Before beginning, I would like to apologize for my long absence from blog writing. This second year of my service I have fallen far from the one-blog-a-week standard that I held to for my first year. In short, I seem to have run out of things to write about. Living in Vanuatu is no longer a new and crazy experience for me, one worthy of chronicling, instead it has become the routine of everyday life. My time here has sort of fallen into a sort of lethargy. My village and host family no longer consider me a novelty and thus have ceased taking me out on adventures in the bush. Teaching class has become a simple thing, no longer needing much thought or effort to accomplish. Even such tasks as slaying giant centipedes are now performed with a kind of lazy efficiency that comes with constant practice. There are still stories to tell, for sure. Like how the constant stream of school children taking water from my house's water tank was slowly driving me insane and how I dyed the whole tank yellow with food coloring in an attempt to discourage them. Or how a misunderstood tsunami warning sparked a mass panic in my village, sending men, women, and children fleeing for the hills as fast as they could run. Time progresses and things happen but I'm afraid much of my motivation for writing about such happenings has been lost. In the last months of my service my mind has turned to other things. That being said, I enjoy closure and so I offer this final blog entry to round out the series.
It is not as hot as it was last year. The fierce November sun is sometimes hidden behind gray blankets of clouds, giving us precious hours or even days of respite from its persistent heat. My rain tank ran dry last week, the first time it has run out without me intentionally emptying it, as for almost a month storm clouds loomed and yet rain did not come, but now frequent showers provide all the water I could need. A strong wind has taken the pieces of corrugated metal that used to make up the roofs of my outhouse and shower, so now I plan my showers and prolonged trips to the toilet around the weather, lest I get rained on while sitting on the can. I also finally grew tired of the uneasy truce between myself and my household ants and invested in a can of Mortein spray. I destroyed four ant nests on the first day and now do daily patrols for ant trails. The used computers I ordered from the US finally arrived, almost a year after I collected money for orders from people in my village. A steady trickle of Ni-Vans drop by my house to pick up their orders and ask questions like “so... what does it do?” A new group of volunteers have also arrived, our replacements. Eight were assigned to Malekula and have already started their service, making my group essentially redundant. They are excited, energetic, and optimistic and roll their eyes, as I once did, when they hear McKenzie, Laura and I make cynical jokes about Peace Corps and discuss how nice it will be to be rid of Vanuatu's many annoyances.
Vanuatu has changed a lot for a country where nothing seems to ever change. The quiet, patient village of Tautu is not quite as quiet and patient as it used to be. Duncan, my host dad, is a working man now. He has taken out a loan from the bank and has used it to purchase a compressor and a machine for removing tires from their hubs. He has built an addition to his small store and now uses the extra space to run a wheel-repair business. When I go over to meet him for kava I now I find him wearing grease-stained coveralls and exhausted from a long day. He seems to be doing pretty well, and has told me that he is already close to paying off his loan, even though he still has a year and a half to go on it. Duncan has grand plans for his business. He envisions running a large store in the front of his property, near the road, and having a small guest house behind. He's already cleared the land in preparation for this. The twisted, l-shaped mango tree that used to overhang the nakamal is gone, as is the naus tree from which Duncan's nakamal light used to hang. The lonely white light announcing the presence of kava now sits atop a small, square, wooden post that juts up from the ground. The once shady yard is now a grass and dirt clearing marked by the tire treads of the many trucks that visit Duncan's shop.
I do not really know what to think of this. It sometimes seems sad to see the simple village lifestyle be invaded and transformed by western influence and technology. In many ways it seems like something is being lost, and I feel compelled to try and make Duncan understand this, to tell him that the western way of life he covets comes at the price of tranquility and that he may one day find himself working hard to procure things he once could have had for free. At the same time, I now find myself sweating away my final days on Malekula, anxiously awaiting the time when I can board a plane and return to the life that I would be maligning. In the end I found that village life did not, in fact, suit me as well as I initially thought. The slow pace, ample free time, and pervading lethargy fuel a slow boredom that eats away at you and makes you constantly restless. In the end it was not the difficultly of village life that got to me, but rather the simplicity. And who's to say that some Ni-Vanuatu don't feel the same, that they don't also become restless with their traditional lifestyles which we insist are so important to preserve. In the end I think I must confess my own ignorance. The ideals which seemed so clear when I signed up for Peace Corps have faded into a dull obscurity of confusion. In the future I will leave the giant muddle of international development to more able (or perhaps more stubborn) individuals.
In the end, leaving my village was much the same as coming to it, a calm, quiet affair with a good deal less fanfare than my ego would perhaps have liked. It was probably for the best though, I'd spent most of my service with my host parents, Duncan and Linda, and so most of my goodbyes were with them. They treated me amazingly well during my time here and I could not have asked for a better host family, and I hope to go back and see them sometime. It's hard to say whether or not I will miss Vanuatu, but I imagine I will, as one tends to miss any place where one has spent a substantial period of time.
Let me finish off this rather inconclusive conclusion by thanking all of you that have taken time out of your exciting lives in the US (and trust me, they are exciting. Most anything is compared to the slow life in Vanuatu) to read my blog. I hope it has been entertaining. I also very much appreciate those of you who went to the trouble of sending me emails, postcards, letters, and packages. You all were what kept me going. I hope to see many of you upon my return to the States, and I implore the rest of you to enjoy a bottle of beer and a plate of bacon on my behalf. Ale,