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
"Miss Amy, Mr. Brian!" We chatted for a minute, "Bae
After that we continued our journey taking in the
After about 50 mins. of walking we reached the point
At this point we had 40 mins. of power walking ahead
The next village we passed was Moru. A group of
We smiled broadly and yelled out our greetings as we
Not a big deal I thought to myself, but my heart
So we continued along taking in the views stopping to
The next village we passed is the village of
#1 Because the houses are only several feet apart with
After Newvinway we walked for approx. 15 mins. toward
Once we got to Nicaura it looked very deserted
After several minutes of walking we came to a group of
We headed up the slight slope and attempted to slip
After the burial we slowly made our way over to a
Newilli, Peter's wife showed us inside the house. 2
However Brian and I stood their not quite sure what to
Newilli stopped in mid-cry as the other women
She said it was alright and the other 2 women stopped
They asked us to sit down and stay for some food. Not
We storied for about another 30 minutes then began our
We enjoyed our walk back and were quite exhausted,
Subject: Thank You hugeness
PS If you heard about the cyclone that we just had.
Subject: One Bigfala e-mail
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**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...
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
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...
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Subject: Happy Thanksgiving!
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
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
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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org*. 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
From: Peace Corps Volunteers [email@example.com]
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),
Peace Corps Vanuatu