Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Meri Krismes!

Meri Krismes long Vanuatu! Mi lavem yufala tumas mo mi hop se yu gat wan gudfala holidei mo wan gud niu yia. God bles!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mildly gross, but a part of island life!

Life, you know? One thing I find kinda weird about NiVans is how often people want to pose with dead animals. I know it's the same as a hunting trophy, but since I didn't grow up in a family that hunts ... It's a little different for me. Anyway, I was jogging back when some of my daddies sang out to me from the nakamal (thus my outfit.) From the left, that's Papa George, and in the middle is Papa Paul, who's my stret dadi here. The turtle got made into soup ... YUM.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gift Giving and Respect

OK, so here I am with Monica on Buninga. I feel like I should try to make this blog a little more informative--maybe fewer pretty pictures?--and so this would be a good opportunity to explain what's going on.

This photo was taken at a birthday party/opening of Monica's water project. We're in new island dresses, with salu salu (like leis, but more scratchy), calico over our shoulders, extra dresses around the neck, and a shell of kava in our hands.

Basically, in Ni-Vanuatu culture, gift giving is very important. When a man pays bride price, he has to give lots of presents along with the money--pigs, calico, kava, bananas, et cetera. When anyone wrongs anyone, in performing a sorry (the ceremony to apologize and gain forgiveness for wrongs, sort of like what it sounds like), you have to give presents. No fair just going over and saying sorry--you need to give them a mat, at the very least. On Mothers', Fathers', and Children's Day, gift giving is just as important. On Tongariki, the community gathers together so that everyone can watch you give presents to your kids. It's the same when a government official comes--the community gives him mats and kava, and he'll present the mamas who cooked his meals with a fresh 5000 vt bill (~50$), no matter what the price is.

Gift giving is very socially important. It's a sign of respect, and it goes with the understanding that it should be reciprocated. For example--if one of the teachers gives you a dress, you should at some point give her a basket. If your neighbor gives you a plate of food, you should send the plate back with lollies. As far as I can tell, gift giving and just generally doing favors for your neighbors is so important because it's such a face-to-face society. In the States, I could be an unsociable hermit and order my pizza on the internet if I wanted to. On Tongariki, if I want to drink kava, it's a bit of a production--since I have to find someone else who's drinking it, convince them that they really want to chew up another bowl for me, and sit around and story until it's ready. It's not such a hardship, but it's much more personal.

Another aspect in this photo to be explained: so I did nothing with this water project. I had no role other than showing up for the party. And yet I got all of that swag. Buninga's done it before--I got a dress when I went there for Easter. The same thing has happened elsewhere--on Makira, I got a dress and two beautiful baskets from Steph's host family when I went to her last kakae, and on Emau, I got a dress from Lynn Marie's host mother when we went over to visit her. So what's this about?

Another huge thing in this culture is their hospitality. Melanesian hospitality is incredible. Even though I had nothing to do with the project (except showing up to eat cake), some of Monica's mamas made this really kind gesture of friendship towards me. And it's not just this--everywhere I've gone in the Shepherds, the mamas are so sweet and always send plates of island kakae over. I think the day after this photo was taken, Monica and I got eight plates at lunch. You can't beat that kind of hospitality.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

T-2 days until my vacation

T-2 days until I go on vacation. So thrilled. This year in Vanuatu has been the most exhilarating, incredible, weird and occasionally disturbing year of my life. I love this place, but I'm ready to see my parents now.

I've spent a lot of time doing this sort of thing:

(Don't know, Florina/Florida, Eslyne, Elyse, Me, Joel, Andrina, Florida/Florina, No gat save)

and this sort of thing (ignore how I look):

(Mami Nerry, me)

and this sort of thing:

(Mami Esther, Me, Dadi Paul, Mami Jenita)

So I'd like a break. NZ/Vanuatu/Fiji with my parents, T-2! Hope they like Vanuatu ... Awo.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Two kiddos

Greg is wearing my sunglasses; Gina is like eighteen months old and cries when I so much as look at her. Whoooooooooppssss. Photo taken at a Bible Church lunch.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Island view

This is the view from my school grounds. To the mid left, you see Valea (inhabited only by nanny goats, crabs, and devils), then Ewose (nanny goats and crabs, no devils), and finally Tongoa (people).

Monday, December 2, 2013

25 Things

25 things I dislike after a year+ in Vanuatu:
1. Every child in my village coming to my door to beg for lollies. One at a time.
2. Rats.
3. Sores.
4. People jacking my broken umbrellas. Yes, they're broken, but there's no umbrella store on Tongariki! I still need that...
5. Walking through the rain with a towel over my head because someone took my umbrella.
6. Soft mud.
7. Breadfruit.
8. Being called fat fat on the daily.
9. Being told that someone will find a local boy for me to marry, but that I should be quick about it.
10. Nangae.
11. When my uncle want to drink kava, but doesn't start preparing it until 8:30 at night.
12. The phrase "Awo, missus!" And other forms of getting sung out to.
13. Cruise Ship Day.
14. Getting PC permission to travel by water. My island has no airport, so I always need permission to travel...
15. MV Brooklyn will never come to Tongariki when I want it to.
16. Bia? Lo aelan blo mi, i no gat. Hemi minim se mi no save dring wan bia sapos mi wantem, eva.
17. Drying clothes during the rainy season.
18. Sore season.
19. Scary spiders in my swim house.
20. The kids in Kindy, Class 1, and Class 2 who hit, cry, and tattletale all the time sometimes in language.
21. Starting fires with wet wood.
22. All of my electronics except for my iphone and mobile phone have broken.
23. This one song that gets played on repeat. The singer, who carved up some people in a Chinese store, and who's still in jail, is singing about how he's called a criminal because justice is unfair and he couldn't find a job. Bluh.
24. Waking up sweaty because it's that hot.
25. Roosters.

25 things I like after a year+ in Vanuatu:
1. Manioc laplap with thick coconut cream. There. I said it.
2. Enough time to read everything, including all of those classic books I was supposed to read but ... didn't? Divine Comedy, East of Eden, All Quiet on the Western Front, Gulag Archipelago, you name it.
3. Living out my romantic isolated South Pacific island fantasies daily.
4. Hammocks.
5. Getting little kids to learn letter sounds. They get so psyched when it finally starts to click.
6. I have never felt this stress free in my life. College was a pressure cooker. Peace Corps is at a slow, sweet pace.
7. My host family. My host family in training was pretty messed up--getting drunk and slapping the wife around kind--and I was really worried that my real host family would also be a big mess. They are beautiful, though. I didn't think I would feel this emotionally attached to them, but Mami Esther and Dadi Paul are the sweetest, kindest, etc.
8. I feel kinda pretty in an Island dress, not going to lie.
10. Climbing coconut trees. Admittedly I've only done it twice, but ...
11. Using the cargo ship as a diving board.
12. G25.
13. Long lazy afternoons.
14. Aelan kakae flavored gelato in town! New thing!
15. Kava. There. I also said it too.
16. The fact that I am tangentially fake related to half of the country. From Man Shepherds i gat plante famili long Vila.
17. Having children check your head for louse is like getting a head massage, with bonus compliments about how "hea blo yu i olsem blo wan dolly."
18. Playing stupid games with the kids like "dive after the white rock".
20. Talking about aelan blong mi.
21. I will never ever feel like I missed out on a bush experience in the Peace Corps. I get my perfect 1960s PC fantasy lived out daily.
22. My flock of little house girls, who always come over every time I'm trying to clean anything up or cook anything in my kitchen.
23. I didn't think I would develop the relationships that I have with my village -- and my counterpart is boss. Elsie is the single most competent person in the world. She is so cool. The longer I know her, the more I like her. She is wonderful. She understands westerners and is so good at everything. I can't even describe it--incoherence.
24. Church sing sings.
25. Yufla...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

With Mi on Ambae

Got my Peace Corps-approved modesty lava lava around my neck. SLOW PLEASE.

Yam planting season...

Yams are the staple crop on Tongariki. We eat kumala, manioc, breadfruit, taro, banana, and rice, but our main food is breadfruit. It's lucky for me -- yams are delicious. Boiled yams with coconut milk is one of my favorite meals.

Yam planting takes up a good portion of the yearly work calendar.

Roughly around May, you start to burn the gardens. Everyone takes their knives and cuts down grasses, trees, and any plants left over and spreads them all around the garden. The sun dries them up a bit, and then you're ready to burn. The most efficient way I've seen of doing it is cutting down big trees and using them as fire logs. You build the fire up at the top of the garden and then use rakes to pull it down slowly.

Once you've cleared and burned all the gardens, it's time to plant. This photo was taken in July, during a yam planting work party I went to with my counterpart and other family members from Lakilia and Tavia villages. First, some women cut the yams open and scrape out the insides to eat later. Then, you dig a deep hole (roughly to your bicep), plant the yam with the top facing up, and build a large mound of dirt around it. (The mound is to discourage mice, pigs, and other animals from digging up the yams.) You put a piece of wild cane in by the yam to encourage its leaves to grow up the right way.

Later, around September through November, you start staking the yams. You take lots of wild cane and build little houses for the yam stalks to grow around. My village cuts holes in the yams and builds these beautiful tinker-toy like contraptions; two of the villages on the other side just bend the wild cane. Either way, you have to regularly go back and turn the stems around the wild cane. If you don't do this, the sun burns the leaves and they can get moldy, too (I think.)

Then, over Christmas, you spel. No yams. Over Christmas, you eat all of the fancy foods you want to eat during the rest of the year--bread, pork, beef, cake, lollies--but no yams. That has to wait until February, when the New Yam kastom happens, and you can start eating them again.