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Published: October 20th 2010
Carton at the door full of salu-salus for the kids
20 August 2010 Children’s Day
Again, Children’s Day was a big deal in our village as well as at the school. First, the church hosted a celebration for all the kids the Sunday before the official holiday. Before the big day at church, my host parents wanted to do something special at their house too. I volunteered to make pancakes for breakfast. With my parents, their three kids, a cousin who also lives with them, Justin and I, and anyone else who may drop by to be fed, I decided to make a humongous, 6-egg-batch of pancakes. (As I write this in retrospect, I cringe at the loss of so many eggs in one go. Eggs are a precious commodity found only sporadically on the island, and selling for 50 vatu!) These were toted over to my parents’ kitchen that morning with a jar of peanut butter and syrup to go with. They were quite a hit!
The celebration at the church went a lot like the Mother’s Day celebration a few months ago. The kids lined up outside the church and received a salu-salu when they entered. The service was dedicated to them, with
The kids lining up to come inside the church
a song sung by the parents and a message themed around the kids. During the service, most of the men (including Justin) were out in the community kitchen preparing a huge meal, enough to feed the kids and as well as their families. After the service, the kids were served their lunch on the lawn. The older kids go to sit at tables while the younger ones had the benefit of a special little shelter built just for that day. The floor was grass and there were no walls to the temporary structure. The kids took their lunch as most are accustomed to doing, sitting on a mat on the ground.
At the school a few days later, Children’s Day was celebrated again for three days. All the other schools on the island were invited to attend and participate in the sports contests. One, a French school in a village called Nasawa (central Maewo), accepted the invitation. The students were in teams with their schoolmates and competed in basketball, volleyball, and “fusall” (like soccer, but played with 7 players to a team and on a much smaller field). Again, there was free food for the kids and a food
The parents dedicated a song to the kids during the church service.
stall selling food for the parents. Justin’s host mama set up shop in our kitchen and made “gato,” a fried bread shaped like a doughnut, to sell in the food stall along with the laplap, baked taro, rice, and beef. There was a live string band playing music during the day and the generator fired up to play pop music for the kids to dance to at night. By the end of the three days, I was tuckered out and ready for Children’s Day to be over (only to be proceeded by Vanuatu’s Independence Day less than a week later; this holiday Justin and I quietly passed at home while the rest celebrated in a neighboring village). Mom & Bro to Vila
To earn money to pay for school fees, my host mama went to Vila to be a “haos gel”. An auntie who works as a nurse in Vila offered to have her come work in her house as she knew my parents were really stretching to get school fees for three kids paid off. Even though primary education is free in Vanuatu this year, the secondary aged kids still pay school fees. My two
Bubu Ray cutting up the meat for Children's Day meal at the church
older siblings plus the cousin living with them are all three at the secondary level in school this year, putting quite a cramp on the financial situation. So, Mama is off to Vila to earn the extra cash needed to put them through. She will watch my aunties’ kids while she is at work and do the house chores.
I’m bummed about it because 1) She took Aldayer with her AND 2) They’ll be there until December. My host family won’t be together for our last months at site, something I’m more sentimental about than they are. I miss being able to get Aldayer to do anything with the promise of candy. Especially now as it is the season for these tiny, tart mandarins that are so tasty! I could get him to bring me lemons, mandarins, coconuts, island cabbage… And I’ll miss my daily brushings his soaring spirit, the easy affluence with which he goes about island chores, his shamelessness about being naked.
We do plan on meeting up with my mama and Aldayer before we leave while we are in Vila, but I doubt he will be the same. Selfishly, I want to keep my memories
The kids chowing down in their specially made house
of him untainted with city atmosphere. The poor guy probably feels like he is in a cage in that town. No more free roaming, climbing any ol’ tree that looks cool or has ripe fruit, and he’s probably got clothes on almost all the time. On the flip side, it will be good for him to see how life in town is different; to learn which he prefers instead of idealizing what he does not know. Ribs!
One of the teachers at the school brought a pig over from his home island, Ambae, to share with the teachers on Independence Day. The pig was left with a friend of his in the village and, on the day of, had roamed off somewhere and could not be found. He was MIA for a good week and when the friend who was supposed to be looking out for it finally found it, he killed it right away. So, all of a sudden there was a significant amount of pork to be consumed as quickly as possible.
The action went down while I was teaching in the first grade class, but Justin acted quickly. He got the teacher
The school's Children's Day festivities included sports competitions.
to give him the ribs. When I got back from class, I found him lounging in our kitchen with a book, a small fire with a spit set up over it, a slap of ribs being licked by flames, a fruit juice marinade slowly dripping on it from a Ziploc baggy dangling by a piece of string above the meat. What an amusing, and eventually delicious, surprise! We had finger-lickin’ good ribs for lunch that day! Narere
Even though we live in the tropics, there are distinguishing factors in the weather that one could call seasons. Currently, we are in a season called “Narere.” It is named thus because of a tree, of the same name, that flowers during this season. Narere is also characterized by strong winds and, usually, comparative dryness. Usually, there are cracks in the ground, sometimes an inch wide, at this time of year.
But, as the months of Narere progress, the rain does too. Those alert to this irregularity are concerned, as there is such a thing as too much rain where crops and planting seasons are concerned. One industrious man who is maintaining around a thousand heads of cabbage
Justin's mama frying gato
in his garden (with plans of selling them) complained that his crop would be better off if it would be drier and sunnier now. The cabbages still look massive and edible to me, but he’s lived here longer than I have and I imagine he knows what he’s talking about.
The nation of Vanuatu, as most other island nations in the South Pacific, is expressly concerned with the effects of global warming. As island nations, they have limited land area, and much of that area is low in elevation. When the sea level rises, the islands are the first to notice since they depend, live, and farm on land that is flooded by such changes. Just last year, a small island off of Malekula (another of Vanuatu’s larger islands) invited family and friends who had lived there to come back for Christmas and New Years. As of the first days of 2010, the island was evacuated as it had already suffered from flooding and was considered unfit for habitation. The people who lived there were relocated to another island.
We read often in the newspapers here about the nations’ leaders attending conferences to discuss how the country should
A city boy now :(
prepare and react when the changes become more widespread and serious. Already, the small signs of the reality are making themselves known. Coming Up… Kindy Workshop
The last week of August is a Kindy Workshop hosted here at Gambule School. Kindy (kindergarten) teachers from PENAMA and SANMA provinces will come together for workshops and sessions focused on developing and improving the kindy teachers’ important work. There are 120 anticipated participants!
Two fellow Peace Corps Volunteers will be coming to the workshop and bunking with us. One of the volunteers works in the provincial office on Ambae and called to ask me to help with the sessions along with them. Of course, I’m willing to get involved and help in any way that comes along.
I’m penciled in to run two sessions. The one I’m most excited and proud of: Developing Vernacular Books. The books that I developed with two teachers at the school here are a great resource for the kindys too. The session will explain and hopefully inspire the teachers to undertake the bookmaking process with their own communities’ local language.
I am ultra excited because, lately, the moral of the two
Justin and his rib cooking contraption
teachers who had helped me with those books has been low. They are untrained teachers and, because of that, are regarded as lower on the ladder, paid next to nothing, and very under appreciated by the school administration. One recently confided in me that, if it wasn’t for me working in her class, she would leave the school to fend for itself. It burns me up insides that they treat the untrained teachers as they do, but, that is a whole separate issue. I decided to ask these two buddies of mine to help out with the “Book” session at the Kindy workshop. They both visibly puffed up with pride at the idea. In addition to validating their work on the books, I hope that having those two in the session with me will help the workshop participants really see how possible it is for them to take on the project. Sometimes the “waet man” stuff is considered best suited to its’ own kind, but if they see some of the “blak man” involved to, it may be a more credible possibility in their eyes.
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