Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yo it's all okay

Sometimes I need to chill and remember that this is still Vanuatu. I reread the last post, and while those are obviously real complaints ... It is how it is. I think the most important thing in Vanuatu is not to have crazy expectations. In fact, have no expectations. If you go into it with an open mind and an open heart, you can face anything. If you go in thinking that things have to be a certain way, you're going to have a bad, bad, bad time. You have to be friendly and more outgoing that you feel comfortable with, and see where it all leads.

I'm trying to say yes to everything that doesn't seem terrible and just see where it leads me. So far, it seems to be working out well as a strategy. Like the other day: I've been trying to get to know one of my neighbors better. I was walking down to the store to buy bread, I saw the wife, and asked her if she wanted to drink some kava. She said yes, since kava is considered something of a medicine and she wasn't feeling top knotch. So I got a plastic at the nakamal -- and we hung out for four hours, including going to get more kava, and her giving me dinner, and then inviting me to go with the family to this big community event in Norsup village on Friday. It'll be Catholic mass, lap lap, skits, kava, and cake -- those are all my favorite things. I love parties. But just like -- if I hadn't been like, hey auntie, want to do suchandsuch? She never would have asked me to do anything either.

Or another example. This morning my friend Kelsey and I were talking about how last month we took this spontaneous trip to Uripiv island. We were supposed to go with our friend Jon, who's good friends with this family that owns a store, but then he couldn't go, but we still wanted to. We showed up, told Trelly and his wife that we wanted to go weekend on Uripiv, and they were like, YES, of course, come!! We went over on a boat, had kava and dinner with them, slept in their daughter's house, and made breakfast with them before the cyclone warning hit and everything went to hell. But we had a beautiful afternoon and we're all friends now. It never would have happened if we hadn't just pushed a little bit out of our comfort zone.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vanuatu is so pretty


I've been in a bit of a funk lately, since work hasn't been going the way I'd hoped. It's not like it's bad, but we're still having issues with getting the resources that we need to accomplish our goals. It's almost May, and my counterpart hasn't received his work plan (or funding) for the year. It's almost May

I've gotten a lot better about accepting that things won't always go the way that I want them to go. It's not like it's not frustrating anymore, but it's easier to accept delays and things like that. I still have to remind myself sometimes that Vanuatu is so beautiful. It's like there's a price to pay. You put up with certain things because the pay off is this. (Pictures are from a work trip to Vao.)

On Saturday, I went up to meet a friend at the swimming beach by the airport. I was the first one to get there, and there was absolutely no one there on this whole stretch of beach. It was just me, and the sun glimmering on the water. It was absolutely idyllic. You think of tropical paradise, and that's what it was for that moment. Just spectacular. I go through my days sometimes on auto pilot (doesn't everyone?) so to have those moments that just shake me, BOOM, is so wonderful. I don't want to forget what's beautiful and special, even when I'm crabby about some little something that doesn't work right the way I want it to.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

All These New Folks

There are all of these temporary foreign relief staff in Vanuatu. They have all this money, so they are all doing assessments upon assessments upon assessments. On Malekula, we've had people swing by from organizations to conduct assessments when, if they'd shot anyone a simple phone call, they'd have steered clear. I don't like it. It's very haphazard; people are reproducing work that other people have already accomplished; there's very poor communication. It seems like it would be much more efficient, on every level, if they gave the cash to local organizations and had them conduct relief as they saw fit. 

Bottle wine???

Things in Vanuatu have a long second life. Great example: bottles of wine or liquor, especially with screw tops. This family uses the bottles to store water in their ice box. I always forget to do that, but it's so, so nice to have cold water on a hot day...

Friday, April 17, 2015

I love Vanuatu because...

1. My mom sent me a care package with dried fish and shrimp in it. The guys at quarantine cleared it and sent it to my office. The charge was 2000 vatu (about 20$) for the quarantine fee. They just delivered the package, and trusted me to go to the post office to pay for it. I went to pay, and they said they'd sent the receipt to my office ... and I trust them to do so. Isn't that great?

2. Planes are so civilized here. Things you can carry on a plane: puppies. Chickens. MACHETES. Other people's babies. All you have to do for a domestic flight is show up, get weighed, check in, and wait for the plane. You seat yourself wherever you want to sit. The plane gets there when it gets there, and leaves whenever every passenger is on it. It's so calming. None of this 'take off your shoes, get rid of your water, remove your jewelry' stuff that we have to do in America. 

3. Whenever I meet someone from anywhere, if I have literally met anyone from the same village, I name drop it. I have had a virtually 100% success rate of people saying, "OH! Hemia stret anti/kasen/abu blo mi." (That's my aunt, cousin, grandfather/mother...) Whenever I meet someone I don't know from Tongariki, I tell them that I lived with Paul Jerry and Esther Norsee, and always they sing aot something to my host dad and something to my host mom. It's beautiful. On Malekula, I recently made friends with a staff member's niece from Ifira. I've met another staff member's brother when he gave me a lift to my house. It's so beautiful.

4. When you need to find someone, often people will tell you to go to a nakamal or to find a yard by a church. You go, and ask them: Hey, I'm looking for SoAndSo. And then they tell you SoAndSo if over there and they go get them. Imagine being in America, having someone tell you to just go to a neighborhood and find someone. It's just impossible. It would never, ever work.

5. Culturally, this place has taught me to relax and not worry about things that I can't change. It's taught me to be more stoic, or at least, to complain less when there's nothing that can be done. Maybe the better word is patience? In America, I feel like you always feel like you have the option to change things, to make them better, or to make them hew closer to your vision of what might be acceptable. Here, that's not an option. You have to accept what you have and work with those limitations. It inspires flexibility and innovation.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Learn Namakura

The main language spoken on Tongariki, Buninga, Makira, and Mataso islands is called Namakura. It is also spoken on parts of the Efate mainland, in villages where people are of Shepherds origin. It’s related to other local languages nearby, like Nakanamanga (Tongoa and Emae language), and North Efate language.

I speak really, really crummy Namakura but I understand more than I can reliably spit back out. For the first time, I understand how you have second-generation immigrants who can understand their grandparents but can’t talk to them! It’s like—you understand enough words that you can guess their context, but you don’t actually have enough grammar or the richness of vocabulary needed to make a response. So when people talk to me in Namakura, unless they’re asking a question I know the answer to, I say it in Bislama.

Mostly, the words that I understand are really common words—food words, or God words, or words that tell children what to do or where to go. Luckily for me, Namakura has many loan words from Bislama, and they’re only slightly changed. For example, with loan words that are nouns, in Namakura you add ‘na’ and then say the word from Bislama. I once heard Elsie, my old counterpart, saying ‘NaFesbuk.’ (Facebook.) And ‘Natesdei.’ (Thursday.)

Sentence of the day: Keno ningan nalong ne nahaek. I am eating laplap and fish!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I got a new dog!!

Her name is Camille. She's very tiny and like a little princess who needs to be carried lots of places.

 I got her from Efate. She's probably too small to have -- I think she shouldn't have been weaned yet -- but she eats lots of tuna fish and sweet potatoes. Sorry this is a terrible picture! She moves a lot.
Humorously, this is how she sleeps most of the time. She's like a tiny dog burrito.