Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Soul Transportation: Boat Stories

Back on my island my only form of transportation is speed boats (fiberglass boats with a motor on the back). Yes, I have two legs and am able to walk but the paths can be scary and everything is at lest an hour's walk away and trying to walk to the bank or post office is a bad idea. Thus, I use boats to get everywhere: the bank, the post office, the air port, and some other villages. In general I take a boat ride every other week. Due to the frequency of boat rides, I have expierenced some pretty intersting trips.

The Time I Thought For Sure That I Was Going To Die:
One day I went to Pangi, the village where the post office and bank are located. The trip there went very smooth and was uneventful, in fact I don't even remember it. However, on the trip back to my village things got interesting. We had a full, full boat of maybe about 20 people or so. The ocean was getting pretty rough. We were being tossed around, some saltwater was splashing over the sides of the boat and the possibility of capsizing was a reality. It was about 5:45 in the afternoon, so the sun was going down and it was getting pretty dark. To this day I don't know how the boat driver could see where to go, the boats don't have lights. As if all of that wasn't enough, it was also raining. So we had water coming down on us and splashing over the boat. I could tell what was sea water and what was rain because whenever I got splashed by sea water it was warm (no, I was not peeing my pants). This trip I went with another volunteer who sat in the 'hull?' of the boat, the part in front where you can sit on the floor of the boat under a little shelter. I was sitting in front of her on a seat of the boat (a 2 x 4 plank of wood). She said that she could tell when we were about to get hit by a wave because I would flinch and squeeze my eyes closed. I don't think there was any part of my body or clothes that stayed dry.

The Chicken:
Just recently I took a boat to the airport. As I was getting on the boat at my beach someone hands the driver a chicken. Chicken transport is a fairly popular occurance as are gifts of chickens. Usually they will tie up the chicken's feet so that it cannot move around the boat. We start on our way and head up the coast of the island and the driver and his assistant catch a fish. So we slow down to reel in the fish and unhook it from the line. We start to speed back up when all of a sudden there's a chicken flapping on my right side. It scratches my arm as it falls onto the floor of the boat. The next thing I know the assistant is lunging over my seat to catch the chicken so it won't escapse. Only in Vanuatu can you be attacked by a chicken while in a boat.

The Longest Trip of My Life:
A few months ago I decided to head to Ambae. Ambae is another island not too far away from Pentecost (my place). However, to get to Ambae you have to be in the very north of Pentecost and then you can cross between the two islands. I live in the very south of Pentecost, in fact the most southern village on the island. Pentecost is a very long skinny island so the trip from my village to the north took about 7 hours in direct sunlight with the smell of motors and gasoline. Not such a boat load of fun. I can't even begin to calculate the gallons of sun block I used. The crossing between islands took another 2 hours. I will say that the crossing was not a rough as I was expecting, I've definitly experienced worse, but I had two of my sisters with me and they are both afraid of the ocean. The boat driver we had to make the crossing was terrible and my sisters yelled at him often. The trip wasn't all bad (at least it wasn't raining) and the redeeming qualities of the trip were 1) we did eventually reach Ambae and 2) I have now seen the entire west coast of my island (and it's beautiful of course!). 

Those are a few of my stories. I'm sure I'll have more to come!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Adventures of The Runaway Chinese Bag

So first up, some background: Here in Vanuatu we have thick plastic bags called Chinese bags (there is a very large Chinese population in the capitol, I don't know if the bags got the name because they brought these bags with them or if they got the name because you buy them primarily from Chinese stores). Anyhow, EVERYBODY uses them and they are very popular with us PCVs (Pease Corps Volunteers). In fact one of the first things we received from Peace Corps was a huge Chinese bag filled with important stuff like sun block and bug spray. Chinese Bags come in many different sizes, giant Chinese bags (like the one in this true life story) are about 2 1/2 ft tall and 1 ft wide. Very awkward to carry.

The Story:
I had just gotten back from town and I had my backpack, my duffel, and my giant Chinese bag. I start walking toward my hill with all of my bags, stopping often because they were a bit heavy and hard to carry. A few of my students saw me and came running down their hill to ask if they could help. I handed off my duffel and we headed up my hill. I decided to make two trips and left my Chinese bag at the bottom of my hill and went up to unlock my door and put my other bags down. I took a little break at my house then went back down my hill to grab my bag. I hoisted my bag onto my back and started up my hill. At about half way I decided I needed to take a break and half dropped half set my bag on the ground. Well it decided, at this point, to rool down the hill. It took me about half a second to decided to just let the bag go thinking that if I was to run after it I would break my neck or arm; and surely the many bushes and coconut trees would stop the bag or it would run out of momentum. However, this did not happen. It decided to roll all the way down the hill, scaring a pig when it finally landed at the bottom. At this point I decided to sit down and rest before going down AGAIN. During my rest I was trying to decide whether I wanted to laugh at the situation or cry. I did neither. Luckly three of my students were watching the activities (rolling on the ground laughing I'm sure) and came running down their hill to fetch my bag and carry it to my house. I was extremely greatful. I gave them bubbles for being awesome.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SPECIAL EDITION: Megan's Adventures in...Sydney, Australia!

This past week I travelled to Sydney Australia for a mini-vacation back to the developed world. I travelled with a PC friend named Vania, who lives on North Efate. Sydney...was...AMAZING! Sydney is such a beautiful city. Very clean and there's so much to do. Speaking of having so much to do, you may be wondering: Megan what did you do there? I will tell you:

The first day, Thursday, we headed to the Opera House, took the basic tour, which was really neat, and afterwards took a bus tour of the downtown area. We jumped off the tour for lunch in Chinatown and then jumped back on the tour bus to finish the tour. After the tour we went to a large department store so that I could buy some jeans because it was around 55-60 degrees and all I had were shorts and flip-flops.

The second day, Friday, we headed out to Blue Mountains. Blue Mountains is a national park where you can get a look of the Three Sisters and some other rock formations. It's really beautiful and it was so nice to be able to walk around a forest, not bush, again. We took the CityRail train out to Katooba, a small town where you can find transport out to Echo Point, a look out point of Blue Mountains. Katooba was also a very nice and charming little town. I finally managed to buy shoes in the town. They were men's shoes because apparently my feet are too big for that country, but hey at least my feet were warm and I didn't have to walk around in flip-flops.

On Saturday we went down to The Rocks. The Rocks is a great street market where people sell clothes, home decor, jewelery, and the like. I can't get enough of street markets so this was right up my alley. Plus at the market there was a booth selling real corn on the cob!! Yummy!! After the market we walked across the Harbor Bridge. We did not climb the bridge or pay to go up to a look out point because it was on the expensive side. We did walk the whole way across the bridge, which took much longer than we thought it was going to, and went down to see Luna Park before heading back across, by bus. That night we met up with some of Vania's family, whom she had never met before, for dinner. They were really great. Very funny and so kind! It was not nearly as awkward as we thought it was going to be and so much fun! After dinner we decided to go to a gay bar (Vania is gay and needed some gay time). Unfortunately, the bar played terrible music and we didn't stay for very long. We tried to find an alternative club/bar but we didn't have much luck.

Sunday we decided to chill out and just sit around in book stores in the morning and then that afternoon a couple of Vania's cousins took us out to North Sydney to go to  Manly Beach and to a HUGE mall. That evening we went to the cinema to see the new X-Men movie (really good). It was a very nice relaxing day.

Monday we went to Taronga Zoo aka Sydney Zoo. Very expensive but very cool. They had a ton of animals (very funny, I know that's part of the definition of  a zoo, but I've been to zoos that had very few animals) and all of the shows, like the seal and bird shows, were free so that helped to balance out how expensive it was. After the Zoo we went to see the new Pirates movie (OK) at the IMAX theatre.

Tuesday was our last day. For our last day we went to the Australian Museum which was really neat. They have a great exhibit all about the history of the Aboriginal people of Australia. After the museum we decided to head back to a book store for a few hours (hey, don't judge, we don't have ANY book stores in Vanuatu!). For dinner that night we walked practically all over the city looking for an affordable Italian restaurant, FINALLY finding one at Circular Quay. After dinner we then went to "The Chocolate Room"  (I know!!) a great little dessert place. Vania got a slice of Mississippi Mud cake and I got Tiramisu. So good! After all the wonderful food we went back to the hostel and packed-up all of our bags to hit the road the next day around 4:30am (7am flight).

Oh and a note about the hostel, called Base Backpackers: it was hands down the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in! We got  free bedding, a key card to our room/front door/bathroom, and our own lockers under the bed. They also had washer and drier machines to do laundry and a massive kitchen. It was very very nice! We even got free towels, but that was because the guy was feeling nice when we asked for them!

It was an absolutely fabulous trip and a fantastic vacation. Am I broke? Oh yeah! Was it worth it? I think so.

Long Time No...Post?

It has been quite a while since the last time I have written a new post. As you my know. Or not. Anyways, I have a few things to report, not too much. First up I don't have much to report because I pretty much do the same thing everyday at site. I get up, head to school, do a library class or two, and then hang out in the library until five in case one of the teachers needs help planning or anything. Saturdays are laundry days and Sundays are church days, unfortunately. And that's my basic day to day, not much going on. However, a couple of weeks ago I attended a TOT, aka Training of Trainers, in order to hold my own camp G.L.O.W. (Girls Leading Our World). The training took place on Ambae, an island not too far away from my own. In fact myself and some other people took a speed boat from my village/island to Ambae. In my case that was a 9 hour boat ride and I have now seen the entire west coast of Pentecost island. I would not recommend doing this all in one day unless you had a covering over the boat. Luckily the training, which was a week long, was well worth it and I can't wait to hold a G.L.O.W. for the girls of my village.

After the TOT I then headed right back to Port Vila so that I could head out to Sydney the next week. This was quite a process. The plan was to take the Efate Queen (a passenger ship) from Ambae to Port Vila in order to save some money. This had the potential of working out really well and it would get me to Vila with just under a week to get all of my paper work in order. However, the ship decided to run early that week and I missed it. So my last resort was to take a plane. I called Air Vanuatu and basically there were no flights to Vila at any time due to all of the students and teachers trying to get back to school after the short vacation. But eventually I managed to get a booking. So I head down to a booking agent in town to pay for my ticket and I find out I, in fact, do not have an actual confirmation but I am on the waiting list. So I may get on a flight, but then again I may not. Then next two days consists of me frantically calling all the people I could, explaining to them that I have an international flight the next Wednesday that I absolutely cannot miss! At this point I'm worried out of my mind, wondering if I had wasted approximately $400 to go to Sydney. This is Tuesday and the next afternoon I get a text from the booking agent saying that he can get me on a flight the next day! I need to but that man a pony!!

In any case I manage to get to Vila, get everything straightened out, and I was ready to go.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I am in Vila the capitol city of Vanuatu right now and I must say it's a bit overwhelming. To go from a village with two stores and no cars or trucks, and by no cars or trucks I mean there isn't even a road connecting my village to the rest of the island, staying in a city full of cars, trucks, and 'buses' (large vans) is a lot to handle.

No, Villa isn't exactly a large city, though it is the largest city in Vanuatu, it is considerably smaller than even Muncie, IN. which is quite small (and I don't mean population numbers though Muncie might actually be bigger in that way too, I don't know and don't feel like doing the research). So the fact that a city this size is overwhelming to me is kind of scary. Especially considering I've lived in Houston a huge city. The funniest feeling of being overwhelmed is when I went to Wilco, a hardware store here in Villa.

I went in to buy a hose clamp for my stove (as you know if you've read the post before this one) and when I walked in the door I literally stopped and stood in jaw-dropped awe at the sheer size and selection of this store. Now, you should know that while Wilco is large and has about the same set up of Home Depot it is still about a third of the size. And while I appreciate a good hardware store I am not the type of person to hang out there for hours on end or rush there on the weekends. I'll go if I have to. But, I was just shocked at how huge this store is and this worries me. How am I going to react to being back in America with it's Wal-Marts and giant two-story malls? The idea of a sky scrapper is unfathomable to me at this point, and I'm only 5 months into my service. How am I going to react after another year and a half?

I'm worried.

The Stove Saga

As I'm sure all of you are aware I do not have electricty at my site/house. Therefore, I had to purchase a table-top gas stove. Now, you may be thinking that all table-top gas stoves are the same, but this is not the case. I learned this the hard way.

In Vanuatu there is one (maybe more, it's hard to say) gas company: Origins. At Origins they are completely awesome and very helpful but I did not know this when I bought my stove and proceeded to buy it from a random little store. Had I bought my stove from Origins it would have come with a hose to connect it to the regulator and then to the stove. However, the stove I bought did not come with a hose, so I bought one at Origins when I went to buy my regulator (a devise to make sure the gas doesn't have a surge and explode in your face). I thought I was all set to go and let for my site. When I finally moved into my house it took me about 2 hours to figure out how to connect the adaptor, regulator, and hose together (apparently righty-tighty, lefty-loosey does not apply in this country). At this point I figure out that my house will not connect to my stove and I can't just run up to the store to buy a new one, while the two stores in my village have an abundance in tinned meat and tinned fish they don't carry gas stove hoses. So, I spend the next month cooking over fire, frustrated out of my mind that I have a stove and gas tank but no way to connect the two. I talk to my host family about it and they think it would be a good idea to cut the hose and just shove it on. I had considered this and called my dad back in the U.S. to get his opinion and he said that that would be a VERY bad idea, what with the possibility of gas leaking out of the hose.

Eventually it's time to head back to Villa (the big city), so I take along my stove and hose to see what I can do with them. My plan is to return the stove and just go to Origins to buy a new one because I know that everything will connect just fine. When I get to the little store where I bought my stove and try to return it, they tell me that they will accept it for store credit but they sell 20 of these stoves a day, so there is a connection out there (that was the manager who was not very nice). Before I leave we look at the stove to make sure it has all of the parts and find that mine was missing a piece. I exchange my stove for one that doesn't suck life and I take it to the PC resource room. When I get there I try my hose on it to see if it will connect and it won't. So I decide to take a trip to Wilco, our local hardware store, to see what I can find to try to connect the two. When I get to Wilco they tell me that they don't have parts for table-top stoves only grills and that I should go to Origins. I head to Origins and after talking to them for 30mins. or so (them being extremely helpful) they tell me that I don't need to buy a new stove, I just need to cut my hose shove it on to the stove and put a hose clamp on it so the gas doesn't leak out. So back to Wilco I go to buy a hose clamp.

I think that I'm all set now, but only time will tell. Moral of the story: don't cut corners to try to find a deal go straight to the source; and buy your stove from Origins.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bieber Fever Comes to Pentecost Island

To field any whiny comments I would like to say that I am not a fan of Justin Bieber. If you are, that's nice and I don't really care. Here we go:

As you know electricity is not something found in my village. Many families buy small generators to turn on lights and TV/DVD players once every few weeks. They don't turn them on often because you must pay for the fuel to run the generator. The co-op (a store) also has electricity due to a solar panel and a wind turbine. They will charge things (like cell phones) for 50vt or about 50cents and have a fridge but they don't keep the power on all day or all night and they don't play movies. So needless to say whenever movies are shown, usually on holidays and during celebrations, it's a big deal.

Well, one night sometime around New Years, a man carried out his TV and DVD player to a clearing in our village close up to the nokamal (meeting place) and everyone gathered on woven mats and palm leaves to watch some videos. Now, when you are going to watch a movie in the villages typically you will first watch a bunch of music videos. Mainly string band (local music) but there are also some Australian and American videos too, depending on what the person has. It was this night that I realized there are certain things to which you cannot escape even when you go to the other side of the world.

We had been watching/listening to music videos for about 30mins to an hour when a Bieb song/video begins to play. At this point I think to myself 'it won't last long it's just one song'. Soon that song ends and another comes on and then yet another. I soon discover that it is a whole DVD dedicated to The Bieb. Not only am I stuck watching a Bieber DVD but everyone is really liking it and now I have to listen to everyone singing/humming the songs proceeding in getting them stuck into my head every time (when I recognized the song). During the hour or so of Bieber videos I couldn't help thinking 'why can't they get a Chris Brown video?'.

Call it naivety or what you will, but something about living on an obscure island in the South Pacific led me to believe that I would be safe from the tween fads of America. Apparently not.

p.s. if you are wondering what the movie is that was shown it was 'The Hottie and the Nottie'. However, I did not stay to watch the movie because by then it was about 10pm and I was tired.