October 2, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Luke Drake is a Peace Corps volunteer in the south Pacific country Vanuatu

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Vanuatu: Peace Corps Vanuatu : The Peace Corps in Vanuatu: October 2, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Luke Drake is a Peace Corps volunteer in the south Pacific country Vanuatu

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, October 02, 2003 - 3:15 pm: Edit Post

Luke Drake is a Peace Corps volunteer in the south Pacific country Vanuatu

Luke Drake is a Peace Corps volunteer in the south Pacific country Vanuatu

Peace Corps Vanuatu -- 2003 to 2005

My name is Luke Drake and I am a Peace Corps volunteer in the south Pacific country Vanuatu. I am assigned to work with the Department of Cooperatives and small business on West Ambae, and I live in Walaha village.

Below: Epau Village, North-east Efate Island,July 2003. I found a small Pacific Boa behind the Peace Corps office. Later, everyone in the village was frightened of the photograph.

I'm now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer!

On Friday, August 22, 2003, my group of 15 trainees were sworn in as volunteers. I'm now in Vila for the next week and will be moving to my new home on Ambae island next Friday.

The last part of training included a lot of celebrations. A couple of weeks ago, somebody in the village got married. When this happens in Vanuatu, there is always a huge party that goes along with it. In this case, the main party was the night before the wedding after the bride payment was presented. Bride payment? Yes, the groom's family has to dish over a ton of cash, a pig, some woven mats, and kava to the bride's family. That night everyone partied literally until the sun came up, with the local band (melanesian string band) being accompanied by the stereo. I was able to stay out until 5 a.m. or so. Vanuatu people are pretty funny when it comes to dancing. When the band starts a song, everyone gets up in the yard and starts dancing (if a man and woman dance, they hold hands only), and immediately when the song ends everyone runs away to the side like they're embarassed. But ten seconds later when another song starts, everyone goes back again. And it happens like that every time, for hours on end. So it looked funny when a song would end, everyone would run away, and only peace corps trainees were left standing there wondering why people run away like that.

A week before swearing in, there was a farewell feast in the village. The host families presented gifts to their peace corps children, and there was a lot of crying from the mamas too. I got a really huge blanket, which was good because it was getting down into the 50s at night sometimes. My parents had already given me a woven mat too. The string band played again and we all had a good time.

The swearing in ceremony consisted of a few speeches: peace corps vanuatu country director Kevin George, our training boss Koran Wilfred, one of the host mamas, and two trainees. Quite a few government officials came out too. My favorite one was the police commissioner, Robert Obed, who changed his name to Robert Diniro just to sound tougher. So that was our last night in Epau village. After the ceremony there was the biggest feast I have seen yet, and some of the villagers didn't even go to sleep because we had a going away ceremony at 8 am Saturday. That was not very fun. We stood in a line and the people of the village walked down and shook our hands. Every single one of them was crying, so it wasn't easy trying to stand there and look happy. I'm definitely going to miss a lot of people from the village, and it's amazing how they took all of us into their families. I have to say I'm a little sad because I made some really good friends in Epau and I hung out with them just as much, if not more, then the other trainees. Now I'm going to have to move to a new place and start all over again where I don't have the benefit of Peace Corps staff going in and getting the place all psyched up for volunteers. But that's how it works, and now I'm just concentrating on getting stuff together to ship up to my house, such as a stove and what not. Some new photos are up too.
More to come soon,

Hello everyone,

Sorry I haven't really posted updates like I said I would--not much time to be on a computer around here. Anyway, I thought I'd get you all up to date on what I've been doing here in Vanuatu.

A week after we arrived in Vanuatu, my group of 16 trainees moved to a small village on the other side of the island to start training. We have been learning Bislama and everything about how to live the village life. We each live with host families, and there are individual houses built for us. A typical training day goes like this: get up around 6 am (the chickens have actually awakened you at about 4:30) and eat breakfast with the family-usually tea or coffee and bread. Language class in the morning until lunch. (Bislama is a very simplified language and easy to learn. However, our English skills are progressively getting worse as a result). Lunch is usually island food, such as fresh fruit and an assortment of root crops, and rice. I think the best fruit in the world is grapefruit from Vanuatu. It is really sweet and some are 2 or 3 pounds. So much better than grapefruit in the States. The afternoon is spent working on various projects. It gets dark at 6 pm every day and dinner is about that time of day. You usually take a shower before dinner if isn't raining. We're lucky in the village to have running water--there is water piped down from a spring up on the mountain. But spring water is very very cold and it just isn't fun to bathe. Hang out with the family after dinner, and go to bed around 9 pm. There are plenty of "fundraisers" during the week too--where people just sell food and kava at their house and lots of people from the village go to socialize and have fun.

About my job, I found out where I'm going and have just gotten back from making a site visit. I'll be living in Walaha village on the west part of Ambae island in the northern part of Vanuatu. I will be the peace corps small business development advisor for the western part of the island. What that means exactly? Basically I think giving business advice and training to small businesses, holding workshops, and pretty much just teaching business management and finance to anybody who is interested--which is quite a lot of people because according to every Ni-Vanuatu, none of them know anything about business and they're all angry at the Asians who come into the country and own all the small businesses. I have a really really nice house. It's way nicer than anyone would expect for a Peace corps volunteer. It's a cement house with a tin roof, which normally is the worst kind of house because they get extremely hot, but my house has a ceiling inside so the house doesn't get hot. On Ambae, the water supply is rainwater tanks only, so I have this huge well outside the house that is fed by a pipe coming of the gutters of the house. There is a small water tower attached to the tank, so I can pump water up the tower with a easy hand pump, and then gravity provides water pressure to carry water inside the house-and voila! I have indoor plumbing! I have a kitchen, flush toilet, and a shower. There is a generator in a tool shed in my backyard because the house is wired for electricity too. The house itself is situated on what I call a private estate. About a hundred yards from the road that goes up the island. The road is just a few meters from the salt water. My place is in a private fenced in area inside of a larger fenced-in area. There are no chickens anywhere near the house and no crying babies 24 hours a day. My office will be in a room in the community hall a 2 minute walk away, and then the houses of the village are on the other side of the community hall.

OK, other people need to use the computer here, so I have to go now. I go back to Epau tomorrow afternoon, so I'll try to get some more stuff up tomorrow morning. I put up some new pictures from Ambae. I noticed that the people of Ambae have a strong polynesian influence, and most are lighter skinned than other melanesians.

Okay, until later,

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Story Source: Personal Web Page

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Vanuatu; PCVs in the Field - Vanuatu



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