Bae mi Misem Yu, Vanuatu

18 10 2013

Just a handful of things I’ll be missing big wan when I leave Vanuatu on November 5th.

  • Saying “Good morning, good afternoon, good night” to every person you pass
  • Being asked where you are going, what you are doing, or why you are doing it (Some find this irritating, I find it comforting)
  • Cultural sharing, like teaching my sister how to make fried green tomatoesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • The feeling of accomplishment while hanging a bucket of clothes that I just spent all morning washing (carry to river, scrubbing, some wont be dry until tomorrow)
  • Small kiddos with big knives522894_10102043664656520_1035884211_n
  • The short legged old black dog who comes to my door every night to be fed my leftovers
  • Panda, the 2nd best treated dog in Vanuatu, who has made my house her 2nd home and helps wash my dishes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Making all communication in a 2nd language. There aren’t very many opportunities to use Bislama in the U.S.
  • The daily ocean views and sunsets
  • Living in such a tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody’s business. Again, it can be frustrating, but I also find it very comforting.
  • Eating foods seasonallyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Knowing what it’s like to really miss something- and then really appreciate it when you have it…. such as fruits and veggies that are seasonal, hot water, running water, electricity
  • The adorably filthy kiddos running around arse naked, just being kids543665_10103419670140500_104437940_n
  • The lack of materialism and racism in this culture
  • Black Man Time, AKA Island TimeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Kava, and all customs associated with drinking in this country
  • Teaching young girls things they never thought they could do. Like speak in public, set goals, and properly use condomsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • All these feisty teens, and grown boys who giggle and squeal
  • riding in backs of trucks around the islands944643_10103119574823920_953116926_n

Awo nomo.

17 10 2013

“Last Days” Reads:

Started Palaknuik- Pygmy, decided I wasn’t feeling it, and quit reading it.

Read and thoroughly enjoyed Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, by Steinbeck ‘cuz I never had.

Just finished As I Lay Dying by Faulkner which took me a bit to get in to. And once I was in, I was in.

Now trying to lighten up a bit with a Tom Robbins book- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I think it’s working.


If I didn’t know better (which I’m not too sure I do), I’d say I’m experiencing a mild depression. My co-teachers claim it’s the weather. The smartest parts of my noggin’ know it’s probably all the sleep I’ve been getting and the kava I’ve been drinking. Then there is the fact that this is my very last month in this little paradise I’ve known for the past 3 years of my life. An uncertainty about where I will end up in America and how the hell I’m going to pay for health care. Ya know, that sort of thing.


I have felt very “checked out” as far as my work at the school goes and make a great effort to drag myself up there once a day to be semi-productive. All of my big “projects” are closed, and the world map is complete. I’m now just there to serve as a helping hand should the teacher’s need me. I will no doubt get replaced, and there will be plenty for the next volunteer to do- fingers crossed the community will get around to building new classrooms with the 50+ bags of cement which have been taking up space in Class 6 for over a year.

My last kava with Katelyn- a nearby volunteer. Day 16 in a row.

My last kava with Katelyn- a nearby volunteer. Day 16 in a row.

For reasons slightly unclear to me now, I thought it’d be a great idea to do a “Kava Challenge” for my last full month in Vanuatu. This means a month straight of kava every night. Some volunteers said that it had to be at least 200 vatu (or 2 large shells) minimum each night to count. So far this hasn’t been too hard to achieve. My sister Leisava makes kava just about every night. And on Sundays somebody goes and gets me a takeaway plastic from a nearby village because Tanoliu doesn’t serve it on that day. I’ve only puked once since being on this little challenge, and have been pleasantly “hit” by the kava (ie- drunk) every night with the exception of a couple. My pal Jake who lives in Tanna has added a little bonus to this challenge by texting me a question (or three) every night for me to ponder and answer. Things like: Would you rather have scales or fur for skin? and Do you feel weird when the toilet is still warm from the stranger who sat on it before you?

The major downside to kava everyday is that I don’t enjoy dinner afterwards, if I can eat at all. This does not work as a diet unfortunately, because I wake up twice as hungry and make up for it the next morning.  I also cannot do much of anything after kava (such as the artwork I still owe some folks). I lay in bed and  sometimes read a chapter or two, then sleep. Sleeping times vary between 8:30-10. I sleep in until 6:50-7:30. Sometimes even later. Needless to say, I am getting plenty of sleep. And with an added afternoon hammock nap, some might argue too much sleep. I try to balance this by maintaining an exercise routine every day and walking around the village a couple times, but I still feel very, very lazy. And not too terribly guilty about it. This is potentially the last span of time for a very long time where I will have the pleasure to sleep however much I want, read all day, and toast in my little metal house in the Pacific heat.

As for goodbyes: a farewell lunch with the school is planned for me on Wednesday, my family will make me a meal, and a certain papa has already hinted that I leave my hammock as a “memory” for him to keep. As early as a month ago, villagers were coming up to me asking me what things I was going to sell when I leave. While this can be frustrating feeling like all these folks care about are my possessions right at the end of my time here, I have to separate myself from it and try to look at things from their perspective. I mean, I got lotsa nice stuff for a single lady. And I’m definitely going to be giving it away and selling all of it quite cheaply. I find that selling my items makes distribution a bit more “fair” so that it doesn’t look like I’m picking favorites to give certain items to. Though I’m giving tons of stuff to my neighbor teachers and family, who have done so much for me.


I’m counting on it being pretty emotional leaving the village on October 31st. After that Peace Corps pays for us to stay in Port Vila in a hotel for 5 days to finish last work (reports, closing bank accounts, etc.) A group of Ni-Van students, family, and friends will no doubt see Melissa and I off at the airport on November 5th. I’d like to say these goodbyes get easier, but they don’t. And I feel like this last one will be the hardest of all.  People always ask me if I will come back. My answer every time is an honest, “I really want to, yes. But it will depend on money to pay the way.” I want to say that within 5-10 years, I hope to be back in Vanuatu. I think that’s reasonable to shoot for, as I have a lot more of the world left to see as well.

I’ll be leaving the country with two backpacks and mailing one box of keepsakes home. Leaving with less material possessions than I brought, but weighed down with loads of new knowledge, skillllz, and love. That feels pretty good.