Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gudbye Whitefellas!

This will likely be my last entry for a month. It will also likely be a disjointed and short entry, as I'm using an Internet connection that you'd have to find a time machine to experience in North America. (Seriously, I feel like I'm using dial-up circa 1995. But I'm surrounded by masks and some harpoon-y objects, as well as custom mats*, so I guess it's all good.) My logic on the lack of blog entries is that I'm saving my stories for coffees and late night wine drinking sessions when I come home. I all know you would prefer that anyway.

On Saturday after hiking into the boonies of the suburbs of Sydney and showing up 1/2 an hour late, we met the Australian challengers, and the rest of the Canadian challengers, bringing our group number to 18. The day was filled with a lot of bureaucratic necessity, and therefore not worth writing about.

We arrived to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu on Monday. We were easily the most popular passengers on the plane, and I think our excitement was obvious. (I think the fact that I started doing "the wave" as soon as we saw Efate Island might have given our excitement away.) We were driven in a van to the Scout-Hole, which is our very glamourous accomodations for the week, and I spent the next half hour attempting to put up my mosquito net properly.

I'm sharing a room only a little larger than my room at home with 7 other people, and a spider the size of my hand spread out. We are lucky enough to have a shower (although we only have cold water), electricity (that works sometimes), and two squatholes, as well as one toilet (which doesn't flush). We're sleeping on concrete floors, and in the morning we are woken up by roosters crowing. Unfortunatly, the roosters seem to think "morning" is 3 a.m. And don't even get me started on the dog fights. Our food is basic and redundant; every morning we have fresh fruit and bread, the same for lunch, and for dinner we have rice and canned corn with onions.

But the thing is, I'm loving every minute of it. The spider isn't poisonous, bush parties taught me how to squat with ease, and the concrete floor seems to be curing my back problems. I could do without the dogs and the roosters, though.

At the Scout-Hole, we met the rest of the challengers, who are all ni-Vans, or Native Vanuatu people. We're all feebly trying to learn Bislama, but so far, mi no save Bislama gud.** Instead, we've resorted to the few cross-cultural cues to bind us: human touch and food. Yesterday Rose braided my hair for me, and after dinner she grabbed my hand, handed me a coconut, and insisted I drink the rest of the juice. (Which, needless to say, was delicious.) Later, she grabbed a butcher knife and expertly cut the flesh away from the shell, before sharing that with me as well.

Today we were sorted into our group. Mine is 3 ni-Van, 4 Canadians, and 2 Australians, with an Australian group leader. We are headed north on Friday by boat, to the island of Malekula, to live on a cocoa plantation. There, we'll be building a grade 7 and 8 classroom (most ni-Van youth drop out of school after grade 6) in a project funded by the EU.

Yesterday we were taken to a kava bar, where Zach & I promptly were first in line to order one shell. We loved the numbness enough to order a second shell, while the rest of our group stuck to one half-shell each. I seem to be the only one who really likes it.

One of our group members got gastro today. And I doubt she'll be the last. . .

Love to you all. There's too much for words.

After an unfortunate (in the best way possible) incident in Sydney, I tried the Veggemite. I just thought I'd mention this.

*Mats that are woven from palm fronds, I think, and used in custom dancing, or ritual dancing.
** I don't understand Bislama well. I'm having a lot of difficulties with speaking it, although I have no problems reading it or writing it so far.


  1. try about 20 bowls of kava. its really quite a nice night cap. you will feel nice and relaxed to say the least.

  2. Glad to hear you are having a good time hun! (What is kava?)

    It hit me about five days ago that Im moving . . . Im freaking out over here!

    If you name the spider, he will become more like a pet than an uncomfortable guest. You should call him Ralph. Do it, he will like it . . . unless HE is really a SHE. Then you can name her Barbra.



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