On Christmas day, a group of folks came to our corner of paradise from Australia and New Zeland. We weren’t there to greet them, but we did eventually get around to meeting them. Jason met them first, since he was in Melsisi to pick up mail and do some other things. A few days later, I met the group while Jason was trying to charge the computer.
My understanding of the idea behind the group and how it works is something like this: The teens do their own fundraising or use their parents money to spend their summer doing missionary/assistance work in a developing nation. The kids choose what country they want to go to from a list and if there are enough people interested the trip happens. If not enough sign up, they end up at their second choice country instead. Then, they go to “boot camp” for three weeks where they learn some basic construction skills and do some summer camp type activities. At the end of the three weeks, they are sent out into the world to give headaches to their team leaders and hopefully learn something about other countries and maybe even do some good work. The religious side of thing includes memorizing bible verses, discussing the story of Jesus and doing some evangelism activities. The work side of things involved cleaning and painting the classrooms in the secondary school. I think the most important part was the chance to see how other people live and to experience a little bit of a culture outside their own.
One Wednesday morning, Jason and I wandered over to visit for a bit. We struck up a conversation and things progressed from there. I spent the morning translating in the kitchen while Jason wandered around with another of the leaders. The two teens on KP got to learn things like how to open and scratch a coconut and how to cut namambe. Useful life skills, I’m sure they will have a chance to apply later.
We stayed for lunch. There was whiteman food. This is an amazing thing when on the island. Over lunch we discussed such important topics as the rugby world cup and how much I want to go. It will be in NZ this year, which is not that far from me, by comparison.
After lunch, one of the girls asked if we would be willing to answer a few questions. Two hours later, we had talked about food, kastom economy, kastom law, dating, marriage, the expectations of dating and marriage which are the same thing here and our experience as PCVs. It was interesting to realize how much Jason and I have learned in our time here. I feel like we are just scratching the surface, but at least we are scratching it now.
They were staying in Melsisi and working in Melsisi and I don’t think Melsisi is a real Vanuatu village. None of the Ni-Vans do either. So, we offered to have them come to our house after church on Sunday. They took us up on it.
On Sunday, we walked en masse to Vansemakul, which is about an hour if you don’t walk fast. We got there, caught our breath and then headed up to Danny’s garden. danny is a friend of Jason’s who was willing to show the Teens around a bit. We walked up hill for another hour or so. (We walk a lot.) When we got to the garden, there was fresh fruit. By fresh I mean, Danny pulled it off the vine, cut it and we ate it. Good garden style!
By the time we finished that, it was getting late, so we headed back down the hill and saw them off to the main road back to Melsisi. I think it was the highlight of the day, if not the week for the teens and I think my village will be talking about it for awhile yet.
All in all, it was nice to have other white people come wandering through. It was neat to see how much I’ve learned and to be re-inspired in my commitment to development work and the importance of learning about other cultures and kastoms.