1-24 Ringing in the New Year with Guinness in Jember, Indonesia

We spent New Year in a hotel bar in Indonesia. This might sound like we spent it alone, having not ventured out, in fact it was quite the opposite.

Late night, or is that early morning? in the rain, like you do on the New Year’s

We left our hotel to find a taxi in the rain. After fifteen minutes, we determined that there were an insufficient number of taxis on the road, at which point we went back to our hotel and asked them to call a taxi. Fifteen minutes after that, we were in a taxi with a “broken meter.” In Indonesia, taxi drivers tell you the meter is broken so they can over charge. This is particularly used against tourists. Lucky for us, we were going to meet our two PCV friends. That meant, they could argue with the taxi driver in Bahasa, making it much less likely we’d get scammed. We hoped.

After a wrong turn and a phone call to the PCVs which got passed to the driver, we found them. They then noticed that the meter wasn’t working, which caused a bit of an argument. The PCV in the back with us quietly muttered, “If we get out and give him money, just jump out.” The driver and the PCV in the front seat reached an agreement and we continued on our way.

We were planning on going to a club, because why not. We arrived at the club doors and it looked swanky. We sent the best dressed of us in to scope out the scene. He came back out 60 seconds later and jumped back in the taxi. It had a $10 cover fee and a dress code. Not our kind of place. (A $10 cover fee is steep for Indonesia. We were both eating entire meals for $6-8.)

Chow time!  The low tables were standard for street food stalls.

We continued on, at no additional fee from the scammy taxi driver, to a slightly less swanky hotel. The month before, the PCVs had found cheap drinks there. They had increased their prices for the evening, so it was $3 for a giant bottle of Guinness, instead of $2. The PCVs were disappointed. We were delighted to have Guinness.

We spent the next three hours drinking Guinness and discussing politics, corrupt governments, educational policy, the importance of fiction, and other such weighty topics. I also got a serving of banana fritters topped with chocolate sauce and parmesan cheese. I know it sounds weird, but I promise, it worked.

A few minutes to midnight, we started a countdown on Jason’s phone. At 20 seconds to midnight, our companions interrupted the band to get the countdown going. Since we were the only ones in the bar, that wasn’t really a problem. We toasted the New Year with double shots of Johnny Walker.

Sorry it is blurry.  Long exposure + Alcohol = Difficult.

The bar was trying to close, so we decided to leave and go find some food. We ended up at a park of some sort that had wonderful patios lined with food stalls. It took a few tries, but we found one that suited our PCV friends and ordered food. Indonesian food is perfect drunk food and fairly vegetarian friendly. I had fried noodles with veggies and egg.

We walked from there back to our hotel. We got in at two in the morning, like one should on New Year. I woke up with a minor hangover, which was justly deserved. Luckily, it didn’t last long since we were on a train from Jember to Surabaya to Jogjakarta at 10:30 in the morning.

9-20 Weddings in Vanuatu are Still in Vanuatu

The first full bus.  It got fuller.

A few weeks ago (I’m really far behind on blogs, I’m sorry) a fellow PCV got married. The wedding ceremony was sweet, touching and short. The bride and groom looked radiant. People cried. The decorations were elegant and fit in around and among the tropical location beautifully. We ate, we drank, we danced, we partied. It was, all in all, a success. But straight up success makes for a poor story, so this blog is less about the wedding and more about getting to the wedding.

We met at Anchor Inn around 1 pm to catch buses. At 1:15, we found out that the buses wouldn’t be there until 1:30. At nearly 2:30, we were still at Anchor Inn. By we, I mean about 50 people. (It was not a small wedding.) After a short conversation with the now very stressed bride, they canceled the buses. We were to find our own transport.

Lovely lanterns in the tree

Telling a group of people here to “find their own transport” is like telling a bunch of bears to find their own honey. Out came the cell phones. Half the group went outside to flag down a bus, half called their friend/family member with a bus. After a brief burst of chaos, we reorganized. The cafe manager and a few PCVs emerged as the strongest leaders and started loading up buses. Loading the buses was a complicated feat of politics. The buses that had been called had to be filled if/when they arrived, otherwise it might spoil the relationship between the bus and the person who called. However, that required waiting for those buses to arrive while the other buses in the lot saw a good thing and tried to get us on their bus instead. I stayed out of it.

After about half an hour, I ended up on a bus with Jason, two PC staff and all of the staff from Nambawan Cafe. It was a crowded bus. Then we stopped to pick up the laplap and some more staff members. There was no way we were all going to fit on that bus, so we called a second bus and broke up the group. That left our bus full at 14 people.

We were having a blast playing music from people’s phones and generally goofing off in the bus. I mean, we were going to a party. We got to the really big hill by Lelepa Landing. All of us were happily unaware of how much weight we were putting on the bus. When the brakes and engine started smoking, we suddenly realized that loading 15 people in a van that is old enough to vote might not be a good idea. Especially once that van is pointed downhill on a curving road.

The driver stopped the vehicle on the shoulder by putting on the parking break, slamming on the normal brakes and turning the van a bit sideways. We all got out in a hurry. Which left us standing on the side of the road, half an hour outside of town, 20 minutes from our destination and an hour late to a wedding.

Joel provided music for the ceremony

The bus that had come to pick up the laplap and last few people saw us on the road. Rather than wait for it to go, unload and come back for us, we opted to pile in. (Because overloading the bus worked so well the first time, we thought we should do it again.) We fit 18 people plus a laplap on that bus. The laplap took up two seats. I made good friends with someone, who’s name I still don’t know.

We arrived at 3:30, an hour and a half after the wedding was supposed to start. We had time to get a coconut and a glass of wine before the wedding did start. I sat on a mat with the cafe staff, because it was more comfortable than the benches.

The wedding was beautiful. The scenery was stunning. I enjoyed myself. Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves. It was good.

9-14 Australia Part 2: The Dry Activities

Lanterns at dusk = magic.

 We spent two days wet. Then we spent five days dry. The wet days get a blog to themselves, but dry days aren’t nearly as interesting. Mostly, we hung out, wandered around town, played on the internet, watched people on the boardwalk, and took afternoon naps.

One afternoon, we went for a walk on the boardwalk. There was a festival going on, so we thought we’d check it out. The festival wasn’t that interesting, but there were artistic interpretations of Chinese lanterns hung in a few trees. I thought they were cool so we stopped and took photos. Then we wandered onward and I didn’t think about it anymore. Until we were heading back to our hostel to get dinner. All the lanterns were lit. It was unexpectedly beautiful. We stopped and played with the camera again.
The false beach in Cairns has false rocks

We went back out to the boardwalk that night. We wanted to go walking. We stopped by a haagen daz (I lack umlauts and the knowledge of how to spell that.) ice cream parlor. There used to be one in uptown Minneapolis but it closed forever ago. It was delicious ice cream. We wandered on with our ice creams. I was thinking about turning around and heading back to the hostel when I heard flute music. Jason and I followed the music to a street performer. We sat and listened to him play and at ice cream and watched the stars.

Down by the boardwalk…

On our last day in Cairns, we rented a car. I haven’t gotten a new copy of my driver’s license since I lost my wallet, so Jason had to drive. He was excited to drive, which was great until they gave us a stick shift. So, we had to change to an automatic and then we were off. We went to Kuranda Wildlife Park and Aboriginal Experience. The wildlife park was decent. The cages seemed a bit small to me, but the animals all seemed content. The guide was very knowledgeable and clearly cared about the animals. He had lots of good stories about how dangerous all the animals are, which is only fair. It is Australia.

Please note the “Don’t get eaten by a crocodile” sign.

The Aboriginal Experience part was cheesy but fun. The guide, wearing a loincloth and body paint, took us to a field where he showed us how to throw a spear both with and without a launcher. Then he played the digerido. He showed us the basic technique and then invited us to try. Jason and another young guy from the group tried it first. Neither of them was terribly successful. Jason sounded like a dying animal. I tried it. I choose to believe I had greater success. I managed to make a noise that ended in a dying animal, instead of being a dying animal all the way through. Next up, we went and learned to throw a boomerang. Jason did pretty well; his got most of the way back to him. I did better than I thought I would.
Feeding a kangaroo!

When we finished with the aboriginal area, we went on a WWII Duck tour. The park has a dozen or so amphibious vehicles from WWII which they take around the nature preserve and point out interesting plants. The coolest part about that was finding out the English names for a bunch of things I see daily and some of the things I eat. We wandered through the orchard after that, which was also super informative.

It made noise.  I’ll take that.

We had a picnic lunch and then went to a little tourist stop where we looked at all the pretty things. There were a lot of pretty things. And a lot of hippies. All the blond dreadlocks and harem pants made me miss Fest. (Let me make myself clear that the blond dreadlocks and harem pants are not the things I miss about Fest, merely associated with all the good things there.) We wandered through the market area which sold a lot of crafts, “magic” stones and other items I would expect at Fest booths. It was nice to have a moment of forgetting that I’m on the other side of the world.

Jason had fun driving on the wrong side of the road. He did a good job staying on the right and staying in the middle of the lane. He did a less good job signaling his turns, however the windshield was very clean by the end of the day. I had fun channel surfing on the radio and watching the scenery.
It was a good and much needed vacation. I look forward to some extended traveling in a few months.

9-6 Australia Part 1: Diving!

On the boat!

The highlight of this trip was the diving and the dive tour. We booked it well in advance after reading about a bunch of different dive operators. We went with Deep Sea Diver’s Den because it was PADI certified (as opposed to one of the other international certifications), had good reviews and was in the cheap side of the mid-range of prices. We made a good choice.

They picked us up on Monday morning and took us to the wharf where we boarded the first boat. The boat left the harbor and headed for the reef. After about an hour and a half, we stopped at the first dive site. I was glad the dive master who was guiding us made us run through basic skills, since it had been a few months. The other two people we were diving with hadn’t gone in a few years and it showed.

The dive itself was nice. Not the most impressive one we went on, but still, anything on the Great Barrier Reef is pretty much bound to be cool.

We left from that dive site and went further out on the reef where we dove again. After that dive, we joined up with the big, live-aboard boat. Jason and I and a few other people changed boats and put our stuff away. We had about ten minutes to sit down before we were back on the dive deck for dive three.

The fish really liked the ship’s light at night.

At this point some of the dives start running together. I’m not sure which one it was that I spotted the fire fish/ lion fish sleeping under the anchor blocks. (I was having problems equalizing and was going down slower than everyone, so I spotted it.) Then we swam over a turtle, though not a big guy. Only about two feet long. (Different ideas of big turtles started applying on the next dive.) We also saw a black-tipped reef shark that was about five feet long.

We returned to the boat around 5 and had an hour to chill out. I went up top and watched the water. That is a whole lot of blue. We ate tasty food and then went diving again. (Jason would like me to point out that the food was fantastic.)

I watched the sunrise.  It was a good one.

The night dive was very cool. There were big gray fish that have learned to hunt by the light of the torches. If we pointed a torch at a fish, the big fish would swoop in and eat it. It was almost as much fun to watch the other divers as to watch the fish. Each diver became a little pinpoint of light as we swam. It was like watching moving constellations. During our safety stop, (every dive there is a saftey stop before you go all the way up to let your body reacclimate) we covered our flashlights and waved our fingers through the air. There was a full moon and the bioluminescence made trails of sparkles through the water. I had a magic wand in my fingers.

Jason and I were the last group to head up. The boat had a flood light on the back and a bunch of fish were attracted to it. We watched the silhouette of the other divers and the fish in the light as we ascended. We could see little rainbow sparkles in the their bubbles, too.

Dawn over the live-aboard boat.

They fed us again once we were dry. The cook made too much dessert so we had to have two. In the morning, we ate breakfast and immediately got back in the water. We saw a turtle who’s shell was more than a meter long. We saw another turtle and a few more sharks. (Just reef sharks, don’t freak out.)

We moved from that mooring to one closer to shore where we did two dives. The last dive was my favorite. We went in caves. Our dive guide knew which caves popped out at the other end, so he led us through them. In one, the first exit we were heading for was blocked by a giant sea turtle, so we went further in. The second one was really dark and so neat. (Jason was much less impressed. I thought it was awesome.) Also, we swam under a turtle and saw a sleeping shark that was over 2 meters long.

Sleepy head. 

We transfered boats again after lunch and headed back to shore. (Again, Jason would like to say that the food was delicious.) We both napped on the way back in. Diving that much is exhausting, but really cool.

It had been a few months since we’d been diving, so it was good to go again. I had a few rough dives in the middle where I really struggled to keep my buoyancy right. I was pleased with my last two dives where I felt much more in control and calm about it. I still need to stay pretty aware of it, but at least I feel like I can control it and not have it be the only thing I do during my dive.

1-1 Happy New Year!

Don’t these plants look like they should be in Dr. Seuss?
We had a pretty mellow New Year. We are still on Santo (which is why I can post this). There are currently 16 volunteers on Santo. Only 4 live here and one of those is in Vila. It is quite the collection of people.
We did tex-mex day at one of the Santo Volunteer’s house. We made proper American style burritos to usher in our New Year in this tropical paradise. It is important to thoroughly mix one’s ethnicities on a regular basis.
Silliness ala Dr. Seuss

We hung out for quite awhile after dinner. One of the guys from Malekula swore that the iPod he had was a gift from an ex-girlfriend, though he could sing along with all the songs, including the ones by Hannah Montana, Britney Spears and Justin Beiber. He was also dancing with a couple of the other guys who collectively sang as well as a herd of queen cats in heat. It was hilarious. We enjoyed the concert.

After much debate, we decided to go around the corner to a bar for a few hours. We walked to the bar. It was a private party with a six-course meal that required advanced reservations. We walked back the other way, fancy places like that are not for PCVs.
Michael had an awesome new years hat!

We ended up at the hotel where some people were staying and hung out until around 10 pm. The five of us staying out of town decided to go catch a bus before the drivers got too drunk. We made it back to the house without further excitement and rang in the New Year with silly hats and bacardi and coke.

Happy and Prosperous New Year to all of you! Here’s hoping for as much adventure and joy in 2012 as I found in 2011!

1-1 Party like a ni-Van

I wanted a Christmas Tree, so I made one.

Christmas night is one of the handful of days it is acceptable, in fact expected, for the men to drink alcohol. People drinking alcohol around here tends to end in ugliness. The first round of drinks came out by 6 pm.

I was hanging out with the women. Women don’t drink. I brought the embroidery thread my mother had sent me and started teaching people how to make friendship bracelets. The women and older girls caught on pretty fast. The boys and younger girls ranged between “takes time to learn” and “hopeless.” Jason was good enough to work on a bracelet, too. That made it ok for the boys to join in, which made it more fun for me. I think by the time I went back to my house, I’d made 8 friendship bracelets. There were a few I had to take apart and restart for some of the younger kids. I couldn’t keep a close eye on all five of them at once so a few of them would mess them up every few minutes.
I’m so glad I’m not a teacher. That was way too many things going on at once.
We got around to eating again around 6:30. More laplap taro, laplap banana, rice, beef soup, ramen noodles, pineapple and a lemon tart I made. I was so full I couldn’t move by the end of it and people kept telling me I hadn’t eaten enough. I explained my stomach was still full from lunch and they didn’t believe me.
After dinner, one of Jason’s brothers hauled his TV down to the house to watch videos. They hooked the TV up with the giant speakers and the DVD player. The cords were all a little sketchy and the audio or the video kept cutting in and out, but all in all, we watched about 30 string band videos.
Though I don’t object to string band, I do object to having my eardrums blasted. The speakers were up at full volume. They were loud enough that sitting next to another woman we had to shout to be heard. I don’t understand what the point of turning the speakers up that loud is. I could hear kick back from the speakers, which can’t be good for them, and I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone. I was busy making friendship bracelets for small children, so I didn’t mind too much at first.
Friendship bracelets with Jason’s family
Clockwise from me, auntie from the south, sister Colette,
Cousin Charlotte, Mama

It was good to hang out with Jason’s family. They are a lot more welcoming than mine and have a few teenagers who are fun to talk to. Jason’s papa is a riot and kept getting me to take pictures of him and Jason having male bonding time. Male bonding time seems to involve chicken wings and booze the world over. Go figure.

By midnight, I was tired. I tried to take a nap despite the incredibly loud music and bright lights. Jason’s sister hit me in the face with a ball. I decided I was done trying to be social. I took my leave and went back to my house. There was still music playing at the house I’d left as well as two other houses in the village and the youngfala were running drunkenly screaming through the village. It wasn’t conducive to sleeping.
Instead, I sat and played my guitar and caught up on my journal and other writings. It was a pleasant two hours until things started to settle down. I went out to take a quick shower and of course timed my mostly-naked run to my bathroom to coincide with one more trip through the village by the youngfala. I had to hope really hard that none of them wanted to chat at that point, luckily they didn’t and I got to bathe in peace. (I wear a sarong out to my bathroom when I shower. It is highly immodest by the standards here, though all the women do it because no one wants to wear more clothees than that to bathe.)

I went to bed around 3 am. At 4:30, Jason came back and woke me up. We chatted until he passed out in the middle of my sentence. At 6, I gave up on sleeping anymore and got up. We had to get moving to get to Melsisi and catch the ship to Santo.

12-27 Christmas Day

Christmas mass wasn’t as long as I was anticipating. I was thinking it would be about 3 hours, it was only two and a little bit. Of course, we couldn’t be done there. We went from Christmas mass straight into a mass baptism. Here, they do baptisms as one big ceremony that includes all the babies born between baptism day and whenever the last baptism day was. Christmas baptism had about 25 babies.

The godparents all line up facing the altar, holding their godchild. The priest first checked the baptismal names of each of the babies by walking down the line and reading from a paper. Once he had them all straight and everyone was in line where they were meant to be, he did the first bit of talking. Then he started at one end of the line with a bottle of holy water (I do mean a plastic water bottle full) and marked crosses on each baby’s forehead. Then he did some more talking and repeated the process. For the third round the god parents brought each child up to the altar where he read their name and holy watered them again. The last round of holy water to the forehead was done by one of the Catechists while the priest read something else. All in all, it took another hour and a half.
We were in the church building until 1:30 in the afternoon. We were supposed to be catching the boat back to the village but we didn’t know when the boat would be coming back to get the next load of people. I was hungry with no prospects for food. Luckily for us, the deputy principal of Jason’s school was having his baby baptized. He invited us to his house for lunch.
We stopped by Jason’s papa’s house and told him where we’d be so when the boat came he could send a pikininifor us. We went to his house and hung out for a few hours. We listened for the boat but never heard it come through. We ate heaping plates of food. Rice, laplap taro, yam, chicken, fish, beef, green beans, ramen noodles and cake. They kept giving us food until we literally couldn’t eat anymore.
Around 3:30, we pled full bellies escaped to go find our boat. We got down to the dock and found out the boat had left without us and without sending someone to tell us it had arrived. Typical. Jason’s papa is getting pretty good a ditching us or just forgetting to send someone to get us.
We walked back to the village and wished a lot of people a Merry Christmas along the way. We got back to the house and went to spel smol. I read a book and Jason took a nap. Once we were both feeling a little more lively, it was time to brave the family dinner.
It really didn’t feel like Christmas. Last year it wasn’t as strikingly not-Christmas, but this year I do feel like things are missing. It is hot and humid and I’ve heard less than twenty Christmas carols in the last month. I miss snow and ice skating on Christmas morning. I miss sledding. I miss pine trees and tinsle and the ridiculous remixes of “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”
I have wonderful friends here and the thrill of adventure, but I miss my family and the comfort of the holidays I know. I guess that’s what it means to be living abroad, right?

12-27 Merry Non-Denominational Gift Giving Season!

We live in a French Catholic area. I don’t mean that it is Catholic like how Minnesota is Lutheran. In Minnesota, though a lot of people are Lutheran, there are lots of other churches and religions around. Here, there is Catholic, Catholic or Catholic. Our nearest church that is not Catholic is an hour and a half walk south and is a little pocket of Churches of Christ before it becomes Catholic again. So, we had a churchy sort of Christmas.

The Christmas festivities started on Christmas eve. We had Christmas eve mass. We walked to Melsisi around 6 and had mass at 7. It ran under two hours, which made me happy. Our current priest likes to talk and often makes mass run long. There was much talk of love in the sermon but I really wasn’t paying attention. I don’t usually. The services happen in French, Bislama and Apma. I only speak one of those languages, so I can’t follow what is going on most of the time.
After mass, we jumped in Jason’s papa’s boat to go back to the village. The boat was pretty full but Jason’s papa is a very skilled driver and knows the run well. The tide was as low as I have ever seen it when we landed. We had to walk about 200 feet through ankle deep water even after Jason’s papa jumped out and towed the boat in when the motor would have been too deep for the water. The low tide exposed hundreds of little sea snails which everyone got very excited about. We stopped to gather sea snails on our way back to the village.
We went directly to Jason’s papa’s house for Christmas Eve dinner. I ran up to my house to wash off my feet (I stepped in cow poo and have a couple of cuts on my feet at the moment), and grab the pumpkin pie I had baked. I caused a stir when I came back carrying the pie. Jason’s sister kept trying to find excuses to poke at it, which I finally just gave her because she was so curious. We cut the pie and nibbled on it until the rest of the food was done. People liked it, so I consider that a success.

Dinner consisted of pumpkin pie, sea snails boiled in coconut milk (think: escargo), laplap banana (my least favorite laplap), beef soup with ramen noodles, pineapple and boiled taro. Perhaps not the Christmas goose you may have been anticipating, but well, my life is different now.
We hung out until around 1 am, which is way late for Vanuatu. We went to bed and got up too late to get the boat to Christmas mass, so we had to walk.

12-24 Steph’s Wedding


Having a number of other white people around has been nice. It means we can get some down time with people who (at least mostly) share our culture. Recently, it also meant an interesting blend of developed world and ni-Van culture when one of our white neighbors married a local.

Steph’s family has been coming here since she was little. They have a church connection to Ranwadi school, the anglophone secondary near us. A few years ago, the principal at Ranwadi asked if she wanted to come teach there. Once she finished high school herself, she moved here to do so. Six months later, she was engaged to the deputy principal.
On the truck down to the weddig

This wedding was more of a combination of church and kastom than usual due to the white people and their different expectations. Firstly, there was a ceremony to adopt Steph into a family here. This is standard when a woman from another island marries into the area. I was not back from Vila yet and didn’t get to see the ceremony.
The day of the wedding started with a walk to Ranwadi so I could jump onto the truck to the village. I considered wearing my loincloth but Steph may have actuallykilled me. I settled for having Georgia tell her I’d done it, which was almost enough to get me un-invited anyway. After meeting her family, I jumped in the truck to the village.
First up was the kastom ceremony. This involved her new papa talking a lot. Partly in local and partly in Bislama. Most of the Bislama was about the families and countries coming together. Then the relatives walked circles around them and took the token presents – mainly luggage, baskets, and food. Then red mats and money were given to her family. This involved a lot more talking by the chief which was mostly in language. After that, Steph’s Aussie father walked circles around everything and took the gifts. I believe he may have given them to the community, school, or couple. That would have been in private but I know that he was uncomfortable taking gifts from the community when he comes here as a volunteer. This concluded the kastom portion of the wedding.
For some reason she got poked with sticks.

Next we went to the church and waited for people to change into their fancy clothes. I am always astounded at the nice clothes that come out at church weddings. It is the only time they are worn and it looks so out of place. Once the bridal party got there, they started the church service. It was very similar to church weddings I’ve been to back home. Except for the cameras. There is no camera etiquette here. During the ceremony there were half a dozen or so who would get right up on the dais where everything was happening to take pictures. I was reminded that I have been here for a while when I looked over from among them at the white people standing back to take their photos. With my willingness to get right in and my new shutter-bug tendencies, I was basically the official photographer. After A LOT (and boy do I mean a lot) of worshiping and singing, the ceremony was done and the receiving line started outside. At some point, the rain started. This being Vanuatu, some umbrellas were held up over the party so the line could keep going.
The wedding party

Finally, everything was finished and we moved to a makeshift “tent” for food. There was a whole lot of food to be had, even for Vanuatu. Big parties here often have food I would have found tasty back home but with the white people in town they out-did themselves. There was even champagne and cold cokes. Then there was the cake. It seemed like there was as much cake as there was food. Yum.
The strangest part of the whole thing was the difference in attitudes. In the developed world, weddings are exciting. Here, the woman is leaving her family and will generally have very little, if any, contact with them. People cry at weddings at home, here they wail. The Aussies were excited and the ni-Vans were crying. I’ve noted the difference before but seeing it right in front of me really highlighted the gap.
Slightly damp receiving line.

There was also Steph’s nephew. White kids are babied. The ni-Van kids his age are mostly running around on their own and often waving knives around. (Some of the babying is a good thing.) The white kid had constant parental attention and did things like tossing a shell he found and looking to his parents to get it. I honestly couldn’t tell whether he was actually being bratty/demanding or if it just seemed that way compared to the kids here.

Nothing shows differences so starkly as seeing them juxtaposed. All-in-all, it was an interesting combination.

I haven’t had a chance to talk to Steph since the wedding and am curious to find out how she is liking village life. I hope that they have a successful and happy life together.

12-23 Melsisi had a Birthday

Presents were given out, though not to the school
College Lyceéde Melsisi (that’s the full name of Jason’s school) turned 25 this year. We had a birthday party.
Every term is opened and closed with a party. This year, the school closing party* was joined with the school anniversary to make one great big party. They held it on a Sunday and moved church two hours early to have more party time, it was that big.
We started with some opening talks while people laid out lunch. All the teachers and important people from the community got fed, which was great. While we were eating, there was lots of talking. I sort of zone out at these functions now, it is safer for my sanity.
There was a cake-cutting ceremony. It was a big fancy cake made by one of the nuns. They symbolically cut it and inaugurated the monument at the same time. I didn’t see any of that as I was busy eating the cake they’d put inside and didn’t make a big deal of cutting. I prefer cake I can eat to cake I can watch someone else cut. Can you blame me?
These boys did a very nice song and dance for the party.

Around that time, the band started playing. The band is a local group comprised mostly of guys from Lalbateis, the village next to mine. My co-facilitator from the PHAST workshops is one of the key members of the band. They recently went to Santo and played 3-4 nights a week for two months. The amount of practice time they got in really shows. They have improved. They also learned some new songs including Hotel California. There is something unique about a Francophone-Bislama accent singing Hotel California. “Wel-kem tu di otel kaleeforniya, suj a lovelee ples, suj a lovely fes….”

They start the dancing young.

After the band played, some more people talked. There was thanks to the founding headmaster, the first chairman of the board and the first teachers, all of whom still live in Melsisi. There were talks by each of them. There was a group of boys who did a song specially composed for the 25thanniversary, with hand gestures and everything. There was a speech by the current headmaster and the current chair of the board. There was some people who just seemed to want to talk into the microphone. A lot of it happened in French, so I really wasn’t listening. Then they had the awards ceremony.

She stepped out to watch for a few minutes.

Sometime during the awards ceremony, it started raining. When I way it started raining, I mean it looked like someone opened the fire hose. It was even falling at about that angle. The wind was blowing at about 45 degrees, just to make sure we were all as wet as possible. The students receiving their awards had to come running through the rain to get them. Here, it is hard to get people to do things that make them stand out, like go receive an award. For these awards, they had to run through a downpour to get to it. A lot of the awards were put in the office to be picked up later.

At some point, a guy went off on a tangent about a new bank that is opening in Melsisi. I think it is an investment bank but I’m not really sure how they plan on getting their promised returns. He was talking about 15% interest rates. Vanuatu doesn’t have stocks much less a stock market. I’m not sure how they are planning on pulling that one off. After way, way too long, he finally finished detailing each of the 8 products currently on offer and how this would be great for Pentecost.
Then we got to the good part, the part where they give us kava. Alexandra, Jason, Hayley and I drank kava with the guys from the band and the teachers who were willing to brave the rain. It was good fun. Jason pulled out the computer and started showing music videos. Michael Jackson was a big hit. Jason has the full version of Smooth Criminal and Thriller. Some of them knew the Thriller dance, though not all by any means.
There was kava.

And more kava

We topped of the night with a well-balanced meal of dry ramen and leftovers. Don’t judge my dry ramen. If it were as much of a pain for you to boil water as it is for me to boil water, you too would love your dry ramen. Especially when stoned on kava.

*Also called a break up party in Bislama, which makes me giggle. Some other PCVs were joking that it should be “we’re just taking time apart” party. What? I live on an island. I lack amusements.