News from Amy and Brian


July 5, 2001

Subject: The journey to Niacaura

Sept. 6th, 2001 (ed. note - will check on the actual date on this!)

Brian and I started walking to Nicaura at about 10 am
yesterday and within minutes, Valia (one of the local
truck owners) came speeding up the dusty road in his
red truck behind us. We were luckily able to jump in
his truck and be let off at the top of the slightly
steep and nasty hill leading to the hospital, Vaemalli
(normally this would be about a 25 min walk, but it's
about a 7-10 min truck ride). We hopped out of the
back and then began our long windy trek down towards
Nicaura to pay our respects to Peter's family, the 2nd
grade teacher and next door neighbor. Apua Mileu,
Pete's dad, passed away yesterday.
As we started off we were taken aback by the
breathtakingly majestic views from high on the hill.
The road consists of a mixture of slick mud, coral and
in small sections rutted concrete tracks (like a
roller coaster track for cars). The road was as steep
as 20 degrees at times and due to erosion has a great
number of ruts. So we slipped and slid our way
quickly down the steep grade with built up momentum.
First we passed the Village of Busuru (some of Brian's
4th graders live in this village, approximately 40
mins walk to school). Within minutes we heard a small
chorus of children singing out.

"Miss Amy, Mr. Brian!" We chatted for a minute, "Bae
mitufala jas wokabout i go long Nicaura blong payem
respects blong Apua Mileu (We're just walking over to
Nicaura to pay our respects to Grandpa Mileu).

After that we continued our journey taking in the
lushness of dark green vegetation along the way.
Because we were reminded by the quiet peacefulness and
solitude of the hike we reminisced and chatted quite a
bit about camping and hiking again when we return to
the states. As we were walking closer and closer to
the shore (on the complete other side of Epi island
from Lamen Bay) the winds got stronger and stronger.
Down several kilometers to the right of us we saw
field upon field of peanuts reminding us much more of
farmland from home rather than the Jurassic Park like
bushiness of the gardens people typically depend on
for much if not all of their food. Off to the left
side was a breathtaking view of the rough turquoise
and dark blue water capped with white as waves crashed
onto the rocky shoreline with a scattering of long,
thin, palm trees and the Dr. Seuss-like wild bandenus
in the foreground.

After about 50 mins. of walking we reached the point
where the road runs parallel with the coastline
leading us to the small village of Nicaura.

At this point we had 40 mins. of power walking ahead
of us, but we were exhilarated and at the same time
refreshed by the strong salty smell of the ocean to
our side.

The next village we passed was Moru. A group of
children came yelling and chasing after us as we
speedily walked past. At this point it was just past
11 and we knew if we didn't hurry we would probably
miss the funeral service.

We smiled broadly and yelled out our greetings as we
passed. Next we got to a point where we reached a
large gate. Just after we went inside the gated area
Brian started telling me that it was a special gated
area for pigs.

Not a big deal I thought to myself, but my heart
started to pound a beat or two faster for a minute.
And believe me yours would be to if you saw the size
of some of the pigs here in Vanuatu. They're
Enormous!

So we continued along taking in the views stopping to
take pictures every so often and lo and behold what
should we see suddenly a few hundred feet in front of
us, but a giant pot bellied pig roaming the roadside
for food (he was approx. 150 pounds). Brian and I
simultaneously bent down to find a good rock to use to
scare the pig if he decided to run after us. We
weren't to worried however and sure enough as we
approached him he scampered away as quickly as a 150
pound pig with squatly legs could carrry himself which
is faster than you might think.

The next village we passed is the village of
Newvinway. It's similar in size to the village before
it and we had another pack of pikinini out chasing us
down the road. They looked slightly bewildered when
they heard Bislama coming from the mouths of people
they expected to be tourists. Newvinway is an
interesting village.

#1 Because the houses are only several feet apart with
row upon row of rural bush material houses
#2 Many people walk every day to their gardens which
is true for most villagers across epi howevere these
guys have their gardens about 1.5 km away up a hill
with a 60 degree grade. Whoa talk about some serious
exercise!

After Newvinway we walked for approx. 15 mins. toward
Nicaura and just as we were approaching the outskirts
of their village we heard a couple of monstrous booms.
Brian and I looked at each other, Thunder?!?....No...
Lopevi (the active volcano)? We immediately looked
out the 20 km across the water towards Lopevi. At
first we couldn't tell because it was very hazy and
cloudy. but then I looked just above the patch of
clouds and there was a large, billowing, mushroom-like
cloud rising up, up, up into the sky. Brian and I
were both pretty excited to see our 1st active volcano
firing up. We only wished it was more clear to see
the lava spilling over the sided down directly into
the ocean. We decided after a few minutes of gawking
and snapping photo's like tourists we should head into
the village to see whether or not we were on time for
the funeral service.

Once we got to Nicaura it looked very deserted
especially close to the church, so we knew we had
probably missed the funeral service.

After several minutes of walking we came to a group of
women under the shaded area in front of their house.
We asked where everyone was at the moment, and they
told us everyone was on top for the burial.

We headed up the slight slope and attempted to slip
silently into the background. There were about 150
people standing around the burial site and out of
those 150 people we were the only 2 foreingers, so it
was a bit challenging to be discreet. Peter and his
wife Newilli saw us and motioned us over to them about
4 feet from the grave. Off to our right, one of Apua
Mileu's relatives was crying loudly, a cry absent of
tears, raising and falling in volume and tone. I
believe that it is a sign of respect and honor for 1
or more women and sometimes men to cry out loudly,
even if it's not crying with tears (or in the sence
that we think about).

After the burial we slowly made our way over to a
house where we could set our backpack down and remove
woven mat to be offered as condolences to the
relatives. There were about 20 women or so sitting
round on mats with their island dresses fanned out
around them. Some crying, some chatting quietly, some
sitting silently. They were all gathered under the
shaded area just outside th house where Apua Mileu had
died the night before.

Newilli, Peter's wife showed us inside the house. 2
women were sitting down inside. Brian and I walked
inside handed 1 of the women our mat and we both
expressed our condolences. Now from what we've
witnessed typically in these moments, it is some what
expected to start crying on the relatives side, in
accepting the gift and from the person offering
condolences.

However Brian and I stood their not quite sure what to
do with ourselves. Brian told me later that he had
seen Peter off to the side window of the house
motioning for him/us to come outside. I, however, had
not seen it. So Brian quickly turned and slipped out.
Newilli was still sitting and since a hesitated a
moment to long I wasn't sure if I should stay or go.

Newilli stopped in mid-cry as the other women
continued to cry and asked "Olsem Wanem?" or What is
it? So not knowing what else to say I said "i alright
sipos mi sitdaon mo storian wetem yufala smol taem?"
(Is it alright if I sit and chat for a few minutes
with everyone?)

She said it was alright and the other 2 women stopped
crying almost instantaneously and started talking and
asking questions. It struck me as slightly odd,
almost as if a director on a movie set had yelled cut.
So we chatted about many things over the next 5 mins
or so. About Peter's dad and his contributions to the
community. And then on to what cremation is and where
they do it in the world. And eventually about the
erupting volcano outside. Newilli excused us after a
few minutes and we headed back outside into the bright
sun.

They asked us to sit down and stay for some food. Not
a big deal, we'd eaten lot's of island kakae before.
We could handle anything at that point we assumed. So
as we're sitting watching one of the men cut off
pieces from the cow intestines and liver we we're
handed 2 bowls and 2 spoons. We dished up several
large spoonfuls of steaming hot, sticky rice. Next we
were directed to a large covered pot that had just
been removed from the fire. Large pieces of faol
(chicken) were inside. I reached for 1 and ended up
with a piece with the claw still attached about 3
ounces of meat, 2 small bits of feather and a lot of
pure bone. After I sat down and started devouring my
rice and nibbling on bit of chewy chicken. Yobet,
Peter's son came and sat next to me with a bowl of
some foreign meat substance. He was chowing down on
whatever it was. So I made the mistake of asking him
what he was eating. Guts blong faol. Hmm was my
response. "You wantem traem?" (do you want to try
some?) Not that's alright I said. A chorus of oh
it's #1 kakae rang out. Alright, a small , small
piece please. He handed me a fairly large piece. I
took a small nibble and normally I'm not a picky eater
and I'm able to hide my displeasure if there is any.
I decided to try to divert any observations of my
negative reaction and called Brian over to try some
new kakae. What is it? Brian asked. Chicken guts,
or intestines I said, here try some. "No that's
alright, I'm full," was his. So I had no choice this
was one thing I could not stomach so I created a
slight culture faux pas and handed it to Lauren of
Peter's sons. Oh well I think they understood.

We storied for about another 30 minutes then began our
round of goodbyes and thank you's, headed out at about
3:45 pm to try to walk back quickly before dark at
5:45pm.

We enjoyed our walk back and were quite exhausted,
sleeping very soundly after a very full day!


April 10, 2001

Subject: Thank You hugeness

Hi All,
We got the package today that had all of the letters
in it. Thank you all so much for everything that you
have done for us durring our adventure. The wedding
albums are wonderful!! So if you ever talk to Sara
Francis tell her thanks. You all are so wonderful
that words cannot express. Lot's of love and talk to
you soon.

Love
Amy & Brian

PS If you heard about the cyclone that we just had.
It was really wimpy here in Epi so not to worry. Wees
all right.


December 21, 2000 (received 12/18 @11PM)

Subject: One Bigfala e-mail

Printer Friendly version of this email

Hello everyone!

**Just a pre-emptive note, what will follow is a bigfala (Very large) e-mail because it will be one of the last sent for the next 3 mths. until we have internet access again in March or April.**

We hope you all are doing well as you get ready for the upcoming holidays. We've been back from our wokabout since last Saturday. It was a great experience. We are really excited about our site on Epi. We found out that we will definitely not have internet access at our site for quite awhile...

So....

I wanted to give you our postal address (snail mail) for Epi. We've finally got our address list back from storage again so we will be sending off a batch of letters soon. I'm actually excited to send letters again, there's just nothing like a good ol' fashioned letter. In the meantime if you want to send e-mail we'll be here in Port Vila until Dec. 28th and then off to our site on Epi. Here it is:

Amy and Brian Matthews
Lamen Bay, Epi
Vanuatu
South Pacific via Sydney

for emergency phone calls you could leave a message with our supervisor Isobel Donald at 678 28287 (she lives about a 10 min. walk from where we'll live). Brian and I were talking about what we wanted to tell everyone for this e-mail and we decided it would be neat to take a journal entry from our wokabout and share it with all of you! So here it goes...

12-16-00

This has been an incredible 4 1/2 day wokabout. It's been a time of a wide mixture of emotions. It's been refreshing, exhilariting, a little nerve racking and scary all at the same time. It's amazing to think what might be in store for us in thge next two years. Yesterday (friday) we spent our entire day on the small island -as the local people - refer to it (Lamen island - 2km across the bay). We went to see a custom ceremony for several boys who had been circumsized 2 weeks earlier, hidden away from everyone on the island in a Nakamahl (a custom house built specifically for them) and then they were to come out again to partake in the ceremonial celebration.

Here's what the day was like:

Brian and I got up early (at 5:30am). We headed over to breakfast at the bungalows dining hall (we stayed at guest houses, since our custom house was not ready for us to live in yet) at 6am. We sat down and then had to immediately get up from the table again, hastily stuffing our tasty pancakes (made by Lekon, the owner's wife) into a plastic bag with the leftover Tamba pumpkin (pumpkin cake) from the day before. We went to catch a motor boat on the beach approximately 50 ft away from the dining bungalow. Many people were waiting to get on the boat (about 15 of us). Many of them carrying gifts of offering, for example, a large bunch of ripe banananas, a mat (made from bandanas leaves) and a homemade bag with Kumala (like a potatoe). We piled into a small motor boat (used mostly for fishing and transport occasionally over to the small island). We slowly started across the bay, puttering along with probably to many people weighing the boat down. We made it across in about 30 mins. and walked (V- time = Vanuatu time = Slowly!) to the other side of the island (an island so small that it does not have a single truck) close to Lamen island primary school where Amy and Joel (two other Peace Corps Volunteers) live.

*** Small interjection in the story*** I've almost gotten used to the common everyday occurance of a chicken or a rooster walking slowly (V-time) past me every so often scowering the area for a piece of fruit or some other food item flung caressly to the side or in the area of doti (trash) that get's burned. The beauty is that there are lot's of animals, cats, pigs, chickens and roosters constantly wandering around acting as garbage disposals or garabage men. ***

O.k. On with the story.
So as we walked up to the gathering there were about 400 people watching. They came from the small island itself, Lamen Bay, Port Vila and other villages on Epi. There was the normal segregation of men and women. The majority of the men were talking together close to the activity in the center of the circle and the women were all hanging back (almost in the background) with all the pikinini (children).

Brian, the other Amy and I wer standing somewhere in the middle closer to the men so we could see. The two boys who had been circumsized were between the ages of 12-15. They were standing in the middle with their fathers and some uncles giving gifts to their sisters. Their sisters included a combo of true sisters and cousins. There were 45 in all. It was a huge line of slow gift giving. We were told what the significance of the gift giving was later in the evening after the ceremony. We were told, although my Bislama translation skills are still a little rusty , that this symbolized a public acknowledgement to everyone that the boys could not marry those particular women later in life and the women would help take care of them with cleaning and cooking once they were older and married.

So after the gift giving, all the uncles and fathers had to line up and run through the center of about 15 men or so who would whip them on the back with sticks. I have no idea what the significance of this was, but it definitely looked like it hurt - OUCH!!! The young boys who had been circumsized did not have to participate in this activity. After that the uncles, fathers and some other men from the village stood in the center playing musical beat on bamboo along with singing. They were all (including the two boys) wearing grass skirts, with red shorts underneath , red paint from berries on their forehead and cheeks and they were wearing palm leaved around the upper part of their forhead. The men played for about 15 minutes.

After that they brought over about 6 or 7 large bunches of ripe cooking bananas and parts of bulluk (cow) and pig that had been killed the night before or the morning of the ceremony. There was a man who stood up and pointed to the different bunches of food (speaking in the local language) and distributing out the food to the different clans of people to the islands. He was saying the food is to go to these different clans and to be made into lap lap ( a local food - that most of us volunteers are slowly growing to like the taste of) for the laffet (or feast) in celebration of the custom. After everything was said and done we went over to Amy and Joel's house and talked them about their year of Peace Corps experience and life in general for the rest of the day. We really enjoyed getting to them and we look forward to spending time with them in the future. The plan is to get together with them every two weeks or so. We ended up making macaroni and cheese and eating the all-american lunch to avoid lap lap for one more day before we eat it once a week in the future!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We thinking of you all at this special time of year! Love, Amy and Brian


December 13, 2000

Subject: Merry Christmas (nearly!)

Hi everyone! I hope this note finds each of you well... Happy and healthy!

Brian and I are doing great! We found out where we're going to live for the next 2 years. We're going to Epi (an island north of Efate) to the Lamen Bay area. The news of our location came as an intial shock because we thought we would most likely be going to Abrym and living about 1 hour walk from some friends of ours.

It turns out that Epi sounds as though it will be a great fit. We're leaving for our Wokabout (to visit our site) tomorrow morning at 10:15 am. We're experiencing an interesting mixture of emotions. Mostly excitement, but also a little bit of nervousness and anticipation for what we've been thinking about for so long. We will be on Epi Tuesday - Saturday to meet our supervisor, Isobel, some teachers, people in the village and see our new house.

Brian and I were really fortunate to have talked with the guy,Josh, from the couple that we're replacing on Epi. He and his wife are heading out for the trip home via New Zealand on Saturday.

He told us a lot of interesting information about what we can expect on Epi. Epi sounds amazing. Everyone we've talked to has said that it's completely picturesque. We'll be living in a fairly large house that's one year old on the primary (elementary) school grounds. We'll live next door to the grade 6 teacher I believe. We're going to have a garden already set up with tomatoes, taro, pinapple, peppers and peanuts and some herbs such as basil. We'll be about 10 minutes from the airport, some small stores and the ocean. It sounds like we will not have internet access set up intially. The local high school is trying to get a few computers and set it up, we'll find out more soon. There's a small island across the bay called Lamen Island that has about 500 people on it. Lamen island also has another peace corps couple that have been in service for 1 year. Our village has about 200 people living in it.

Most likely I will be helping with Kindy (4-5 year olds) kind of a mixture of preschool and kindergarten in one that has recently become a law for children to attend in order to go on to grade 1 in the primary school. I'd be doing that 4, 1/2 days per week. Brian will be probably be teaching at most 1 -2 classes a week and the rest of the time we'll both be hopefully working on community projects. We're really looking forward to getting there and checking it out.

We had an incredible week this past week in both Emua (our homestay village) and Samma (a neighboring village). We spent the majority of the week building a kindy playground for the village of Samma.

Tuesday

Brian, other Peace Corps volunteers and some of the men from the vilage spent the morning chopping down 40 Kassas trees (a local wood) for the playground. Then the afternoon was spent putting up the base structure, monkey bars, and two platforms. Myself and the women Peace Corps volunteers spent the morning observing the Kindy. Then the afternoon writing a lesson plan.

Wednesday

The guys spent the morning collecting 3 large palm trees, very hard work we we're told. Brian accidently cut himself slightly with a bush knife on his finger. But he's o.k!

The women spent the morning teaching the kindy. We taught them the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Red Light, Green Light, Hot Potato (changed to Hot Kamala which is the closest thing to a potato in the area), and a song called Peanut Butter and jelly (changed to jam to match local lingo). It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. There were approximately 3 time out's given and we needed to repeat instructions approximately 3 times before things were understood.

In the afternoon on Wed. we all worked on the kindy playground with about 10 of the villagers helping out. We finished the monkey bars (I got to saw and nail a few boards and broaden my carpentary skills). Brian, really stepped up to the task and along with some of the other Peace Corps volunteers acted as excellent foremen. Brian and I got to know one guy from Samma who is hearing impaired, yet one of the most expressive and funny men we've met so far. Myself and another Peace Corps volunteer hung up a climbing rope and started planning ideas for making a hopscothch area.

Thursday

The guys taught kindy in the morning, Brian said he has a difficult time trying to herd cats and all the guys agreed it was a true challenge.

The women took down two old swing set structures and started building a shelter. We gathered palm leaves to act as the roof and provided shade. We also started building the hopscotch area out of remains of the kassas trees (thin pieces) It was a lot more work than we originally anticipated but it was a lot of fun.

On Friday we prepared for the closing feast (Laffet). It was incredible. Every one in the village prepared an enormous amount of food, lap lap, taro, pumpkin with coconut milk and all kinds of local food. We had 3 hours of speeches and including one from each of the volunteers in Bislama to thank the community and our families. We exchanged gifts in front of the entire village. We gave our family a bush knife, a sharpening stone, some kalico (material for a dress) playing cards. They gave us an incredible woven mat and beautiful purse. After the gift giving and speeches we ate (at 8:30pm). Afterwards we watched some skits (local dances) and then danced the night away (well at least until 10:30pm) to the string band (much like Cajun music).

It was an incredible week. Sat. morning we left after shaking hands, saying godbless, or lukum you (see you) with everyone in the village. It was incredibly emotional (many of the women in the village were crying as well as the pikininis, or the kids), but at the same time very nice.

Well, I think that is the new and complete update for the last several weeks. We will try to write one more mass e-mail around Christmas time before we leave on Dec. 27th for Epi for good. We'll send you our address and let you know the scoop. Please let us know how you all are doing! We wish you all the best in this holiday season! Love, Amy and Brian


November 30, 2000

Subject: Happy Thanksgiving!
(Note, I received this on 11/29, but they sent it on 11/25)

Hi Everyone,

We wanted to send an update as to what we have been up to in Vanuatu. We should find out which island we will be placed on for the next 2 years on Monday. We are hoping to go to Ambrym. There is another couple from Colorado that is definitely going to Ambrym and we have become friends and hope to be near them. If we go to Ambrym we will be about 1 hour walk from them. We will have a black sand beach and 2 Volcanos close to us.

Village update: We are still having a good time in our village. It has been a busy place for the last few weeks. There was a chief that died in the village next to us. He is the father of our Chief's wife. So we were invited to go to the funeral. It was interesting and awkward at the same time. The people all sit around the dead body, which is covered with sheets, and cry this wailing loud cry. All people that are related to or friends with the deceased come from all over to pay their respects. People bring presents for the family. They put the dead body into the coffin with the sheets facing down to signify that the person is dead. This was a unique situation because he was a Chief. After they put him into the coffin, his son came and sat in front of the coffin and all of the other chiefs from the other villages performed a ceremony to make the son the new chief. After the ceremony there was a funeral service in church and he was buried. They bury the body within 24 hours of death. After the burial there was a huge feast where they killed pigs, and cows.

On a happier note there was also a wedding in our village. That was great. The village builds a shelter for the whole community to eat at. The festivities start on Tuesday with a small feast. From Wednesday to Friday, the village eats every meal at the shelter. They feed about 200 people at every meal. People come from all over to see the wedding. They killed 4 or 5 cows and pigs. There is an even greater sense of community around weddings.

This week there were some other things that we did and experienced. There was a shark that came in close to shore and got stuck on a reef. There was a lot of commotion with all the pikinnini (children) and 2 men went out in a canoe to kill the shark but it swam away before they got out to it. Ni Van's are afraid of sharks. We also got to hold sea snakes. They are poisonous but they are amazingly dosile. We have even helped catch them. They are the black and white banded sea snakes. There are a lot of them in Vanuatu. There is a cliff near where we live and it is a great place to go to relieve stress. We can jump off the cliff into the ocean. There are three levels that you can jump from. The first is about 5 feet high, the second is at 15 feet, and the third is 35 feet high. I have jumped from the highest one and Amy jumped from the middle level. Other than that we have been learning the language, culture, and technical skills that we will need in our sites.

The weather here is hot and humid. We are just coming into the hottest part of the year. This is also the wet season. It rains almost everyday but it pours for half an hour then quits, then rains again, etc. etc. We are also coming into hurricane season, but last year there weren't any. No need to worry. We have been having a lot of little earthquakes too. This makes sense because we are right on top of the ring of fire.

Amy wanted me to let you all know that she passed her OT exam (YEAA!!). So she is an official OTR. She may be able to use here skills with the Vanuatu society for disabled persons. They don't have an OT on staff so she may even get to do some training for their field workers. We may be able to do a lot for the disabled of Vanuatu. We had a good meeting with the director of the VSDP. We are healthy and happy and looking forward to the end of training. We have about 2 weeks of training left. We hope that you all are doing well and we miss you all. This experience has made us realize how much all of our friends and family mean to us. We will try to send off all of our pictures next time we are in Vila.

Love Amy & Brian


November 26, 2000

Hi! It was great to talk to you guys too! Brian and I wanted to wish you both a very Happy 30th Anniversary celebration as well. We wish we could be there to celebrate with you, but we'll definitely be with you in spirit!

Brian and I want to talk to you Dennis more about what I briefly mentioned about the wheelchairs here in Vanuatu. Basically what happened is yesterday Brian and I met with the Vanuatu Society for Disabled People in Vila. We spoke to the director for about 1 hour. She said there is a large waiting list for people requesting wheelchairs. It's a pretty lengthy process to get a wheelchair, because

  1. There are only 6 provincial officers who travel to all the different islands. They complete a needs assessment to make sure the person really needs a wheelchair.
  2. The wheelchairs are usually donated and are not suitable for use in the islands because of the tires. They also want to come up with a design using local materials so that they are not dependent on donations. The only thing that these chairs would need are good tires for use on rugged terrain.
  3. There is little training for people here about disabilities there are no professionals on staff at the VSDP. The last time they had a professional on staff was 1997 when they had a OT that worked with them for a year.

This could be a great opportunity for us to become involved and make a substantial impact for Vanuatu. We were both very excited after our meeting. If you can think of a way to create the chairs or get the wheels for the chairs that would be a lot of help. The only thing that we've thought of so far is the possibility of having some of the Rural Training Center Peace Corps volunteers to implement a wheelchair making project and then figuring out a way to use mountain bike tires or something along those lines for a more durable tire. If you have any suggestions or ideas please let us know!

We'll talk to you again soon! love, Amy and Brian


November 24, 2000

Hi Mom,

Thanks for sending the update on the package. Amy and I were a little worried that it might be lost in the mail. One other thing, could you throw in some of the other lizzards? The fake ones that you gave to us before we left. Things here are great. We have had a good couple of weeks in the village. There is a marriage happening this week and the village is crazy. Also the cheif in the next village died and all of the people from our village. He was the father of the wife of the cheif of our village. I hope that is not too confusing but the family trees here are hard to follow. We went to the funeral and it is a bit interesting. They cover the body with sheets and then put him into the coffin, church, and burrial. They burry the body within 24 hours.

The marrage is intersting too. They have a feast every night it started Wednesday and will go to Friday. The whole village eats there for breakfast lunch and diner. They have killed 4 cows so far and they will kill another few cows and some pigs. I jumped off the top of a cliff into the ocean and Amy jumped from the middle of the cliff. The top is about 35 feet high and the middle is about 15 feet. Other than that we are sill learning the language and going to technical activities. Have a good Thanksgiving. We will try to call tomorrow or else some time this weekend. We will be in Vila for the rest of the weekend. After two more weeks in the village and then back to Vila. We may know where we will be going.

There is another couple from Denver that are here with us and we have become good friends. They are going to Ambrym and there is an RCE spot 1 hour walk from them. Amy and I talked with the coodinator for training and said that we would like to be near them and he said that he would tell John to put us there. John, The placement director, still has final say but I think that we may be in Port Vato, Ambrym. We should know next week for sure. If we are there we will have a great beach and will be close to friends.

Love you guys and we will talk with you soon. Brian & Amy


November 10, 2000

Hi Everyone!

We hope everyone is doing well. I wanted to thank all of you have sent their well wishes our way, it's been great to hear from so many of you. I wish we had more time to send individualized e-mails back, but it's just been a little bit to busy so far. I know we will have more time to send letters and e-mails once our training is complete.

We're in Port Vila for 2 more days and than off to our villages once again. Everything is going really well with our training. Brian and I absolutely adore our host family. Our host mother's name is Leifou, her's husband name is Jimmy (we have yet to meet him because he works in Port Vila which is 1 1/2 hours from our Village). They have 5 kids: Adam (21), Caroline (18), David (16), Arnold (10), Mark (5) and Leisale (2). They wonderful kids and keep us laughing even during times of stress with trying to learn the new language and all of the cultural differences. It also blows me away that the community, the sence of community is so strong in Emua. Everyone looks out for everyone else's kids. The kids are always playing outdoors with all the other kids. There are no distractions like tv to keep them indoors, it's been refreshing to see how happy they truly are. We've been eating amazing meals with our family. We learned to make a traditional Vanuatu dish called Lap Lap. It had sweet potatoes, grated coconut, maniock, coconut milk etc. Oh my gosh was it good. I wish we send each of you a care package with some of it inside!

Brian and I have received island custom names, mine is Tolei (means new woman) and Brian's is Kahlman (one guy). Bislama (the national language) is going well.We're both starting to feel like we can hold somewhat of a decent conversation in Bislama now which is nice. It still feels like we're speaking the equivalent of grade school kids, but it's a good start. We actually quite like the language. There a lot of fun words in it, for example: Bigfala (adjective for big), tok tok (talking), wan wan tiem (sometimes) Jum Jum (jumping) etc. etc.

One of these times, Brian and I will have to e-mail you a journal entry to really convey a day in the village in Emua. We've learned so much, it such a short time that it absolutely blows me away how much we'll learn by the end of our service. I do want to pass on another website for you to check out digital pictures. We've had trouble sending our's home to my brother so in the meantime another Peace Corps volunteer started a web account on Yahoo. You have to have a yahoo account (it's free) to check them out. First go to the yahoo page and then type in photos.yahoo.com/piskovu* there's some great pictures there. I've got to run! We miss you guys! Hope all is well. Love, Amy and Brian

* Actually, you can go straight to the website at Yahoo, and you don't need a Yahoo account to view the pictures. Just click on The Training Weeks on the main page. I've also pulled the pictures that have Amy and Brian in them, and added them on this site.



October 29, 2000

Just wanted to let you guys know what happening in Vanuatu. We're leaving tomorrow morning for North Efate (the other side of the island from Port Vila) to a village called Emua. We will be there for the next 6 weeks with a host family. We will be doing more intensive training on culture, language and tech. skills.

From what we hear we'll get to build a ventilated improved toilet, a smokeless stove, weaving and other types of projects. It should be interesting!

We celebrated Halloween a couple of days early last night with the other Peace Corps Volunteers. We had a great time! Brian went as a Punk rocker and I was supposed to be a punk rocker too, but everyone thought I looked more like Pebbles so that's what I became!

We'll have more updates when we're back in town in a few weeks!

Take care! Love, Amy and Brian


October 22, 2000

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to send a very quick message to say we're here in Vanuatu! It's absolutely beautiful here, crystal blue waters, palm trees and lush jungle-like vegetation. We're not really roughing it yet. We're living in dorm rooms with mosquito netting surrounding the bed. We have running water, showers (although they're very cold!) and electricity for 1 more week and then we leave for the other side of the island where we'll be living in conditions more similar to where we'll be for the two years (we still don't know which island we'll be going to).

In classes we're learning about Health awareness, cultural differences, the language - Bislama All I know so far is Halo! Olsem Wanem (hello, how are you ) and Mi fala i wanem go long market (I want to go to the market - when getting on the bus). The people of Vanuatu - Ni-Vanuatu are very, very friendly and patient people. We went to a Presbyterian church on Sunday and introduced ourselves in Bislama to the congregation of approximately 250 people. My introduction went as follows (this was after only 2 hours of lang. lessons) Nem blong me Amy Matthews, I'm from Colorado! Brian was able to add a few more sentences. For example, he added wife blong me Amy (I'm not sure what I think about that reference, but I guess it's o.k. because I can say Husband blong me Brian).

We would love to hear from you guys. We're going to have somewhat sporadic e-mail access. But, please write anyway because they're going to print up our e-mail and send it to us when we away from the capital - Port Vila.

Please write us at PCV@wantok.org.vu* and copy it (cc:) to amynbrian2000@yahoo.com*. That way we'll be sure to get the messages.

Hope you are all well. We miss you and look forward to hearing from you sometime soon! We love it so far!

Love, Amy and Brian

* Addresses corrected


October 19, 2000

From: Peace Corps Volunteers [pcv@wantok.org.vu]

Greetings from Peace Corps Vanuatu!

This brief communiqué is simply to let concerned friends and family know that 27 healthy and energetic trainees arrived in Port Vila safe and sound, ready to begin nine weeks of training. The group has enjoyed beautiful weather since they arrived and are eagerly soaking up all the information that is being thrown at them about their home and their surrogate Peace Corps family for the next two years. Still, they miss their real families and their friends back home and are anxious to establish lines of communication.

They have all been informed about contacting the U.S. by telephone. It is possible, but it's not cheap. Don't worry if they don't call as soon as you might expect. They are all happy and healthy and will speak with you as soon as possible.

The best immediate option may be through e-mail. All volunteers (and trainees)have access through this address. It is a shared address however, so just make sure that you include the name(s) of the people you wish to contact on the subject line.

In the event of an emergency, you may contact the Peace Corps Vanuatu Head office at the following number (during office hours, 7:30-4:30)

011 678 26160

Hemia nomo (That's all),

Best regards,

Peace Corps Vanuatu



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