Monday, June 29, 2015

My Dog Was Stolen AT A FUNERAL. :(

So I had this dog named Camille for the past few months, ever since we got back from Australia. She was very cute and tiny and kind of a jerk. You know how puppies like to bite? She was like that. Extremely nibbly. 

So small!

Anyway, I got really fond of her and I used to take her everywhere. She would follow me to the market, to the nakamal, to work, everywhere. When I first got her, she was really dirty and bony and covered in ticks, but I got her to be (relatively) fat and much cuter. Also got her tick-free thanks to a collar.

I took her up to Santo at the beginning of the month when I went to see Sam for her goodbye party. I was somewhat worried that she would get lost there, but she was totally fine. We thought that the dog in Sam’s yard, Roxie, hated Camille … but then we realized that, no, Roxie loved Camille, and so everything was fine.

I flew back to Malekula, and went to a funeral that afternoon for Mami Jacqueline’s cousin … and someone stole my dog while I went over to express my condolences. Haven’t seen Camille since. Hopefully, whoever stole her has a bunch of children who will be very happy to have a new puppy, and will treat Camille well. But once again: who steals a dog from a funeral?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Things You Wouldn't Expect In Vanuatu

I like to talk about food. So let's talk about food products that you wouldn't expect to see in Vanuatu, but which are everywhere.

Number 1. Nem. Nem are fried spring rolls, with glass noodles inside and usually some mince meat. I definitely would not have imagined that nem would be something that people in the South Pacific would eat, but in more developed parts of Vanuatu (like Lak City, natch), you can buy them as a snack. They're pretty good -- very crunchy -- no dipping sauce.

Number 2. Roti. Roti come from India by way of Fiji. The ones in Vanuatu are usually pretty thick pan bread, wrapped burrito style around some sort of filling. Usually there's potato and onion and mince inside, and sometimes they're spicy. Very nice for breakfast, especially with a chocolate milk.

Number 3. Samosas. In the urban parts of Vanuatu, you can buy samosas. Think: Indian empanadas. They usually have sweet potato, mince, curry, and onions inside. Yum yum yum.

In general, I'd say that the major foreign influences in Vanuatu cuisine are French, Australian, Chinese, and Indian. Things like soy sauce and MSG and curry powder play a big part in fancier local cooking, and then when you're in the resorts, French/Australian/Asian cuisine is really apparent. It's pretty good stuff. Too many beets, though.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I did this awareness in Amelveth village ...

My friend Kelsey and I did this disaster awareness at Amelveth Primary and Junior Secondary Schools on June 2nd, and it was seriously so so so much fun. Like, probably the most fun school disaster awareness/drills program ever to take place. 

To go to Amelveth from Lakatoro is really easy, since it's only about a half an hour away. I met a woman at the market who was going to Northwest Malekula, so I jumped on a truck with her. Kelsey and I hung out, drank kava, and tried to plan the awareness the night before. We made delicious meaty tomato sauce ... and had to eat it on ramen noodles, since Lak City was out of spaghetti. Tragic.

The next day, at the morning assembly, I gave a little speech to the kids, and explained how the earthquake and tsunami drills would take place. I told them that sometime in the morning, Kelsey and I would go to their classrooms, and when we did, they would need to hide under their desks, covering their heads. (Think atomic bomb drills). For the tsunami drill, we would come by, inform them that there is a tsunami warning, and tell them to run for the hills.

We went from class to class. For Class 1-3, Kelsey read a storybook, then we played a game about three disasters--cyclones, tsunamis, and earthquakes. For the older kids, it was more technical, and for the students in Class 5-10, we discussed disability inclusion in disasters.


For the earthquake drills, Kelsey and I banged on the walls and the doors and shouted EARTHQUAKE, EARTHQUAKE. Class 1, 2, and 4 were very good. Class 5 had a lot of students who died when things fell on them. We were like, yu ded nao! Yu yu ded nao! Samting i kilim yu lo hed!

For the tsunami drill, we just ran around saying, tsunami alert! Tsunami alert! and the kids ran for the hills. The headmaster was the only one who 'died'. 

It was super delightful.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Love Vanuatu

Vanuatu is an easy country to love. I think it is, anyway. In a lot of ways, I feel like this last year in Peace Corps is like a victory lap. I've found somewhere I love, somewhere I feel comfortable and happy and at peace, where there's just the right amount of challenge and then lots and lots of rewards to make up for it.

I'm thinking a lot about my future and about where I want to go from here. I am not going to stay in Vanuatu. Three and a half years is a long time to be away from my family, and I do think that the longer you stay in Vanuatu, the harder it is to leave. That means now, it's time to roll on out. It's June 6th today over here (happy birthday, Ben!) and I'm going to be leaving in approximately ... eight and a half months. WHAT. HOW IS THIS EVEN HAPPENING.

I think if I'd closed my service and gone back home in December, I would have felt more conflicted about it. Having stayed on now an extra six months, with another eight to go, I feel really ready. It'll be sad to leave, but I think (or I hope) that I'll have a good sense of closure. It'll be time to head out and do something else. 

Until then, time to enjoy myself, work hard, drink lots of kava, swim in the ocean, drink my weight in coconut water, and keep on going.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Updates from Tongariki

I talked to my friend Elsie a few days ago. I think I’ve brought her up a lot on this blog—she is Tongariki’s headmistress-slash-my favorite friend. I got a good update from her on what the situation is like on Tongariki.

Mostly, it’s a lot better. The NZ Army put new iron roofs up on the school. They rebuilt the kindy, and our new water tank is being put up next week(thank you, Aus Aid!). Most of the houses are back up. The gardens are growing. Some of the three month vegetables, like Chinese cabbage, are already ready to eat.

The sad news is that there was a death. A little boy named David had to be helicoptered off of the island after the cyclone. He spent a month in the hospital in Vila, and he died. His mother, father, and siblings were with him in Vila the whole time.

The good news is that the community is getting ready to have a really big wedding. My old neighbor, John Lorry, is getting married to his fiancee, Esther. They’re going to do it towards the end of the month. Hopefully I’ll be in Vila before they get married, because I’d like to send a bottle of something for their party. It's good life is getting back to normal.

Monday, June 1, 2015


I went to Paama last week on a big trip with my lovely friend Sam, my lovely counterparts Abelson and Sylveste, and the project officer from Malampa province. (Ahem.) The idea was that we were going to do joint disability/disaster awareness programs around Paama and set up Community Disaster Committees on the way. It was a partnership between TVET (which supports technical and vocational education training) and the Malampa Disaster Office. TVET did all of the logistics of the trip and we shared the budget. 

Day 1: We flew on Belair Airways to Paama. The airport is in north Paama, in this village called Tavie. We got on a boat, since the cyclone ruined the road and it's not been totally fixed up yet. Dropped off Abelson, Sylveste, and Lapi at the provincial guesthouse in Liro, which is the main hub on Paama. There wasn't enough space there for all of us, so Sam and I stayed with her host family in Tahi, a village maybe 25 minutes walk away. Around 2, we had a meeting with the Area Council. There is a big dispute going on in Tahi, and there are now two competing disaster committees. Oy. After the meeting, Sam and I walk back to Tahi, we drink kava, try to eat a nice dinner of beef, fail, go to sleep.

Day 2: We go to Lulep, on east Paama. My friend Kelly used to live out there, and now there's a new volunteer, Stewart, really nice guy. The walk doesn't take SO long in terms of hours -- like an hour forty-five -- but we're literally walking up to the top of the hill and then walking down again. By the time I got to Lulep, I was dreading walking back. I got a great picture of Lopevi, but since I plugged my camera to charge in my counterpart's computer and it's full of viruses, pikja i lus. Lulep doesn't look so great, but it doesn't look so bad, either. Their school lost its roof, so they're teaching under tarpaulins, but they've put all of the houses back up, and things are getting green again. We did our awareness program, which went pretty well, and in the afternoon, we did a little program to formally record their disaster committee. Half of our squad sprinted up the hill without saying goodbye, so Sam and I walked to Liro to have a small meeting, then back to Tahi. Her host dad made this spectacular chicken curry for dinner, but I was absolutely exhausted. Props to Kelly for doing that walk every single Friday while on Paama. 

Day 3: We went to Vaoleli and Vutekai in the south, by boat. Vaoleli had a nice attendance, and we did our program and set up committees in their market house. Vutekai had an ENORMOUS attendance because we caught them right after they'd had two other meetings, so it was like a captive audience.

Day 4: Like I said earlier, there is a dispute in Tahi. This caused a lot of problems, and we got ourselves caught up in some of them. We did end up doing a disability awareness and a minimal disaster awareness, but we had to change our program. We intend to go back to Paama in October, and hopefully Tahi will only have one disaster committee instead of two. We had a big community lunch afterwards, and Sam and I spent the afternoon hanging out with Megan and Stewart, the two Paama volunteers. (Megan lives in this subvillage called Noe. No! It's my favorite thing.) We had kava and Sam's host parents baked pig and kumala for her departure. It was really, really nice of them. Her family is so sweet. It's her mom and dad, a teenage brother named Cooper, a ten year old named Jamie, after a previous Peace Corps (and small Jamie is smart/sweet/a really good kid), and a little girl in kindy named either Dela or Taylor, who is super sweet, very verbal, and very strong head. It was really nice.

Day 5: Flew back to Malekula. We only barely got on the plane. Check in was at 7, we got there at 8, the plane landed at 8:05. Once we got back to Malekula, I felt absolutely bush whacked. I spent the morning just sitting around. Sam came over and we made tacos, then that night we had a little kava. I was so tired!

Paama trip was really fun, over all, and I'm really glad I got to see a new part of Vanuatu. It was our first really big overnight trip, and I was really glad to work more with Abelson and Sylveste. They're both really good guys. I was reflecting on this earlier, and, for all of our flaws, I truly believe that we run the best provincial disaster office. We go out, we do programs, we work well together -- It's a good thing.