Friday, September 25, 2009

Living in a Zoo

My room is the insect and reptile exhibit with a few geckos, lizards, spiders, spasdic moths and blood sucking mosquitoes. A rotating special treat in that exhibit are the occasional rat or if it rains hard the man-eating centipedes (or what the locals call 100 footer - in the book Getting Stoned with Savages by Troost there is a hilarious anecdote on the subject that I highly recommend anyone to read for a fun easy read on Vanuatu) come out to put on a show. For the most part I get along with these creatures as we signed a verbal agreement – don’t hide in my bed and stay out of sight and I wont kill you – so far so good but every once in awhile I hear them or catch a glimpse but no harm done. On the grounds we’ve got 10s of dogs that like to sing in a chorus of barks every night – to my dismay. There are lines of chickens scattered around slowly scratching away every bit of ground searching for food. Suzy, the cat, can be found either hunting (hopefully for rats but she also occasionally chases her shadow) or she’s taking a nap in my lap. We also have dinosaurs – just kidding but truly this place does look like it was the set for Jurassic Part and at night the cows make this horrible noise that sounds like a roar of a dinosaur. Also at night you can hear the fruit bats in the mango trees. In the aquarium there are starfish, sharks, fish (and flying fish), snakes, crabs, dolphins, and more – I still need to go through the exhibit more times and I’ll let you know what else I find. It’s quite a place here in Vanuatu!

Suzy the crazy (and lazy as you can see) cat

My friend in the room - I call him Geiko and he likes to make a shrieking noise sometimes that's not always appreciated in the middle of the night

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In P-Town (Paunangisu)

It has been a week and after spending our first days at a resort (it’s not like Sandals – I use the term “resort” loosely). We learned about policies, bush first aid and a crash course on the basics of the language – Bislama.

We are now in our training village and because we are such a big group they had to split us into 3 different villages – Samaa, Emua and Paunangisu (each are a 30 min walk apart). P-town is like a rural suburbia since we are still so close to Port Vila (less than an hour drive – but as a trainee we weren’t allowed to leave the village), we have piped water, water seal toilets (similar to the toilet you know and love but this one you just use a bucket of about a liter of water to “flush”) and they have a lot of “waetman kakae” (so bread, kato – doughnuts, coffee, tin meat/fish and rice). I do like aelan kakae as well which can be surprising to some who know my eating habits but they have a lot of coconut, papaya, banana, mango, yams, manioc, taro - so a diet of fruits and starches - good thing I'll be wearing a mother hubbard as I might gain weight out here :)

P-town is also like any other big city with its own share of land disputes and power struggles as there are two chiefs that are claiming rightful authority over the village. It has split the village into two – not two sides of the road north and south but its divided house by house so its kinda hard to know who’s on what side – I just avoid the question or smile and nod when the topic comes up. There was a riot in the early 90s and houses were burnt and things said but now its just an annoyance – even for us volunteers as we have to split into two groups for community projects and such but hopefully us being there might help show them they can work together.

This is the house I slept in - there is also a seperate house for where my mom slept and the "dining room" and then there is a custom kitchen (meaning its made of leaves)

View from the beach at Ptown - you can see Nguna and Pele in the distance. The bay is really calm no waves just great views :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is FOP (Fresh Off the Plane)

After about 15 hours of traveling we finally landed in Port Vila (the capital of Vanuatu – on the island of Efate). I stepped off the plane and as I was going through the passport checkpoint marked for residents it still didn’t feel real – am I home? When we got outside we were greeted with 20 or so staff and other volunteers. They gave us all coconuts to drink and a lava lava (surong) to wear. As I shook everyone’s hand I felt a little overwhelmed with a lot of emotions: I was excited and nervous and thinking “Did I bring too much?” “What does the rest of this island look like?” “Ok, these other volunteers look normal and cool so if they can survive so can I” “What an adventure I’m starting today”

The welcome line at the airport

Got a surong and coconut - life is good :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

arrive to Port Vila, Vanuatu

I haven't arrived - actually still at the airport but I wanted to let you all know that for training (the next 2 months) I may not have internet access. So no news is good news. I'll try to sneak away but after training prepare for some entertaining stories :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

leave for an adventure of a lifetime

Tonight is my last night in the United States. 5,967 miles away in Port Vila, Vanuatu. This may seem like the beginning of my 820 day adventure but it really began when I applied in mid January. Of course the humanitarian side of me would like to say that I decided to join the Peace Coprs to make a difference in this world and of course it partly was but to be hones it sounded like an exciting and amazing adventure that would be a once in a lifetime experience. After the months of waiting I received my invitation to Vanuatu in the Pacific Islands. Only 3% of PCVs are posted in the Pacific Islands and I'm sure it seems more like a vacation but I can assure you that I won't be hanging by the pool with a margarita. (Background: Vanuatu is located in between Australia and Fiji - vacation anyone? My hut is your hut! And now the time has come to say my goodbyes. This morning was hectic to say the least - I have packed and repacked my bags more times then I'd like admit and had to make some tough choices on what would go and what didn't make the cut. I am only allowed two checked bags - 124" linear dimension and a max of 50 lbs for e/bag. Finally after getting rid of the sleeping bag/pad and about 1/2 my toiletries - while keeping my stuffed animal (yes 26 y.o. but you want to have something that gives you a little home comfort), 5 Oxo potato peelers and Obama buttons for gifts and mass amounts of electronics (I know I'm supposed to be roughing it but seriously 2 years w/o my ipod/kindle - no way) -in the end my bags weighed in at 96 lbs total.

It was hard to say my goodbyes - lots of tears - and for those who I wasn't able to say to in person or over the phone "Tank yu tumas for all your support and love".