UPDATE May 9, 2013: More mail from Mary: a letter mailed April 17 in Vanuatu and received May 6 in Minnesota is at the end of this post. Check the map for the two places mentioned in her letter: Malekula and Ambryn. She apparently is stationed on the east side of Malekula and can see the volcano on Ambryn. As they come, contents will be added at the end of this post. She’ll be surprised to learn that this ‘epistle’ of hers now exceeds 12,000 words! Everything is somewhere on the internet, and as Mary pointed out in her post today, enter Vanuatu blogs in your search engine and up will come up many options, including photographs and sales pitches. To save you the effort, here is the general link. If you write her (address below) for sure include South Pacific Islands in the address.
UPDATE Dec. 22, 2012: At 3 p.m. today I received a brief phone call from Mary in Vanuatu, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Back-and-forth from each ends with “over” because of time lag. She was calling from her assigned area. Even though it is hot and dry in vanuatu, Christmas is abundantly celebrated there, she says. A little earlier today came a second letter from Mary Ann, the contents of which are added to the end of this post. The letter was dated November 28, 2012. (Below is included contents of an e-mail from her sent December 3, 2012 which contains some of the same information.)
UPDATE Dec. 13, 2012: Some folks have asked about mailing letters to Mary. It can be done, but it takes quite a long time, sender to destination, under the best of circumstances, especially if one forgets the most important element of the address, the last words.
Here is the entire mailing address:
Mary Ann Maher
Peace Corps Vanuatu
South Pacific Islands
Today my sister Mary Ann is 70. That’s hard to believe. When she was born, I was the only child, 2 1/2. I thought she was a pest. She and two of our three other siblings verify that I could be less than kind (the youngest, John, was too young to bother with, I guess! At any rate, he’s never lamented living in the same house with me.)
Anyway, Mary Ann (she goes by Mary) is 70 today and she’s somewhere on Vanuatu, small island country in the remote South Pacific, apparently a third-world country that is said to be the happiest place on earth.
Mary was here to visit Sep 26-Oct 1, and a few days later left for Vanuatu preparing for her tour of duty in the Peace Corps as a Health Care worker there (she’s a retired Nurse Practitioner). (see map at end of this post. click on photos to enlarge them.)
Mary Ann (at left) at Franco-Fete Sep 30, 2012. Seated next to her are my spouse, Cathy, and my brother Frank.
Here’s a BBC story about Vanuatu, and a couple of maps of its vicinity (look for the arrows pointing to the approximate spot: Vanuatu001
Here’s Mary’s in-person account of her first days in Vanuatu. (She is by nature an adventurous spirit, and has previously had many interesting experiences in many countries, including two tours on the Hospital Ship Hope earlier in her career. I’ll attribute that to the family Voyageur gene from the French-Canadian ancestors Blondeau! The rest of us seem to share that gene as well.)
As our Dad used to say, I’ll follow her exploits on paper. A friend has already suggested that she do a blog of her own!
Mary Ann, October 10, 2012:
Hi all…your first taste of bislama (Means Peace Corps and You Week)
Just a quick update as we have been sprung from the training camp for the afternoon to come into town to get immunizations and do some interviews at the Peace Corps Office. There are thirty trainees and to say the days are full is an understatement! Breakfast call at 7 AM and lights out at 9 PM (cause that is when the three hours of generator power ends!!)
Add to that jet lag from the 22 hour plane trip and temperatures of 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity and this is quite the place! Beautiful, reminiscent of Jamaica but any thoughts of visiting Vanuatu would not be this time of the year. My leather sandals and expensive orthotics will just have to rest for a few months till the weather cools down. Fortunately, I have a great pair of sandals that I can wear and the rest of the clothing that I brought is ‘island appropriate’ – long skirts and loose tops always for the women but needless to say that anything wet will stay wet for a couple of days. The camp is right off a lagoon and there is a decent breeze.
Food is prepared for us by the Pango Mammas (must be sort of like a church group but I have not really figured that one out yet) We have island foods – papaya/mango/orange/cabbage/yams/carrots/potatoes/kassa/and a splash of some kind of meat with the three meal a day rice and beans. Instant milk is the only dairy as there are no refrigerators. I have not seen an egg all week but apparently they are available. Water here is fine so that is a big plus.
Food is good – heavy on the starch, light on the chocolate, absent on the desserts. Oh well – all acquired tastes!
Went to the clinic yesterday to observe some community health in action (my area) Basic, for sure, but again, very reminiscent of the rural areas in Jamaica.
Tomorrow is a day of water safety (AKA snorkeling on the reef) and on Saturday we move to the training village. I am one day ahead of all of you and there is 10 hours of [time] difference on the east coast.
We are not sure yet about our placements as those assignments do not come down until we are here another two to three weeks. Suffice it to say it will be in a village setting on one of the islands and since there are fourteen with peace corps placements I can only guess at this point.
More later .. next week is “Laef long Komuniti Mo Save About Wok Blong Yu Week”, or bislama for living in your community with your host family.
Have a great day-enjoy your parkas and cool weather!
October 31, 2012: Mary Ann’s first correspondence home since she arrived in Vanuatu.
I did send an air letter about a week ago and hopefully you will get it [Nov 10, not here yet]. When you do please route it around. I am doing fine but off in the village of Malafau so the e mail time is very limited. We came into the port city today (Port Vila) so I do have internet access for a few hours. Bottom line is that I am learning Bislama, living with a family of eight, and have no water or electricity. Use solar for the flashlight and the reading light and carry water from the town pump for boiling for drinking and for the ‘bucket showers’. But I have banana and coconut and mango in my yard and I have a little bamboo house all to myself .. the village is very clean.
Training is very thorough and next week I will spend a week with a peace corps program on Pentecost Island.
I’m really proud of her.
Happy birthday, Mary!
UPDATE Nov. 15, 2012:
Today came the promised letter from Mary, which was mailed October 26. This pdf includes her mailing address if you wish to send a post to her. Mary Ann fr Vanuatu 001. Note it took three weeks from posting to delivery! Those of you acquainted with Mary’s legibility will note that her text is readable. Regardless, here is what she said:
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Hi all – I will write a ‘routeable’ letter to catch you up on the first three weeks of this Peace Corps adventure. We had one week in the training camp after we got here on Saturday, October 5.
The camp was just outside the capital city of Port Vila, Etare Island, Cauatu. There are six provinces in Vanuatu and each is comprised of some of the 83 total islands.
After the first week we divided our group of Peace Corps trainees and went to two training villages. We will be in the training villages for most of the next eight weeks and will learn the language, culture stuff and more of what we will be doing.
I am in the Macafau village. There are twenty-eight families here and no running water or electricity.
I have a small bamboo house with a bed and a table and chair.
It is very hot and humid here, but we have only had two days of heavy rain. The village is very clean and the village workers have big gardens for the market.
My host family has a mama, papa and six children – all of whom speak rapid fire Bislama mixed with a local dialect, some French and some English. Its quite a mixed bag of words but hopefully some will will stick to my aged brain.
The host family is responsible for feeding us and helping us with language skills.
We have training classes for 8-10 hours each day and although that will slow down, it is still very intense.
I am quite amazed and impressed at how thorough the training is. Peace Corps is a contribution in kind of the United State government to the World Health Organization global initiatives on health care and they seem to take it very seriously. We will be teaching good nutrition and basic sanitation and basic health care practices.
Some of the diseases that are here include lung diseases (lots of volcanic activity and wood open fires), heart diseases (crappy diet with too much salt) and diabetes. The local foods are seasonal but very healthy if prepared without so much salt, sugar, and oil. I have a banana tree, coconut trees, pineapple bushes and mango right outside and of course there are the root foods of yam and manioc and kassava.
Protein comes from fish and eggs but there is also some beet and lots of chickens. The pigs are raised but are given in dowry for marriage. I just broke open a coconut and scratched out the meat so we could make dinner. Everything is so labor intensive but time is minuscule to the mamas who do most of the cooking.
Today I went to the river with my bucket of dirty clothes and while I sat in the river I washed clothes! The concept of washers and dryer is a long way way from Vanuatu!
Uncle George [Busch, Naval officer in the Pacific in WWII] would be happy to know that the Americans here in WWII were much appreciated by the islanders and they did build some roads and wells. There is a large WWII maritime museum a few miles from here filled with many of the things from the ships. I wonder if George ever mentioned Vanuatu in his letters?! [Dick: I read most of them, and I don't recall any reference.]
Hope all are doing well! I may have internet access every few weeks but hopefully letters will get through.
(click to enlarge map)
E-UPDATE from Mary Ann received December 3, 2012:
Hi guys…another group note to read and share! I really have to guard computer time and space because it is very limited. We came in from the training villages on Sunday (yesterday here-today there) and our group of 30 trainees in Group 25-Vanuatu can now look in the rear view mirror at language and culture training in various villages though it will never really end! Training continues this week and then next week we head to our final island assignments. I will be going to the island of Ambrae-more on that later!
But here in Vila we are housed in a motel – the Pacific Paradise – and have showers with running water – electricity – and access to a kitchen. I made grilled cheese sandwiches yesterday for lunch and even hard cooked a few eggs! The motel is a long two mile hill from the Peace Corps office where I am typing this note. We just got back from the bank and got ATM cards as our salary (about 10 dollars a day) will be deposited regularly in the account. In addition Peace Corps arranges and pays for travel and housing so the money is quite adequate. I came back into Vila with almost 12000 VATU or 120 American dollars. There is nothing to spend money on in the villages for sure. Malafau Village gave us a very big send off on Saturday and the whole village of 126 residents lined up for handshakes. We all got yet another tie dyed island dress so my wardrobe of dresses and salasala (those big flower necklaces) keeps growing. But, I have learned plenty of bislama and hope to pass the proficiency test at the advanced intermediate level this week….no pressure there but I am minimally competent in the language after the last few months of long pauses and awkward phrases at the dinner table. Also can crack coconuts, find and chop firewood, cut down banana trees, plant many island foods and cook lots of stuff from the trees and plants in the yard (try 16 ways to prepare papaya). Pineapples and avocadoes are the fruits and vegetables of the month.
I am assigned to work in a Provincial Health Office on the island of Ambae and my title is Advisor to the Provincial Health Officer. I met my counterpart (Marlkow) on Saturday and to say he is excited about working with an “oldfala” peace corps nurse is an understatement. He is literally glowing and apparently the assignment is a good one. At least I am not in the bush and up a ridiculous hill in a village with no water. I will have cyclone proof housing (meaning it is concrete), an outhouse of course, a small garden, two chickens for centipede control and eggs, one pig that I can feed leftovers to and maybe four hours of solar generated power a day and I will work mostly in the Provincial Health office for the Penema Province. The 83 Islands in this country are divided into six provinces and I am in a provincial center named Lolawei. I will be training the teachers of village health care workers and setting up training programs for nurse aides in the hospital. I have about a 30 minute walk from the village where I will live (Seratomato) to my workplace and the hospital is a provincial center – don’t get excited, that means there is 24 hour electricity but it is a 14 bed hospital with no doctors and one nurse practitioner who does everything from baby deliveries to stitches. There is no lab or x-ray or surgery capability there so to say it is very minimal is probably an understatement. I have found that when the third world says we ‘need some help here’ they generally mean things have become pretty run down. But, I am on a beautiful lagoon, and although the weather is very hot on this island, the hospital and the housing are very close to the sea and hopefully there will be some cool months coming up when we are though the cyclone (hurricane) season. I will be shipping my stuff on a ship next Monday but will fly to my island on a plane (likely the same 8 seater that I went on when I went to Pentecost Island). We are limited to 10 kilo or 20 pounds of baggage on a plane.
Also, not a hilly trek for me which is good although the exercise of walking regularly will be good for my leg. My knee is much better and I am optimistic that the rest of the swelling will disappear – I came with a three inch difference in circumference and am now down to one inch!
Mail is notoriously awful here so don’t frustrate yourselves trying to write letters….if you do expect that I will not receive it for 3-6 weeks and then only if you put South Pacific Island in the address line. Apparently the US postal service is not very familiar with Vanuatu so mail has gone most everywhere else that starts with a V-Vietnam, Venezuala.
You can write e notes at the address firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject line just write Mary Maher Group 25 and staff will print off the email letter and send it to the island so I will get it on the weekly mail delivery to Lolawei. It is a real learning and acceptance curve to go from high speed internet and real time communication to that sort of delay. I will continue to have cell phone coverage but for those of “yufala” I have actually talked to the conversations are on a 3-5 second delay so one person says ‘over’ when finished speaking! Still good emergency conversations and texting can happen regularly! Lots of pictures on facebook and more to come although the humidity has done in my camera (rusted the battery) and I hope to get it fixed this week. If not able, I will wait a few months before replacing it.
So much for todays note and I will likely write another early next week! Merry Christmas preparations to everybody!! Thinking of everyone also and wishing you good heath!
UPDATE December 7, 2012: An e-note and two photos from Mary Ann.
Mary with Host Family on Vanuatu Dec. 6, 2012
Hi Guys….The pictures were taken at the swearing in yesterday [note received Dec. 7 U.S.]. That is my host mama and host papa Rena and Jimmy. It was a very nice ceremony for sure!! I am just finishing up my packing to send things on the ship to Ambae tomorrow morning. The ship should get to the island about the same time that I do but with this being the cyclone season sometimes the seas get pretty rough very quickly. I will be flying there and of course planes are also affected but not as much. I will have another four days in Port Vila and it will be nice once the shipping part is done.. maybe will be like a real vacation as long as the generator in the motel six…AKA Pacific Paradise…continues to function! My roommate is a young teacher and she scatters everything around the place so I feel a little crowded out at times. Ironically, she thinks she is very neat – ah the ignorance of youth!!
[Request to daughter, Rebecca, to buy a new camera] My Canon died with the humidity and the dunk in the salt water!! This camera is not a battery camera but I can recharge it at the hospital and apparently it works well in this type of weather as it is waterproof. I am hoping for the best.
Lukim yu (Bislama for Later!) Luv yufala tumas!! Just guess on that one….
UPDATE: November 28, 2012 letter received December 22, 2012:
Another short note – route if so inclined!
I was hoping to start a pen pal arrangement for kids but the postal service is non-existent in the villages.
Training ends this week and I have a whole new set of survival skills at the ready. we will be assigned our villages next week, but it will most likely be in a place like the training village. No electricity or running water and a bamboo hut to live in. The huts are surprisingly cool in the heat and humidity and not too hard to maintain. You can Google-map my village (Malafau – Etare Island – Vanuatu!) [Dick: tried this, didn't work. Stay tuned. You can find Port Vila Vanuatu via Google, and travel around the island....]
I’m just a few miles from the peninsula where “Survivor” was filmed and about a mile from the WWII Museum – kind of a loose assortment of battles from the days when the Navy was present here. The island people think very highly of the Americans here during WWII and the few good roads and airstrips are a result of American dollars.
I continue to be impressed with the friendliness of the village folk and how hard they must work just to get food son the table and pay the school fees. This family that I stay with makes and sells charcoal. A very dusty and dirty job. Right now they are throwing wood into the fire pit. it will burn for 3 days, cool for 3 days and then next week they will bag it and take it to the market. Each bag sold is worth $8.00. Weather will remain hot and humid for the next few weeks.
This is the end of the school term and today I taught nutrition to 5th graders. In the family I have been living with the kids walk four miles each way to school. Weather is hot. They leave about 6 am and return between 4:30 pm and 5 pm. Amazing strength and energy. Even the 8 year old can cut firewood and cook dinner over the open fire, the have 6 weeks off now and then return for first term 2013. The school year is all year or three terms. Two of the kids go to a French school and two go to an English school. Teachers are reassigned every year so it can be a stressful job for them as well.
Enjoy the holidays and stay well. Love, Mary.
UPDATE: Letter from Mary to sister Flo, sent December 30, received January 18.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Hi, Flo and Carter – just finished a delicious dinner of island beans and Kumala and onion and Kapsicum. I find it easy to cook here as there is so much stuff. I also had cucumber. The Kumala (yam) and Kapsicum (green pepper) look different but taste very similar
One of the hard things is the time and labor to cook. I had as much throw away compost as I did food to cook.
This is Christmas break so many of the villagers are off “visiting grandma” and the markets are all closed but I have a neighbor who brings me a few things from her garden so I get plenty to eat.
I had to move this week as my first village ran out of water so now I am a short walk from my work place, the provincial health office. I also have two hours of electricity at night! (smiley face!) My visitors this morning were five school children who just sat on the porch area and drew pictures. I’ll get more pencils and easy to read books when I go back to Vila in February.
I’m lucky at this site as people speak Bislama and English and French and the local dialect. I can understand and am getting better at speaking Bislama.
My house is concrete and sits on a high hill just off the harbor area so I hear waves crashing all the time – sort of a perpetual noise machine. The weather continues very hot and humid and will likely be this way for another two months – The good news is that I have already tolerated it for more than three months so am half way through “summer”. I do look forward to some coolness!
I plan a couple of weeks in San Diego around Mother’s Day this (2013) year. Rebecca has a few weeks left [in her pregnancy] … They both look forward to the baby! [note: baby Zander was born Jan.. 14].
I look forward to the trip and will come back after spending some serious money at an REI type store. So much of what I have just doesn’t work well in the “outdoorsy” and hot place. I’ll start with a “Leatherman” and a decent backpack and walking sandals. I also will look for nylon or quick drying clothing! Live and learn. I don’t plan to go any farther inland than San Diego at this point.
Whoops, forgot to tell you that I also made some banana chips! Use the plantain or green banana and fry it in oil and salt!! Very good. I bought some olive oil before I came to the island and also some spices and herbs. I will be getting a cat next week as I don’t like the rats at all and they seem to be everywhere. Getting used to all critters great and small but the rats are annoying for sure!! Sort of mouse size!!
From Mary via e-mail January 21, 2013:
Update from Lolowai – Island Ambae – Vanuatu, South Pacific
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Obviously the second big excitement in my life this week is a loan of a very old Chinesey computer that runs only when the power is on…two or three hours a day (except yesterday when it was not on at all and I sure don’t know why!!) I look forward to bringing a laptop with a battery back with me when I go to San Diego in March to spend some time with Rebecca and Mike and new baby Zander Henry Sanchez (the first big excitement of my life this week). I debated the trip for all of 32 seconds and then decided that is what social security is really for! However, getting off the island and back into the real world is a matter of lots of logistics and simply couldn’t happen overnight or very quickly so March it is!!
Work is very interesting and also very challenging. My big project to date was organizing an inventory of dated health promotion materials. Some packets were ten years old and had never been opened and distributed! Information on toothbrushing, handwashing, nutrition, family planning, smoking cessation, STD, and other stuff was not outdated, just old and smelly. Organizations such as WHO, Save the Children, New World Visions, Ausaid, and others clearly spend a lot of money and time developing and preparing and printing high quality health promotion materials.
Therein lies the gap in a developing world view…..monies at the top, guidelines and plans that are completely exhaustive, and no distribution to a semi literate population who could sorely use the information. I put together packets of stuff and started to lay some ground work for the fine art of distribution to Aide Post Workers in villages that are remote. I work through the provincial health center staff and we oversee the health promotion on about six islands. Going will be slow but I think that I have a pretty good counterpart in health promotion and if we keep our eyes on our goals we can develop a working system.
In the meantime, I do supportive supervision visits to the village dispensary and aide post and do teaching audits (in Bislama) but it is working and I will get better. Fortunately, most folks can talk a little English or French so when conversation slows down, I am in pretty good shape.
In April, we will hold a training for 24 new aide post workers…it stretches over 10 days and covers a lot of information. It will be on another island and we will be working with other Peace Corps Community Health volunteers to run the training.
I am getting used to living in my ‘missionary’ house…it is way too big for one person and has been used as a hospital guest house as well. (This is the fourth place I have lived since October and hopefully will be the last place! When, and if, the hospital ever gets a doctor I will likely be moved again as this place is the doctors house but they have not had a doctor here for many years. That being said, and before you get all excited about my posh spread with the great view just off the harbor and under the tropical sun, let me add that the house had been unoccupied by humanoids for many years and was a mess when I moved in the day before Christmas! Lots of cleaning and washing later, I have removed a few layers with only a few more to go. It is supposed to have running water but the village has been out of water for awhile so I get water from the drinking tank which collects rain water from the roof. Most everything is broken but I found you can adapt as you need to….who needs door pulls on cuboards or doors anyway?? It is very sturdy and has withstood a few cyclones in its history of fifty years at Lolowai. My project this week is testing different methods of rat elimination so I have four different types of traps….doing a head count of dead rats is not in my job description but needs to be done as upset as these little critters are that someone has moved into their nest and all. Fortunately most are rather scrawny….just the idea of sharing space with them is gross and disgusting!!
Weather is HOT and HUMID and HORRIBLE! This is as expected, summer and all, but if there is no appreciable change when the seasons change I will be discouraged. We have a ceiling fan at work for three hours a day and it is like heaven to sit under the blow dryer! The hair at the nape of my neck has been wet for three months now but so far no mold or mildew…..some of the volunteers actually shaved their heads but I am not going that far. I continue to believe it has to cool down or I have to adjust…I do move slow though as lifting a spoon to my mouth is exertion enough to make me break out in a smelly sweat. Never go anywhere without a water bottle (or two) and an umbrella.
Go outside and throw a snowball for me!!
Doing well in the food department! I enjoy cooking and spend a lot of time trying to figure out something interesting to eat. Tonite I had eggs with toast and fried bananas. I usually use the gas stove to make small quantity as there is no storage for leftovers. Rice will last for a day or so and todays noon meal was a delicious mix of rice and peas and onions and peppers and tuna…I made the rice crispy so the meal even had some crunch! Neighbors bring me some garden foods and there is a market…I love using the peppers and lemons. Bananas are way too plentiful and frankly a bit boring. Green beans are hugely long and the cucumbers are as big and fat as a melon. I use a lot of olive oil and herbs in cooking. Healthy enough diet, I would guess. Since I live at the provincial center and am right on the harbor and only a few miles from the airport I have a number of guests as other peace corps volunteers stop here on there way to other villages or to the boat or plane…as I said there is plenty of room!
Sending this around as a group note, not cause I wouldn’t love to send a personal note to everyone but because I have such unpredictable access to wi-fi I feel like I have to maximize my minutes on the computer. Some days I am reminded on the work world in Jamaica when I was with Project HOPE in the 70′s…it can take all morning to get one phone call made or one e-mail to transmit.
I am glad for my assignment at the Provincial Center but also humbled by the fact that this is the Provincial Center and it is horribly run down and shabby. The hospital has 22 beds and a maternity ward and the money to keep anything is sporadic and probably filtered before it gets to where it should be fixing screens and doing simple stuff. My office is a table and a plastic chair and until I got this old computer I was back to work the old fashioned way…pen and paper. Those of you who know my penmanship will appreciate how happy a typed document from me will make a co-worker!
I am due to send lesson plans for some classes to the headmasters of local schools this week and am sure glad to type them!
Hoping this finds you all well and happy! I have told some that I hesitate to upgrade this to ‘adventure’ status but as time goes on I may adjust to the inconveniences and start to really appreciate the experience as an adventure. Not holding my breath, however!!
As they say in Bislama…Lukim yu!
Letter from Vanuatu Sunday, January 13, 2013 (received in Minnesota February 2, 2013):
Today I watched them build a road. Amazing – and sorely needed as the previous road to the provincial center and hospital was two ruts and barely passable. It also gives access to the cargo boats. Anyway the work was impressive and looks like they will finish before dusk. Not paved or anything like that but packed down and solid.
I, on the other hand, have been doing some Sunday cleaning as I am still trying to “one-up” the spiders and hornets that want to live in this concrete guest house with me.
No water today – never sure why there are days when the tap does not work but I collect water in buckets when I do have it available. The drinking water goes into a big tank at the side of the house and the rain has been consistent enough to keep it filled. There is a water leak though so I imagine there will be days when I walk to the provincial center where I work to get some water. Makes you appreciate good old tap water!!
Tonite I will have couscous with tomatoes and beans. Maybe some delicious spam. But maybe not. I use a lot of lemon and olive oil when cooking to give things flavor. Dessert will be a banana!
…hope the mail getting out of Vanuatu is actually happening. I was going to try and arrange some pen-pal experiences for kids but that may not happen here as the communication is pretty slow.
There is wifi at the provincial center so I plan to bring back a small laptop computer. I will go back to the United States in late April for a few weeks. I have been here four months now and although I did plan to not make any interim trips I really want to see [my grandbaby].
I have a list of things I want to come back with. Stuff not readily available here and poor quality.
My work will be at the bidding of my counterparts but I will most likely be doing a lot of health promotion and supervisory visits to the village aide posts. It’s hard to describe how basic the services are as we take so much for granted.I always feel bad when a Mom has walked four or five hours with her baby to get an immunization and the center has run out of vaccine. There is a huge disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality! I have rarely seen so many guidelines and so few of them implemented. The World Health Organization and other third world aid agencies clearly spend a lot of money developing very nice health promotion posters but all the directives in the world to wash hands and brush teeth have no impact when there is no water or ability to get a tooth brush.
I spent last week packing up assortments of brochures, flyers, posters on prevention for the different village and posts. The aid posts are run by volunteers who have some basic first aid training and some available medicines (most of which are expired>) I noticed when going through the storage area that many had been sitting there for years and of course were dusty! Now the next step – the logistics of distribution to about 50 aid posts and dispensaries on the three islands of Anbac, Maewo and Pentecost – the Penema province.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 5, 2013:
Friday, February 1, 2013
Received in Minnesota 3:58.30 p.m. February 3, 2013
Alo olgeta (hi everyone in Bislama)
I am shocked that the generator kicked on so will write a quick note – even delay the cooking of my delicious dinner of rice, peppers, onions, and tomatoes – as that can be done by candlelight but the use of my knock off laptop with no battery at all can not!
Apparently most of today was spent with administrative staff from the hospital going around to the fuel vendors to negotiate barters for the use of fuel for the generator. Must have worked…exchanges of fencing wire and lumber and concrete have now been diverted from repair and reconstruction to some energy to pump water and keep the lights on for a few hours so staff can care for the 18 or so inpatients. We also had a fundraising lunch today to help pay some of the bills owed for other things and close to 10,000 VATU were raised – that is about 1000 USD.
In March a large contingent of construction workers from New Zealand (sponsered by Rotary International) will be here to ‘fix up the place’ and those construction materials I just mentioned will have to be replaced….ah, but that is March’s problem!!
Talk about a shoestring (or a flip flop strap) operation – really eye opening!
Peace Corps will send me to another island next week to do a site evaluation. That island is Malakula and it is very close to the big island of Espiritu Santo or Santo. Santo was one of the first islands discovered by Captain Cook in this Melenesian area and it has a large city (of thousands) named Luganville. I may be relocated there after I return from my trip to San Diego in later March where I certainly plan to enjoy a couple of weeks with Rebecca and Mike and Zander Henry – who just this day, according to Rebecca – nudged back past his birth weight and is starting to figure out this breast feeding business. He is now about 18 days old – and has a lot more to learn in life for sure. I actually don’t care where I will go on return from the United States but would like to stop moving so I am going to be looking at this site a little more critically. Site review is not usually part of the volunteers job but this experience on Ambae has been a real eye opener for everyone so we are all looking at the next place with different focus. In any case, I am being moved from my current house to temporary housing as they need to fix this one up for the doctor who may or may not be coming in March. I would love to have available water at a new site but doubt I will find another site with sporadic wi-fi which has been nice here for the last week or so.
Ah well…seems that nothing is quite like home so best just buck up and deal with it!!
Good news is the rats are either gone from this house or regrouping for another raid…I managed to eliminate a good number with my wide variety of traps (affectionately known as my death row for rats) and there has been no sounds or evidence of the critters for the last four days.
Last night had some more very heavy rains so filled up all the buckets and even managed to wash clothing this morning. Cyclone season is another couple of months but we have only had a few of the ‘depressions’ which can herald the beginning of a big storm. I notice tonight though that the surf is very high so maybe the storm in Australia a few days ago is trying to work its way north. We have a cyclone tracking map but no radio reception so just have to watch the waves in the harbor.
I spent some time today polishing off my lesson plans for health promotion in Bislama. I am sure I am missing most of the correct phrasings but will rely heavily on demonstration and with subjects like handwashing and toothbrushing that is easily done…it will become more of a struggle when I get to the older grades and the topics are a little more complicated but by then I should be better at Bislama or into another challenge at another site.
We all have another ten days of training in Port Vila between the 18th of February and the 4th of March. Peace Corps allows us to bring our counterparts from the site and they join us in the first few days of training. Should be interesting. Many of the counterparts challenges have to do with the way this culture communicates – which is usually very differential and indirect. I have two counterparts at this site and both are nurses. One has been on annual leave for the last six weeks so I have not spent much time with her but the other has been motivated and easy to work with…actually his job as health promotion officer for this province is fairly new to him and I just realized this last couple of days that he has no computer skills. He will eventually get a laptop but I thought I could at least teach him the basics and even introduce him to the world of google.com. I helped him set up an email account today on gmail and he was like a little kid when he got his first e mail communication and we could open and save the attachment on a flash drive. I don’t know what he chose for a password but it must be good because the ‘approval’ rating came in as very strong on his first attempt. Ironically, there are desk top computers on all of the desks – think only three or four years old – but most of them do not work and there is no IT support so the folks that use computers are using the laptops that they can beg borrow or…….(dare I say the word)!
I was a guest house mama this week for another peace corps volunteer and a couple of travelers from Australia who ran out of money and needed a spot for a few days. It is easy to run out of money here because there are no ATM’s and the bank (and the shops and the transports) can only deal with VATU – they can not convert any foreign currency. And stuff can be very expensive. Actually this young couple were delightful though and it was a fun break for me…plus they had backpacked with a few gourmet essentials so I actually had real coffee for the first time in a long time! And we had lentils with coconut milk and dried tomatoes and some sort of dehydrated mushrooms. The other Peace Corps volunteer rounded out the meal with some sort of table wine that she found in the local co-op. Sort of a forgettable Australian table wine that cost her a fortune.
After their last few weeks in a tent on the beach in Maewo the Australian couple (a med student and an environmental scientist) were thrilled with being inside a structure and sleeping on mats on the floor…..I didn’t tell them about the recent rat issues!
Other than finishing off this letter and popping it on a flash drive so I can send it about on Monday (presuming the wi-fi is functional) my weekend activity will include reading yet another book and organizing for the next move. I crossed another month off the calendar yesterday so that is done. If it is not too hot I will walk up the long hill again…if for no other reason than it is good exercise and I love the fact it is downhill coming home again. When I walk the other direction the traffic is too scary for safety…there is not a lot of traffic but most of the trucks are in such poor repair that the expectation that they have brakes or can control steering is not reasonable so I just stay off the road and out of the way. I cleaned up all of the burnable trash last weekend and the volunteer that stayed with me with week for a few days cleaned up the yard so I am definitely leaving this place better than I found it!
Stay well and healthy and enjoy the rest of winter – especially those of you who have cold weather to complain about!!
TWO E-MAILS from Georgine Busch on Kailua-Kona Hawaii February 5,2013:
9:06.37 pm CST: FYI – an 8.0 earthquake near Vanuatu. We have had a 6.7 here and it feels really awful but is not dangerous if you are not inside a building. I hope Mary had an orientation to emergency procedures in the event of an earthquake. I have certainly had to learn what to do since I moved here. What is comforting is that the ground does not open up and swallow you like it shows in the movies in the Midwest. Dangers are building collapse and tsunami.
From: “HCCDA .” <email@example.com>
Date: February 5, 2013 3:59:37 PM HST
Subject: Message From Hawaii County Civil Defense issued at 2/5/13 3:59 PM
Reply-To: Intelligent Notification <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This Alert message is from the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
Effective: Tuesday, February 05 2013 3:57:56 PM
Headline: HCCDA Message: Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports an earthquake of 8.0 magnitude in Santa Cruz Islands. Unknown if Tsunami generated. Monitoring events.
Description: This is a Civil Defense Message This is an Earthquake information update for Tuesday February 5 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports an earthquake of a magnitude of 8.0 in the Santa Cruz Island near Vanuatu in the South Pacific. It is unknown at this time if a Tsunami has been generated. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center personnel are analyzing data at this time to determine if there is a threat to Hawaii. More information will follow as it becomes available.
Thank you, HCCDA .
From: “HCCDA .” <email@example.com>
Date: February 5, 2013 4:56:18 PM HST
Subject: Message From Hawaii County Civil Defense issued at 2/5/13 4:56 PM
Reply-To: Intelligent Notification <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This Alert message is from the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
Effective: Tuesday, February 05 2013 4:55:14 PM
Headline: HCCDA Message: Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports no tsunami threat to Hawaii
Description: This is a Civil Defense Message This is an Earthquake information update for Tuesday February 5 at 4:50 p.m. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports an earthquake of a magnitude of 8.0 in the Santa Cruz Island near Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Based on all available data no pacific wide tsunami is expected. There is no tsunami threat to Hawaii.
Thank you, HCCDA .
From Mary Ann Feb 6, at 6:22 p.m.
No Tsunami at Lolowai!
Hi ….we are about 600 miles from the big quake but not much big wave activity around here! Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers….uncertainty of weather seems to be an accepted way of life here but let me just tell you how the alert played out for me!
I actually live very close to the harbor – about 100 feet up the bluff so would have that buffer in any case of a big wave but also know the real possibilities of a tsunami so had rehearsed a few times what my actions would be. I got a few text messages saying Vanuatu was on an alert so just grabbed my backpack (all prepped with the essentials of evacuation-food/water, etc) and headed further up the hill with some other folks to wait it out. About two hours later got another text message saying it was all clear. We have no radio reception here but the text messages do come through – not always in real time.
Ironically, the harbor was eerie and calm all day yesterday, hardly a wave in sight. The only indication there had been something going on was that the water rose on the beach right to the edge and then receded.
So, all’s well that ends well. I am sure you got better news and pictures on CNN than I got being just in the middle of the action. My new house is actually closer to the provincial center and up a little higher and the houses are all build of concrete on this compound. Roofs could probably blow off but the house would stay standing in astrong wind…earthquakes would make a real mess.
I have always felt a little frustrated that there is such spotty communication – you are at a disadvantage when something is imminent – or even when there is a delay in the infrequent flights or boats though I will have to be pretty desperate to get on one of those cargo boats….never mind I would have to wade through a couple feet of water (in a skirt, no less) and get my sneakers totally wet for the duration or risk cutting my feet on the coral and then just hang out on a small and likely overcrowded boat as it churns its way to thenext stop. I am too old to be that foolhardy!!
Anyway, enjoy your sub zero and blizzard conditions whilst I melt away
in the unstable environs of the South Pacific!
UPDATE ON FOODS, COST ETC.
Sent on from our sibling, Flo, who says: The attached transcription of Mary Ann’s letter from Ambae arrived at her friend’s in Rochester NY about February 3 and here [in MN] February 9. She thought I’d like her food info and I thought you might be interested as well! We’re very familiar with composting fresh food “waste” and think that our little garden plots are grateful for the offerings!
Friday January 11, 2013
Hi Bev and JD!
A note from sunny Island Ambae – the same island featured in Michener’s South Pacific (Bal. HA.). Anyway the sun and heat and humidity are wearing a bit thin – be glad when this “summer” is over! If the “winter” (April-October) months are just as untenable I will be soooo disappointed!
Anyway, thought you might be interested in a list of my island menus and some relative prices of foods that I can buy in the co-op. Co-op foods are unpredictable and sometimes spoiled when they do get there so you have to check them carefully. How mold gets in sealed jars of jam or packets of ramen noodles I’ll never know! I’m usually not veRy hungry but partly cause I work in an office area and it’s just too hot to eat! We have a fan and electricity in the office about three hours a day so I really like that. I live right next to the ocean (maybe about 300 yards and a road separate my home from the rocky cliff) so there is some breeze from the water and the constant slushing of the waves. I built a fire pit area last week and have an area for composting. Eating fresh foods is good but there is a lot of peeling and “waste”.
Breakfast – doughnut (sort of), grapefruit /coffee
Lunch – Beef/green peppers, rice
Dinner – *egg, toast, cabbage/onion, cookie
Course, sometimes I eat 2-3 cookies. Serving size is generous enough to fill me up and I have lentils and peas, as well as rice. It’s hot for “soup”- like meals but that is the best way to be sure everything is cooked properly. I use a lot of herbs cause most food is pretty bland and I’ve grown to really like fried bread! Using just a little olive oil and browning it on the fry pan it makes something crispy and so little of the food have “crunch” – Anyway food is not an issue, but these bugs and bug bites are! You know how I hate bug bites!
I have a two-burner gas stove and boil all drinking water.
Some prices in $$:
Can of tuna – 1.40
Tomato paste – 1.20/can
Ramen noodles – 1/.40
Pinto beans – 1.40
Peanut butter (4 oz) – 2.80
Jam (4 oz) – 3.20
Soup – .40
Bread, small – .20
Cabbage – .20
Garlic – 10/2.80
Spam (small) – 1.20
Bleach (1 pt) – 2.40
Super glue – 1.80/tube
Biscuits (crackers) – 2.40
Palm oil – 1.20/pt
Baby powder (sm) – 1.80
Grapefruit – .20/ea
Bananas – 15/1.00
Pineapple – 2.50 ea
Yams – 10/2.00
Mango – .20/ea
Lemons – 40 sm/2.00
Green peppers – 30 sm/1.00
Onions – 6 large/2.50
Potatoes – .30/ea
*Eggs – 50/ea
Canned corn – 2.50
Canned chicken – 3.20
Bug spray – 4.20/can
Cookies – sm sleeve/1.80
Olive oil – 4.20/pt
Spices – hard to find!
Razor (1 disposable) – 1.20
I cook a lot with lemons and peppers – there is no storage of food so you make and eat the same day. You can see that some prices are way out of line, but some aren’t! I make about $400 a month and spend about $30-40 a week on food and $50-60 a week on transportation costs and miscellaneous. Peace Corps gives another $100 a month for “hardship posts” and I qualify as I am so out of the way!
Anyway, enough about food. Bring me some coolness and snowcones!! I actually have a small refrigerator but of course without electricity it does not work! Also no RG&E bills!! No wonder my lifestyle is so cheap.
Anyway, on to the rest of your day. Send this on to Flo Hedeen (sister) in Park Rapids, MN, 703 First St. West. I think she would be interested!
Stay well and eat healthy! Enjoy them *eggs!
Take care, Mary
UPDATE via e-mail February 16, 2013
Another dreaded group note! On the plus side is that you can peruse and delete, on the minus side is that I am depriving the USPS postage revenue and would hate to think I am the reason Saturday delivery will cease in August 2013. To put it in perspective, mail comes to me on Island Ambae, Vanuatu, about every three weeks and that is after it has spent awhile in the central post office in Port Vila being sorted and examined and perhaps opened and enjoyed! So far I believe I have gotten everything that has been sent….birthday cards and notes for my 70th on November 10, 2012, did arrive in Lolowai, Ambae post office on February 6, 2013….you do the math!
And be nicer to your local mail delivery person!!
I am in Port Vila for a few weeks doing what is called PST – Phase 2. (Pre Service Training). During this training we learn to work with our counterparts – there are four days of training with our counterparts where we discuss differences in style and culture and communication. I have two counterparts on the island and one of them, a male nurse named Markson, is coming to the training. He is the health promotion officer and is relatively new to his position…in any case, Peace Corps makes some real efforts and spends some real money (thank you, fellow American taxpayers) to ensure that this extra effort is made and that we all make the most of our experiences here. We will also learn more about sanitation and basic water sources and grant writing.
Today is Sunday and I had planned to spend the day (and cough up ten dollars for the day use fee of the facility) going to a hoity toity resort called La Lagona. I had intended to take full advantage of the five fresh water swimming pools, the spa, the sandy beach on the lagoon, the kayaks, the comfortable lounge chairs, the exotic bar choices (drinks with umbrellas stuck in them), and the overpriced luncheon menu choices that are served to you after you have swum or floated to the underwater bar stools and are sitting under the bamboo shade trees HOWEVER a tropical ‘depression’ – AKA cyclone – appears to have settled in for the day so there is pouring rain and no signs of let up. So I am executing Plan B – write a letter, read a book, shop a little, and generally do next to nothing.
Maybe another movie in the motel this evening!? One of our volunteers has the ability to move a movie from an IPOD to a full screen on the wall with the use of some new techology from Brookstone and it is really a treat! Last night about ten of us watched the new Ben Affleck / George Clooney production of ARGO – a very well done story of the hostage release during the Iran Hostage Crisis in the late 70′s, early 80′s. Based on a true story and sprinkled with news releases of the time of the crisis – think Tom Brokaw with thick dark hair. It was interesting to note that I was the only one in the group who had actually ‘been alive’ during this time and my status was immediately elevated to “OMG-You were alive then!!’ History lives within me and makes me humble to realize how much history lives within me! Most PCV (Peace Corps Volunteers) in my group are barely in their twenties so have a lot of history yet before them.
I went to early mass this morning at the Cathedral de Sacre Cour and was treated to a mass that only lasted 90 minutes, some great singing in French and ceiling fans moving the pre-deluge humid air around. Church was quite full with SRO (Standing Room Only) and no one appeared to race out of there after communion. There was applause after the service?? and a mix of men and women in the pews. Think it was just an ordinary Sunday mass but my french isn’t good enough to know if I was part of some big festival or something. French missionary influence is particularly strong in Port Villa and there are a number of Francophones. On the island I go to an Anglican service which struggles to finish in 3 hours and where dogs are part of the congregation and men and women are seated on separate sides. I am on the women (and children side) and of course we are overfull and our benches are a little mre rickety than the mens side. There is a lot of singing and a lot of praying for most everyone and everything. (Think praying for bench repair for the women would make sense as last Sunday a new mom with small baby sat down on the end of one of the rickety benches and it immediately collapsed – no injuries, fair number of discreet snickers from the men side, and a little interruption as the 12 foot broken bench was carried to the side of the church.)
Then after the church services, everyone gathers under the mango trees (think thick leaves and lots of shade) and ponders the rest of the day.
Breakfast today was fried french bread (made toasty with a brushing of oil and onion) and egg and an orange. One of the counterparts from Erromango Island brought in a bag of oranges that were getting ready for market. Grass green on the outside but juicy and very good on the inside. I counted 48 seeds in the half orange that I ate so there would need to do a little hybriding to make these oranges appealing to the mass market in America or the orange juice producers anywhere. (Even Tropicana Extra Pulp with that many pits wouldn’t sell for 2.59 a quart…anywhere!)
On Tuesday of this week we are all invited to a reception for the new South Pacific US Ambassador, Walter E North. Believe he is ‘at home’ in Papua New Guinea and covers this country as there are very few embassies here (Australia might have one). Walking down from the motel to the Peace Corps office we walk by a rather ornate looking edifice housing a KIA car dealership but the brass plaque on the gate still says Korean Embassy so guess they were here at one time.
Ambassador North was a PCV in Ethiopia in the 70′s and he is a JD and MPH from Harvard. Should be a fun evening if I can find something to wear that fits into the dress code required – smart casual – as my cargo shorts and cotton t shirts and bulky sandals don’t! I had one dress but I left it on the island so I will quickly cruise the second hand shops on Monday morning to try and scarf up something suitable. I may just end up wearing my granny skirt and a black top. My fashion sense and suitable wardrobe for anything has pretty much melted or moulded away.
Rain seems to be letting up slightly so will head out to the well washed streets for a looksee. This is Sunday afternoon now and most of the shops will be closed but since there is always a stray tourist or two walking around, there will be some ‘China Shops’ open…usually a large and mostly dark variety store of ticky tack. It is necessary for me to wear my glasses at all times though as I need to read as much fine print as possible. I bought a small bottle of something the other day and I could read the word moisturizer so felt it was just what I needed for my dry skin….only after I had lavished the lotion on my face and arms and legs and put on my glasses did I realize I had just spread hair conditioner (with moisturizer) all over my self!! Ah well, sweated it off in short order.
Hoping you all have a good day and week and stay healthy – probably by avoiding processed foods as much as possible! When we teach good nutrition here we are asking folks to use the ‘aelan kakae’ island foods (fresh fruits and vegetables) and stay away from the ‘rubis kakae’ or white man foods that are available in the coops and markets. That being said, it becomes quickly obvious that eating processed foods to excess (which is what seems to happen in the city of Port Vila) also contributes to the mess and litter called packaging that ends up in the gutters and streets.
Another reason to enjoy the well washed streets after the heavy rains! The litter has floated down the hilly streets to the lagoon – ah well, pollution of the lagoon and destruction of the reef is fodder for a future of funded efforts to improve the welfare of a developing country.
Lukim yu! Mary
Posted by Mary Ann from San Diego, March 28, 2013:
Hi all…as promised, the day is bright and sunny in San Diego. With a high of about 70 degrees!
I will return to Vanuatu tomorrow – actually arrive there late on Sunday with the day and date change and a bit of a layover in New Zealand. Friends on the other end say the day is hot and humid – with a high of about 90 degrees and a humidity of about 90 %! Although It has been such a pleasure to cool down a bit but I expect I will readjust as I did before.
It has been easy to enjoy the Southern California movies (Zero Dark Thirty was interesting and kind of graphic) and malls (Target and Best Buy will miss me) and even driving the freeways – except in rush hour gridlock times!
The major reason for my trip – a new grandbaby – was all I expected and Mike and Rebecca and Zander continue to grow as a great family! Zander weighed in at about 10#8oz at the pediatrician visit last week and he is gaining a two month old personality. So glad they could host me for awhile…it has been a wonderful visit.
Sadly, the family dog, Curbey, is reaching the end of his long life as Zander begins his – Curbey has been part of the portrait for almost all of his 16 dog years, making him over a hundred peple years. Wishing him ‘dog peace’ as he moves on!
I will return to another island, Malakula, so will again begin the process of learning my village and my work assignment. Malakula is a larger island – and not an active volcano – but the population is less than twenty thousand and that will be spread out over many small villages that are hard to access. I don’t know much about their island culture yet (seems as though each island in Vanuatu is a bit unique) but understand there are a lot of local ceremonies-dancing in grass skirts or mats for the men. Nambas and Kava. My best resource on this side is Google and watching the You Tube videos. Electricity will be sparse, water may be scarce, internet access may be very limited. I will know more in a few days but if you don’t hear from me for ‘months’ it is because I can’t get too many messages out. I am back to my diet of island food which means no leftovers or chocolate and lots of kumala and taro and whatever vegetable and fruit is in season.
My work assignment will have something to do with community health care for sure and I am likely to be re-assigned to work with the Provincial Center…usually that means health promotion activities as I was starting to do at the Penema province. I will do classes and help committees write grants. This island is near Espiratu Santo which is one of the first islands found by Captain Cook….back in the discovery days of this South Pacific country.
Wishing you all well through this spring holiday season and more interesting tidbits as time goes on for me in the Peace Corps in Vauatu! One of my committments to the Peace Corps when I took the ‘oath’ was to promote understanding of this country and I will continue to do my best to give you some insights you may not have had from your previous experiences. Never a dull moment !
UPDATE from Mary Ann in Vanuatu April 3, 2013:
Hi all…I am headed up to Island Malekula tomorrow morning. There are some interesting snippets on Google!! Should be a good place although there is very limited electricity again (maybe one hour a day) so I will use the solar generated lamps that I just bought and I bought a bunch of fat candles. The house I have is looking pretty good in the pictures. A nice thing for me is that there is a bathroom and a shower INSIDE the house…and the island apparently has plenty of water – it rains regularly – so that will be a switch from Ambae where it was so hot and dry. Along with rain comes bigger bugs so I want to make sure that the screens are up and intact. I usually have to do a lot of screen repair to keep the mosquitoes out but will probably sleep under the net anyway…it is just a lot safer.
BTW, shower means there is a hose connected to the faucet so when you turn on the hose it will be a fat stream (if there is water pressure) or a skinny steam (if there is limited water pressure) or no stream ( if the mud has clogged up the pipes!) And it will all be cold! But, I have some good smelling soap and an expensive french ‘apres le bain creme pour le corps’. At least I think it is a body cream but I couldn’t really understand most of the french on the label.
They speak very little Bislama where I am going. It is Francophone with Bislams a distant third or fourth after the french, the local language and english. By default, I should learn some more french. The school I will teach at is a french mission school and the church is a catholic church…although there is an assortment of possibility as the area was heavily missionized so the Assemby of God, the Seventh Day Adventist, The Anglican, the Church of Love???, The Episcopal are some of the others that are there. I have my little “I am glad to be in this community” speech all memorized in French so that will get me through the first service…
It is a very poor community (no surprises there) but it has about 2000 villagers and it has market day three times a week. I should be able to get cell phone reception in my house and there is radio reception! I will hand carry my large bottle of olive oil and my lentils and dried mushrooms and tomatoes so I have some gourmet variety in my life!!
I will also be working at the “Mini Hospital”…not sure yet what that means but I do know there is no doctor and that it is cleaner than the one at the Provincial Center at Lolowai. I will work with Ellen, a health care worker whose focus these days is womens health.
I bought a sewing machine today..a SINGER hand crank and I really plan to use it…will start with making curtains for the twelve windows! I bought 40 yards of an ugly and busy blue island print material – there are so many patterns of materials here…folks in china must all stay up late a night just trying to figure out a newer and a more outlandish Island Print! If you are lucky I will make each of you a island shirt! Then we can have an ugly shirt contest!!
More likely is that I will have a sewing circle with some of the village ladies. Expect to teach some basic sewing.
Anyway, I must get to the Willco hardware store to buy a hammer and some screw hooks for the concrete walls! More as time goes on but, as I said, my communication is going to be very limited although I can get text messages at the digicell and the TVL numbers.
Wishing you all a good spring!
Mary A Maher
Peace Corps Vanuatu – Group 25
Port Vila, Vanuatu
written Monday April 15, 2013, received in Minnesota Monday, May 6, 2013. Mary also left a brief phone message on my birthday. Reception was okay. It was the following day in Vanuatu….
Mary: Just a short note from my new island assignment. I am on Malecula and it is a different world over here. Still very hot and humid and at least the sleeping weather is better and nights are a little cooler. I do not have any aectricity [sic - electricity?] and certainly no internet and I should be back in Port Vila in a few months. The health center that I am assigned to is very busy but there is still a lot of busy that happens because of basic problems with sanitation and hygiene. I teach hand washing and tooth brushing and eating good food to the primary students and teach no smoking and adolescent body changes and sexually transmitted disease to the secondary or high school students. They also call the secondary student college students.
I have a nice concrete house. It is very solid! I can hear the ocean from my house and also see the volcanoes erupt on Anbryan Island. Also nice is that the health center is fenced so there are no pigs or cows that get too close (and thus no cow pies in the front yard!) They have a lot of pigs and cows here as well as chickens and dogs. I don’t pet the dogs as they all have so many fleas but I have started to befriend (and feed) a couple of them. They sleep outside my house and make a lot of noise sometimes.
People here are very friendly. They do have a lot of cultural rituals but are also more familiar with people who are just visiting. Previous Peace Corps Volunteers built a “Ecotourism” Center and there is a good reef. I do not think I will snorkel though because there are a lot of sharks in the water. (Hope you guys can read my writing!) [NOTE: not easy this time!!!!]
I do have a computer – just the tablet – but can’t print anything so you will have a few handwritten notes till I can get back to the computer world.
Cathy – a favor! Could you check out a few good will shops and find me a couple of sleeveless cotton shirts with collars. Just send them by mail but no insurance or priority. If you find anything I would be grateful! I am no melting down here!!
I understand why [Uncle] Vince wants to pick everything [from his garden] even though he can’t use all the food! I am constantly trying to give away extra things like bananas or pineapples or coconuts – garden food is good but it will not keep long! this weeks project is to resurrect some old lanterns and make them candle holders! I’d love to figure out how to keep matches dry as well. Locals have the same problem but they just go to the neighbors and bring home a lighted bunch on reeds to start their fires! I talked with [daughter] Rebecca this morning and [Grandson]baby Z is 3 months and 12# – right on target!