voluntary Service Overseas briefing pack nor his legal training could prepare him for what happened thereHe learned to deal with rapes, murders, incest, the unforgivable crime of pig theft and to look a shark in the eye But he never dared ask the octogenarian Tuvaluan chief why he sat immobilised by a massive rock permanently resting on his groinWell, you wouldn t, would you This is the story of a UK lawyer colliding with a Pacific island culture The fallout is moving, dramatic, bewildering and often hilarious This book was a great insight into life in a completely different part of the world, Kiribati as well as Tuvalu, and one not influenced by the outside world very much Philip Ells writing style didn t work for me and didn t see the wit mentioned on the cover or onreviews but it also didn t have me yawning This was a random choice based on round the world in 80 books and Pointless so it could have been worse. Of all the wryly humorous memoirs about White Boys Traveling to Exotic Places , this is one of them It s a fairly forgettable book a year on I have forgotten all of the details, both major and minor but as far as I remember, sometime in the early to mid 90s, Philip Ells headed off as a volunteer with the British Voluntary Service Overseas sort of the British equivalent of the Peace Corps to be the people s lawyer of Tuvalu His willingness to be the butt of the joke won my sympathy at firs Of all the wryly humorous memoirs about White Boys Traveling to Exotic Places , this is one of them It s a fairly forgettable book a year on I have forgotten all of the details, both major and minor but as far as I remember, sometime in the early to mid 90s, Philip Ells headed off as a volunteer with the British Voluntary Service Overseas sort of the British equivalent of the Peace Corps to be the people s lawyer of Tuvalu His willingness to be the butt of the joke won my sympathy at first, but his self deprecation quickly ceases to be charming and tends toward annoying, and his desperate pursuit of the humorous just comes across as whingey and culturally tone deaf I mean, the title alone is fairly insulting, if you re from Tuvalu, right.This is an excerpt from a longer review on my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books Allow me to address this book in one sentence You became the lawman by signing up for a UK version of the Peace Corps when you were 23 That hardly gives you insight into telling others how to quit the rat race nor does it make a good story You went somewhere exotic that few have traveled to Congratulations Now stop patting yourself on the back and get back to work I should have known better considering I had to special order a used copy from the UK that this book was no bueno. The author volunteered his skills to the population of the tiny island of Tuvalu He has a pleasant narrative style, but he rambles too much, like that really interesting, nice chap you spent a pleasant couple of hours listening to at the pub, but don t want to spend anytime with. Read as part of the 2015 Reading Challenge A book set in a different country Where The Hell Is Tuvalu?: How I became the law man of the world's fourth-smallest country


About the Author: Philip Ells

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