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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Swearing In Shindig; My First Head of State; Moving Day Is Almost Here; Random Pics

So, we got sworn in yesterday. I'm now officially a Peace Corps volunteer. The thirty-eight of us in Group 22 took the oath, similar--as our country director, Eddie Stice pointed out during his remarks that afternoon--to the one taken by the President, to support, defend the constitution, etc. It was a long and winding road that led me from opening my online PC application in Oklahoma in December 2007 to getting sworn in on November 5, 2009, as it was for us all (perhaps a bit more bumpy for me than most). But we made it. School's finally out.

The ceremony was held at the University of the South Pacific here in Vila. Our ambassador to the region was unable to attend, but the President of the Republic of Vanuatu was. I'm sure I speak for all of my comrades in Group 22 when I say how delighted and grateful we all were that His Excellency made time in his busy schedule for us. Pictured below is President Iola Abil giving a speech shortly after our swearing in.

So, I learned some interesting things about my aelan home-to-be. Because Epi is pretty klosap Efate, I'd assumed that the dreaded isolation might not be as much of a problem for me. Not so. My closest volunteer (a guy from Oregon named Chris) will be two hours away on top of a bigfala hill. The next nearest (a girl from Arizona named Amy) will be out on an island in Lamen Bay. Also, there won't be any cell phone reception, at least not with Digicel (the company PC uses), but maybe some with TVL, the other one. However, I don't know how eager I am to burn precious vatu on a second cell phone I won't use that much.
So, it's going to be isolated and that's making me a little nervous as my departure day approaches. Also making me a little nervous is the idea of arranging the move itself. That's an exercise in cultural integration all by itself. You don't just call UPS and have everything packed up and shipped away so that's waiting for you on your new doorstep the day you arrive. No, here's how it goes: the Peace Corps gave us a "settling in allowance" to go out and buy everything we might need for the first few months at our site. Then, we have to pack all this stuff up and figure out which ship we want to put it on. There's a schedule of the ships that come in to Vila and what islands they go to. But they don't keep regular schedules, so you have to call the ship's captain and ask when he thinks he might be there. Then, you take all your now-boxed up stuff down to the wharf at that time and date and pay like 300 vatu a piece to get it loaded onto the ship. But now the fun part: you don't know when the ship is going to get to your island, but somebody has to be there to pick up your stuff when it does. And then, of course, you have to move your stuff somehow from wherever the ship came in to your site.

So...I guess we're just supposed to hire a Ni-Van to meet the ship and help us load the stuff onto a truck and then drive it to our new homes. The Ni-Vans don't know when the ship is going to get there either but they acquire this information by way of the infallible "coconut wireless". Don't scoff: it works.

Anyway, I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to make this move work, but I've been talking to one of the Peace Corps ladies and the former volunteer in Malvasi. Here are some encouraging facts: there are two ships that go to Epi on a weekly basis and both have been rated "reliable" or "highly reliable" by the Peace Corps. The spot the ships de-cargo at on Epi is pretty klosap Malvasi, thus it won't be too far to move to my place. Plus, the Lamen Bay area has been home to many vols in the past and the Peace Corps enjoys a very good reputation in the area, thus lessening the possibility that some of my stuff might get misplaced or even "misplaced" and increasing the already good likelihood that people will want to help me.

I'm not going to be packing a lot of stuff. A lot of people, I think, are going to blow their whole settling in allowance, buying everything from gas burners to extra buckets to obscure cooking implements. I have a different philosophy, however, one that I think many more of my Group 22 comrades may be coming around to. Here it goes: this first move is going to be highly experimental--stuff could easily get lost and I don't want to gamble everything I own on something like that without some extra vatu squirrled away to replace important items. And despite some valuable guidance from my predecessor in Malvasi I don't really have any idea what I'm going to need when I get there--I don't want to spend my vatu on stuff that turns out to be unnecessary. Plus, I don't want to have to move a bunch of stuff because I am--lets face it--fairly lazy.
So, I'm going to buy a few kitchen essentials (a couple plates, silverware, a kettle, buckets and tupperware trays for washing stuff) and a lot of waet man food (peanut butter, powdered milk, tin tuna, other protein bearing stuff) and that's about it. We have our first In-Service Training in late January or early February back in Vila (I can buy more stuff then if I need it). I've decided to set that as my first benchmark: up until then, I'll be more reliant on my host family, I'll eat with them every meal, every day. After that, when my house will probably be finished, I'll become more independent. I'll still eat with them and chill and storian and such, but maybe I'll come back from IST with my own stove and one of those bigfala tanks of propane and I'll start eating some waet man food once or twice a day.

Or something like that. I'll figure it out.
Above is a photo of a typical Peace Corps class. It was held under the mango tree in Samaa.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks again for all of the info. Great pics and what an honor that the President of the Republic spoke at your graduation. Sounds like you have a good plan for the use of your settling money.

    I notice that you have incorporated some of your new language into your writings. At first I thought you had lost some of your typing skills, but I now realize that you are just a waet man getting klosap to the way of life in this bigfala new country.

    Remember when you are in your remote locale that you have everyone at home thinking about you and encouraging you through each day with their love, thoughts and prayers. You will do fine. You've been there 2 months and from all of your accounts going with the flow. We are all so proud of you!

    Love ya, AN

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  2. Peanut butter and tin tuna? Heck, I'm living on that now! So hey, bigfala goofball, we don't all possess the natural language skills of your Aunt Nancy so throw in a few parenthetical translations klosap to where you use your sparkling new bislama terms, 'kay?

    Love & smooches and I'll eat a taco for you...

    Auntie L

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  3. CONGRATULATIONS! WE ARE SO VERY PROUD OF YOU! A dream come true. How many people can say that?

    Love to my not-as-waet-as-he-used-to-be bigfala PC volunteer son and best of luck to him in his aelan home-to-be on Epi,

    Mom

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  4. Josh Adeyemi's momNovember 8, 2009 at 8:00 AM

    Congratulations on making it this far. U seem like a resourceful young man and though you will be isolated, I have no doubt that u will make it and be a good influence on the Island. Keep up the good work and good luck. In your resourcefulness, please find a way of keeping up with this blog because it provides a connection between us over here and you all over there.

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