Saturday, May 9, 2015

Provincial Center Problems

Living in a provincial center is pretty sweet. I can't go to to yoga or to a swimming pool, but I had French fries and eggs for lunch at Lakatoro's newest restaurant on Monday. That's not half bad. I can always charge my electronics, I can always buy kava, and as of February 15, my water now runs 24 hours a day. SUCCESS.

I do have some minor whingey complaints, that, even as I think of them, strike me as hilarious. They're the Peace Corps-equivalent of saying 'but I don't even like my pony'. The response being, 'dang, you have a horse?' 

1. The bakery in Lakatoro had its oven malfunction! So ... no more bread!!! This is terrible because the bread at Consumer is the greatest bread ever, and local bread can really vary in its quality. For the past week and a half, I haven't been able to eat any, and you know I like my carbs. (For context: on Tongariki, we used to eat bread at Christmas, as a special celebration.)

2. Lately when I've been going out to Tautu or Norsup to drink kava at night, it seems like there are no trucks that leave at convenient times and I'm always waiting like 1/2 an hour for a truck. (Context: yo, on Tongariki, I sometimes waited days for ships. And yet, the 1/2 an hour is still bugging me. I'm getting soft.)

3. The fresh fish that they sell by the market tends to stink up my fridge. (I have a fridge! And ... fresh fish!!)

4. The butchery is always out of mince when I'm craving a burger. (Seriously -- listen to that. What is wrong with me?)

5. Not enough island cabbage! (This one is my own fault.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

What I do with myself

On a normal day, I get up around 6:00 or 6:30. I like to pretend that I'm going to exercise, and if it's sunny, I go for a jog around the football field or jump rope or do yoga at the house. I usually make a pretty big breakfast--something like pancakes, or fried banana or sweet potato. My mom gave me a mini French press for Christmas, and I use it daily. After two years on Tongariki, drinking luke warm or cold instant coffee with powdered milk, hot real coffee with real milk is still wonderful. I like to putz around, straightening the house, listening to podcasts, or I watch an episode of a TV show. I shower with my beautiful shower (running water!!!) and head out the door some time around 8:15 or 8:45.

I get to work about 5 minutes after I leave my house. What I do in the mornings really depends on what we have going on. Some days I have a lot of work to do, as far as getting reports done, or making plans for awareness trips, or working to develop new presentation materials. Some days, I really don't have anything to do, and I go to work in case anything comes up. When there's nothing to do, I read a book or a magazine and hang out in case there's anything going on. Some mornings (like today) I sneak over to the provincial headquarters and use their internet to check Facebook and emails.

Around 11:30 I leave work. Usually I head to the market to see what there is to see. Sometimes the market is great, with lots of fruits, vegetables, shellfish, crabs, and eggs. Sometimes there's not much there. It's always the luck of the draw, so I try to go every day. I like to keep my house really stocked with fruits and vegetables, because I'm trying to live a healthier life style. On Tongariki, I felt like it was feast or famine as far as fresh greens and fruits went. Either there were none available, or I ate six mango at a time.

After the market, I go home and cook lunch. My lifestyle in Lakatoro feels very civilized, especially since I have a two hour lunch break. That gives you enough time to go shopping, meet a friend, cook, read a book, do some chores ... Whatever needs to be done in the middle of the day. Whenever another Peace Corps is passing through Lakatoro, it's nice to go get lunch with them at one of the stalls, or at least, just hang out for a while and chat and eat an ice cream.

Around 1:30. I head back to the office. It's the same as in the morning. Some days, we have work to do; some days, we don't. I usually head out of work around 4:00 or 4:30, depending on whether or not we're busy. I go home, get my house cleaned up a bit, and figure out what I'm going to do in the afternoon.

If I'm not going to drink kava, and I haven't exercised in the morning, the afternoon is a nice time. It used to be my favorite time to go jogging, but because I live by myself and I like to be back in my house before it's dark, I can't usually jog and drink kava in the same day. If I'm going out for kava by myself, I either go meet up with a friend at a nakamal in Lakatoro, or I head out to see a friend in one of the neighboring villages. If I go to Tautu, usually I just sleep there, but when I go to Norsup, I need to find a truck back at night.

Whatever happens, if I end up at home, I cook myself something and go to bed. When I first came to Malekula, I was eating lots of fried sweet potato and soups. Lately, I've been trying to be a bit more adventurous with cooking and jazz things up a bit. At any rate, I'm usually in bed by about 8:30 or 9. (Yes, I've come to realize that I sleep like 9 or 10 hours a day. It's my favorite thing. Maybe that's why I feel so content in Vanuatu--SUCH AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF DOWNTIME MULTIPLIED BY 10 HOURS OF SLEEP A NIGHT.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Awareness in Laravat and Vinmavis

Yesterday my office conducted climate change, disaster, and waste management awareness sessions in West Malekula, in Laravat and Vinmavis villages.

This map comes from the OGCIO (Office of the Government Chief Information Officer) website. If you look at the west, you'll see a village called Lambumbu. Lambubu is like a company town, with a big cacao plantation. Nearby is the village of Laravat, where we conducted our first awareness. 

We organized the talk through a teacher at Lambubu school, Miller. Miller's really great. He let everyone know we were coming, and in a village of about 200 people (counting kids), we had about 45 people come. Considering that it was in the morning, when kids were at school and many people wanted to go work in the garden, I consider this an absolute success.

 [It was about a 45 minute drive from Lakatoro, made a little longer by the fact that it was muddy and had been raining all night. We went with this driver from Vinmavis called Bill. Carrying a laptop that doesn't have a battery (and must therefore be plugged into power at all times), a generator, a regulator, a projector, and a few posters.
[The community hall we used. Sorry the photos are bad--the lighting was weird and I'm not good at correcting things.]

[Laravat was a very pretty village. It was extremely clean, for a start. The houses were mostly made of local material, like you see in the front--braided strips of bamboo.]

[Syl is in the green shirt, Abelson is in the blue.]

[Somehow, Abelson only ever gets photos of me from the back. But enjoy my super patriotic outfit! Christmas 2013 from Mami Esther.]

I felt that Laravat actually went really smoothly. We started off by talking about climate change--what it is, how it is impacting Vanuatu, and practical ways people can adapt to it. Then I gave a really short toktok about waste management. Usually I give a first aid toktok, and waste is separate, but I'm trying to refocus the talks back towards disaster. My basic message was about the whole (disaster = hazard x vulnerability) thing, so how there are little water, hygiene, and sanitation things that people can do to improve the resiliency of their village. Keep pit toilets far from underground wells and other water sources. Don't leave rubbish all about. Stop burning plastics. Et cetera. Then we finished by explaining what to do during floods, cyclones, and earthquakes, since those are the three hazards that affect Laravat. Afterwards, we got a bunch of good questions about what developed countries are doing to limit climate change, and if greenhouse gas emissions are increasing or decreasing now. Close with a word of prayer, and at about 11:30 we got driving again.

We reached Vinmavis around 1:15. Vinmavis is actually not very far away from Laravat at all, but the road to Vinmavis is in poor condition, so the truck couldn't go very quickly. (We also made a pit stop at the Bible College to buy fish, so that was a little detour.) It was very bumpy. When we got there, Abelson, Sylveste and I had lunch with Sylveste's  auntie. Abelson and I had bought strong biscuits, cookies, tin tuna, and juice in Lakatoro, but Sylveste wanted to eat rice instead, so he had his auntie cook us some, and we'll keep the biscuits for later. We hung out until about 2:30, then started to set stuff up.

I didn't feel like our awareness in Vinmavis went very well. I think the difference is that in Laravat, I went through a key member of the community, but in Vinmavis, we just sent a letter announcing our arrival. At around 3:30, Sylveste's auntie, who is the nurse at the dispensary, and I went around to try and drum people up. Vinmavis is a big village--about 500 people--and we had really bad attendance. We had about 25 people show up total. We weren't aware that Wan Smol Bag had recently gone through to give a presentation as well, and all in all it was a bit of a wash.

[Local houses in Vinmavis.]

[Also very clean!]

[Picture with a few people]

We got back to Lakatoro about 7:30 p.m. Overall, I was pretty happy, but I definitely want us to talk about lessons learned. I think Abelson, Syl and I have gotten a really tight, interesting presentation together. Our first awareness toktok took about 3 1/2 hours, and that's way too long for anyone. The presentation in Laravat was about an hour and forty-five minutes, counting questions, and the one in Vinmavis was about two and a half, with the last forty-five minutes being a video show about disasters and climate change. So I don't think we need to change the format much. I do think we need to think about best practices for advertising awareness, though, so that we get good attendance.

Speaking of which--I have noticed a pattern. We get very good attendance in most smaller communities, and they seem to be more excited and invested in our arrival. Our worst attendance tends to come from larger communities, where people aren't as interested. They are less tight-knit, and also not particularly interested in having strangers come in.