Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Baby on a bicycle!!!

A lot of the time in my village, we just hang out ... And do funny things to play with babies. This is a picture of my daddy Paul holding Nelly's baby Ruth on a bicycle. Ruth turned one around the end of February and she's such a little sweetheart--hasn't quite gotten to the stage when she doesn't want the weird white lady to pick her up! I took this photo at the side of the nakamal. If you look to the right of Nelly's shoulder, you see a rusty old oxygen tank. That's the village bell. When people need to assemble at the nakamal for a meeting, or when it's about time to get going for some event on another part of the island, my daddy (who's the chief right now) hits the tank with a rock a few times so everyone knows it's time to get going. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back in town

I’m back in town for a little while taking a breather from my site.

On a good day, Tongariki is great. Even if all I’m doing is drinking kava with my uncle or posing for pictures while holding various dead animals (true life), it’ll still be awesome. Kids, you want to lick Crystal Light packets and look at all the pretty colors when you spit in the well?  Auntie, you want to play a joke on the baby by giving it your breast—with no milk? Well, okay then. We can be doing something that’s out of my comfort zone, and I just think, I love all of these weirdoes and the weird things they do.

 But on a bad day, Tongariki is the worst. It’s like I live in a fishbowl and someone is tapping on the glass. I’ve got the same complaints as a lot of other volunteers—no privacy, no control over my schedule, no access to most consumer products, difficulty in transportation and communication. To mangle Tolstoy though, perfect volunteer experiences are all alike. Imperfect volunteer experiences are imperfect in their own particular special way. My struggles come with the territory, blah blah—but man.

Now that I’m in for a little bit, I’m going to try and write a bunch of blog posts and set them to auto-update. I’ve got some great photos from spel, New Yam parties and hanging out in the nakamal, my library opening, etc., not to mention the rest of the photos from when my parents came to visit. (I haven’t even written about going to Fiji or New Zealand yet or about what my parents did and how their visit was so wonderful! Oi.) I’ll do my best to get this blog a little more active, anyway!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doesn't that look delicious? / Dirty Water

(This picture is from Symbolo nakamal in Vila.)

To make kava, you dig it out, cut off the dirty bits with a knife, chop it up small, and then somehow get it all mashed up. At the kava bars in Vila, you use a grinder to make it into a thick paste. Afterwards, you mix in water, and then strain the mixture through cloth (or as here, panty hose) to get all of the solids out. The resultant mixture is brown-green, smells disgusting, tastes worse, and gets the job done. I think kava bars have to be one of, if not the, leading small businesses in Vila. They're usually run on a family or small community basis. Just about any nakamal you go to will be associated with some village or some outer island. The kava roots come from family members on that island, the kava and the 20 vatu food sale are done by people from that island, and a lot of the people drinking there will also come from that part of the country. 

Tongariki has nakamals in Seaside, Platinia, Black Sands, Tebakor, over by the airport ... Basically every place that people from Tongariki live, there's a Tongariki kava bar. It's a social club as well as a money making operation.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Island Dresses

Island dresses were introduced by the missionaries when they came to Vanuatu. They are baggy, usually have scallop edged hems, may have little E-shaped bits of fabric called wings at the hips, and always, always, always come in a bright color. The mamas on my island wear them just about every day. As time goes on, an island dress that was good for church becomes only good for the house, and eventually, everything is only good for working in the garden. If you think of a Hawaiian muumuu, you won’t be far off, although the biggest style influences for island dresses currently come from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and New Caledonia.

I don’t have a PNG style island dress, but their style is a loose hip length shirt with puffed sleeves over a skirt. Fiji style is similar but much more body conscious—the skirts really follow the line of the hips and the shirts are usually more tailored. Fijians do wear dresses, too, but they're more like new style Vanuatu dresses--puffed sleeves, no wing flaps. (In every Pacific fashion, by the way, skirts are long—usually around calf-length to floor length.) I don't know what the ladies up in the Solomons wear--I haven't actually met that many woman solomons!

What I do have are old style Vanuatu, new style Vanuatu, and a few New Caledonian island dresses. I’ve currently got about thirteen of them, all as gifts. I don’t wear them too much—only to church on Sundays or to important holiday events—but it was so sweet of everyone who gave them to me. I think right now I have three from Buninga, one from Makira, one from Emau, and the rest were given to me by people on Tongariki.

Here's an old style dress:

This is a pretty standard kind of dress. It's got a round neck (usually they're V necks, but not this time) and all the color on it is just fabric paint. It's baggy with big wings at the side. The photo is from swearing in; on the right is my friend Jen who lives on Tanna.

Here are a few newer style Vanuatu dresses:

This is a newer style island dress and a lot fancier than the one on top. Instead of having wings shaped like an E, it's got square wings. The square neck is also more stylish. It still makes me look like a house. This is me with my tawi Nerry at my counterpart's birthday party in March.

Here is New Caledonia style:
New Caledonia style has long bell-shaped sleeves. Usually it has a square neck, too; this one is not totally standard. If you look at the sides, right around my hands, you see square wings—that’s a new thing. Honestly, a lot of New Caledonian dresses don’t even have wings. Sometimes they don’t even have all that lace everywhere (although my one is admittedly decked out.) What they usually are, though, is flas (fancy, good looking, nice.) I’ve seen a fair number of NC dresses around town, and my counterpart has confirmed that they’re the newest popular style. My mom took this photo at Christmas.

There you go! Island fashion.