Thursday, May 30, 2013


Tongariki is a weird little place. At first, I had interminable (and stupid) debates with myself--is this place in the bush? Is this place not bush?--but I've gotten over that sort of nit picking. I sometimes think that no one else (except the volunteer on BNG) is ever going to understand what it's really like for me. The boat comes once a week (if it comes); it's half my monthly salary one way to try to fly out of Tongoa; it's a small island and, although I can see plenty of other islands from my school grounds, I rarely leave. I can't always buy credit for my phone. And I don't really see anyone.

I'll admit that I'm very jealous of volunteers on Santo, Tanna, Efate,--they can socialize with each other, which is awesome and should never be underrated. During training, I had no idea of how strange being in the Peace Corps is. Furthermore, I had no idea how much I would want to be around other Americans--how desperate I would feel some days to just be able to talk with someone who would understand me. Luckily, I was able to see Elyse, Stephanie, and Monica during Term 1 for a few days, but other than that, I only speak English on the phone. If I could change my site to somewhere with more volunteers, I'm not sure that I wouldn't do it. During training, I know that I and some other volunteers got caught up in this idea that bush was best--that, like, the harder the environment, the better--which I'm now aware was completely misguided, stupid, and pointless. You've got to make it through two years, and, honestly, why not make it with friends? It's going to be hard for everyone anyway.

In a lot of ways, though, it feels like I'm getting the classic Peace Corps experience. I live in a hut. I've eaten dog and flying fox and sea turtle and more root vegetables than I would have thought possible. I've seen kastom ceremonies, I've drunk a good amount of kava, and I've gotten a hearty South Pacific dose of church. I just can't avoid integration as the resident "waet misus" on an island of 200 people, and that's something I need to be more grateful for. My counterpart is fantastic, my host family is astonishingly kind and generous, and the islanders are very friendly. I don't think anyone on Tongariki really understands me, but they try, and I never feel completely alone in a physical sense.

Still, sometimes I feel almost cripplingly lonely--like I'm out here on this rock all by myself and no one back home cares and everyone else in the Peace Corps is having more fun than I am. (I'm well aware that this isn't true, but sometimes you just want to feel like a martyr, so bear with me as I indulge in self-pity.) Everything is just so intense here, good and bad, that it's like nothing I've ever experienced before. It's funny to think back on all of the documents Peace Corps had me fill out before I departed--forms with questions about how I would deal with loneliness and what I would do to deal with depression/isolation/homesickness. It's become abundantly obvious to me over the last seven and a half months that, emotionally speaking, I'm built like a tank--knock me hard and I'll keep going--but it's just so funny that we ever filled out those forms to begin with. I had no idea how I'd deal with this kind of loneliness before I had to experience it! I literally had no basis for comparison whatsoever. I got my baptism with fire and found out that I'm as tenacious as I need to be, but I had no way to know that beforehand. You just do what you can--and when you have a bad day, you make something special for dinner (like instant mashed potatoes), you listen to music, and you go to bed early. The next day, you'll wake up, and it's a new day. There's nothing else to do except wait your feelings out, and do your best not to be physically alone too much. What else can you really do?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

After church luncheon

I wish I could lighten up this photo a little bit, but no gat. On my right is my mama Esther--she looks kind of stern in every photo but she's honestly the best. Same with a lot of mamas on Tongariki--you'll notice if you look at the picture.

This photo was taken after church services in Lewaema village. I go to church--in language--every week. Another volunteer cued me in to the idea of reading the Bible during service (since I don't understand anything that's going on, at least I'm doing something church-y while everything happens.) I found a New Testament in the office, but since that's kind of small, I went out to this Bible store last time I was in town and got myself a full one. Since I've never read the Bible start to end, why not now?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Going back to site

Tomorrow morning I'm going to fly out to Epi Island to visit the girls out there, and then hopefully I'll take the boat down to Tongariki sometime next week. This means no internet, spotty phone service, no cheese/beer/bread/sweets/et cetera for another three months until the end of August, but I've set my blog to upload pictures and blog posts. I'm pretty excited to go back, since I've got a good idea of the projects that I want to do this next term. I'll still be teaching English lessons every day, but I want to get started on moving the library over into a bigger, more usable space; introducing dialogue journals with the older students; working with teachers for health and science lessons; vamping up our PE program; hopefully laying the foundation to do part or all of the gender-based violence workshop... And then I have other smaller goals, like learning how to weave a mat, learning how to cook gato (like a donut) and bread, getting more into yoga, and finally learning some of the language hymns at church.

Excited and ready to go!

(Half of how I spend my life -- please note the beautiful island hair and the ever present tank top.)

Internet Access on Tongariki...

Tongariki doesn't have internet access. I write all of my blog posts when I'm in town, in between binging on all sorts of things--Indian food, beer, the ability to purchase things that aren't breakfast crackers or tin meat. It's really funny, though, that life without internet access has made the internet so much more boring than I ever remember it being. Like in college I spent basically all day, every day, on the internet in some form or another, whether it was listening to music while I did my homework, watching hyper-educational shows like Teen Mom, or just clicking through TMZ while I was waiting for my coffee somewhere. But now I'm like--how did that even happen? Maybe since I've missed out on months of internet news at a time, nothing seems important to me.

At site, my parents told me about local news ... a little bit. Since February, I've heard about what happened at the Boston Marathon as well as about the election of the new pope. So when I came back from site, and everything on the internet was talking about Benghazi, and some IRS scandal (that frankly doesn't sound all that scandalous) it's just hard to be interested.

Facebook is basically the same. I feel like my life has changed so dramatically--and rapidly--that I can't really explain it in any way. There's just so much stuff up there that it's a little overwhelming.

It's probably good for me that I live so far out from everything. When will I ever be able to live like this ever again? I'll never be this far away from everything. I'll never be in another situation where it doesn't matter what I look like--where, in fact, I can look as incredibly homeless as I want. It'll just never happen. And here I have the opportunity to live a normal life--read lots of books, socialize a lot, and just have time to kick back, relax, and just let things happen as they happen. Even when that means watching paint dry. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My little bro @ Jesus, Palm Sunday 2013

Morris as Jesus for Palm Sunday. He's riding in on a donkey (Jaylene) to Jerusalem, whereupon the other children will sing Hosanna. It was pretty adorable, can't lie to you. He's a great kid.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Langwij, langwij, oooooo langwij

Frustrating reality: Trying to look as though I'm quietly amusing myself while everyone else is talking in language all the time. In church, I have a good excuse now--I read the Bible, and I'm considering downloading some Bible Study so I can slow this process down a few months--but at meals? I know that some mamas who don't know me too well in the village think that I speak fluent language (lolz wut) but those who know me know I can talk about food, where I came from, and what children should run off and do. SIGH.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Power" Dance, Easter Sunday, Buninga

Erakor Island Resort

I went out to Erakor Island Resort yesterday with my friend Ken and his counterpart, Ben--what a blast! We didn't know where the ferry was to take us across, so we swam/waded across from Erakor School over to the island. Before (bifo means anything from yesterday to centuries ago, and in this case, let's go with centuries ago) the ancestors of everyone from Erakor village lived on Erakor island. There was endemic warfare on all the islands, but Efate's pretty famous for it--comparatively speaking, it was much safer to live on an island and keep your garden on the mainland, so you could see all war parties and their canoes before they came.

There are an estimated trillion star fish on your way over there, but it's a pretty short trip. Over on the other side, there's a nice restaurant with the world's most expensive Tuskers (500 vt? Massive rip off), bungalows, beach chairs, and remnants from the Canadian missionaries who lived there -- the original dispensary, a few graves, and the foundation of the church they built around 1870.

Nice place! Worked on my tan, read all the way through "The Closers" by Michael Connelly, and got distracted by an elaborate fantasy in which I was building a shade screen by my hut so I could tan on Tongariki. This is not very likely to work (cough cough never cough) but definitely, definitely needed that break.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Me, Jennifer, Elyse, Nerry--Palm Sunday 2013

Please note the lovely outfits!

A lot of churches in Vanuatu choose colors and make church uniforms for their members. At New Covenant, where my papa is a pastor, the colors are purple and yellow.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Two Cute Things c/o Class 1/2

1. Listening to Ni Van kiddos sing 'Zippedy Doo Dah' is the most magical thing ever. They over pronounce all of the vowels (especially the 'doo dah' part) and generally it just makes me want to take them all home with me and keep them.

2. The book 'Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?' is an absolute classic. Nothing better than listening to them mimic my attempt to trumpet like an elephant.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Me with Sabath at a Birthday

Me with Sabath at my counterpart's birthday party. I don't understand why some Ni Vans like to take photos but insist on giving stone face ... ? I really liked this island dress, though--my counterpart loaned me it. It's the new style, with a square neck, and super flas (fancy) because of all the lace. Everyone I saw that day kept commenting on how great they thought the dress was ... Hahaha.