Friday, December 25, 2009

Spend Her First Christmas in Vanuatu

Merry Christmas everyone!
This holiday season I’ve definitely missed my family and friends back home in the states – it’s the sounds of football games, laughter and smelling lumpia cooking in the kitchen. It’s not about the presents, but about being surrounded by the ones you love – corny I know – I am not the Grinch any longer!

But today I was surrounded by plenty of people that care for me like a family. This morning we all drank tea and biscuits/bread together at the nakamal. For lunch we listened to string band music and ate goat soup with rice. For dinner we had baked pig and banana lap lap.

During the holiday season, every meal is eaten together as a community and we are split up into 3 groups and rotate helping to prepare the lunch or dinner until the first week of January.

breakfast at the nakamal the girls with their Christmas gifts

Go to Mu-ur

I’m in a new village now – I finished my week in Tafea and have moved on to Mu-ur, which is the smallest of the 5 villages and is located on the west side and a little higher in elevation then the other villages. Mu-ur has 6 households and a population of 25 people.

The survey has been going well - although some mamas and papas were nervous at first talking Bislama (as many were not educated in Bislama or hardly use it) and not knowing the answers to my questions (I tried to explain its okay to not know the answers and that it actually helps me figure out what topics to cover in workshops etc).

Yesterday some of us went hiking to the highest point on the island and reached On-on point and then Tolulu point. We had a little picnic on top with roasted corn and pineapple. It’s like a rainforest at the top and the girls started to decorate their hair with the moss (see picture below). Long ago the villagers wore custom clothes made from leaves and such but now everyone wears western style clothes.

The aelan dres (island dress or mother hubbard) is a whole other thing. When the missionaries came and saw the scantly dressed woman they were horrified and in an attempt to cover them up they created an unflattering and stifling hot dress. But as they say “when in Rome” – so I myself have 11 aelan dresses and will dawn them on special occasions or for church (otherwise they stay hung up).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Surrounded by Mangoes

Tongariki has had to suffer a long 4 (almost 5 months) with no rain (normally the dry season is just 3 months long). However, they were rewarded with a ton of mangoes because normally the rain would wash a way the flowers and there would only be a few but this year the branches were so heavy with fruit that they needed to be supported with bamboo. And because there was only one ship that came to the island sadly no one could profit from it. But everyone, young and old, ate mangoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kids were dirty from mango juice and dirt and tons of flies all around from the rotten ones that fell. One kid I know ate 68 mangoes in one day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Back In Erata

Home sweet home. Time to relax and get ready for Christmas.

Today 2 ships arrived to Tongariki. The last time supplies were unloaded was November 12 – for those of you who aren’t quick at math that’s 39 days. So the island has been without flour, rice, crackers and all other western comfort food as well many family members were aboard to come back home to the island for Christmas. So it was a big day at the saltwater. When a ship comes there is no wharf or dock they must idle in the water while a small outrigger motor boat goes between transporting cargo and people. Also because the shoreline is so rocky (smooth rocks but rocky none the less). They throw the cargo off the boat and we make a line to throw and catch to get the packages “safely” away from the water. All the men are strong but sometimes a person will fall in and get soaked or a bag of rice will get wet but it’s still the best and only way. Everyone comes down to watch no matter if you got packages or if your leaving – it’s a special occasion and everyone gathers together, brings food and the kids swim.

I thought my Christmas packages and letters would be on the ship however they left them in the ship office, so I’ll have to wait till next time – whenever that will be. Before there were 2 ships that are owned by a man from Tongariki that would come weekly but they are broken and waiting for parts to repair the engines. So now we depend on ships owned by other islands and most times they will pass Tongariki completely because maybe we are too small of an island to be profitable for them or something – humpf! And when you call and ask when to expect them they tell you “Monday” and then they say “Wednesday” and then they say “Next Monday” – so I’m waiting for the MV Tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Go To Lawaima

My last village to visit is Lawaima which is at the cliff’s edge with about 20 households and about 71 people. The start of this rotation the days dragged on but this week has flown by and soon I’ll be sleeping in my hut again.

Because this village is a lot bigger than the others I meet with 2 families a day. And each day I’ve drank a glass of kava with the families – I want to be respectful and not refuse. But kava does not taste good and when you put the glass up to your mouth and your nose takes a wiff your stomach lurches in anticipation and you find yourself having to give a pep talk to your body to just “drink quickly – get it over with – one, two, three, embong (good night)” but the benefits of a good night’s rest is nice. The taste makes you want to spit and most do (I use water to really wash it out) and then eat nuts or fruit to take away the taste. After your mouth and lips tingle a bit and your mind is a lil fuzzy and your eyes hurt if there if there is too much light. If you eat right after it makes the kava work quickly and most are ready for sleep soon after. Of course with anything - different people have different tolerances or reactions. Myself I can only drink 1 glass which is fine because I feel drunk on kava easily and my reaction is that my mind starts to work in overdrive buzzing and I want to storion with everyone. This is too bad because everyone around me wants to sleep. Some shake when they have had too much. Some can’t walk about. For some who drink a lot and for a long time will have severely dry skin like a snake. Woman and kava is always debatable because before it was just for men only and before that just for chiefs on special occasions. In some places today (example in Tanna) if the men are preparing kava at the nakamal a woman can’t even look in their direction or walk past them. So with each village on Tongariki the tolerance or acceptance is very different, like with Lawaima, Lakilia, Tafea & Mu-ur it is a lil more liberal and in Erata the woman can drink but should be out of sight (maybe at home instead of the nakamal).

This is my papa Edward (in Lawaima) and Uncle Tom chewing kava for us to drink

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Go To Lakilia

Finished my stay in Mu-ur and now moved on to Lakilia, which has about 11 households and 43 people. It is also the oldest village.

I’m staying with Aunty Winnie and Uncle Mark and they are both so sweet and have made me feel at home. I think too I like them because they remind me of my Aunty Tina and Uncle Derek back home. Being away from home is getting harder with Christmas approaching.