The short version of what we’ve been up to.
We are now living in our training village. It’s like having training wheels on a bike, except for cultural immersion. The people here have been prepped that the PC Trainees are going to do stupid things, not know how to do the most basic things, ask dumb questions, hack up Bislama, say things they don’t mean while learning Bislama and step all over a number of social conventions. A few examples:
Another volunteer when asked if she wanted to shower when she got up in the morning, said yes and excitedly grabbed her bathing suit and towel only to realize the next day that the word for shower is the same for the word swim and her parents were asking if she was going to go bath. She then had to ask how to use the bucket shower, one of the standards of bathing around here.
One volunteer had a bit of an issues with the distinction between the verb stap which sort of translates as “to be” and stop which translates as “stop.” To complicate matters, the word nomo was thrown into almost every sentence making him think that his family was saying “stop, no more!” when in fact they were saying “just stay there.” He has quite a rant about the experience.
And my favorite: When asked where she wanted to sit for lunch, one volunteer replied, mi go sitsit wota which translates as “I have diarrhea” not “I would like to sit by the ocean.”
For the most part, Jason and I have confined ourselves to blank looks, hanging the clothes on the line wrong, Jason doing the dishes and being laughed at for not understanding any of the children when they talk.
The village we are in is called Epau, though actually Jason and I are staying at Ngus station, which is an outpost of Epau. We are about a 25 minute walk from the town itself. It’s like a suburb, except smaller. My host family is made up of my mama and papa and their seven kids. Of those seven kids, three of them are married and have their own children, all of whom live here at Ngus station. There are also two other families here, though none as big as ours. The next village over is Ekipe, where all of my out-of-town trainings happen. I go there on Monday for my health trainings and Wednesday for general training.
Our day to day routine goes something like this. We get up around 5:30 or 6 am, when I give up trying to sleep because the stupid roosters are blind and don’t understand that the sun does not rise at 4. I go for a run if I want and then swim smol (bucket shower). We eat ti at the table, which is remarkable because no one else eats there. Everyone else eats on the floor of the cooking house. We are usually kept company by someone, either one of the parents or the youngest daughter. Then we walk half an hour into town to go to Bislama class. We have two hours of Bislama class to start off every day. On Monday and Wednesday, our host mama brings lunch into town for us and we eat with Judy, one of the PC staff members. Then we go to our technical training or general training in another town. My technical training for Health is in Ekipe, which is just up the road but Jason goes to Ponanganisu which is about 40 minutes away by bus. On Tuesday and Thursday we have “Self-Directed Learning” time after Bislama class. SDL is anything from sitting in on a 3rd grade class to learning how to weave matts or cut firewood. Basically, it is time we have to study, speak Bislama and learn the skills we are going to need to survive for the next two years. On Fridays we have our oral exam in Bislama instead of class and then all the volunteers come to Epau for some group time and more trainings. In the evenings, we have SDL time, though it is often taken up with things like learning to peel a water taro (don’t touch the peel, it makes you itch) and trying to explain ice fishing to people who have never been in weather colder than 60 degrees. After dinner we storian smol with our host parents before they tell us that we should go rest or go studiem smol. They send us to bed anytime they don’t know what to do with us. That includes a mid-day nap.
Weekends are technically all SDL time. Last weekend, Jason helped build a church while I got my hair cut and made dinner for the men. Yesterday, we went to Camp GLOW/BILD that a current volunteer was running. Sundays are mostly for resting, or jumping in the ocean.
We will be staying here in Epau for another three weeks. Then we head to Port Vila for a week, get sworn in as Volunteers and then it is off to our posting. Right now, another three weeks seems like an eternity, but I’m sure I’m going to need every second of it.