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Published: November 29th 2008
This little tree by our house is blooming, getting ready for it's second crop of the season.
Hello All! We're in the capital city of Port Vila for a few days before heading back to Maewo. It's been surprisingly hard to readjust to life in a hotel. Last night, our first night back, I woke up and couldn't not figure out where I was. I was cold and saw a weird light above me, that was surely the moon, and couldn't make out my mosquito net or dark walls that usually greet me when I wake up. I could only guess that I was sleeping outside and was just about to wonder where my stash of toilet paper was when I realized I was in a hotel room. Imagine my relief when I realized that toilet paper AND a toilet were less than ten feet away AND in the same house. Both Justin and I woke up with stuffy noses from the air conditioner. On a more positive note, the hotel has huge, fluffy towels that are like heaven compared my moldy smelling quick dry one.
But, let me back up a few weeks and catch you up on what we've been doing since our last blog (so long ago!). Training shifted from language and cultural sessions
Some ideas for teachers and what they can make using recycled materials that they can easily find.
to technical training sessions which were chalk full of practical information for our future jobs. (We are both feeling confident and independent with our Bislama now). Current Peace Corps Volunteers came and stayed with us in the training village for two weeks to facilitate the technical training. Justin and his fellow Information Technology (IT) guys did a lot of talking about the pros and cons of technology in Vanuatu. They also made a few trips in to Vila to check out the computer stores and what kinds of things they keep in stock (ridiculously limited and expensive). He also got information on how/where to apply for grants, materials, and other potential contacts of people who could be helpful once at site. As our training group is the first to pioneer IT volunteers, much of his training was simply to introduce him to what is possible. Hopefully he will help streamline it for future trainees who come with a similar project in later years.
Teacher Trainers got a lot of teaching materials to share in workshops. We will be presenting workshops to teachers on phonics, learner centered instruction, reading comprehension, etc. Our training was a lot of make-and-take materials like
Chief Roy Mata
during one of his many guest appearances.
letter tiles made from cardboard, sample phonemic awareness tests, and the like. We also talked about the difficulties that Ni-Van teachers experience since many of them are teaching English when it is their third (or fourth or fifth) language. We practiced describing the difference between "k" and "g" (feel your throat and make it vibrate for the "g") and other similarly confusing letters to non-native speakers. Mom, look out, my inner speech language pathologist is emerging!
As our trainers for those weeks are current volunteers, they also pumped us with other useful information like: how to make jewelry from coconut shells, how to bake using a dutch over and hot stones, and how to us an HF radio to listen to BBC.
The last week also included our final oral presentations that each trainee was required to give. We all had a historical topic to research and present to the community. There were three nights in a row of presentations and most of the community showed up to watch. We even popped popcorn! Justin researched Chief Roy Mata, a historical chief who is noted for putting an end to fighting and cannibalism between the tribes on Efate. He
Chief Roy Mata's burial ground on Hat Island
scored some major brownie points by including a drama in his presentation, during which he dressed up as a paler version of Chief Roy Mata, complete with a boar's tusk necklace. His performance was such a hit, that other volunteers quickly wrote him into their presentations on later nights. The Ni-Vans love love love dramas!
Our last weekend in the training village we got to check out "hat" island (the island in the sunset picture in one previous blog). Hat Island is indeed a historical marker that is attracting lots of attention to the area and it's surrounding villages. It is known for being the final resting place of Chief Roy Mata, the chief who Justin did his research project on. The legend goes that in the midst of a history of turmoil, Chief Roy Mata called all of the surrounding tribes of people together for a feast, asking them to bring something to contribute. Some brought coconuts, octopus, crabs, or stones. When people showed up with duplicate items, those people were from then on considered family. The feast put an end to the fighting since everyone had familiar ties all over the island. When Chief Roy Mata died,
We used bits of coral to grate the scales off our lunch.
his body was moved to hat island and people willingly were buried with them. Some say they first drank kava to induce sleep and were then buried alive. Part of the historical attraction to the island is that the chief's grave was actually excavated to reveal evidence proving that this part of the legend was indeed based on fact; many other corpses were found buried there and one was in such a position that they can discern it was still alive when buried.
The system that Chief Roy Mata implemented is known as the "naflak" system and is passed down on the mother's side to her children. The people on Efate today continue to use it to keep the title of chief in the family. The current chief of our training village, Chief MorMor, will choose his successor by selecting someone of the same naflak as him, so a cousin or brother on his mother's side.
Our trip to hat island included a brief visit to the burial site of Chief Roy Mata, and those who were buried with him, and then we spent most of the day snorkeling, roasting fish, and napping. We literally walked across the
Play with your food
Justin and Sandy - she's going to Maewo too!
island in about 15 minutes. The snorkeling was amazing! While we were swimming, a few of our host papas and brothers went fishing and brought back their catch for us to practice scaling, gutting, and roasting fresh fish. They also showed us how to use bamboo shoots to roast the fish. We also had some fruits to add to our picnic lunch.
One small miracle that surfaced during our last few weeks of training is: an ice cream truck. If you're not impressed, please remember that Vanuatu is in it's summer months now, which means if the sun is out, we are sweating. Sweating and sweating and sweating. And drinking water to replenish the fluids that we lose from sweating. So an ice cream truck is like heaven on four wheels, and, in fact, the truck was quite simply all white. No music or color needed, ice cream in a rural village is in and of itself and novelty! It all started particularly heat ridden Saturday with a bustle in our yard. My ears perked up when I thought I heard the word "aes crim," but I quickly dispelled the idea as a hallucination (you know, like those silvery
Sitting around a campfire - just like home - except these fish are a little more colorful than your typical hotdog.
things that dehydrated people see). But then, I heard it again. I looked outside to see a white truck, much like the U-hauls in the U.S. except all white, pulled into the yard next door. It was like Santa Claus and his reindeer had landed in the lawn! Justin wanted to ask how much it would be for him to stand inside the cooled back portion of the truck, but he settled for a Popsicle instead. We sponsored ice cream bars for our favorite neighborhood kids (the loyal "Kaltafa/Leitafa numbawan" gang). What bliss.
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