4-1 Karis Came to Visit!

Enjoying the sunset at kava bar

A few weeks ago, Jason’s sister, Karis, came to visit. It was awesome. It was also a very different experience having visitors this time than it was the last few times.

First off, on the island, taking a week or two off to hang out with family was no big deal. I mean, we tried to organize it loosely around the school schedule, but only loosely. It just wasn’t that big a deal. This time, we had to specifically take time off from work to host and we had to do all the official stuff like submitting paperwork and talking to bosses as we did it.
Once we had the time off, using it was very different. On the island, we could fill an entire week just living and when we had guests, that’s what we did. Maybe we’d take a walk to the waterfall (just over an hour each way) or to the garden (about an hour each way) or we’d go visiting in Melsisi (just under an hour each way) but mostly we hung out, cooked on a fire and relaxed. That was the island pace of life. Now, we are on town time and it shows. We expected ourselves to keep Karis busy and entertained consistently, everything from going out to kava to meeting up with volunteers for chances to hang out and chat.
Swim-up bar at the resort

Then there was the difference in town activities. When we lived on Pentecost, town was time to eat out, get internet and be white. Now, town is where I live. I have internet, cheese and whiteman time whenever I want (mostly, though the internet is still pretty poor). That doesn’t mean I don’t like to be on the internet, but it does reduce the compulsive need to be on any time I am anywhere near a computer. The same goes for dining out. Though I enjoy going places that make food I don’t know how to cook, the expense starts to make a dent in the Peace Corps budget, so we only go out once in a while. Even things like eating rich foods or spending on extra buses is a stretch. All of that influences hosting. Hosting this time was more of a balancing act between being on vacation and being in normal life.

It wasn’t all a problem though, what we lost in expense and laziness, we made up for in convenience. By living in town, we didn’t need to travel to pick up Karis or rent a room in transit from one island to another. We had things like a fully-stocked kitchen and a shower, all the time. We know where the best restaurants are and when they are open. We know where to go for kava and how long it will take to walk there. We have friends who do fun and interesting things like American dinner night. We have a life here, one that we can invite people into.

Karis’ visit went really smoothly. We had no travel problems (again, living in Vila is easier) and the timing on most everything worked out. Karis got her SCUBA certification while Jason and I were at work the first week and then she and I wandered around town at the end of the week. They went to Tanna from Sunday to Wednesday and left me a bachelor in my house. Even that timing worked out well for my need for some personal space.
The one low point was when Preston and Shelley were supposed to come for a few days and Air Vanuatu canceled their flight. I don’t see how Air Vanuatu is having a positive impact on tourism when they do stupid things like that. I was really disappointed that they couldn’t make it. We found other ways of amusing ourselves. We went SCUBA diving, which finished Karis’ certification and started Jason’s and mine and we wandered around the markets. Karis and I spent a day at Le Lagon, pretending to be tourists with other Volunteers. We went out to kava almost every night, though not everyone drank every time. We went shopping in the market and at the tourist stalls by the water front. Karis followed me to work and listened to ridiculous conversations in the Peace Corps office. I think she got a good impression of what our lives are like here.
It was fun to have her visit. Each time we’ve had visitors, we’ve enjoyed it. It is a chance to remember how awesome and special this place is and how lucky we are in our friends and family. This really is a unique experience and each time I share it with people from home, I get to see it fresh.

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