February 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Maryland Post Dispatch: Tim Dobson talks about his service in Vanuatu

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Vanuatu: Peace Corps Vanuatu : The Peace Corps in Vanuatu: February 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Maryland Post Dispatch: Tim Dobson talks about his service in Vanuatu

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Vanuatu Peace corps Volunteer Tim Dobson has a volcano at his doorstep

Vanuatu Peace corps Volunteer Tim Dobson has a volcano at his doorstep

"The island of Ambae, which is about 2 miles from my island, which I can see from m front yard, was supposed to erupt the whole first year I was there. It is an active volcano with a lake in its crater. So as the story goes all we needed was a decent earthquake to crack the lake bottom so the water could flow in and really get the pot stirred up. Well, the whole time I was there we had about 15 to 20 tremors but I guess none quite big enough to trigger the volcano, so no show. The day I land back in the states, the sucker goes off! 9,000 or so feet up in the air it shoots smoke and ash. The story they are telling back on Maewo, is that the gods were upset that the white man left, thatís me, and there not sure he will return, however, when he gets back from America bearing gifts, the water which flows freely on Maewo will put the volcano out. I told you it was a different culture. Iíll let you know how it turns out. "

"Other than the obvious modern amenities, what are some of the differences and similarities if any between the two cultures? You know people are people no matter where you are. Everybody wants a good life and to provide for their children. The difference in life styles are too many to write and most people wouldnít or donít care to understand. The people on Maewo where I live, live in poverty by most peopleís standards Ö but they are not starving, they grow their own food and we have plenty of water. They are very happy people, you never hear them complain, they laugh a lot, not too many worries. It really is what most people in America say they work their butt off trying to achieve."


Vanuatu Peace corps Volunteer Tim Dobson has a volcano at his doorstep

Dobson Talks About Peace Corps World

Jennifer A. Dawicki

Staff Writer

Caption: Ambae is physically characterized by the large volcano at its center, Manaro; indeed, the island is little more than the peak of a volcanic mountain rising dramatically from the sea. This volcano has no visible vents at its apex, only crater lakes. It is, nevertheless, active: a steam and ash eruption began on November 27, 2005, leading to a Level 2 volcano alert and preparations for evacuations. On December 8, the eruption became stronger, displacing around half of the island's roughly 10,000 inhabitants and requiring the evacuation of two hospitals. Preparations for a complete evacuation, should it become necessary, are completed, but it does not seem that a massive eruption is imminent. Photo: conradh Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

02/16/2006 OCEAN CITY Ė After taking a break from his first year and half of his two-year stint of volunteer service in the Peace Corps, Tim Dobson took some time to reflect on his experience so far, his plans for the future and how Ocean City has changed since he has been gone.

Dobson first checked in with The Dispatch last spring and shed some light on his October 2004 departure and his preparations for island living on Maewo located in the island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Prepared for no running water, no electricity and no instant communication with his family and friends, this time around Dobson prepared to be pitched back into the hustle and bustle of American society for more than a month. By the end of his visit home, Dobson realized he was ready to return to his hut on the jungle-like island where he feels as though he has learned more from the people than he has been able to teach.

Q. So you were home recently for a break from your service in the Peace Corps. Tell me about the anticipation of returning to the United States.

A. I wasnít as worried as most Peace Corps Volunteers (PVC). I like America, however I am having a bit of trouble in crowds and in stores. I get kind of anxious sort of claustrophobic, stuff moves faster here.

Q. Were you craving anything in particular, food items, hot shower, friends, driving, music, etc?

A. Nothing really materialistic I was looking very much forward to English conversation, also a bit of affection. Outward displays of affection, such as hugs or touching, are not done in Vanuatu, very taboo, you donít realize how much you miss human interaction, just putting you arm around someone.

Q. Did you experience any sort of ďculture shockĒ as you re-entered American society?

A. Very much so Ö after seeing all my friends, well there arenít that many, but after that I kind of shrank back into myself. I was looking forward to going out when I got home, but then I really did not feel like it. Maybe Iím just getting older. All the people kind of frightened me.

Q. Exactly how long were you home and how did you spend most of your time?

A. I was home for 45 days. I am a federal employee and I get 24 vacation days a year so I used my 24 days plus you can borrow 12 from your second year. Then I just kind of cheated a bit but the Peace Corps is pretty lenient, I am a volunteer. I spent most of the time with my parents in Virginia, went to Texas to play golf with some good friends. Basically just hung out and ate a lot.

Q. What was your reaction the first time you drove through Ocean City upon your return?

A. Sad, it is not like it was when I first got there in the 70's. It is a concrete jungle. I like the jungle Iím living in now better. But, I had a good run in Ocean City. Iíll always have great memories, and lord knows and a few good friends, I have some great stories. If you ever see Gary Marks, Mark Stearns or Tommy Mattingly ask them about the good old days. Anywhere, you live for 28 years is obviously a big part of your life.

Q. Other than the obvious modern amenities, what are some of the differences and similarities if any between the two cultures? You know people are people no matter where you are. Everybody wants a good life and to provide for their children. The difference in life styles are too many to write and most people wouldnít or donít care to understand. The people on Maewo where I live, live in poverty by most peopleís standards Ö but they are not starving, they grow their own food and we have plenty of water. They are very happy people, you never hear them complain, they laugh a lot, not too many worries. It really is what most people in America say they work their butt off trying to achieve.

Q. As a teacher of English and small business, tell me about the progress you made in the village. For example how many students you have and how often they attend school.

A. I have four really great students and we have a good time in class. Itís so different, education is not really a very high priority and why would it be on an island with no jobs? So I teach a little English, maybe theyíll use it someday. I teach some basic business concepts, very basic. We just generally talk about anything they want to talk about.

Q. Do you believe you have been more effective in the classroom or by immersing yourself in the community?

A. As a peace corps volunteer you work 24/7. Your main job is to represent the good old USA. Maybe a lot of people in America are not aware of this but we are not all that well liked around the world, so as a PCV our main job is to show people different cultures. We are not there to change them or tell them how to be like Americans. We are just there to integrate into the community and help in anyway we can. If that means just living in your village helping out ďstorin onĒ (telling stories) and just setting a good example of what a good American can be, well thatís my job.

Q. Do you believe you are making a difference in the lives of the people on Maewo?

A. Realistically, not that much, but thatís okay, I am sure I have taught a few people some things. They sure have taught me a lot, and I think that is just as important. It is a cross-cultural exchange. More people should see how other people live; it could make a difference in there own lives.

Q. Would you join the Peace Corps again?

A. Absolutely, I probably will after I take a break back in the states.

Q. Is it difficult to prepare to return to a place so far from home and without the comforts of running water, electricity and instant communication? Have you ever considered not returning to your post?

A. I am actually ready to get back. I miss the island, my hut, the people. Iím ready to get back to school. We have a new project to start. We will be building a meeting place for the women in the area, which is great. They will now have a place to all get together and weave and sew and relax. They really work very hard. I think this second year will really go by fast, and I want to take it all in and have some fun.

Q. Tell me about the volcano that erupted while you were in the states.

A. The island of Ambae, which is about 2 miles from my island, which I can see from m front yard, was supposed to erupt the whole first year I was there. It is an active volcano with a lake in its crater. So as the story goes all we needed was a decent earthquake to crack the lake bottom so the water could flow in and really get the pot stirred up. Well, the whole time I was there we had about 15 to 20 tremors but I guess none quite big enough to trigger the volcano, so no show. The day I land back in the states, the sucker goes off! 9,000 or so feet up in the air it shoots smoke and ash. The story they are telling back on Maewo, is that the gods were upset that the white man left, thatís me, and there not sure he will return, however, when he gets back from America bearing gifts, the water which flows freely on Maewo will put the volcano out. I told you it was a different culture. Iíll let you know how it turns out.

Q. Do feel as though you have made friends for life in other volunteers or the people who live in your village?

A. Thatís a tough one, life is a long time. I have met some great people I hope we stay in touch after it is over. Iíll probably be sending stuff back to my village for quite some time.

Q. What kind of items are bringing back with you?

A. Some clothes, some crank flashlights, batteries are expensive. Some watches, why I do not know, they love them although time has no meaning. Some small toys for the kids, soccer balls and other assorted pencils and pens for school.

Q. You said you pre-packed some care packages for yourself to be sent once a month. What kind of items did you pack?

A. Food, snacks, mostly crackers, popcorn gum, fig bars, poptarts Ö anything it does not matter. I just did it for my folks so they do not have to go to the store. You just cannot imagine how nice it is to get a package over there. I do not get stuff very often. I understand people have their own lives, so I just made it easier for my parents.

Q. What are you plans once you are relieved of duty in December?

A. Travel for a while, see the world then only god knows and he ainít saying right now. The world is a big place.

Q. After the first update numerous people contacted The Dispatch for your contact information. How can people stay in touch with you?

Q. Please feel free to come visit. Really. Send any and all inquiries, packages, mail, anything at all care of Tim Dobson, Peace Corp, HQ PMB 9097, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Vanuatu, South Pacific. timdobson@yahoo.com.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2006; Peace Corps Vanuatu; Directory of Vanuatu RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Vanuatu RPCVs; Maryland





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Story Source: Maryland Post Dispatch

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