Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tongariki vs. Malekula

A few obvious differences between Tongariki and Malekula:

1. There are actually a lot of tourists on Malekula. There are bungalows and hikes and a tourism information center. There's also a call center (??) that helps tourists get into contact with rural bungalow owners. No tourists on Atong.

2. They sell lots of stuff here. Bread, sweetened condensed milk, sandwiches, tomato paste, coffee ... On Tongariki we ran out of peanut butter and phone credit like twice a month.

3. The market here is pretty good. It's not the best one I've ever seen, but there are about twenty or thirty women selling raw vegetables and fruits every day, with some other people selling bread/tuluk (island tamales)/samosas. ... On Tongariki, no market.

4. So many trucks here! SO MANY TRUCKS. And you pay 100 vatu and they just drive you wherever.

5. So many kava bars! SO MANY KAVA BARS.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Most Ni-Vanuatu are fairly slim. You do sometimes see some big mamas or some papas with a gut, but most people are on the smaller side. Especially on the island, there aren't a lot of heavy people. I know some women with two or three children who have the figures of cheerleaders. My school of 70 kids has one teenage girl who's on the chubby side, but I'd say she's within a pretty normal range for puberty.

So in comparison, most of us volunteers are enormous.

The word in Bislama for fat is 'fatfat', and it doesn't really carry the same negative connotation as in the States. If someone calls you fatfat in Vanuatu, it's the same as saying that you're short ... or have a big nose ... or pretty eyes. It's not meant to be an insult but rather a statement of fact. It's like a way to cheek someone a little bit. Sometimes it's even a compliment -- as in the phrase 'oh, yu fatfat gud we.' (You're very nicely fat.) 

Obviously, though, for us it's weird. In America, we don't use fat as a neutral description. It's like it's assumed that if you call someone fat, you're trying to insult them or cast aspersions on their looks. We say that someone is big, or heavy, or overweight, but you don't usually say that someone you like is fat. 

It really used to hurt my feelings when people would call me fatfat, because I'd be just like, come on, that's so mean. Talking like that violates normal American codes of behavior. Now, it doesn't so much, especially as I've come to realize that only the very thinnest volunteers have escaped being dubbed fatfat. There are some volunteers with great figures who've been told by people on their islands 'you are so fat.' So that makes me feel better about being, you know, colossally gigantic. 

I do still feel like it's rude, but I wonder if Ni-Vans don't have the right idea. In America, it seems like a lot of women are really concerned with their bodies, and a lot of attention is devoted in the media and in education to developing healthy body images. The only time I've heard anyone in Vanuatu sound concerned about how they looked was a friend who was worried her new boyfriend might not like how her stomach looked (because she'd had a baby the year before and her stomach wasn't flat anymore). Maybe in America we all need to just chill out about being fatfat. No worries, yumi evriwan i fatfat lelebet, laef i olsem nomo.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Food, Glorious Food...

Things I really, really want to eat when I go back to the States:

1) Smoked salmon bagel with onion, capers, cream cheese

2) Gobs and gobs of sushi
3) Enchiladas
4) Pizza from a chain -- thick greasy pizza with a thick crust that you order from the phone, none of this thin crust/barbecue sauce/pineapple stuff
5) A proper gyro
6) Pimento cheese!
7) Lasagna
8) Texas-style barbecue
9) Hummus + snicky snacks
10) Like a quarter pound of roast beef from the deli, every single day

The food in Vila isn't bad ... but it's not what you want. It's geared towards Australian tastes rather than American tastes (beetroot on everything! eggs on everything! pineapple on everything!) Definitely looking forward to eating some real American chow when I head back home. 

Tick tock tick tock tick tock

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What's Going On In My Life Right About Now

I just wanted to make a quick post to explain what's going on in my life right now. There have been a ton of changes, but I feel like if I just wait around, I'll never get to typing it.

The biggest change is that I finished my service on Tongariki. This was my last month on that island. It's really strange for me that now I have to think of Tongariki as that place I lived on, and not that place I live on. I had a really busy, exciting last month. I applied for a shipment of story books from Darien Book Aid and just got notification that they've been shipped. I co-wrote an AusAid grant asking for a water tank for the kindy--fingers crossed, notification goes out in about ten days. I wrote a 45-page community profile, which was about the longest and most complicated thing I've written since I graduated. The health committee and I opened our water tank project -- thanks USAID! Ol smolsmol aelan blong Shepherds i gat wan bigfala nid blong saed blong wota, be yu yu givhan bigwan long mifala! I also held a Camp GLOW, which was absolutely the most satisfying workshop series I've ever done. GLOW is a girls' leadership and life skills program. It focuses on all the usual suspects--goal setting, leadership style, healthy relationships, adolescent reproductive health--but it was just a blast. In Vanuatu, sex ed isn't taught until class 10, which is such a terrible idea since A) most children do not reach class 10 and B) many of the students who do reach class 10 might be as old as 20, and thus well beyond the critical learning years. I left my camera cord in Vila, but my GLOW was just great. It was so much fun it felt like my birthday present to myself.

I also got ready to leave site ... and that was so hard. In Vanuatu, we have these feasts called last kakaes that most communities hold to say good bye to their PCV. My last kakae was the saddest thing imaginable. I was hoping to try and keep it together, but the second I got into the room and they started singing hymns, I started to bawl. I don't think ever in my life I've left a place and known, without a doubt, that you can never go back. I know I will go back to Tongariki, but I don't live there anymore. The greatest thing that Peace Corps does is let you come to love people who aren't anything like you. And especially on Tongariki -- as a volunteer, it was just me and my little village and my little island. The chairman of the chiefly council gave a speech, as did the health committee chair and the school committee chair, and two of the pastors, too. When I gave my speech, I was just crying the whole time. There's a certain way to give speeches here -- you have to address everyone, ol chief, ol mama mo papa, ol pikinini--and it was hard to get those words out. I told them that they treated me like family, that I consider living on Tongariki for these two years to have been one of the greatest blessings of my life, and that when I'm an aged grandmother I will think back to them and remember them always. The students sang a song and I accepted a bunch of presents, did a kava ceremony, had lunch. I had cried so much I felt sick for the rest of the day. It is devastating. 

I had about one more week on the island. I finished my GLOW, sold all of my things, and cleaned my house up. I also had the swellest birthday party ever. Last year, my birthday was pretty sub-par, but this year, I wanted to have a party. After a lot of asking, I bought a goat for 40 bucks. My papa helped me kill it (!!) and then he and the other men in the family butchered it. We made a big pot of soup and invited everyone in the village and all my good friends from around the island. It ended up being (happy) speeches, (happy) church hymns, and then (happy) kava drinking and (happy) dinner. I had also bought a bottle of "spirit drink" (sounds high quality, right?) and it was just a lot of fun. A lot of people came to celebrate, and it was just a really nice time. My party was on 16 October, even though my birthday is 18 October, because ....

I was waiting for a cargo ship. So, originally I'd thought I would try to put my stuff on a ship and then fly out, or just take a small boat charter to North Efate. But plans change, and Jo-Ellen 2, the newest cargo ship, was coming to pick up delegates for the Central Island Presbytery meeting. Long story short, I spent my 25th birthday sleeping on a sack of kava, and I got into Vila at 3 in the morning.

So here's the big news which I haven't written here. I have moved to Malekula island, in Malampa Province, to the north a bit. Starting in January, I will be living in Lakatoro (the provincial center) and working at the provincial disaster office. I'll be doing awareness about climate change, disaster risk reduction, and first aid, as well as liaising with other offices to further their disaster work in the province. I've been pretty sure that this is what was up since about July, but it's been a while in the making. I'm so excited about this! I love love love Vanuatu and don't want to leave just now. It's a big change but I'm thrilled. It's a new adventure for 2015.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jisas i stap long yu

I know a trillion church sing sings (conservative estimate). Here is one that the kids sing very frequently at my school, to give you an idea: 

Jisas i stap long yu

Jisas i stap long mi
Jisas i stap long yumi evriwan x 2

O o o therefore

We shall be one
Love one another
As he loves us, he loves us x2 

They have these gestures that go with it. When they say 'Jesus is in you' they point away. 'Jesus is in me', they point to themselves, and 'Jesus is in all of us' they make a circle. Then for the second part, they wrap their arms around each others' waists and sway. It's pretty top.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Oh wow, y'all. I'm twenty-five? How did that happen? I came at twenty-two. Turned twenty-three the first month, twenty-four last year ... And now I'm twenty-five. That's official uma (grandma) status right here. Quarter-century. Mi oldfala finis. Sure don't look like this anymore ...

Happy long life to me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

3 Great Misconceptions

1. I am Australian. Or Kiwi. Or French.

2. My little neighbor, aged 8, asked me why I vomit out of my window every morning. (That would be toothpaste.

3. The time I arranged an Easter egg hunt for the school kids. 94 children thought it was fun and liked the candy, and 1 little girl started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, I found out that she thought the smarties in her egg were deworming medicine. (The most tragic!)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sunrise from naraside

Efate is like the main island. It's the island where the capital is on, but the capital is in the southwest. We call the north and the east naraside--the other side.

Sometimes this place is so beautiful.