Monday, January 12, 2015

Back on Malekula

And, of course, there is a tropical depression!!!! DRAT. CRUMBS. ET CETERA.

It's been raining pretty much since I got here on Thursday, with about an eight hour lapse during which I got sun burned. Go figure.

I got my house set up, for the most part. It's so nice having electricity and running water. Man ... Life is so easy. Like yesterday? It was raining, I left work, I felt lazy, so I chopped up a bunch of vegetables and put it in my rice cooker with a packet of ramen (please no judgment), and then sat watching Game of Thrones while it cooked by itself. It's like magic. I'm telling you. Very, very nice. 

And if I want to drink kava, I just go and pay for it. Magic! I tell you. Magic!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cross Culture: Hard and Fast Deadlines

In America, we are really, really firm about time: when transport leaves, or when a store opens and closes, or even how long a party lasts. If an airline company sells you a ticket that says your flight to Cleveland is going to leave at 4:05, you probably will leave at 4:05, or maybe 4:15 or 4:35. If a store is open from 8 to 6, it's open from 8 to 6. Show up at 7:30, and chances are low that anyone will open up the door for you. And parties usually have a start time, and an implied, if not explicit end time. Unless you're 14 and having a slumber party, you probably need to go home before it's time to go to bed. Et cetera.

My point is, here, that none of this is universal. This is how we as Americans behave, but it's not how everyone behaves.

Example. I was trying to go attend my counterpart's wedding on Tongariki. (She is, as always, great.) I bought a ticket on Monday, which was supposed to leave Tuesday night. Then it was supposed to leave Wednesday night. Then Thursday morning. At that point, when I saw that the ocean will continue to be rough, and knowing that, usually, ships like to live Vila at the beginning of the week, I decided that I wasn't going to go anymore. I wasn't supposed to get a full refund -- and then I did? But, anyway, it was not that great. I had hoped to be able to go, but since the time of departure kept moving, it was time to get a move on.

Example 2. Vanuatu stores have opening and closing hours, but they're a lot more relaxed, I think, than in America. A lot of the small Chinese stores open in the early morning when the owners get up (so anywhere from 530-630, for the most part) and many close sometime between 8 and 930, but you can't always tell when that is. Like this store Tebakor Shopping Center, that I go to in Vila a lot? Half the time when I come back from kava, it's closed; other times, still running strong. The disadvantage of this all is that you don't always know when everything is open when it's 9 p.m. and you need some hardboiled eggs in your life, pronto.

Example 3. Parties here don't start the same way as they do in America. That is to say, parties and events often start three, four, five, six hours after their proposed starting time, and then they keep going ... until everyone's done. Can you imagine, as an American, if you said that your holiday party was going to start at noon and everyone rolled in at 3:15? You'd be livid -- but here, especially outside of cities, that's how it is. People aren't squeezing in multiple plans, but starting times are more like suggestions. Especially when, like on Tongariki, it's the sort of event where people need to bring food, they're going to come when the food is cooked, the laundry is finished, and everyone's dressed up nice.

What this means in context for Vanuatu is: this place is enjoyable, but things are slow. Things are going to happen at their own pace. Don't fight it! There was this Washington Post article by some people who apparently had a wretched time on Tanna, which is sad, since Tanna has this incredible volcano the likes of which you'd never see anywhere else. They complained about the speed of transport. To which I have to say: it's an island in the South Pacific. Volcanoes aren't conveniently located next to the 7/11. If you want to have a good time, relax, let it go, and don't try to overbook yourself.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Resolutions

I'm going back to Vanuatu today. I had planned to write a really deep, heartfelt post that would talk about how I felt about leaving America, again. But, as usual, it's 7 in the morning and I just finished packing, so ... New Year's Resolution.

I don't want to do resolutions like lose 15 pounds or jog 4 days a week, because I'd rather be all loosey-goosey about it. In Peace Corps, we talk a lot about monitoring and evaluating, and how you can either see results quantitatively or qualitatively. As a volunteer, you want to only say qualitative things--the girls in my youth group know more about goal setting than they did before!--but everyone else wants hard numbers. If you do a workshop on hand washing, say, someone's going to want to read phrases like "25 adult women learned the 3 important times you wash your hands," not just "the mamas attended a workshop." But since this is my life, no quantitative resolutions. Only qualitative ones.

Resolution 1. Stay island. I love Vanuatu, and I don't want to fall out of love with it over the course of this next year. I want to keep having fun in Vanuatu and enjoy it for what it is, not get mad about what it isn't. In one of our volunteer newsletters, our former nurse discussed a vol who said he grew up in Vanuatu. I get that.

Resolution 2. Get my house nice, and keep it nice. I don't count my last house as really being a real house, because it had a gravel floor and mold and a million rats and cockroaches. In fact, now that I've moved out of Chez Nakahu, I've realized just how gross and horrible it was. (I guess that's proof my head was in the game ... or that I'm just really, really lax about things I shouldn't be lax about.) Anyway, my new house is much nicer--running water, cement floors, you know, the  basics. I just want to get it really nice. I bought a fridge, a rice cooker, a toaster, a stove, going to buy a fan ... Just want it to be good. I don't want to be sitting on my floor bemoaning my existence because of material goods this next year. I think you would start to laugh if you realized just how much of my attention, over two years in Tongariki, went towards thinking about what I needed to buy in Au Bon Marche, and how frequently I talked myself out of buying "unnecessary" things like jam and soup mix. Especially after coming back to America for this past month, it's clear that I was starting to get a bit too ascetic and probably could try to live it up a little bit. You know, like by owning more than two sets of silverware.

Resolution 3. Treat myself the way Kanye treats Kanye. Self explanatory.