Larry-san, Engineer, Artist and Musician from Vanuatu

Near my house

Position: Civil Engineer, BI consulting  
Name:  Mr. ABEL Larry

Name of the course:Disaster Management on Infrastructure
(River, Road and Port) course
Period:May 17 to July 15, 2016

About myself: Background and Vanuatu

at my sister’s graduation

I am a young energetic engineer who has just came out of university 2 years ago and want to put my mark in my community and hopefully the world too. I grew up in the little island country of Vanuatu which is in the South Pacific Ocean. It is between Australia and Fiji. I am the only engineer in my family consisting of 5 children, 3 (including me) of whom have graduated and are now working. Like Japan, education in Vanuatu is expensive for most parents. We depend mainly on scholarships to go to university, which is how my siblings and I got through university. The advantage of Vanuatu is that the education system is either English or French so we learn our second language as young as 6 or 7 years old. After visiting some big cities in Australia and now Japan I can see that I am lucky to be from Vanuatu. I do not need to describe Vanuatu, google images can give anyone a clear image of where I grew up. Some people call it an untouched paradise.

If you have lived in a big city all your life then Vanuatu would be a very different world from what you are used to. Vanuatu does not have any cities. The capital is a small town called Port Vila. The country has a small population of about 270,000 people. Not even half a million yet. I haven’t travelled much around the world but every time I get to a new city I am always shocked. The lights, busy traffic, busy pedestrians, the intricate pattern that roads weave through a city and the noise. I do not get homesick much, I love new and interesting places. I tell people I enjoy staying in Tokyo, Sydney, Brisbane or wherever I am but I would not want to live there. At the end of the day I would always want to go back home to Vanuatu, hop in bed while viewing a black sky full of stars through my window and hear crickets in the shrubs nearby.

Personal hobbies /interests and Engineering


acrylic painting

I am an optimistic person and I believe anyone can do anything regardless of what people say. Growing up, I had artistic skills like all my cousins on my father’s side. Most of my relatives are artists and musicians. Engineering was a different path from what my artistic mind would be expected to choose. I managed to get through university and now I have a job as an Engineer but I still draw, paint, play music, sing and do photography as hobbies. I still do enjoy learning new skills especially in arts and craft. Engineering is very demanding on the mind, so I do art as a way to relax the mind. I find it really relaxing when I draw a picture or play a piece of music on the piano. I enjoy listening to music and I like looking at visual art works. I mainly admire art to get inspiration to do my own work of art.
My father was a main influence on my decision to become an engineer. He used to work in construction. As a kid I always followed him to construction sites while he was working. It was then I decided I wanted to do something along those lines. It wasn’t until high school that I decided to become a Civil Engineer. I was privileged enough to get a scholarship to study at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) due to the good grades I managed to get in high school. I have heard people say that studying Engineering is hard, I can confirm it is hard but only if you’re not following up on studies. Civil Engineering is one of the oldest trade since the Egyptians started building pyramids so there’s a lot to learn. Even now I am still learning. There is always a new method of doing something or a new material to work with. Personally I found that being called an Engineer is satisfying. I am proud to be called one.

Japanese people, culture and history

Weekend at Saga

I do not have much knowledge of the Japanese culture. My prior understanding of Japan is that it is among the worlds most developed countries especially when it comes to technology. It amazes me that an island nation like Japan can have a healthy and fast growing economy. After learning a little bit of the history I now understand that the Japanese have come a long way in trying to keep up with the industrial revolution and the wars that follow. Japan has always tried to make a quick recovery from natural and economical disasters. One thing that is important is that we must always learn from our mistakes. It was interesting to hear lectures on Japanese history from a Japanese lecturer. They admit Japan has done mistakes in the past like the Second World War. Japanese people a friendly. I do not speak Japanese and most Japanese do not speak English but they are always helpful in trying to point me in the right direction when I get lost in the subways, train stations or in the streets. Even when not a single word can be understood between us, we make pretty good use of our hand and use a lot of gestures. Since staying here in Japan, I have become quite good at using my hands when describing something. Some phrases I can do without saying much include, “Can I get one size larger?” or “Which of these is Chicken?” One thing that amuses me is my height compared to most Japanese. Back home in Vanuatu I would be among the average height (1.73m) whether I’m at work or with my friends or families. Here in Japan, I seem to be among the taller population. It feels good to be looked up to once in a while. I would reckon Japanese people are some of the fittest people. I have played futsal with elderly people whom I’m sure were over forty five years of age and they seemed to be as fit as me, especially when I get knocked to the ground by one of them. In my country once people reach the age of forty five or fifty, playing sports is not an option anymore. Overall, the Japanese are a great bunch of people that I am glad to have as friends.

My Program

Playing piano at JICA Kansai

The program I am doing is on Disaster Management for River, Roads and Ports. It is very interesting learning from all the specialized people in Japan on how Japan has been dealing with the tsunamis, earthquakes and floods. I am sure all the participants from all other countries would agree with me in saying that japan has learned a lot from experience and is fully equipped to handle disasters. We all hope to learn how we can minimize the negative impacts of Natural disasters and practice our new knowledge in our countries. The course has taken me all over Japan. As a Civil Engineer, it was very interesting looking at Japans infrastructure. One thing I noticed is that there are a lot of huge superstructures in Japan. Big bridges, big tunnels, big dams, very tall towers, etc. Since Japan has been exposed to a lot of Natural disasters, there are many innovation and ideas to counter the effects of these disasters. I believe all countries suffering from similar disasters can learn a lot from Japan.

Lastly, I’d like to say that Japan is a good place to visit whether you’re here on holidays or for business. To the Japanese people and all other country men, I encourage everyone to visit other countries with different ethnicity and cultures. Being exposed to different environments can open our eyes so that we can see the world differently. When we do this, we can easily learn to appreciate what we have and understand what other people are experiencing in their countries. Whether your interest may be history, nature & parks, new technology, different cultures, good food, beautiful sights to see… Japan has it all.

Edited by
ARITA Miyuki, Training Management Division,  JICA Kansai