Ok, it’s been a really long time, I know. Well, a lot has happened over the past several months…
Long story short, I’m the only volunteer on my island and in effort to continue my project and not completely desert Ambrym, I’ve moved villages. There were too many problems in my first village and the project just wasn’t moving ahead because of it. The community is so amazing and I don't want to abandon them, so just before Christmas I moved a 1.5 hour walk away to a new village within the same community.
So Christmas and New Year’s in Oz.
Over the holidays, I decided to spend a month in Australia. The journey began in Sydney, which was a bit overwhelming as it is the first large city I’ve been in, in well over a year. Yes, this was my first time out of Vanuatu, and the culture shock! Mind you, Sydney has some warped idea that bringing back the fashion of the 80’s is a good thing. No, no way! Even though everyone was poorly dressed in leggings, I still felt fairly self-conscious. I was fortunate to have a friend in Sydney to hold my hand for a few days and show me around. For Christmas, I ventured off on my own to Katoomba, a little town in the Blue Mountains. It is considered the Blue Mountains, because there are a lot of eucalyptus trees (gum trees) which give off a blue color. I’ll try my best to describe the place. Being in Katoomba, you’re in the mountains so what you look at is in a canyon and the effect (because of the color) is much like looking at the Grand Canyon-it’s like a painted picture. Going to the Blue Mountains gives one many opportunities to partake in outdoor sports. I decided as much as I would love to absail, staying snuggled (it was cold) at the YHA was more my speed. In fact, if truth be told, it’s even sadder than that. I discovered a K-Mart. Yes, the Big K in Katoomba. The first “department” store in over a year for me. I walked every inch of that K-Mart fantasizing about what to buy. I walked out empty-handed and missing the hell out of “civilized” life. Oh, how I wished it’d be practical to invest in a blow dryer. Christmas day, the youth hostel hosted a dinner. And wouldn’t you know it, the only other American there seeked me out. He was bit dorky but I enjoyed my dinner with him, a very talkative Belgian girl, a very young (like 17) couple, and a Swedish girl popping out of her top (which helped distract the dorky boy).
New Year’s was spent back in Sydney with some other traveling Peace Corps volunteers and some new friends. We packed up a very large picnic and spent literally more than 12 hours sitting at the Sydney Harbor across from the Opera House next to the bridge awaiting the fireworks-“The Fireworks” are apparently the best show in the world. I have to say I was quite in awe.
From Sydney, I worked my way north to Newcastle, on to Brisbane, Fraser Island, Noosa, south again to Byron Bay the back to Newcastle and Sydney. To summarize the rest of my trip, the weather sucked. Newcastle, I was hoping to hear some good music but barely found any good cover bands. Brisbane I visited with a friend and had a lovely time. From there, I took a camping tour of Fraser Island. Google it. I really enjoyed Fraser even though we really didn’t get to enjoy the swimming as it rained and our tents leaked. I slept alone scared silly as I could only think about the dangerous snakes and such here. We spotted some dingoes, that reminded me of Finnegan. From Fraser, I asked to be dropped off in Noosa. Noosa is a surfer town, more high end type surfers, maybe not pretentious, but more clean cut than Byron Bay. Yes, Byron Bay, the infamous hippie tourist spot of Australia. More rain. But some good shopping and they have revolving sushi bars! Good for dining alone and striking up conversations with strangers. Onwards back to the Newcastle/Sydney area. I met up with a friend, which nicely rounded out my month in Oz. Ok, yes, that was my slightly rushed recap, but I just wanted to update you quickly.
So what about Ambrym?
So everything is going ahead. We had one opening of one of the schools I helped with a grant given to rebuild after Cyclone Ivy. I’m managing 2 million Vatu between these three schools. It was nice to see that project completed, the other two will be done next month. I’m still teaching at the primary school one day a week. And now I’m also teaching Business Enterprise. Yes, the Rural Training Center has finally opened its doors. We have a temporary classroom, but it’s enough for now. I’ve been sewing. Hand sewing and I’m pretty good too. I’ve just taught everyone to sew headbands and little coin purses. The students are also making sand drawing carvings and it just so happens in May they’re holding a sand drawing Arts Festival on Ambrym for all of Vanuatu. The Cultural Center sent the director here and when he heard what we were up to he was very excited and wants to help us. I think the students will be participating in the festival, which is very exciting.
We are also working on a grant to get money to build furniture. If given the money, the students at the RTC will build desks and chairs for the teachers and students of the primary school in my community (the school I teach grade 5 & 6 and that I helped with the Cyclone Ivy grant). I’m also working with the community to get some rain tanks for the schools. We don’t have any water! And possibly some solar power for the RTC. Lastly, before I go I want to have a good permanent building for the RTC. So organizing all that, especially here, plus teaching, still on the Gender and Development Committee, and such, I’ve been a very busy girl, which is why I haven’t written in so long.
I’ll try to touch base in about a month, to let you know how all the projects are coming. 8 more months to go! Can you believe it?
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