Monday, October 23, 2006

Volunteering in Vanuatu: This is How We Get By

A lot of people have been asking me what we did in our free time.

Personally, I wrote a LOT of lists. Here's an example from my journal:

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006, noon

It's only noon, and there's the distinct possibility I might die. We spent the morning sifting sand from coral, and stacking cinder blocks (728, to be exact) before lifting a rebar structure into a trench. All this in the blistering heat. It's probably about +35 in the sun, and I'm burning. Well, at least I think I am, but I can't quite tell because I'm coated in dirt. Samuel, Jo and Morsen are all having power naps around me right now [ED: Its amazing how quickly you become accustomed to falling asleep on a concrete floor in the middle of the afternoon, while surrounded by other people, in 5 seconds or less.] and a chicken keeps wandering through the kitchen. Also, the rats kept waking me up last night. I might die, but my life is hilarious. Also, Jo pooed. It was a glorious moment.

Things I'd Like Right Now
1. Fluency in Bislama
2. Huge muscles for lifting
3. Clean clothes and body
4. a fruit-flavoured popsicle
5. a Corona with lime
6. a pear
7. a pedicure
8. more time to make lists
9. shorts and a "singlet"
10. a swim in the lake, rather than ocean"

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006, noon

Things I Regret Most
1. Not bringing my digital camera
2. Not taking more photos (directly correlated with #1)
3. Not accepting the exfoliating puffball Curtis offered me in Vila

Friday, July 21st, 2006, night

New Goals
1. Become ambidextrous

Thursday, July 27th, 2006, night

Special Skills Acquired in Vanuatu
1. Ability to tell time by the sun, within 10 minutes accuracy
2. Ability to embarass myself willingly in front of large groups of people (not a new skill, just a honed one)
3. Dancing to stringband music (more complex than it seems, because like Bislama, it's limited)
4. Holding hands with kids without grimacing
5. Patience
6. Enhanced night vision/hearing

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006, morning

Skills Acquired in Vanuatu Part 2
1. Building fires
2. Using knives for everything

Lists kept me sane, but there were other ways we got by. Dave bought a guitar in Vila, which we sang along to. Several songs were written, including the legendary Brother Fire!: The Crazy Song featuring Carlo Robbie, Bad Moon Rising Revised YCI Style and of course, we can't forget The Milkshake Song Revised Vanuatu Style, which was loosely based on my theories about seduction in Vanuatu. (I'm positive that all you need to attract a male in Vanuatu is an island dress and a bushknife. All I wanted was for someone to say, "Mi dead long yu!") Dave also learned quite a few stringband songs including Island Dress and Miss Malekula.

During out lunch breaks, I'd usually write. On this day, Vanchella, a girl in our community with Down's Syndrome, had come over and we'd played ball with her.

This is usually how I looked on my lunch breaks. We are quite clearly on our way back to the construction site, unable to contain our excitement at going back to work for the afternoon!

Morsen, Samuel and Iven simulatenously passed out during lunch break. There'd be days when the entire group would be sleeping like this.

A rare clean moment, writing. This was likely a weekend, because Nicole and I are both wearing our skirts and are clean. We had probably just returned from Laravet, where our host families lived.

Yoga was implemented (but rarely enforced) as part of our daily regime to de-stress.

The picininis thought this was hilarious, of course.

And when we got exceptionally bored, we'd do things like trap one another in the dark shower, or hog-tie our group leader and then speculate if that counted as breaking Policy Number One.

Policy #1, of course, was the one that said we weren't allowed to have sexual relationships with group leaders or community members. Breaking rules was a constant topic of discussion, and this was hands-down our favourite one to debate. (One day, Morsen even went so far as to write down all the girl's crushes on a slip of paper. My crush? "Find me a man with a beard, that's all I ask," I told Morsen, who was incredibly confused by this. Luckily, my response saved me future humiliation because Morsen quickly reported the findings of his impromtu survey to the construction crew.)

Personally, if I was going to get kicked off project for breaking any one rule, it would have been the one that said we weren't allowed to operate motorized vehicles. That seemed much more tempting to me. . .although, I have to admit, I did find the way my host brother cut fruit with his bushknife strangely appealing.

Morsen in exchange, escaped and lassooed us. (I was an innocent bystander!)

And when we got really, REALLY bored, we'd create games like this one which Dave called, "Throw As Many Cards At Jessica Like She's a Stripper and See How Many Stick to Her!"

The excitement on project never ends!

Dave wasn't very good at that game, but he did become really good at Scrabble. He lost the first game we played, but by the time we left, he was winning. In this particular game, he won with the bingo FRINGES.
I'm really curious to know who out there is reading this? Family? Friends? YCI Alumni? Future challengers? Participants of V6-6A? Drop me a line and let me know who you are out there! Just leave a comment in the comments section. I need some motivation to keep updating this thing!


  1. I'm reading it! Me me me! It's great reading too. Keep the stories coming, I'm thoroughly enjoying them.

  2. i read it, cuz i like to hear about your travels and adventures. brings me back to better, happier days. keep it up!
    sorry that sounds like something you say to a five year old.
    please keep posting though.

  3. Wow, I just wrote a long message about how your blog is great and all, but blogspot doesn't seem to agree.
    Anyway - your blog is great, keep writing and visit mine if you want to know something about Norway from a not-very-objective point of view :)

  4. you know when your brother is rading it and not playing some game you better keep at it.
    You should go to Mclellans store and get a couple traps to give the next crew. You know I never have a problem with varmints but then I don't catch rats do I?


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