Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Summation...

Hello everyone! Lucas and I have been searching for our new home and, as part of the search, I've been e-mailing mid-wives. As a passing note, everyone we've spoken to about our future has been so amazing! If you are one of those people and are reading this, thank you so much!
Anyways, one of these midwives is thinking about doing mission work with her family and asked us a few questiona about our experience. We realized that the e mail we wrote sums up the cultural side of what we have learned so far. Here is is:

"We are not exactly missionaries as we are with the United
States Peace Corps, but I think that the experience is very similar.
We are serving in a rural outer island. There are so many incredible
things about living where we do, and it's the hardest thing that I
have ever done as of yet.

There are FOR SURE places in the world that are racked with sorrow and
grief that are unfathomable (I'm thinking of places like Haiti or

Where we live is rural (no electricity, no roads, no running water, 30
hours on a cargo boat to the capital) for sure and pretty incredible.
People mostly live off their gardens in a seemingly idylic island
paradise--there is no genocide, no hunger, and no guns. People take
care of each other--a child is absorbed by the tribe if the parents
can not take care of him/her, the elderly and folks with special needs
are taken care of... all really special and cool. Obviously nothing
like haiti or sudan whose problems are so in your face and clear...

there are problems.

I think what makes it hard (especially for the sensitive) is that you
really get to know your neighbors, for better and for worse. Lucas
has to hang out with men he knows beat their wives, rape children, or
in other ways have really different values than he does. In America,
you can choose who you live with and who you associate with, but in a
village setting; there is no escape. Sometimes, it's the underlying
social issues that are harder to deal with than the poverty...In so
many ways, i've re-defined what i think of as poverty. And there's
the injustice from other nations that screw over the poor. I think
it's really hard because you really start to see all the other issues
that contribute to the problems and it makes you so so angry at the
injustice of it all."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some pictures from the island

So, the ship is delayed for another day. We went last night and they told us to come back in the morning. We went again this morning, hung out for a few hours and they tell us maybe tomorrow. Will see how tomorrow goes.

On the positive, both Alex and I received wonderful emails this morning, so maybe its worth another night in Vila.


hey everyone,
We are still in Vila. We were meant to leave on Friday, but as it goes in Vanuatu, we are still here, it's Wednesday. The ship should be out tonight, of course they told us that yesterday too.

Our Vila stay has been good. We've identified a few places we might want to move to when we get back to the states. I am hoping for Floyd, Virginia; but we'll have to check it out first.

We haven't had much luck with our Antarctica applications. We both received emails that we were qualified for the jobs from human resources, which is a huge first step. The next step is to get an email from the hiring manager to set up an interview, we didn't receive any emails from any hiring managers. We applied for a few more jobs and sent a couple don't-forget-us emails to my last hiring manager, but no word from them.

So here's something interesting - on our trip to Port Vila this time there are lots of billboards advertising getting internet on your phone AND many billboards advertising how to get facebook on your phone. This is the first time there has been major marketing for internet in vanuatu, and especially for facebook. Our island friends don't use internet and have never heard of Facebook...yet. The times they are changing. I'd guess it'll just be a year or two until internet and facebook are common on the outer islands. Ten bucks says someone on Pentecost will ask me what Facebook is before we leave this country. And when everyone starts using internet on the outer islands, everyone has access to unlimited information, perhaps creating even less need for rural volunteers like myself. So I guess I'm lucky to have a chance to do this work before it's deemed unnecessary.

Sorry I never got pictures published. In my defense, I've been sick and the internet is really slow.

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 11

hey everybody,
I'm sitting on a soft couch in an air-conditioned room as I write. Alex and I made it into Vila just a few days ago. We decided to walk to South Pentecost, watch the land-diving and then catch a ship into Vila, which we did.
It was good, the walk took two full days and included a ride in the back of a pick-up truck over some of the steepest terrain. There were a total of 8 Peace Corps volunteers that made it to South Pentecost to watch the land-diving. We hung out, ate good and enjoyed catching up with everyone and their takes on the Peace Corps experience.
We have two weeks in Vila now to find a job and plan out our lives, or at least the next couple years of our life.
Wish us luck.
Will post some pictures when I get tired of the job/house search.
With love,

May 31

It's a tuesday evening, Alex and i were meant to head to south Pentecost tomorrow to watch the land diving, but it's looking like neither of the two ships that pass each week will be passing this week. One is in the shop and the other decided to take a different route this week. We just figured this out today, it's a little sad as we were looking forward to land diving and just getting out of the village for awhile, and spending time with some Peace Corps friends. We have the option to pay for a small boat to take us but would costs us more than two hundred dollars, so we won't. We could walk too, but it would be three or four days to get there and were just not really that keen on a long walk right now. I think we'll stay here and head into vila when we get a chance, when a ship finally comes.

I was remembering this moment earlier today - It was shortly after we arrived, a guy was visiting with us at our house, he started playing the guitar and as he played he stared deeply into my eyes, too deeply. I didn't know what to do, his stare was too intense, I was uncomfortable, I wanted to look away. I didn't know if his staring was culturally appropriate or if he was just a weird guy. I didn't know if I should look away or if that would be considered rude or if he would think I was weird for returning such an intense stare. In the end I did both, stared back and looked away from time to time when the staring was more than I could handle.

I have since learned that it's normal for folks here to stare at you when they are playing a song and also that this guy's stare was a more intense than what is typical. I still don't know the appropriate response, I just don't worry about it anymore, I do what's most comfortable for myself, which is short stints of deep staring but a lot of looking away and getting distracted by other things in the room.

I remember that moment, but I don't remember who it was, as I didn't have a clue who was who when I first arrived. I wish I knew who he was now, and if he is somebody that I now consider to be a little off, a little socially awkward; If he is just a weird guy.

May 21

okay, so it's been a while since I wrote an entry. It's not for any reason other than it just didn't happen. We haven't been terribly busy or disgusted with blogging or a computer failure or anything, just never got around to sitting down and writing.

Alex and I feel like we are at a point in our service where it's time to start finalizing our post-peace corps goals and objectives. We had applied to work in Antarctica, thinking that would give us an additional 4 ½ months to figure out what the heck we were going to do before returning to America - As it's tough to make such plans from our island shack, being without internet and all. We would have had internet in Antarctica, and it's much cheaper to call America from Antarctica than it is to call from Vanuatu. It seemed like a pretty good plan, except that we haven't heard anything from Antarctica yet; we should have heard from them by now, and with just 5 months until we return to the states, it's time start putting together some type of plan. (Sidenote: Any Antarctica friends that may be reading this blog and have an inside connection to get us a job, we need your help, please email me.)

Our work is a bit slow, not painfully slow, but slow enough that Alex and I have plenty of opportunity to discuss our post-peace corps goals and objectives.

We were thinking maybe the mountains of Virginia. We both think it's really pretty and it's sort of between our parents' homes. And (we hope) progressive enough for us without being too urban for us. Of course, we sort of feel like our hands our tied, without internet, it's hard to confirm if any of these things are true. So, although we have the time, it's hard to have serious conversations about our future plans, just because there are no facts to compare, because we have no facts. Which is kind of fun in that we end up just spending the whole time talking about dreams and visions, but I don't know if I would say we are making progress. How the heck did people decide where to live before internet? And looking for a job without internet? I haven't a clue..

We have a couple books about houses/homesteading in our house and a few more that touch lightly on the topic. We have read these book an innumerable amount of times, it's fun, but frustrating too, we want new information, more information, specific information. Who knew I would so desperately miss having access to information, and Alex too. I suspect our entire generation, and certainly the generations after us, is just completely addicted to easy access to information, Surely there was much going on in the world before the information age. Who knew we were such products of our age.

men's and women's work

I was drinking kava at the nakamal last night. As is typical, the guys were at one end of the nakamal getting drunk and the women were at the other end of the nakamal, slaving over the fire, watching the children and preparing the food for everyone. This scene always bothers me a little, the division of the sexes, the division of work. How could it have come to be that women have to do all the work and men just drink? Not that a scene similar to this one isn't common throughout the world, but I don't see how anyone (boy or girl) could convince themselves that this situation is good.

As is also typical, the guys were talking in the local language at the nakamal last night, and I haven't much of a clue what they were saying. The local language is a bit limited though and there aren't words for 'dispensary' and 'committee' and the like, so they just use the english words. Those kinds of words, along with references to people and places that I know, was enough for me to know that the men were talking about the dispensary's health committee, it's role and ongoing issues and such things. Certainly a conversation that needs to happen, as the dispensary lost their committee chairman a few months ago and just lost their [very organized] nurse recently.

It was probably due to the kava, but for some brief moments last night I imagined a bit of value in their system. Women take care of these problems (feeding everyone and attending to the children), men take care of those problems (governance).

Of course the system doesn't work, most of the men just want to get drunk, and you could easily talk about governance issues while you cooked your own damn food.


Our friend, Nora, died last night, a little before midnight, just 8 hours after returning to the island. Nora operated the main preschool in our district. She was probably in her mid-60s, she died of cancer. Nora was an educated woman, cared about this place, and she will be missed.

Critical Periods in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

At some point during training, Peace corps gave us a handout titled "Critical Periods in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer". It basically outlines your service from month-to-month and list some of the negative issues and behaviors/reactions that are to be expected. It also lists possible interventions to address the negative issues and reactions.

We are in month 19 now. The handout suggests (among other things) that I should be seeing an increased work pace, becoming more aware of my time constraints and my own limitations.

The increased work pace is true, we have had something on the calendar every week this month and every week next month too.

Awareness of time constraints, well, sort of....I am feeling sort of stuck, becoming aware of how much more time that's still left...lots. There's not much going on here, just workshops on the calendar. And so much that could be going on in America - buying a house, starting a family, a salary, things like that. I spend a lot of time waiting - waiting for the next meal, or waiting to go back to America or waiting until it time to start the day's activities. Right now I am waiting for a plane to fly overhead. Nora will be on the plane, she's coming back to the village to die. There's a big meal planned for her return.

And awareness of own limitations - yes. And what a crappy issue. I am feeling remarkably under-utilized. And that I should never apply for a job that has the words 'self-starter' in the job description.

My behavior/reactions to these issues [according to the handout] might include procrastination, self-recrimination, resignation, disappointment, and downgrading of achievements. I didn't know what self-recrimination meant so I had to look it up in the dictionary - it's about telling yourself all the things you should have done differently, blaming yourself for all the mistakes you made.

These sound about right, the waiting is due to resignation. There's lots of self-recrimination if you're me. The downgrading of achievements is also true, and comforting.

Proposed interventions include visiting new volunteers, exercise, focusing on relationships at site, and re-examining goals and time-frame.

april 20

We had pancakes this morning. Which isn't really that special. What was special about this morning's pancakes is that we had an egg! Not that we don't get eggs regularly, we just haven't gotten any recently. We included the egg in the pancake batter. What a world of difference! Pancakes are so much better when made with an egg.

We finished a PHAST workshop this past friday. They gave us a chicken as a going away gift. We couldn't carry the chicken back with us on Friday night because we had too many other baskets and I was drunk off kava. Our friend brought the chicken down on Monday. He's a young boy - the chicken, not our friend, our friend is a thirty-something father. We tied our chicken to the bush kitchen - like a dog leash except that it was tied around the chicken's leg. We cut him free this morning - Wednesday, we think he'll stick around as he seems used to this place now. Our big rooster keeps pecking at the new guy since we freed him. We are hoping he doesn't run away because he gets tired of being bullied by the big rooster.

We have another workshop next week, it's a youth (18-30 year olds who aren't married) workshop, we are going to facilitate actives on hygiene, child spacing and money management. Our co-facilitator came over this morning and Alex and her went through the hygiene part of our workshop while I prepared lunch.

An Australian aid agency gave our community grant money a few years ago to build a classroom on the school grounds and a toilet at the health dispensary. Representatives came here yesterday for an opening ceremony for both the classroom and the toilet. I got a chance to speak with the representatives briefly. Apparently, they -the representatives- are traveling up Pentecost island, visiting each of the projects that they have funded over the last few years, which seems to be many, many projects.

Each day they start at 6am, going from one small village to the next, scrutinizing their funded projects, with little ceremonies and small speeches at every village. Our village was their last visit for the day yesterday. They arrived here a little after 9pm and were finished a little after 10pm. I heard their boat leaving this morning around 6am, they were off to the next village.

There is a village to our south that won a grant to build a market house in their village, the supplies came and they started building it a few years ago, they quickly lost interest and the market house was never completed. We are told it's now completely overgrown in bush. Flush toilets were built at our dispensary though we have no reliable water source. A vocational school to our north, where another Peace Corps volunteer works, was given a rather large solar power system a few years ago. It no longer works, we think the problem is either the batteries or the inverter.

These are three of the less than ideal visits that the aid agency representatives made yesterday and today. I am sure there are many examples like our school classroom too - a well-constructed building that the community can be proud of and will be put to good use. And I am also sure there were many other visits like the three I described. I guess mixed results are to be expected in such a business. I imagine the worst part being the range of possible emotions arriving in each village, not knowing if you are going to get an overgrown foundation or a classroom that 40 students use everyday.

I think I prefer my job; worrying about our chicken, enjoying pancakes and convincing people not to eat their own excrement.

StoveTec GreenFire

I am not exactly sure how it came to be, but Alex and I were given a StoveTec GreenFire 1-door wood burning stove. They call it a biomass cook stove. It's has these thick walls that keep the heat from dissipating. Along with directing all the heat directly to the cooking pot, the extra heat helps the firewood burn hotter and thus cleaner.

The thing is absolutely amazing.

We're using well less than a quarter of the wood we were using with open fires; and because the fire is always burning hot, we rarely get smokey fires, (only when we push our luck - thinking the fire is so hot that it can handle wet wood).

The manufacturer's write, "Efficient cook stoves increase heat transfer to the the pot, saving fuel. The stove top and the pot skirt force the hot gases closer to the bottom and sides of the pot. More heat enters the pot so less fuel is used for cooking. The insulative combustion chamber both increases the temperature and aids the mixing of gases, air and fire in the combustion zone. The GreenFire stove increases both heat transfer and combustion efficiency, resulting in cleaner and more efficient cooking".

We were given the stoves to take them to the island and show them off. I wasn't keen at first (dealing with the logistics of getting anything from Port Vila to our house is enough to make one not keen on pretty much most things), but there is such a dramatic difference from an open fire, we are both completely sold on the thing.

We'll get one for our summer kitchen in the states.

Alex informs me the rotary club and a RPCV named Charlie played major roles in the stove's appearance.

lazy saturday

it's a quiet, lazy saturday afternoon. It occurs to me that I haven't written a blog entry for a while, so time to check-in and let the blog know how we are doing. Well, we are doing fine. We finished another PHAST workshop yesterday. There was a closing ceremony during which I was given a really nice chief's walking stick thing. It's really nice. And I had two shells of kava and was totally drunk, I had use the walking stick to help keep my balance on the walk home. Crossing the Nabanga tree sucked. One typically doesn't have trouble walking after two shells. I dunno

We received mail yesterday. Some friends went north and carried our mail back with them (and flour!!!). Thank you to Michelle for the thoughtful package, we now have a Dulce de leche cake (that alex made) and a Uruguayan flag (sticker) hanging on our wall. We also received copies of both the Vanuatu peace corps staff newsletter and the vanuatu peace corps volunteer newsletter. They are fun to read and kind of catch up on things.

We had pizza and cake for lunch.

We are going to be pretty busy for number of weeks. Another PHAST workshop, a youth conference, head to south pentecost to watch the land diving and easter celebrations.

Urban migrations

We are facilitating the third day of a four day hygiene and sanitation workshop tomorrow. This morning we prepared with our co-facilitator. Her name is Regina, she is from the village hosting the workshop. She's smart, she attended University of the South Pacific for a couple years.
There's lots of competent people originally from our district. The administrative director for health services for our entire province is from our district (there are 6 provinces in Vanuatu). The Provincial pharmacist is from our district too. There's a medical doctor, his name is Dr. Solwin, I've met him once. He is originally from our village. He moved to Papua New Guinea, did development work for a number of years, progressed in his career and, if I understand correctly, was a professor at a medical school for quite some time before returning to Vanuatu (just recently) to start a medical school on Santo Island. There's Alex's counterpart, who just left the district this morning, a trained nurse, as well as one other trained nurse, a brother of one of my friends, who's off working somewhere else.
Then there's Simeon, he's the director of Youth Challenge Vanuatu (or some similar name), a pretty substantial development agency in Vanuatu. And his younger brother, Simon, who just finished University but has all types of potential and will be doing great things in Vanuatu in here shortly.
And there's several people like Regina, who has the skills and is sort of waiting for a good opportunity to get off the island. Not for getting off the island's sake, but for job opportunities.
I was talking about this with my friend this morning, how we have all these nurses from our village but not one with us now. He commented how there were only two teachers to ever come from our village, yet our school is fully staffed.

A day in Vanuatu

I wrote a blog entry many months ago that was written to the new volunteers, it was about packing and our impressions of Vanuatu and surviving pre-service training and such things. I thought it was a pretty good entry. While that's not the goal of this blog entry, I feel like this is another good entry for a future volunteer to stumble upon. It really sums up the "Peace Corps experience" in many ways. All in one day.

We have been facilitating a workshop in a village on top the last two days. The workshop was going great in the morning, lots of good facilitated discussions about water, hygiene and sanitation. I was feeling really good about the workshop. There was a little lethargy after lunch, but the group recovered quick enough. Then at one point in the afternoon, a number of young men just left the workshop for no apparent reason. I went to check what was going on and observed that they had left the workshop to go watch pacific pop music videos. Somehow pacific pop was taking precedence over clean drinking water and good toilets. I don't even like pacific pop, I think it's pretty bad, and I like bad American pop music. I walked over to where the young men were watching the video, thinking my presence would make them feel awkward and they would then return to the workshop, but it didn't work, they just looked at me and nodded, assuming I wanted to watch the videos too. I was infuriated, left, went back to the workshop, announced to everybody in the workshop that there was a group of young men that were watching videos instead of participating in the workshop and explained how I had tried to make them come back and how my plan had failed miserably. Someone in the workshop fixed my problem for me, a few of the young men returned to the workshop and others were decent enough to go hide and watch the videos some other place. The workshop ended on a good note and everyone seemed excited for the next day of the workshop next week.

After the workshop we had to walk an hour through a beautiful jungle to get back to our house and then hurry off to an evening ceremony to say goodbye to Alex's counterpart, who just told us yesterday that she is leaving this week. Four days notice that we are going to be without a counterpart.

There's a giant nabanga tree that has fallen onto the road, completely blocking the road. The tree was getting old and folks living nearby were worried it would fall onto someone's house, so they started burning the tree out, on the side of the house, they knew it was going to fall onto the road and they knew it would be a problem to have a 10-15 foot diameter trunk on the only road. They didn't really have a good option. The only truck in our district is on this side of the nabanga tree, meaning the truck can't leave this district until they get the massive tree removed. We have to climb over this giant nabanga tree. Alex has to climb over the tree in a skirt. It's kind of neat, and kind of annoying. Alex mentioned the skirt part was pretty annoying. The reality that there wasn't a good option for such a big, yet simple, problem is..well..telling.

We get back to the house, change into dry clothes and get ready to head to the goodbye ceremony/dinner for Alex's counterpart. Alex's host father, who we haven't seen in months comes over to tell us to hurry up. After he leaves I tell Alex he can shove it, the first time he bothers to come over in months and all he can think to say is hurry up.

We get to the community meeting place, lots of smiles, hand-shaking, and playing with little children. We feel very welcomed and it feels good to be so welcomed and so comfortable in our district. Alex goes and sits with her favorite women and I go about greeting all the 'big' [important] men at the gathering. We both know what to do and say.

The ceremony starts in the next hour or so. Everyone gives speeches. Everything is said in the local language and Alex and I catch little to nothing of what is being said. We don't mind too much, we are used to it, I find simple things to daydream about. During Alex's counterpart's speech, she includes enough Bislama so that Alex and I can follow her whole speech - our hero. She thanks us, but instead of thanking us for the ways we have empowered communities to look out for themselves - they ways we have built capacity, she instead focuses on the free water tanks that we helped the communities get - one of the lesser successes, and a success that at the end of the day did more to discourage community action than anything else. This infuriates me, that the stupid tanks take precedence over the real, sustainable accomplishments we have made fostering non-dependence. It's a strong feeling, I could go on a long rant about it right now, but that would distract from the point of this story.

Later in her speech, Alex's counterpart is passionately talking about the values and worth of independence, about not relying on donors and instead looking out for themselves - the same message Alex and I have been preaching for months and a message I thought was lost when she started praising the free tanks. A very proud moment for Alex and I indeed.

Later I am asked to give a speech and I have to invite Alex to join me for the goodbye speech to her counterpart, because Ni-vans are patriarchal. We give a good speech, tearing up as we say goodbye and wish Alex's counterpart all the best.

We've been "working" for over 12 hours now, including two climbs over the nabanga tree. I am expected to stay and drink kava, Alex is free to go. I do my best to politely decline drinking kava and we say our goodbyes, which take a while. My host father wants some time to brag about how soon his village will be building toilets. As we walk away, I am sure I have offended several people by not staying to drink kava. When we arrive home we open the basket of food they gave us on the way out. They have given us lots and lots of chicken, a special treat and a real sacrifice for those that didn't get the chicken because we got it. As we are eating the chicken our cat brings in a dead mouse and promptly abandons it on the living room, choosing to eat the chicken bones instead.

This is how your days go -
Lots of highs and lots of low.

Tuesday, April 5

We just returned from a day spent at our friends house. they live out (and up) in the bush, maybe 45 minutes walk away. We left their place around sunset and ended up walking the last half of the walk with aid from the display light on our cell phone.

So, here's what I was thinking about on the walk home...We live in the north of pentecost and thus speak the language of north pentecost - Raga. Our district is the southern-most district in North Pentecost. The district to our south speak their own language ( a less common one) and the district south of them speaks the language of central pentecost. There are at least four different languages on pentecost island, four major ones anyways, and several less common ones too. The language groups are geographically divided. But why would people living in such close proximity on a small island develop several different language groups?
It's a little crazy - this is a tiny island, and it's not like there are mountain ranges or impassable deep gorges or wild animals that inhibited folks from exploring their little island, I am sure all you anthropology majors reading this blog know the correct answer to that question, but I have my own theory.

It also seems to me that the areas near the language divides are typically 'more bush', meaning they seem less developed. I don't actually know if that's true, but it seems to be, I don't know how I would go about confirming if that true or not, but I'm not really that worried about it.

So here's my theory...I imagine the reason for multiple languages on such a small island - only a few kilometers wide and less than 80 kilometers long - the reason is the innate dark, sinister nature of Ni-Vanuatu people. It's true, I suspect anyone that knows this culture well would not hesitate to use the words 'dark' or 'sinister' to describe it. We have a book of traditional stories from Vanuatu, story after story after story is dark, most involve gruesome deaths and/or evil heros.

So, in my theory, this innate nature lends itself to distrust strangers. Thus, Ni-vans of before would not stray too far from home out of fear and distrust of the unknown. The multitude of languages developed because no one was interacting with anyone too far from home, It's a pretty simple theory, really, just an innate dark, sinister nature...and cannibalism. But don't those two sort of go together too? And it seems pretty plausible, I'll ask the next linguist I run into.

So, in my theory, the area where the language changes is sort of a no man's land, a safe space to divide language groups, a place that folks from neither language group would dare to tread, unless perhaps they were looking for trouble (or meat). And, in my theory, perhaps it hasn't been that long ago, since the areas near language borders still seem less developed than other areas.

So I was thinking about this theory as I walked home this evening, through the jungle with a cell phone for a flashlight, near a language border. I am not sure how long it's been, but in my imagination it hadn't been too long since -the reasons that kept the language development separate- were alive and well.

And if it really hasn't been that long, then that implies this place is changing rapidly. And how can one keep pace? And what implications would that have for 'development' work?

The innate dark, sinister nature theory could also be applied to explain the horridly low success rates of community projects in Vanuatu.

The road less traveled

There is no bookstore in Vanuatu. One of the grocery stores keeps a stock of about 20-30 books and the American restaurant has a bookshelf with a 'take a book, leave a book' system (which, by the way, seems to be a system that degrades to a bookshelf of second-rate books). Peace Corps Vanuatu maintains a small library, mostly just books that volunteers have brought into the country and then left behind when they returned home (also degrading). You can typically find a book worth reading, but sometimes you have to look for a while, kind of like shopping at a bad used book store, only much smaller. Alex picked up this book called 'The Road Less Travelled' while we were in Vila. It's not a book or author that she had read previously, but she had heard of it before and I think someone in our village had asked her to keep an eye out for it.

The book is fine but that's not the point of this blog. Here's a quote from the book that Alex read aloud to me:

"Pure communism, for instance, expresses ... namely that the purpose and function of the individual is to serve the relationship, the group, the collective, the society. Only the destiny of the state is considered, the destiny of the individual is believed to be of no consequence. Pure capitalism, on the other hand, espouses the destiny of the individual even when it is at the expense of the relationship, the group, the collective, the society. Widows and orphans may starve, but this should not prevent the individual entrepreneur from enjoying all the fruits of his or her individual initiative."

I have written about communism and capitalism several times since arriving to the island. It's something we end up thinking about more than you would expect and talking about with our Ni-Vanuatu friends regularly.

Our district (and much of the developing world, I suspect) is somewhere between the two. Communism roots from before are still strong, and capitalistic initiatives are common. It's a strange place to be, and a hard place to be, and in many ways a sad place to be - trying to find a way to have the best of both worlds without the negatives of either world - And not being able to find that way.

back on the island

it's nearing two weeks since we returned to site and this is the first blog entry I have written. This seems to be a pattern, there's typically a delay between returning to site and the first blog entry I write after returning to site.

We are fine at site, I cut my finger pretty deeply this morning while opening a drinking coconut. It's not too serious, just serious enough to get me out of doing dishes for a few days. Alex is well, she had some type a flu for a few days but she's better now. Well enough that she started back into her exercise/yoga routine this morning.

We made soap this morning, just the two of us, for our own personal use. Alex added mint and lemongrass and a concoction of anti-mosquito essential oils. We have to let the soap 'cure' for about a month and then we'll see if we become walking mosquito repellents.

Vila was good, we did a 2-hour presentation to the new group about our PHAST project and they expressed interest in the workshop tools we created. Enough interest that they organized a work party and put together several toolkits to be carried back to their island to utilize. It was a big compliment to Alex and I's work, we felt pretty good about it.

Our cat has life. The garden is good. Our island friends haven't rejected us. We started lots of seedlings a few days ago, hoping for a big harvest just before it's time for us to leave Vanuatu.

I feel like I could just babble on for a while, but instead I will just end this blog now.