2-2 Cultural Moments in the first 3 months


Flipping through a magazine (Wired from 2009, if you’re curious) with an 11-year-old girl. She points to an ad with a screensaver on a computer screen. The screen saver is a brightly colored tropical fish that swims around like an aquarium. She says, “Those are tasty.”


We, the three of us, were heading down to Alexandra’s house in Melsisi. From the top of the hill, we can see a broken truck. Several men are busy fixing it, including one who is wearing a loin cloth. As we approach, the man in the loincloth comes over and asks us who will be working in Vansemakul. I say me. He then looks at Jason and says, “I’m your papa.”


During Grill the American Time at the Welcome Ceremony in Vansemakul, we got asked all sorts of questions including: Is everyone in America white? Does everyone in America speak English? Why did so many people die in 9/11? Why does America have so many nuclear weapons? How long does it take to get to the ocean? Does the ocean freeze in the winter? Does American have Marijuana?


We were walking home from church, which takes about 45 minutes. We were walking with Jason’s host papa, who had a basket over his shoulder. Everyone here carries a basket. Seriously, everyone. We are about halfway home when all of a sudden the basket starts moving and squawking and a chicken head pops out. It happened again a week later, except it was a boy following behind us on the road and suddenly there were chicken noises coming from his basket. I have since found out that it is acceptable to put chickens on planes, so long as they are in a bag with their head poking out and similarly it is acceptable to put live pigs on boats in a box with a snout hole. They were banned from the planes two years ago.


Jason and Alexandra were sitting outside the convent, just watching the world go by. A man, well walked isn’t quite the right term, but went by with wooden crutches and two parrots on his shoulder. Vanuatu is invading the high seas!


I saw Santa. Actually, I saw Father Christmas, who told us he’d come on the plane from Australia and was coming through on his way to go to Fiji. Before he left, he started dancing to string band music. Imagine the culture clash of watching a man dressed in red flannel and fake fur with a fake beard and plastic belt dancing under a coconut tree to reggae Christmas carols.


Standing in a kava bar and being offered a shell. Instead of the standard coconut shell, we were given plastic, shell-shaped cups. Upon further examination, they are in fact, plastic kava shells with “Digicel” printed on them. Does marketing know no bounds?


Danny is a youngfala of Vansemakul. Danny’s dog had seven puppies. The puppies are in the adorable, stupid stage. I had been having a bad day. Jason up to the nakamal to play with the puppies while I went down to Digicel service to call the Medical Officer. Jason kept looking over his shoulder for me while talking with Danny and playing with the puppies. Danny eventually asked, “Jason, you really like her, don’t you?” This was a revelation, that you might genuinely like the person you are married to.


I went to Jill’s Café in Vila with some other PCVs for breakfast. One of them ordered an omelet that had capsicum (a kind of green pepper). The waitress came out a few minutes later and told the PCV that her food would be late. They were out of capsicum, but someone was running down to the market to get more for her. She got her food about five minutes after the rest of us.


I grew up in a city. How is it that now Port Vila, a town of 12,000 has become the Big City? It is full of traffic and people and English. I can’t recognize every face and I can’t track a single conversation because its the only one in a language I speak. Seriously, this is hilarious.

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