11-30 Site Announcements

I guess the internet crashed when I posted this.  Glad I’m cleaning up the blog before I go back to slow internet…

Trainees eagerly awaiting announcements

We have come to the end of training. This is an interesting concept because it means I’ve been in town for over a month and that it is nearly time for me to go home to the holidays. That is a very weird idea. But today was the day we found out where all the trainees will spend the next two years.

There is always a lot of build up to site announcements. The trainees want to know because it is their future and the rest of us want to know because we’ve all been taking bets for awhile. It also marks the end of village training and a major hurdle in their time. For me, it marks a change in my primary PCV responsibilities (one of many recently).
Trainees learn about their new sites

We the current volunteers were taking bets on things like who already “knew” their site and was correct or incorrect, who would cry and who would be overly excited. Really, what I wanted to see was who is replacing Jason and I. I am being replaced by a woman named Katelyn. I have faith that she will do well there. She is a different kind of person than me which is exactly what that community needs given their tendency to compare people. I also maxed out what I could do so a new approach and new ideas will be a big step in the right direction. Jason is being replaced by another woman. Just to make things as confusing as possible, her name is Kathrine but she goes by Kat. She will be very good for Melsisi. She prefers younger kids, but there are opportunities for her in the primary school or in the community itself and she is a bit older than the usual fresh-out-of-college which I think will help her cope with the isolation of Melsisi.

A few other highlights from the day:
There is one site which practices polygamy. One of the female health vols has 3 mamas. I don’t think there is a down side to that, honestly. She will always be fed, she will always have someone around to story with and there are over a dozen kids in the family for her to join up with. It seems like a pretty great situation for her.
There are only 2 new volunteers on Efate and 1 in the close by Shepards Islands so we have a minimum of new neighbors. That’s ok, we have a few in G-24 and 6 in the group of extendees.
The training manager gives a smol toktok afterwards.

Most of the health sites from my group got replacements. The trainees who are 2nd volunteers in their sites are eager to get on facebook and start finding out all the dirt. It is amazing how much more connected we are through facebook than ever before.

There were a lot of emotions in the day. Not everyone was thrilled with their sites but even the people who were a bit upset will probably get over it and do wonderfully in their placements. It is all about the attitude you enter with and most of them have the right attitude.

Cross-posted to our new blog at tegabis.com

11-30 Training the Newbies

These are now way out of date.  The process of putting up blogs has a few steps and they fell through the cracks, so here are posts about October!

Health Vols learning about participatory methods by participating

I was asked to assist with training the new PCVs this year. In my mind, this is an honor. This is a sign of my bosses’ trust in me, their respect for the work I’ve been doing, their faith that I can communicate that effectively (or more effectively than anyone else around). As is true anytime someone tells me they think I am doing well and then gives me more responsibility with vague expectations, I did my best to exceed the expectations.

I haven’t had a whole lot of say “slacker time.” (I still haven’t beat portal despite having the full game for 2 years now. If you don’t know what the game Portal is, go find out. Even if you don’t like video games. Go. I’ll wait. It’s that cool.) I am determined to make this training as good as I possibly can.
Week 1 the trainees were all together at IDS, which is like a summer camp. They had sessions on medical concerns, safety and security basics, administrative details, phone service, bank accounts and all the other bits and pieces that come with moving to a new place and starting a new job. Week 2 they moved out to their training villages where they got placed with a host family and started to really dig into culture shock. Week 3 was where I started. Week 10 they flew the nest and are heading to site, some with more success in arriving than others.
Each week of training for the health volunteers has a “theme.” All of our trainings are focused on that theme in some way or another. Week 3 was Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Luckily, I had a lot of back up that week. I had only been off Pentecost for 2 days when I started and that was not enough to screw my head back on straight and get going. We did an NCD panel with several other volunteers discussing the ways they’d approached these topics. We did a day discussing 3-kaen kakae (Vanuatu food pyramid) and a day discussing causes and treatments for NCDs and learned a few songs about the body. Like I said, I needed a lot of back up that week.
Discussing diversity in the Peace Corps

The next week was Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, which is frequently and inaccurately shortened to WASH. Our daily topics included such gems as toilet technology, water systems and not eating your own feces. For these sessions, I was given the Global Core Sessions lesson plans. I took out the objectives and left the rest where they were. I did not feel that the Core Sessions were the best way of conveying the information in a culturally appropriate, Vanuatu accurate manner. For instance, one of the sessions had the trainees using the internet for research. There is no internet on the outer islands (though that is changing). So, I re-wrote from scratch, starting with the PHAST workshop and the objectives of the Core Sessions and working outward from there. Turns out that it takes me as long to write a good lesson plan as it does to run the lesson plan.

Week 5 was my favorite theme: Sex. I have come to love talking about sex. This time, I had the added bonus of an excellent co-facilitator in a fellow PCV, Nik. He and I tag teamed the STIs, HIV/AIDS, condom demo and road blo bebi activities interspersed with stories of our experiences teaching sexual and reproductive health and a very long vocabulary lesson on all the dirty or obscene words in Bislama. For an otherwise pretty non-descriptive language, they have a plethora of words for sex in all its forms. It was interesting to teach these topics to people who were engaged, participatory, and willing to ask questions. I continue to believe in the participatory methods as the best way of teaching, both in the conveying information and in the conveying “soft skills” like public speaking and engagement.
Week 6 they went to visit volunteers out on the islands. My one regret with moving into Vila early is that I didn’t get to host any trainees on Pentecost. Last year, that was a highlight of my year. This year, I saw them three days a week until they were sicking of sorting pictures into piles. Not quite the same experience.
How to Catch a Virus – Useful lesson

They came back with a lot of new questions and a lot of new perspectives. In many ways, seeing the broadened perspective and curiosity in the trainees as they came back from the islands was one of the most rewarding experiences. We rolled straight into week 7 and prepping for their practicum without more than a day’s break. That’s Peace Corps training for you. The sessions for that week included WASH with Kids, which I gutted and replaced with CHAST (Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation) as well as how to plan out a session and some basics on running a workshop.

Week 8 was all practicum, all week. They took the year 3 (~third grade) class and did a 2 day workshop on topics of their choosing. They focused on WASH topics as the most age appropriate. They had to design lesson plans, or steal lesson plans from existing resources, for each segment. Their topics included: hand washing, germ spread, rubbish disposal, tooth brushing, fecal-oral contamination routes, health diet and exercise. For each topic, they designed a 20 minute lesson with an “educational” aspect and a “participatory” aspect. I think the trainees and the kids did a good job and learned a lot through the process. In fact, the trainees probably learned more than the kids.
The following Sunday, the trainees left their training village and came to town. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of trainings, shopping, goodbyes, freakouts, shipping woes and swearing in. Peace Corps provides us with a mattress (2 inch foam pad), a bucket, a set of sheets and some little things like scissors, matches and round one of laundry soap. The rest of the things for setting up house come out of our “settling in allowance.” Of course, that means that each trainee has to go buy all of the things they want, like a set of plates or spoons. Their seemed to be two tactics to that. One was to go wander aimlessly through town until things started to accumulate vs making a list and asking current volunteers where to find the items. Eventually, I made a list of common items and shops they could be found in to hang on the wall. It seemed like the most efficient method available.
Homework presentations about non-communicable diseases

They are mostly off at site now and my job as a trainer is done for the moment. I’ll be doing more in February when I get back. I’m looking forward to it. I have throughly enjoyed training this group. I think trainings appeal to me the same way as working on the ambulance. There, I wanted to be the best thing that happened to someone on their worst day. Here, I want to be the positive influence they can see and say, “She helped me get ready for this scary/exciting/amazing/lonely/intense experience.” I hope I did it well.

Cross-posted to our new blog at tegabis.com

11-30 What have I been doing? aka Where did November go?

Sorry for the lack of blog posts. I’ve been slacking. Sort of.

Wan Smol Bag’s Vanuau Fire Troupe

We got in on October 20thand it has taken me over a month to get my life organized. I don’t think that is surprising. I moved, I started a new job, I started another new job, I rediscovered dairy and the Western world, I reconnected to the internet and wrote 50,000 words on a novel.

So, I have been working with my Assistant Project Manager, Excellent (who has the best name ever), to do all of the technical trainings with the new group. We had Global Core Sessions provided by Washington DC to use. After looking at the first week of sessions, I pulled all the objectives out and chucked the rest in the “alternate filing folder” for safekeeping. I haven’t looked at them since. So, we started from scratch to design sessions that meet the criteria from Washington while remaining accurate and relevant to Vanuatu. I have no background in curriculum development, teaching or development work. I refuse to do things halfway so I poured a lot of time and effort into creating sessions that would be interesting, informative and useful. I think I mostly succeeded. I still need to get the review sheets back and see how my pupils graded me. That job was taking up 3 afternoons of teaching each week and at least 3 mornings of prep, if not more.
Playing in the solwota at the picnic

I started working at Wan Smol Bag a few weeks ago. (That will get its own post.) The main thing I’m doing there at the moment is “integrating.” I sit and chat with people, I listen to their opinions about what they want me to do or what they think I’m there to do, I ask questions, I show up and be present. I’ve been doing that a few days a week.
They are touching each other.  Eep!

I am starting as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. We’re still working out what that means, but as you may have guessed, it means more work with the same amount of pay. (I’m a terrible capitalist.) I am the PCVL for Small Grants Coordination. I’ll be working closely with a staff member to help other PCVs write and submit grants and I will be especially focused on using a new funding source we just acquired through USAID. Basically, I’m ghost writing grants. Can anyone say useful future skills?

When I’m not working, I’m trying to find a balance in my life between ex-pats, ni-Vans and alone time. There is a Monday afternoon pick up frisbee game which is a good time, though it is nearly exculsively ex-pats. I drink kava a couple nights a week, usually one or two with PCVs and ex-pats and one with ol man Pentecost. I’m trying to re-establish all my good habits of running and working out, thought that is proving challenging. I have to get up before 6 am to do any real work out otherwise I run into this new “being at work” deadline before I get a proper workout in.
Wan Smol Bag’s New Generation Hip Hop Troupe

The other huge project I took on was NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month happens in the month of November. It was started by a creative writing teacher to teach people that writing a first draft isn’t about crafting the perfect most beautiful creation in one go but rather to get words on the page that can be sculpted into your magnum opus. The goal of the month is to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th. You are considered a winner if you finish the 50,000. I finished my 50,000 on November 26th. I am very pleased with myself and plan on finishing the novel in December so I can start the New Year with a new writing goal: learn how to revise.

Basically, I’ve been crazy busy and I love it. I haven’t gotten over how awesome it is to have light switches and how the light switches connect to light bulbs that produce light when I turn the switch on. Also, hot water is a gift from on high for stinky people and don’t let me get started on ovens. My life is different and busy and full and it is going to be a great year.

Cross-posted to our new blog at tegabis.com

Now, in the present tense!

This entry I am writing while connected to the internet! Oh my!

We are in Port Vila for the day on holiday. It was Constitution Day here on Tuesday, but we had class. To make up for it, we have today off. That was actually intentional on the part of the Peace Corps, this way all the shops are open while we’re in town.

Before I get too far into details, there are pictures online. I didn’t link to them in the posts because the internet we have is really, really slow. Some of them are on the facebook group here or look for the group “Peace Corps Vanuatu G-23.” One of the members of G-23 is also a bit of a photographer so you can look through his photos here or follow the link off the facebook group. Finally, Jason put some of our photos up on his picasa which is somewhere around here . There are also some other blogs online that you can find on the Peace Corps website, but I don’t know them yet. I’ll try compile a list for the next time I get into town.

If you are interested in writing to us or sending us care packages, our address is:
Us C/O Peace Corps
Private Mail Bag 9097
Port Vila, Vanuatu
South Pacific

There is the business stuff out of the way.

The last few days have been flying by, which is a definite difference to the first three weeks. I think my brain has finally stopped processing every chicken, dog and different shaped lead I see. It is still trying to process every sound I hear as Bislama, even though we only hear Bislama about half the time. The other half, people speak local which sounds sort of like French. It isn’t anything even a little related, but it has similar sounds.

Due to time and an interest in going and getting a milk shake while I still have a chance to eat cold dairy, I’m going to leave this post here.


Yesterday, we went to a camp GLOW/BILD. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World, but I don’t remember what BILD stands for. Boys In Leadership Development, maybe. Anyway, it is a camp for mid-teens where they learn about leadership, self-confidence, facts about drugs and sex and creative endeavors. The idea is to give teens the tools and information to navigate their rapidly changing world a little better.
I went to the camp because I was thinking I would like to run one during my time here. Now, I am certain I do. This camp was only a one day deal, they had the welcome on Friday night and the closing on Saturday night, but there are full camps where they have all the girls sleep together in one room for a week. For most of the girls, that is the first time they have slept away from their families their entire lives. In the longer camps, they can really dig into some of the facts of being a teen, things like body changes, STD/Is, safe sex practices, leadership qualities, communication skills, respectful behaviors and creative and athletic activities that build self-esteem and confidence. In the one-day version, there was less sex talk and more of the straightforward things. We spent a while discussing leadership and what makes a good leader, then we got into communication and public speaking. This is a big issue. Seriously, the culture here does not make for good public speaking. Culturally, you don’t look people in the eye while you talk or while they talk, you don’t speak loudly and you keep from pointing your body directly at someone else. Combine that with the very act of being a teen and you have some rough public speaking.
Each point was made with a game. The need for clear communication and not trusting rumors was made by playing telephone. The telephone was more difficult since it was all in Bislama when we Trainees only have three weeks of Bislama to help us out. Then the need to give clear directions was made by having every member in a group try to describe a photo to a single member to draw. That was funny. During midday, there was a talk about the facts and myths of Marijuana made fun by doing a relay race to put a statement in fact or myth columns. Finally, they sat down to make collages for a few hours then it was outside to play capture the flag in the cooler part of the evening.
All in all, I had fun being there and I’m glad I got to see it. I am certainly interested in running a camp during my service, and if I can use it to also promote some safe sex practices and talk about appropriate nutrition, all the better.

On the production and effects of Kava, the Vanuatu drug of choice

Alcohol here is relatively unimportant. Some people drink it, there are people who are known drunks, but really it is confined to the big cities. That is because there is kava. Not the kind of kava that comes in powdered form in the US as a sleep aid. This is fresh root shopped and mushed and turned into a wretchedly nasty drink. I mean, it tastes nasty. This is not up for dispute. Everyone agrees it tastes awful, but for some reason people continue to drink it.
After several sessions of imbibing, here are my impressions (with Jason’s editorials). First off, don’t drink after you’ve eaten. This is strictly a before dinner drink. The effects are a bit like being drunk in that your head spins a bit and coordination is more difficult but it differs in that alcohol can make people act crazy or reckless and kava mostly makes you want to sit and chat or go to sleep. Also, kava immediately makes your mouth go tingly-numb but sensation returns pretty quickly. It is pretty mellow and works great for making me deaf to the roosters in the morning. (I sort of hate the roosters. I might start eating meat just as an excuse to kill the damn things. I swear they have no sense of time. Dawn does not come at 2 am, it doesn’t come at 3 am it doesn’t come until 5:30 and even then there is NO reason to be making that much noise that close to my head.)
The culture in this village says that women can drink one or two shells. That isn’t true in all villages or on all islands. On Tanna, the island with the exploding volcano, women aren’t even allowed to look at a nakamal where kava is being drunk. Seriously, they have to walk around the back through the jungle at night to avoid going near the place where the men are drinking kava. I will discuss feminine/masculine issues at some later date. The women don’t seem to prepare the kava on any island, though I wonder if that is different within the home instead of among a group of people. Not that the homes are anything shy of a group at any point.
To make kava, you start in the garden. You dig up a kava plant and break off the roots. Then you stick the kava plant back in the ground so it can grow some new ones. You bring the kava back home and peel it. Then you chop it up into little pieces, usually using a bushknife on a 4×4. This is manly time, afterall. From there you can choose to chew it into a pulp and spit it into a bowl, grind it in a meat grinder or grind it in your hand with a piece of coral. Once it is sufficiently ground, mushed or masticated, you add water and start straining. It goes through the strainer about five times, maybe more. By strainer, I actually mean a t-shirt, sometimes a slip, or a piece of mesh (I think it comes from a coconut tree, but I’m not sure yet) or other random piece of cloth. When it gets good and muddy colored, you drink it.
You always drink facing away from people. This is to save your own dignity. It tastes bad and people make funny faces. It can also make you spit, so general people walk away from the group, drink the kava, spit for awhile, then come back. If you eat something right away, it takes most of the taste out of your mouth. Then you sit and storian until you are ready for food and sleep.

Making Simboro aka Community Lunch

Today (30/9), the trainees made lunch for the mamas. My conclusion is that we are slow tumas. We made chicken, including killing, plucking and cleaning the chicken, and simboro, a local dish involving island cabbage and manioc or banana starch pudding. The mamas would have had that whipped up in an hour, maybe two. Us trainees took three and a little more.
Let me take a moment to discuss my culinary experiences so far. The first thing I have to describe is laplap. It is a very native dish made by taking the starch of a root vegetable (or banana), mixing it with coconut milk and baking it in banana leaves. You grate the veggie of choice on the zesting side until you have a bowl full. Then you add coconut milk. I need a side bar on making coconut milk, so here it goes.
To make the coconut milk you go out in to the coconut grove and find a good dry coconut. When you pick it up, it should slosh on the inside. For a full laplap, you actually need between 6 and 10 dry coconuts. After you collect your coconuts, you bring them back to a sharpened stake. You husk the coconuts by repeatedly stabbing the coconut onto the stake and prying the husk off. Then you take your bushknife (machete) and use the back of it to crack open the coconut. For all the martial artists, think vibration techniques. You hold the coconut in your left hand and the bushknife in the your right, use the not bladed side to whack the equator of the coconut until it cracks, then keeping whacking it until it breaks in two. After you have your coconut open, you scratch the coconut. Basically, you grate out the inside. There is a nifty tool that makes that not a completely impossible task. Once you have the meat of the coconut in grated flakes in a bowl, you toss in some water, or the water from the coconut, whichever you prefer. There are two ways to milk the coconut, with bare hands or with the husk of the coconut. For the husk method, you take the fiber from the inside of the husk and pull it apart into a birds nest shape, for the hands you just pick up a handful. My mama cheats and uses a kerchief. You wring out the coconut so that the milk oozes out. That’s how you make coconut milk.
Now back to the laplap which will lead to simboro (I swear, this will come back to the original topic). Now that you have your grated manioc or yam or banana or taro and your coconut milk, you mix the two together until you have something about the same consistency as manicotti. (I miss cheese.) To make laplap, you dump all of this mush into carefully prepared banana leaves and spread it into a nice even layer. Then you fold the banana leaves over the top and tie it up with the stems from the leaves. (I’d need another side bar to discuss banana leaf preparation.) You bring your root vegetable, coconut milk and banana leaf package over to the fire you started an hour or two ago and covered in fist sized stones. Then you rake the stones flat and set the package on top and cover it with yet more hot stones. Cover the hot stones with more banana leaves and some wild taro leaves and bake your laplap for about an hour.
For simboro, you take the manicotti like concoction and spread a tablespoon at a time into leaves of island cabbage. Island cabbage is a little like spinach and a little like kale and mostly just a green leafy thing. It’s quite tasty. Then you roll the leaf around the goop to make a package the size of a stuffed grape leaf. You cover the bottom of a saucepan in the stems from the island cabbage to keep the sinboro from touching the bottom then you stack the saucepan full of the simboro. You cover that in coconut milk and put it over the fire for 15-30 minutes, depending on how hot the fire is.
That is how I spent my morning. We made simboro. I had nothing to do with the chicken. My mama told me that the simboro was good, so I assume we passed that test.

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.

Things we’ve been up to

The short version of what we’ve been up to.

We are now living in our training village. It’s like having training wheels on a bike, except for cultural immersion. The people here have been prepped that the PC Trainees are going to do stupid things, not know how to do the most basic things, ask dumb questions, hack up Bislama, say things they don’t mean while learning Bislama and step all over a number of social conventions. A few examples:
Another volunteer when asked if she wanted to shower when she got up in the morning, said yes and excitedly grabbed her bathing suit and towel only to realize the next day that the word for shower is the same for the word swim and her parents were asking if she was going to go bath. She then had to ask how to use the bucket shower, one of the standards of bathing around here.

One volunteer had a bit of an issues with the distinction between the verb stap which sort of translates as “to be” and stop which translates as “stop.” To complicate matters, the word nomo was thrown into almost every sentence making him think that his family was saying “stop, no more!” when in fact they were saying “just stay there.” He has quite a rant about the experience.
And my favorite: When asked where she wanted to sit for lunch, one volunteer replied, mi go sitsit wota which translates as “I have diarrhea” not “I would like to sit by the ocean.”

For the most part, Jason and I have confined ourselves to blank looks, hanging the clothes on the line wrong, Jason doing the dishes and being laughed at for not understanding any of the children when they talk.

The village we are in is called Epau, though actually Jason and I are staying at Ngus station, which is an outpost of Epau. We are about a 25 minute walk from the town itself. It’s like a suburb, except smaller. My host family is made up of my mama and papa and their seven kids. Of those seven kids, three of them are married and have their own children, all of whom live here at Ngus station. There are also two other families here, though none as big as ours. The next village over is Ekipe, where all of my out-of-town trainings happen. I go there on Monday for my health trainings and Wednesday for general training.

Our day to day routine goes something like this. We get up around 5:30 or 6 am, when I give up trying to sleep because the stupid roosters are blind and don’t understand that the sun does not rise at 4. I go for a run if I want and then swim smol (bucket shower). We eat ti at the table, which is remarkable because no one else eats there. Everyone else eats on the floor of the cooking house. We are usually kept company by someone, either one of the parents or the youngest daughter. Then we walk half an hour into town to go to Bislama class. We have two hours of Bislama class to start off every day. On Monday and Wednesday, our host mama brings lunch into town for us and we eat with Judy, one of the PC staff members. Then we go to our technical training or general training in another town. My technical training for Health is in Ekipe, which is just up the road but Jason goes to Ponanganisu which is about 40 minutes away by bus. On Tuesday and Thursday we have “Self-Directed Learning” time after Bislama class. SDL is anything from sitting in on a 3rd grade class to learning how to weave matts or cut firewood. Basically, it is time we have to study, speak Bislama and learn the skills we are going to need to survive for the next two years. On Fridays we have our oral exam in Bislama instead of class and then all the volunteers come to Epau for some group time and more trainings. In the evenings, we have SDL time, though it is often taken up with things like learning to peel a water taro (don’t touch the peel, it makes you itch) and trying to explain ice fishing to people who have never been in weather colder than 60 degrees. After dinner we storian smol with our host parents before they tell us that we should go rest or go studiem smol. They send us to bed anytime they don’t know what to do with us. That includes a mid-day nap.
Weekends are technically all SDL time. Last weekend, Jason helped build a church while I got my hair cut and made dinner for the men. Yesterday, we went to Camp GLOW/BILD that a current volunteer was running. Sundays are mostly for resting, or jumping in the ocean.

We will be staying here in Epau for another three weeks. Then we head to Port Vila for a week, get sworn in as Volunteers and then it is off to our posting. Right now, another three weeks seems like an eternity, but I’m sure I’m going to need every second of it.