City Livin’, Crazy Mama Style

11 03 2013

A little schedule of events over that past few weeks…..

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I met my goal- I went over to my family’s house to storian with my mama, meet my family, eat with my family, and hang out with my brother’s girlfriend. She’s pretty awesome, Stephanie makes snacks for the Kava bars, bought icecream for me, she smokes (very uncommon for a Ni-Van woman), wears trousers, drinks beer and kava often. What can I say? I like the gal lots.

I was drinking kava almost daily from lack of better things to do in the evening and as a great way to meet new people. Usually I would go with Stephanie, meet up with Britt, or I would go sit and story with the old men and the next thing I knew it was sun down and they were giving me kava. There are some mama’s I also drink with, and one night I went out with Stephanie and a few younger women to go drink kava.
I was feeling more and more comfortable with my family and village, on time taking my laptop over to charge and watching a movie with my host family at night.

Tuesday: I went to Vila for a party given to the U.S. Ambassador. I bought some rope because my papa wanted to help me hang up my hammock in the tree behind my house. My hosue is located right by their house, very convenient.

Wednesday: Ambassador visited my village, afterwards I went to Vila to sleep over

Thursday: Public Holiday, spent in Port Vila

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Friday: After school I went to my family’s house to see if my papa was home. He was sitting on the porch and I asked him if it was an OK time to hang my hammock. He said yes and we went to my house to hang the hammock. As we were hanging it he said, “We will drink kava tonight.” I arranged the time with him and he returned to his house. The water taps started to run and I began filling up all of our buckets and oil drum for later use. At this time the pastor came out and rang the church bell, signalling some sort of meeting at the church. He borrowed a roll of paper, blue tac, and a new marker from me.
I then walked to my papa’s house, where only my Apu could be found. We sang out for my papa and he called for me from the side of the house. I asked him about the church meeting (he is an important elder) but he dismissed it and told me to go with him to kava.

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The Event:

We went to his brother’s (one of the head chiefs) Nakamal to drink kava. The chief’s wife was serving kava and some other villagers were already sitting around. Britt was on his way to meet me and drink with me.
When my shell was ready I walked up to the bar, only to be greeted by my host mother who was holding a large cooking knife and yelling at me in Bislama.

At first I thought she was just talking to me or making fun, quickly to realise she was angry and saying things about my character and ranting about me following my papa to kava and makng him do work for me at my house when he should be at the church meeting or doing work at home. She obviuosly had lost it, I stood there crying not really sure why this was happening or what was going on. I never felt unsafe or like she was going to stab me (she did put the knife down, only to yell at me a bit more), I only felt upset that this was my host mama- somebody I am supposed to have a good relationship (and did up until this time) with.  She ranted only for a couple of minutes but in this time mentioned “burning down a house” and told me she would “slap me so hard I would fly in to the salt water.” Pretty impressive verbal abuse. I was looking around not sure what to do. Britt was in shock as he had just arrived as this started. All the other villagers were unsure what to do and just sat there and watched. Only one old man tried to calm my mama down but that didn’t do much good. She ended her rant by telling me I was not welcome in her house and walking away.

I was super upset and trying to ask why that happened or what I did wrong to cause this. Everyone just said “it’s nothing, you didn’t do anything. just forget it.” My papa, who was probably very shamed, just sort of smiled and told me to not worry. He told me just to drink my kava but offered no explanations. They obviously wanted to make things better and were afraid of me leaving the village. The chief and other elders of the village told me that the next day “she would shake hands” (have a sorry of some sort) and the situation would be all forgotten. I thought, well that’s super and all, but why did this even happen and will it happen again? Mostly, I just wanted a new host family.

I did drink kava with Britt and we chatted about what a strange event had just occurred. I didn’t feel like I was in any way unsafe, I simply felt that obviuosly my parents were having some issues and she had snapped and taken all her anger out on me. I tend to be positive and want to see the best in folks, so in my mind I was thinking she would never intentionally hurt me or come after me. However, I decided it would be a good idea to call our safety and security officer and report what had just happened. She wanted me to come in to Vila the next day (even offering to pick me up that night if I did not feel safe) and stay in town until they figured out what was going on and if I was safe in the village.

Saturday and the following week:

I went to Vila. This event was reported to Washington D.C. and looked at very seriously. Technically what occurred was “assault with a deadly weapon”, and as far as Post in Washington is concerned, this was filed in the same category as a gang assault in Columbia. In other words, although I felt safe and like this was a one time event, it was looked at seriously and with great care to assure that I would be safe and should stay there. If I did not want so badly to stay at my site, they probably would have moved me out immidiately. But because I really enjoy the community and school, my headmaster, fellow teachers, and I worked to convince the staff that I should stay put. There were several meetings held. the headmaster and teachers met with my host mama, papa, and chiefs. It was determined that she was in fact sorry for what she had done. in her mind, my papa and I had been drinking kava together 3 times before this incident (not true) and I think her jealousy towards me had been building up until this point. I had no idea any of this was happening.

They agreed that I should get a new family, and I think a family has been chosen for me already (I’m not sure who). I get to stay in my house but Peace Corps staff does not want me returning to sleep there until there is a formal Sorry Ceremony, which will be held on Saturday.

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This will be a formal ceremony and a time to “shake hands”, thus settling this incident. I hope to have a relationship afterwards with my ex-mama. I’d like to continue to go to their church without feeling awkwardness and be able to hang out with Stephanie still. I think there might even be a police present at the sorry ceremony. The main message Peace Corps wants to send to the village is that this was not treated lightly, and if I wanted to I could have pressed charges against her. I did not feel teh need to do so, but unfortunately this incident has pretty much ruined any future relationships the village might have had with Peace Corps.

I regret that this happened, and I’m not necessarily happy about adding this drama and a second sorry ceremony to my “things that happened” while I was a volunteer list.

I do have to say that the staff has been amazing. I have felt taken care of the entire time I’ve been in Vila. They have been extremely careful about making sure the village knows what a serious incident this is and assuring that I will be safe when I return to the village. They used my time in Brisbane to get to know my new family and make sure that they would be a good fit for me and would not pull a crazy. Even somebody from Washington’s Victim Advocacy gave me a call and email to check up on me. Awesome to know I am in good hands and being looked after.

Did I mention I have had pretty nice hosts and company in Vila while here? Despite the drama, I am doing quite well.

Leila, Mr.Tanguy, Florence

Leila, Mr.Tanguy, Florence

 

Florence, Didier

Florence, Didier

Now:I will be driven to the village every day this week to work at the school and will find transport back to town to sleep at night. Once the Sorry Ceremony takes place on Saturday, I will return to sleeping in the village. I look forward to it, as I recieved a super yummy box full of supplies from Dad and Pam that I can’t wait to eat!!

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