Hello from Vanuatu!

Send me mail to keep in touch! I don't have internet access much so getting letters is golden. Write me a tell me the latest news with you. I love care packages too! If you are feeling generous and would like to send me something I promise I will repay the favor some day. My addres is as follows:

Sarah Weber
Peace Corps Volunteer
Londar Aid Post
Pangi Post Office
C/0 Robert Kirk
South Pentecost

Friday, March 18, 2011

Update and new blog

Hi all!  So I've made a new blog with more random stories and information about my work.  Decided I liked the layout of wordpress.com better so check out my blog at http://www.sarahkweber.wordpress.com/

I'm back in Vila for Phase 2 of my PST.  Things are going really well these days.  Over the initial "I live in a tiny village with nothing to do" feeling and now excited about all the projects I want to start.  Training has been chocked full of speakers, resources, and information.  We are on information overload these days with too much to read, too many erronds to run, too many things to do online, and a social scene that is always calling. 

The thing about being a Peace Corps volunteer is you wear many different hats.  For instance, I'm a mentor/assistant to the Village Health Worker, member of the Aid Post Committee, community health educator, community workshop facilitator, grant writer, and health, nutrition, and environmental science teacher at the primary school.  I'm also a french student, English tutor, pet owner, daughter, sister, and soon to be auntie.  And a struggling basketweaver, a chicken hater, a cow chaser, a gardner, a novice cook, and a want-to-be fisherman.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Look closely at his shirt.  It is crazy the kinds of shirts they find here!  They end up with shirts from all over the world, you never know what you'll see on a shirt.

Scaling Kava-the main cash crop on my island

My sister and my "auntie" (basically a niece)
Women from my village
Here is my family on the island. Top- me, my mama, my papa, my sister.  Bottom-a little niece and my dog 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't walk with knives!

I've learned the hard way to be more cautious about knives.  On Monday my family and I were hiking over to some relatives’ village and I slipped on the muddy road.  It gets soo slippery on the dirt/clay roads on Pentecost!  My mama had given me her knife to carry and as I put it in my bag she informed me that the correct way to carry it is with the blade up.  I should have known better! 

As I was walking my feet came out from under me and I fell on top of my bag at just the right angle that the knife went through my bag and into my side.  I felt a sharp pain and immediately tried to get up, at which point my mama saw the knife and grabbed it out from my side.  At first when I saw the blood squirting out of the wound I was scared.  I thought, I'm in the middle of nowhere....what if I can't get the bleeding to stop and I bleed to death.  But luckily it was only a few minutes walk on flat ground to our family's house.  (Earlier in the walk, my mama had told me they had lost one grandpa a few days before and that when they get to their house, I would need to wait small while they cried over him.)  So when we walked up, me with my hand pressing on my wound to get it to stop bleeding, they all went in side and wept.  Classic example of the lack of urgency for health in Vanuatu!  While they wept about him I got my wound to stop bleeding.  Then I asked for soap and they gave me some laundry soap to clean it out with.  I washed it a bit but knew it really needed a thorough cleaning to ward off infection.  After this they just wanted to treat it with custom medicine by putting the water from leaves in it.  I wasn't too excited about that idea. 

I tried to call the Peace Corps emergency medical line but couldn't get through. Luckily I was able to text a friend who called the PC doctor and then she called me right away. She immediately said she was bringing me in for stitches.  Thats the great thing about Peace Corps-they don't mess around with medical issues.  She arranged for me to take the next flight in to Vila which was only a few hours later.  I got lucky since there are only 3 flights a week from the airport to Vila. 

My family thought it was a bit extreme to go all the way to Vila for stitches.  They thought it would heal just fine with the leaves.  And really, the bigger concern for them was that I wasn't staying for lunch.  While I had been concerned about my wound, they had killed to chickens.  I compromised by eating a piece of corn.  My mama hiked with me back though the river and small water falls, and down the path for about an hour.  Then we caught an hour boat ride to the airport. 

Although the airport is only an hour boat ride away, this was the first time my mama had ever seen the airport!  The airport is so small I didn’t even talk to a single staff person, just waited 20 minutes till the plane arrived and walked on.  You don’t even have to show ID for local flights!  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to hike to the other side of the bush to pack a bag so I came to Vila with my blood stained clothes and my small purse/bag. 

The PC doctor picked me up from the airport and took me to the medical office where she cleaned out my wounds and stitched me up.  I got five stitches.  The knife went in a little over an inch, luckily it just went in to my extra fat/love handle…never thought I’d be happy for the extra on the sides! 

I'm doing fine now!  Been enjoying the recovery in Vila.  I get my stitches out tomorrow and then fly back to Pentecost Monday. 

Life on Pentecost

I was officially sworn in on November 4th.  We spent that week in the capital, Port Vila; where we wrapped up things at the Peace Corps office and prepared for site.  There was lots to buy, such as items for our kitchens, wash basins to do our laundry, plastic bins for storage (keeps out humidity and critters), food items not available on the outer island, and so much more.  Packing everything to be shipped out to our islands was a chore but paid off for the most part (besides the one large boxes of food items still missing).  We also enjoyed internet access, warm showers (if we got lucky), hamburgers, ice cream, Thai food, beer, shopping, a bit of nightlife, a pool, and the business of a real city.  The following week we all dispersed to different islands.  There are 6 provinces and over 64 inhabited islands here.  But for the most part our group was sent to different villages throughout 9 islands. 

I’m now living on the southern part of Pentecost Island.  My village is called Londar and has about 230 people.  It’s a 40 walk from the beach up a steep hill into the bush.  The road is a dirt path, not large enough to accommodate vehicles-nor are there any in the south-so everything is taken up on backs. 

Right now I’m still waiting for my house to be finished so I’m staying in a small bamboo house my family made for me next to theirs.  Hopefully my house will be done soon-looking forward to having my own space, a kitchen, and a little more independence.  My host family has an adopted daughter who is 19 and who has been great.  My mama thinks she was born in the mid 40s and my papa is about 80, although age wasn’t kept track of well in those days.  I also have a new puppy named Lucky (the previous owner named him for me) and will be getting a kitten soon. 

I’ll be working with the village health worker in my village from the Aid Post and a few others from surrounding villages.  While she primarily does primary health care; like wound care and giving out basic meds, I’ll work on the prevention side organizing health awareness talks and education.  Next week I will start conducting household health surveys which focus on a range of topics from family heath, maternal child health, communicable and non communicable diseases, STIs, food and nutrition, and water and sanitation. The surveys will give me some quantitative and qualitative data about common health problems, health practices and individual’s knowledge level of proper health practices and diseases.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t much access to health care on the islands which is quite unfortunate.  And apparently the Vila hospital has run out of medicine too!  People who live in Vila and/or have money will fly to Australia to treat anything major, but for the rest of the population, they go without.  They also still rely on some custom medicine practices (some which do have legitimate uses but many do not.)  Many people also believe in black magic.  I may also work on a water project since my village runs out of water during the dry months and everyone has to walk an hour to the river.  School only goes a half day then so kids have time to go wash.  I’m not looking forward to those months!

OK a little more about my village.  They speak a local language called Ha which I don’t know.  (Vanuatu has over 100 languages so they use the pidgin language Bislama to speak to anyone who doesn’t know their local language.)  It’s also a French Catholic village which means they have a French Catholic church and school.  On Sundays I understand little since the service is conducted in Ha, Bislama, and French.  They recently had a confirmation ceremony, and to get ready for it the whole village helped clean the church yard and surrounding area.  I helped cut the grass, meaning I helped use my bush knife to hack away at it.  Most people don’t have formal jobs; they just spend time in their gardens and eat what they grow.  We eat a lot of root crops, cabbage, bananas (over 6 types), coconuts, and some nuts and other fruit when it’s in season.  

At times life gets a little boring here.  I hike around to other villages, spend time getting to know people, play volleyball with my sister and her friends, and read a lot of books.  I’m hoping to start French lessons in the coming months too.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drinking Kava (the national drink)

Our welcome to the training village

Other volunteers our first day at the training village

The first tastes of Kava.  As you can tell by our faces, it tastes awful!

My host mama and little sister Jeanet

The house I lived in during training

This is beef being hung from a tree.  They were preparing it for a wedding celebration.

My host family got this kitten to eat the mice in the house.  He wasn't much of a hunter though.

Our training group sporting the island dresses.  Yes, we think they are tacky too.

My host papa and brother Silbia. 

Vanuatu G23

Our whole group at the country director's house the first week of training. 

Goodbye Panigisu

After 7 weeks of being together in the training village our group departed to Vila.  I was in the training village Paningisu which is a big village of about 700.  There were 12 volunteers in the village which meant we had plenty of other volunteers to chat and hang out with, and of course vent at times.  Life in the village was different, but in general Efate (the main island) is much more modern than the outer islands.  I mean, we still had roosters running around, constant mice problems, outhouses, and bucket baths, etc. but Paningisu is only an hour drive from the capitol. 

The village threw us a last kakae (dinner) the night before we left.  All kinds of local food....lap-lap, fish, saporo, etc. Our host families gave us presents too.  I got a weaved bag with my my kustom name (Lei Tare) on one side and Serah (gotta love the wrong spellings here) on the other.  One tradition they have is dumping baby powder on people for celebrations.  Not really sure what the story behind it is....and its actually kind of annoyin...but my mama is all about it.  So we got powder dumped on our sholders and necks and on our new island dresses too...which meant I got to wear baby powder to the swearing in ceremony as well since the island dress was for the ceremony too and I didn't wash it.  :)

Some people were pretty choked up about saying goodbye to their training families.  But honestly I didn't really mind.  They were all really sweet, and took good care of me, but I was happy to move out of their house.  Looking forward to getting my own place at site and to getting settled in.