Packing up all my material goods

We have spent the last few days shopping and packing to move to Pentecost. This has been slightly complicated by a few things.

Firstly, we’ve never seen the house. Either of them. In fact, the pictures I have of my house don’t exactly have a house in them. They have a slab of concrete and a couple of rebar rods. The view looked pretty nice, though I think it is on top of a hill. Hopefully, I’ll have a house when we get there. If not, we’ll stay at Jason’s.

Secondly, we have to buy the things required to live in Vanuatu, which we’ve only been doing for two months. It is rather hard to know what is required, what is necessary, what is necessary to me, and what I can live without. We also don’t know what we can buy when we get there, including what food is available. This challenge is added to by the shops themselves. Nothing here is consistent, one week there might be lentils the next week they are out and the boat doesn’t bring more. The same goes for just about everything. The only things that you can consistently acquire in some form are soap, TP, ramen, toothpaste (most of the time), root crops and laundry detergent.

Third on the list is shipping. Peace Corps is paying for us to take 36 kilos on the plane. After that, we’re on our own. Shipping on the plane is super expensive, so instead people ship on the boats. The issues with the boats is sort of the epitome of society here in Vanuatu. The boats go where they want, when they want. A few are reliable enough to get to your island, eventually. Even if you manage to get a boat that comes to your island, you still have to get your stuff off the boat. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen. In fact, your stuff, if well labeled, may ride back and forth a few times before getting off. If not well labeled, it could get off at any number of other ports, or wherever the captain decides it should get off. If you are particularly unlucky, your boat will come with the tide and the tide will be in the middle of the night. You still have to get up and make it to the wharf if you want your stuff, if you aren’t standing there, you can almost guarantee that your stuff will take a tour of the islands. It is a challenging system.

After we get our stuff from the boat, we still have to get it to our site, which offers yet another set of challenges. Jason and I have it a bit easier, there is a truck-worthy road that goes between Melsisi and Vansemakul. All we have to do is find a truck driver willing to take on that stretch of road, which includes fording 4 rivers (my oxen might die) one of which floods on a regular basis. Our nearest neighbor is not so lucky. She doesn’t have a road, she has a dirt track that horses occasionally fall off of. (Did I mention that Pentecost is known for being steeply hilly?) If she wants anything at her site she has to shlep it up the hill, or hire a teenager to shlep it for her. Hiring local teens is the preferred Peace Corps choice.

Jason and I have now packed everything we will own for the foreseeable future down to 2 hiking bags, 2 duffel bags, 3 big tupperwares and 3 chinese bags. That includes the 2 mattresses and bednets we need as well as all our clothing, kitchen supplies and food. Hopefully there will be a picture sometime soon.