WELKAM LONG BLOG BLONG MI!....translation....Welcome to my Blog!
I always knew I'd reapply, but wasn't sure when. So, one day in late 2008 when I realized I wasn't as happy with life as I once was I went online and reapplied. A year later on September 11, 2009 I boarded a plan in LAX with 41 strangers in route to Vanuatu-- a gorgeous South Pacific country consisting of 83 islands (that I never heard of before Peace Corps). Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a believer in the power of manifestation not to mention I'm a persistent little Boriqua and now here I am sitting in the Vanuatu Peace Corps Office fulfilling one of my dreams and living la vida "Ni-Van" on the other side of the globe. I hope you enjoy my stories and thanks for visiting. Please note the contents of this website are mine alone and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Saturday, December 18, 2010
20 minutes across the Pacific we find Lamen Island with 3 villages and a population of 500 people -- Lamen Island is breathtaking. When we boarded off our boat and walked a few yards into the village I felt like I walked into a fairytale. Black sand makes up its main road outlined with banks of black rocks that were initially created to keep the villagers' pigs from running away. Although considering how tiny the island is unless the pigs are good swimmers or cut a deal with a local boatman they would not get too far. The rock bank is covered with olive green moss and the contrast in texture and color looks wicked. It never ceases to amaze me what a great designer Mother Nature is. What I fell in love with the most were the tightly woven canopy of trees that stand like watchful soldiers over the main road. I was glad we were visiting during the day because I can only imagine how spooky the main road looks under the cover of night.
Because the island is so small one Abu (Grandmother) I spoke with explained that everyone shares the responsibility of cleaning or 'brooming' the road of fallen leaves and debris. Imagine that! America would be a different country if we made 1/2 the effort these folks make. Lamen Island exemplifies what happens when a community cares. They make a weekly community project of it and take pride when foreigners visit. I was hesitant in tossing a banana peel on the ground for fear of tarnishing their land-- an act that in many villages of Efate and other islands is not thought of twice. Then again, many villages I've visited are infested with flies because rubbish is disposed of everywhere whereas on Lamen Island flies were not as much of a nuisance...go figure! My friend, Amy Orr, lives on Lamen Island and I now understand why she is so in love with her island and her family.
The next day we took a 20 minute truck ride from our bungalows to the village of Bonkovio to begin our youth leadership camp. We had an awkward start as the Paster was not present for the opening prayer and when he finally appeared we were in the midst of an introduction Ice-Breaker (The Human Bingo) with our kids. Needless to say , my friend and fellow PCV, Jeff Kladder, had to apologize profusely to everyone for starting the camp before praying. Although it's funny now at the time my first thought was... if the Paster had been on time we would not have seemed disrespectful. Needless to say, the locals forgave us, we 'lego' (let go) and moved forward with our sessions.
Day 2 was interesting because while we played our popular afternoon sport (Capture the Flag) our ears were filled with a terrorizing scream. The young men and women we were competing with and/or against made no attempt to figure out where the screams were coming from, but the Pikininis (young boys/girls) collectively ran behind the Nakamal to watch the killing of a pig. Apparently, while we were strategizing on how to capture the opponents flag the 'oldfala' men and women were conducting a 'sori ceremony'. Although I don't know the details of what caused this particular ceremony, in general a sorry ceremony takes place when an individual or nearby village has offended another. During the ceremony the village chiefs have their say as well as the person(s) involved. They apologize to each other, ask for forgiveness, present their 'gifts' (usually some mats, kava and pig) and end the ceremony with shells of kava and a feast. In this case, the feast was Wilbur the Pig. Although I didn't watch the slaughter my PCV friends, Billy and Chris, did and it seems the traumatizing squealing was due to the pig being butchered to death. First, the men involved in the killing attempted to silence Wilbur by knocking him in the head with a hammer not once, but 3 times. Unfortunately for Wilbur, who's a 'strong head', that didn't work. Next, as Chris so delicately put it, another villager "went Dexter" on the pig. This caused blood gurgling squeal #2, but once again, Wilbur was a fighter and was not going down for the count. Ultimately, it took a series of stabbings in the gut for Wilbur to cross over. By the way, this spectacular event occurs under the watchful eyes of the entire village who huddle around the men and the pig criticizing, laughing and/or making suggestions as to what will and will not work when it comes to pig killing.
I've come to understand and to some degree appreciate this cultural event. We all have to eat, right?! However, although I usually buy my chicken or bacon long after the animal has been slaughtered I can't bear to watch the animal suffer for sport. I've come to the conclusion that I may just have to look into kosher foods when I return to the States because the sound of Wilbur crying out is not something I can easily forget.
Monday, November 1, 2010
The Onesua Presbyterian College re-established their Computer Science Department this year after 8 years of not having a computer course or lab because their computers’ were massively infected by viruses. That’s where I come in. With the collaboration of Vanuatu’s National Training Council (VNTC) in Port Vila we implemented a Computer Science Course 1 that teaches students the basics of computers. At the beginning of the school year in February students had the opportunity to register for the course for an additional 6000 vatu. Initially, we started with almost 350 enrolled students ranging from grades 9 to 13. Throughout the academic year each student was taught how to operate a computer and use various Microsoft Programs (Word, Excel & PowerPoint). The curriculum requires a minimum of 130 hours, which was a bit frustrating to accomplish considering how many days off we had due to holidays, exams…and did I mention holidays? Nonetheless, the students were eager and excited to learn and many of them have become extremely proficient in using computers. I was most impressed with my 9th graders many of whom excelled in creating PowerPoint presentations. A few were brave enough to explore the programs and teach themselves how use additional functions that were not part of the curriculum teachings. Way to go Freshmen! I was also proud that many of my female students enrolled and gave the boys some competition for our Student of the Month.
Despite the many hiccups throughout the year from equipment breaking down to viruses and no internet service we managed to certify 233 students (70 of which were my students) by graduation on October 31st, 2010. A feat that we are extremely proud of especially because the VNTC certification is nationally recognized and will assist our qualified students to land business jobs throughout the country.
Next year, we are looking forward to implementing a tourism business course that will complement our computer course and is also VNTC approved. Teaching computer science in the #1 worst country for computer maintenance is hard work…honestly, teaching in general is bloody hard work, but I can honestly write that watching a student go from being afraid to touch a mouse to creating a professional PowerPoint presentation with ease is worth all the headaches, sweat and tears.
It was a typical fun-filled weekend; full of laughter, relationship-building and inspiration. We split into female and male groups with Jeff leading the boys’ sessions and us women facilitating the girls. After creating our traditional camp banner with painted handprints, we established our rules for the weekend and opened with friendship bracelet making. It’s amazing how much teenagers love beads! As usual the kids were initially shy; however, by the time we began our public speaking session (Day 2) they came out of their shells and did a fantastic job speaking in front of each other with confidence. We covered an array of workshops from discussing the qualities of a great leader to the myths and facts of marijuana. In the end, our kids created a drama on a topic we had covered in our sessions and needless to say the boys’ skit on being a good leader by acting out the first encounter of the Ni-Van natives by the white man (costumes all all!) was hilarious.
I was so proud of my kids for taking the initiative to sign up to our camp and I was pleasantly surprised when my principal called me to tell me he was paying the 200 vatu for each of our 2011 Prefects (11 students), because he thought it was a great opportunity for them. We ended our second night with speeches, cake and the distribution of their certificates.
Next year, I expect our next camp will be bigger and better now that my students understand what the camp is all about. Our camps are not only a fantastic opportunity for kids to learn new skills, but they are also an opportunity for us volunteers to learn from our kids. By the end of the weekend what I took away from this experience was that my kids are a fantastic group of "leaders in the making" who are helping me live a life-long dream (I even got a little choked up when I gave my speech on dreaming big and being persistent) . I can’t express enough how proud I am of being a GAD member and Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu!
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