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...but it doesn't. None of the viewpoints or opinions expressed on this blog reflect the views and opinions of the United States government, the Peace Corps or anybody else besides me!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trouble in Paradise; Jared's Thumb Assumes A Distinctly Greenish Hue; Happiness is a Sharpened Bush Knife; I Do My Laundry "In A Pan Down By The River

Okay, things are getting tougher here in Malvasi. I'm not going to lie or sugar-coat it. I've had a rough couple of weeks. But, of course, this is what I was expecting and indeed is part of the reason I joined the Peace Corps. I was beginning to worry that this was going to be too easy, so in that sense its quite a relief that the sit sit has finally hit the fan (pronounced: seet seet, I'll let you guess what it's Bislama for).

Pictured above is the view from my beach. The island is Lamen Island. Another Group 22 volunteer lives there, Amy from Arizona. The mist shrouded island in the distance there is Ambrym. A Group 22 vol named Alisha lives there. There are two volcanos on Ambrym, one pronounced Ben-Bo. Sometimes you can see them glowing at night.

Anyway, things are getting tougher. When I first arrived, I hit the ground running and I was walking all over town, meeting people and shaking hands and it was great. I was drinking and making kava and cutting ribbons and it just felt like I had a lot of momentum built up. It was fantastic. But that sort of feeling can't last and indeed several small complaints and setbacks conspired to shut it down. I'll tell you about a few of them.

This is a picture of the bush behind Malvasi. Up there somewhere is our gardens.

I got sick. I'm going to tell you all about it, confident that you won't overreact and worry yourselves into early graves or something (Mom) and that you will keep in mind that I survived, I treated myself, I didn't lose my head, I got help and--most importantly--I now have an immunity to that virus. But to tell you about this frustration, I must first tell you about another frustration.

Above is a picture of a pig they slaughtered for a ceremony in Malvasi.

We're having a water shortage. It finally rained the day I left for Vila--Saturday--there hadn't been a really big rain before that. So rainy season has been really late, which means the water supply is kind of low since in Malvasi--long story--we're dependent on rain water to drink, for the moment (there are other supplies in nearby villages should worse come to worst, though). So, I'm getting all my water out of a single well that is getting pretty low. Then one day, a kid decides to drop a disgusting, recently eaten corncob down into the well. By the next day, I had a temperature of 103 degrees and with bloody sit sit wota (diareeha, however you spell it) every twenty minutes. This went on for two days. Then, there was like a week of just regular sit sit wota. Oh, and agonizing stomach cramps. No worries, I just popped on the old sat phone and talked to a nice Peace Corps doctor who told me to grin and bear it and drink lots of water for God's sake.

Anyway, I don't want to sit here and complain. A letter to mom and dad is headed back to America where I complain in much more detail and vent and everything. I don't need to do it here. Anyway, I've got Peace Corps buddies for that, too.

I have a garden of my own, in which I have planted corn, island cabbage, three bananna trees and watermelon. I'm planning on buying a lot of seeds for other things while I'm here in Vila and planting them: carrots, tomatoes, onions, who knows what else. I go up to the garden sometimes to weed, usually with Jerry Gila and Simion or Enna. I have a picture of my garden included here.

And, no, that isn't Don Knotts holding a bush knife, it's me. I've just lost some weight. Not intentionally, of course, but it does tend to happen when you have bloody sit sit wota for any length of time. Also, I've been doing a lot of swimming (about 40 minutes a day) and I haven't been compensating with enough extra food. My drop in weight, while not precipitous and hardly the potentially cataclysmic health hazard it would've been only a few short years ago, is very demoralizing and I've felt very bad about it for a while. But, following the example of our intrepid president with his beleagured health care bill, I've decided to redouble my efforts to reverse this troubling development. I'm going to buy a ton of carb and protein-bearing foods here in Vila and ship them back to the island (oatmeal, pasta, cans of tuna and chicken, peanut butter, etc.) and I'm going to make an extra hard push to eat as much laplap and simboro and every other kind of island food until I'm back up to where I need to be, indeed not until I'm above that. I'll hit 65 kilos before my two years is up or die in the attempt. I don't care if I have to eat every dog in's going to get done.

I'm not wearing a shirt in the first place because its WAY too hot to be self-conscious.

On to more pleasant subjects. One of the consequences of the water shortage is that I have to do my laundry (and occassionally wash my body) in the river near Malvasi. It's not as bad as it sounds. Actually, once the Ni-Vans assured me there weren't any dangerous creatures living in the sometimes murky depths, I started to enjoy it. So, here is a picture of the river. The road that leads to my garden passes over it, quite picturesquely, I think you'll agree.

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