Friday, October 30, 2009

Prepare to move into her new home (hut that is)

Niki in Tongariki. That’s what I like to tell people because its fun to say and it rhymes.

Today I found out that my new home for the next 2 years will be in a village called Erate on Tongariki. Now it’s a very very small island (2km by 4km) – so small it may not even be on your map but its just below Epi and Tongoa. There are 4 other villages on this island (Lawaima, Mu-ur, Tavia, and Lakilia) and only 350 people total on the whole island. In order to get there you can either take a ship from Port Vila (which could take 18-24 hours) or fly to Tongoa and then a quick (~1.5 hr depending on the ocean) to Tongariki. Once you get to the shore I hear it’s a steep but short climb to the village. We will see how I react after I go for the first time if this island is easy to get to or not. There are no banks or post offices on the island so I’ll have to go to Tongoa every other month or so because really how much money do you need on an island? But I’ll likely head over there anyways just to go and socialize with another volunteer as on Tongariki it’s “mi wan nomo” – I’m it for the island the closest volunteers are on Tongoa. But its all good – just think I’ll helping an entire island.

If you want to read about the previous volunteer, Sarah Sherry, that I’ll be replacing you can check out an article she wrote – she’s a much better writer then I am and she gives a good description of the island and the work I’ll be doing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Go Visit Nguna

Well I needed a break from training and when the opportunity came up to go and visit the surrounding Aid Posts/Dispensaries/Health Clinic. I thought I'd be clever and choose to visit the Dispensary on Nguna a small island just off of Efate (you can see it from P-town) - so I got to get out of town and complete an assignment :) A few of us went together on the 45 minute boat ride and 45 minute walk up to the village to visit Leiwaku - the nurse that works at the Dispensary. I think it renewed all our spirits to see another village and to practice our Bislama skills - it got us all excited for our future sites (and it seems as Leiwaku let it slip that one of the health volunteers will be calling Nguna there home very soon).

So, as a little background on the interworking of the health care system in Vanuatu let me try to briefly describe how it works (keep in mind I still am learning too)… Each village (in a perfect world) will have a health committee that designates one person in the community to be trained (10 wk program) as a Village Health Worker (VHW) and then run the Aid Post in the community. Now the VHW can do basic first aid and can give medication for common ailments - however it isn't stocked with drugs and if there is a serious problem the patient must be referred. There are problems that arise in this situation as some villages don't have a properly functioning health committee and therefore don't have a aid post or they may have a VHW but they cant continue to work and support their family (they may not have enough money or can't get to the garden to get food - that's also why the health committee is so important as a village they need to support the VHW). The next step on the health care chain is the Dispensary, which is supposed to have a nurse and possible a nurse aide as well (however in many cases it’s just one of the two) and the facility can do first aid, treat ailments, deliver babies and is stocked with medications. The next step on the referral system – since at the dispensary they can not necessarily diagnose everything and a patient may need to go to the hospital or if the problem is too big they will go to the nearest hospital. But we are on islands here and due to weather and distance trying to get to a hospital can be a difficult task.

On the boat ride to Nguna - next to me are my Aunt (smol mama) and my cousin

All of us on the Nguna's shore

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Become a Domestic Goddess

Just a few weeks here in Vanuatu and already I'm learning how to cook by fire - I've been learning how to make traditional island food like laplap (which is a pudding consistensy that is baked) and simboro (which is a starch like manioc or yams that are wrapped in island cabbage). I have also made a banana cake and pancakes so I will be able enjoy some comfort foods from home and I have even made my own banana jam.

I also have learned how to weave using pandana leaves - I can make bracelets, rings and mats (they are still very small more like a place mat - it just hurts my back too much to be hunched over - I dont know how the Ni-Van mama's do it).

I'll definately fetch a nice bride price with all my new skills I'm learning :) haha