Thursday, March 17, 2016

I'm done!!!

I need to post up some sort of big, grand final post .... but I've been done for exactly one month now. It was difficult but it feels pretty great to be an RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer). Everything has its end, and I'm glad to have finished this journey in my life. Time to go on to bigger and different things!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Failure Report

There's this thing some organizations do now where they issue failure reports. The idea is that we always publicize our successes, even though much of what we do is not clearly good, or even neutral. Imagine a water tank being installed--three years later, is that tap working? If it isn't working, and no one's gone to fix it, that's a failed project. So, to sum up a few things in my life, I want to add some balance to this blog. I don't always succeed with what I try to do, and I think it's interesting to talk about what hasn't gone well here.

One thing that hasn't gone so well is my extension. I've been working for the National Disaster Management Office in Malampa Province. Honestly ... I don't even think I've exchanged more than four or five emails with anyone from that office. So I don't think I can actually say that I work for NDMO. I work with my counterpart ... and he works for NDMO... and I work with another colleague, who has recently gone on suspension. But it's really actually a little unnerving feeling like I work for an organization I have zero contact with. I'm proud of the awareness events my colleagues and I have done in our province but I often feel like I'm an independent volunteer. I mean, who do I even work for? The only people who contact me are Peace Corps, and I know that this is silly, but I got this phone call inviting me to the NDMO Christmas party several hours after it had started. That burns. My friends who extended have had their challenges but at least they get invited to their Christmas parties.

Another thing that's not been going so well is my grant project. I have this grant to do awareness events, and we've done a lot of them, but there's over $2,000 left at this point and not a lot of time to do them in. It's been hard to schedule events, harder to actually go and do them, and it makes me feel pretty bad that it's been this hard to do. I was pretty excited to start it but the whole experience has been like pulling teeth. It has really cured me of the desire to continue working in this field.

On a positive note, I'm going to Tongariki tomorrow! Or, rather, I'm boarding on the barge tomorrow night and I'll get to Tongariki in the morning. I will be there for some indefinite time frame, preferably 3-7 days, and it'll be really great to see my host family and all of my friends there. And then there will be Christmas! And then it will be another month and a half and I will get to leave. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Uripiv uripiv uripiv

Went to Uripiv island a while back ... It was still cold enough to wear sweat shirts out and about. Now, it's SO hot all the time. Like, every time I leave my work and walk the five minutes back to my house, I need to jump into the shower. It's just so, so hot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A second trip to Paama

 I went to Paama with my friend Kelsey (with the glasses) to do disaster awareness at all of the primary schools on Paama island in MALAMPA province. Our friend Nicole came too to visit a volunteer on East Paama and do reading assessments, so we were all on the same flight.
 We took selfies at every airport in the province. The flight from Norsup/Malekula to Paama is Norsup to Craig Cove on Ambrym, Craig Cove to Ulei on Ambrym, which is like a 10 minute flight, and then the world's shortest flight, a 4 minute hop across the ocean from Ulei to the airport on North Paama. (The other selfies were pretty terrible, so skip!)

We got to Paama and didn't have anything ready at all. The truck driver who picked us up at the airport dropped us off at an available guesthouse, so that worked out, and we ran into the Zone Curriculum Advisor who helped us a bit with our scheduling. 
 On Wednesday, we hiked from Liro, which is on West Paama, over to Lulep, which is on East Paama. It was about an hour and forty-five minute walk, starting with a thirty minute straight up-hill sprint. I felt like I wanted to die ... What a hike. You can't see it so well but behind us in the picture is Lopevi, which is an active volcanic island. People were moved off of Lopevi back during the colonial period because it's super, super dangerous to live there, but apparently some number of people are now living there again. Not so great.
 Isn't this a taff tree house? This was from Lulep.

The next day, Thursday, we went down South with our friend Megan to Lehili, Vaoleli, and Vutekai. Vutekai is where the next few pictures come from. It's in South Paama and you can see Epi and Lamen islands very easily. I could see Tongoa distantly from where I was standing, and even the hill of Ewose. (For reference, line of sight from Paama, Paama-Epi-Tongoa-Ewose-Valea-TONGARIKI, olfala aelan hom blo mi.) 
 Kelsey and I looked super flass in our island dresses, that's true.
FUNNY STORY. So we do this game with kindy kids through maybe year 3, to make sure that they understand what we're talking about when we say cyclone, tsunami, earthquake, whatever. Anyway, Vanuatu is currently going through a drought caused by El Nino. Drought is not a Bislama word; the Bislama word is longfala drae taem (long dry time). But I was like, hey, whatever, I'll teach the kids a new word! 
So we're playing the game and they're spinning like dervishes as cyclones and shaking like they're going to break something as earthquakes ... And I say "drought!" And, in unison, every kid in this school leans over, hands on knees, and mimics vomiting.

... Because while 'drought' is not a Bislama word, 'traot' is, and they were definitely throwing up.

Friday we went to Tahi and Liro schools, Saturday lazed on the beach, and Sunday had another extremely non-direct flight back to Malekula.

Monday, November 9, 2015

99 days

Only 99 days left in my Peace Corps service! (This is, of course, assuming that I can get a two month extension to finish up a few last little things at site.) 

It's amazing. I feel like I've lived in Vanuatu FOREVER. But all good things come to an end. On Sunday, when it was 101 days to departure, I made a few vows to myself.

1) I am going to return to Tongariki to visit, and I'm going to bring lots and lots and lots of bottled water for myself.

2) I'm going to wear an island dress to work, every single day, until I leave this country.

3) I'm going to drink as much kava and go to the beach as often as possible.

4) I'm going to remember to spend as much time as I can with all of my friends here in Vanuatu. I could not have completed this journey without their support and care.

5) I'm going to finish grad school applications early so that, no matter what happens, I can leave the country knowing I'll either go to graduate school--or lick my wounds and go find a job that'll pay me more than the princely sum Peace Corps gives me.

This is an amazing country and I love it to death. It's a little scary realizing that it's time to go... but it was scary coming here, too. I have a vision in my head of what I want from my future, and I hope I can work towards that goal. The next step is going to be somewhere else, hopefully in the US, hopefully in DC for a while. Tick tock.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Side Note

I'm in the process of applying for graduate school, right? I've been doing things slowly, slowly, slowly, a little bit every single day, even though the applications aren't due for another two months. It feels remarkably low-stress to do it this way because there's always time to figure out whatever I have to do. And I'm realizing--this is exactly what my parents told me to do in 2007 when I was applying to college. Goes to show how my parents are right about everything!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Scandals Pt 2

I know two people in Vanuatu currently embroiled in sex scandals that may or may not affect their career. One did something that would result in prison time in America but is legal in Vanuatu. (It's the only crime that the American government can prosecute Americans for doing in another country. Hint: it's not murder or rape or theft.) The other did something that is legal in both countries but wouldn't really impact their professional career unless everyone involved worked at the same corporation. It's not clear if these people are going to keep their jobs, or lose them, but it's interesting to think about where the line between personal and professional life lies in different cultures. Here in Vanuatu your personal life directly impacts your professional life, whereas in America, in most cases, you have more privacy. (There was that sex worker/teacher in NYC who lost her job--which I think was wrong, since she wasn't a sex worker when she was teaching kids--but in general, most people have more space.)

Just something to think about.