11-7 One year in

Today (when I’m writing this) is exactly one year on Pentecost.  Here is a list of our accomplishments, the good, the bad and the medevacs.
Taught 2+ terms of sex ed to year 9s and 10s
Taught 2+ terms of computer class to year 9s and 10s (Jason says that between the two of us we’ve taught most of three.  I’m only counting his classes.)
Ran 4 Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation workshops
Trained a ni-Van co-facilitator up to run a workshop without me present
Helped my community write a grant for improved toilets
Taught community computer classes to anyone interested
Got medevac to Australia.
The other half got medevac to Australia
Held a Koala (x2)
Visited New Zealand
Watched games from the rugby world cup
Published a story, twice
Learned to cook on a fire
Learned to roast food in a piece of bamboo
Learned to skin a coconut without slicing my hand open
Trained incoming Peace Corps Volunteers for their two year adventure
Drank LOTS of kava
Learned to grind kava
Learned to milk kava
Wore a loin cloth to public events
Did a health survey of my district
Assisted with a Training of Trainers for youth leadership camps
Taught sex ed workshops
Cut a bush garden
Cut a second garden in my lawn
Carved a jack-o-lantern on Halloween.  Carved 4 more out of green papayas.
Learned the basic scripted conversation in local language (where are you going?  To the garden!)
Learned to find coconuts
Learned to find firewood
Learned many, many uses for every part of a coconut, tree, leaves and fruit
Baked vegan banana bread on an open fire that is better than most banana bread I’ve had in the States
Explain in Bislama who Bin Laden was and why he got shot
Wove a basket
Explained that not everyone in America is white
Got diahrrea
Got diahrrea again.  And again.  And again.
Got giardia.
Got scabies.
Got strep.  Again. And again.
Used more h2o2 than the entire rest of our lives.
Learned the many and varied uses of a bush knife 
Transported cats as carry-on in an airplane
Stole eggs from a mama hen roosting in my kitchen
Learned to identify edible plants and how to knock the good fruits out of a tree with sticks or stones
Learned to eat coconut milk in quantity.  Large quantity.  Everything is better with coconut milk.
Walked an hour home kava drunk.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And again.
Met wonderful Americans with similar values and diverse backgrounds.
Made friends I hope will last the rest of my life
Walked up hill.  Again. And Again.  And again.  And again.  And again, ad nauseum (sometimes literally, the hills are really hard on hot days.)
Made a friend from a wildly different culture
Ate a giant bat
Ate sea turtle (didn’t know it was until post-consumption.  They like doing that to us.)
Ate fish I’ve only ever seen in tropical fish stores or on screen savers
Drank more kava
Made friends with people from New Zealand, England and Australia.  I know I’ll have a place to sleep when I want to go visiting.  (Right guys? Right?)
Celebrated 6 years of dating and 4 years of co-habitating
Explored the medical system in Vanuatu
Broke out in more unexplained rashes than ever before
Learned that staring at the cell tower does not mean you will have cell reception
Learned to speak Bislama fluently
Learned computer words in French (other basics including Bon Appetite and Bon giorno)
Cut the grass with a bushknife
Built a bush kitchen
Pinned natangura thatch
Lived in a convent for a month
Saw Brisbane, Australia
Saw a volcano explode from the front porch
Watched a volcano explode from the rim
Read a couple hundred books
Traveled by passenger ship and cargo ship
Flew in a plane small enough that the pilot turns around to make the seatbelt announcement
Flew in a 4 seater plane (I swear I’ve been in pickup trucks that were bigger.)
Wrote 20,000 words
Developed an interest in photography
Shot 10,000 photos (some are better than others.  We’re culling the weak and ugly.)
Killed a computer
Acquired a new computer
Taken many long, long walks along the beach (aka commutes)
Had a visit by a friend
Had a visit by a mom
Drank a pinacolada at a resort in the tropics.  It had a flower in it.
Destroyed our English language fluency
Learned to recognize the sound of the rain about to soak you to the skin as it comes down the mountain
Learned the real meaning of “heavy rains”
Sat in a bamboo hut during a cyclone
Felt an earthquake.  Felt a few big earthquakes
Learned to tie on a roof with coconut leaves
Grew tomato plants taller than me
Grew basil plants as tall as me
Said goodbye to friends (hopefully just “see you later.”)
Split firewood with a bushknife
Ate ferns.  They are damn tasty, especially in coconut milk
Walked most of the north-south distance of Pentecost
Got called fatfat a lot
Got a new name and started answering to it faster than my real name
Washed clothes by hand.  Learned that tossing them in the bucket with soap is the same as washing.
Cut my hair and grew it back out
Taught children to do acrobatics through cow pies
Relished a Thanksgiving dinner of boxed mac and cheese
Watched men jump from very high places with vines tied to their ankles
Missed three weddings
Missed one new born
Celebrated 26 with s’mores, mac and cheese cooked on an open fire and a bottle of wine
De-wormed. Twice.  Out of necessity.

On Bislama (9-30)

Here is where I geek out a little about language. Bislama is awesome. It is definitely an English derivative, and it is also definitely not English. Most of the verbs are the same, just add –em to the end. (Or –im, -um, depending on the word.) In fact, most of the vocabulary is very similar it just gets weird once in a while. For instance, the word for sweet is sweet but the word for bitter is concon. Go figure.

The language itself is almost intentionally easy. It is the second, third and is some cases fourth language for nearly everyone, which means any sort of complexity has been edited out. It is in fact, frustratingly non-specific. Our teacher told us that it is a descriptive language as opposed to English which is an indicative language. In English, we can talk, tell, say, chat, gossip, converse, blather, rant, speak or any number of other things, each of which has a different context and a different connotation. In Bislama, you can telem, toktok or storian. Any time noise comes out of your mouth, you are toktok. If you are making conversation, you are storian. If you say it to someone, you are telem. Similarly, any bird is a pidgin, except chickens which are faol or lokalfaol. There is also wildfaol, which seems to be some sort of native wild chicken like bird that I haven’t yet seen. That means there is pidgin blong solwota (bird of the ocean) or green pidgin (green bird, also called a parrot but it isn’t that either) or bigfala pidgin (big bird). You spend a lot of time talking around something to get to a coherent thought. (Very few of my thoughts are coherent these days. You try thinking in two languages at once while watching chickens and dogs and children do strange things.)
It has a pretty basic grammar pattern (subject+predicate marker+verb+object) with straightforward phrases. The predicate marker is one of the more interesting features. To make a word a verb, you put ‘I’ in front. So the word for eat and food is kakake. To say “you eat” you say yu I kakae. To say “you eat food” you say yu I kakae kakae. So once you’ve determined what the verb is by shoving an I in front, then you change tenses by sticking in other words. To form the future tense, you add bae (pronounces bay) to the front of the sentence. The form the past tense you put bin (pronounced bin) between the predicate marker and the verb. Basically, none of the words change from their root form. Everything is done by adding in other words. As long as you know to root words and the markers that make changes, you know the language.

Jason wants to point out that all plurals are formed by adding the pural marker ol or the number/amount to the front of the word. For example, wan manioc, tu manioc, sum manioc,ol manioc, which is “one manioc, two manioc, some manioc, maniocs.”
Some other time I will try to explain long and blong. They cover pretty much every preposition and several other connective words.