Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Things that make me smile in Vanuatu

I’ve been here for a year and a half and there are so many things that still make me crack up inside. I could be in a serious meeting but then the area council secretary will start digging in his nose while talking to me and I just lose it. At least it never gets boring.

1. Although it is sold in the shops, nobody ever has toilet paper:
In fact, most people don’t have toilets. But those that do are totally confused about them. In the hospital for example, they built the toilet stall to the exact size of the toilet. It’s so small that you can’t close the door unless you are already sitting down. So you have to pull your pants down and then close the door. Another thing that cracks me up is when the toilet is facing the wrong way. It’s like people don’t know where the front of the toilet is. Here are some drawings of actual toilets I’ve experienced here:

Speaking of sanitation practices, did you know it is customary here to wash your hands after every meal? This unfortunately is not the most effective method of preventing the spread of disease.

It is not impolite to pick your nose in public, while having a conversation, while eating, or where ever. In fact some people grow one fingernail longer than the others for the job.

Also one polite way to burp is to say “OHH!” louder than the sound of the burp so it just sounds like you are surprised by something rather than just burping.

2. Names:
Some common Vanuatu names I’ve encountered: Rock, Coozy, Tito, Fanny (that’s my name here), and the very common family name Bong. I eagerly await the day that I will find a way to use the phrase “He’s got more Bongs than a Vanuatu phone book,” in conversation.

There are a couple families in my area that have named all their kids with variations of the same name. My favorite of course is the family that named all their children variations of Stephanie. There is Stephanie, Stephan, Stephana, and Stephano. I have to admit it is a lot easier to learn everybody’s name when they're named like this.

3. My English class dynamics at the Lamap Vocational School:
-Rachel 15, 5th grade education 0 years of English in school
-Ilene 16, 8th grade education 8 years of English
-Calixto 21, 10th grade education 4 years of English, forbidden to speak with Lidiana
-Cindy 20, 10th grade education 4 years of English, teen mother
-Anika 17, 8th grade education, 2 years of English, teen mother
-Lidiana 18, 6th grade education 0 years English, forbidden to speak to Calixto
Calixto and Liliana are forbidden to talk or sit next to each other or work together due to traditional law that you can’t speak with certain cousins of the opposite sex. And all the other girls are just too shy to talk to him haha. So between the different maturity levels, education levels, language levels, social taboos etc. you can see how this class can be rediculous at times.

Other good news:

I just went on a great three day hike to a small village deep in the bush. It was such a great break from Lamap because it's not humid, it was about ten degrees cooler, there were no mosquitos, and lots of fresh water to swim in. Plus so much great food. You can catch prawns in the river. We collected shellfish and even fresh water eel. One day we went wild pig hunting and caught one! Also the village has a big herd of cattle. We ate meat at every meal.

Also they just put up a new cell phone tower across the way and as of next week I will have cellphone service in my house! Happy easter to me :)

Love you all
Miss you much


  1. I always love to read your blog. You write so well and very expressive. I can just picture what you're talking about. How on earth will you ever come back to this awful "reality" when your "time" is done there?