Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Blessed are the Flexible, for they shall Never be Bent out of Shape"

First day of work at World Vision!

The title of this post was a motto of the Rotary Youth Exchange program, and I learned it when I was an exchange student with them in Finland the year after high school.  The phrase stuck with me in Benin, as I dealt with the infinite frustrations and challenges of my first Peace Corps service.  And now in Vanuatu, I’ve had yet another chance to experience the importance of flexibility.  The good news is, whenever I get the question about whether or not I can work in a rapidly changing/flexible work environment during future interviews, I’ll be all set!

Some time ago I wrote a post about my job here in Vanuatu/ what I will be doing for work.  You may not have read that post; it was very long, and didn’t have any pretty pictures until the end.  If you did read it, disregard everything you learned from it – my situation has had some pretty major changes.  Shortly after my time on Ambrym working with fellow Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen, we learned that our project (the Youth at Work program, helping young people with climate change adaptation-related service projects and small business development) was going to be cancelled.  There are a variety of reasons for this, too complicated to get into in detail, but the decision was mainly due to lack of funding.  So all of a sudden, I wasn’t really sure what would happen next – would I stay in Vanuatu through January was planned?  Would I remain a Peace Corps volunteer, or not? 

Peace Corps wanted to work with us to help us remain volunteers if we wanted, and they offered me the opportunity to go to Walaha (the community where I’d originally been posted) to work in the school as a literacy teacher.  I did like the community and thought I’d enjoy living there, but my long term goals are to work in international development with a focus on agriculture or environment, and my preference was to find something I could do that was more in line with that.  So at the encouragement of some friends, I sent out copies of my CV to any and all international development organizations in Port Vila and asked for informational interviews.  I wanted to see if I could leave Peace Corps and get a “real job” with one of these organizations in Vanuatu.  It was a fun process- I interviewed with quite a few different organizations, learning a lot about the development community here.

 The final organization I talked with, World Vision Vanuatu, just felt like a great fit.  They had projects that interested me, and I got a great feeling from the two staff members I met with – I got the sense that their office culture would be a good fit for me.  The whole conversation felt very natural – I didn’t feel like I needed to “sell myself” at all, since my skills and background honestly could be of use of them.  The only catch – like the other organizations I’d talked with in Port Vila, they didn’t have the ability to offer me a job right then.  I didn’t think Peace Corps would allow me to work with them as a volunteer, but we all thought it was worth a try – and a series of meetings later, Peace Corps had agreed to let me spend the rest of my service working with World Vision Vanuatu!  So 4 months in, more than 1/3 of the way through my service, I finally, finally have a job.

I’ve been with World Vision for two and a half weeks now, and I'm sure there will be plenty of interesting posts to come about my work.  But a brief summary: I’m now based in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, but will be doing some travelling to other islands to help with World Vision projects there.  (In fact, I’m out of town on a business trip right now!)  My title is “Livelihoods and Resilience Officer,” and I’m helping with a couple projects: one, on Tanna (an island in southern Vanuatu) involves working with coffee farmers, and a second one, in Port Vila and Luganville (Vanuatu’s second largest town) focuses on waste management and business development.   This is now my third week at work, and the impression I’d gotten of World Vision Vanuatu during my interview has proven to be correct.  There’s really a good bunch of people working in the office here.  I feel challenged by the projects I’m working on, but also like I’m able to contribute – and I really think this experience is a good career step.  So at long last, things have gotten started – no more lazing around on the beach, there’s work to be done!  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Musings from a Bench in the Port Vila Post Office

All the post cards I bought during my long wait.  

Yesterday, I was working in the Peace Corps Office resource room when a friend asked if I could help her run an errand.  Another Peace Corps volunteer who is serving on Ambae had a package at the post office, and it couldn't be delivered to her on her island until the customs fees were paid.  I didn't know much about how to do this, but I was free- and so I walked to the post office downtown, stopping into stores to browse as I did.

When I got to the post office, I went to the desk labeled "customs" and explained the situation - but they were confused about why I had come and not the volunteer in question, and why I didn't have an invoice for the amount I was supposed to pay.  They suggested that I try another desk, labeled "items to collect" or something like that.  Before I headed over there, I got into a conversation with a couple of men sitting on bench.  In Vanuatu "storying", or chatting, is a big part of daily life - so I told them everything about my situation, the volunteer's name, the island where she was serving, the fact that I got this mission third-hand so wasn't exactly sure what I needed to do, etc.  Well, it turned out that the men worked for the post office, and one of them remembered seeing the packages in question.  Small countries are wonderful this way - would that happen at the national post office in Washington DC?  Anyway, the two men offered to go and get me the invoice form I needed in order to pay for her customs fee.

Off they went, and I sat on the bench and waited.  I didn't have a book or any games on my non-smart phone, so I sat there with my thoughts.  A familiar situation from other Peace Corps and travel experiences, the type of waiting that is surrendering to the slow, uncertain pace of life - just accepting how things are.  I thought about memories I have of other post offices around the world, trying to visit each one in my mind, remembering everything about it.  I thought about how exciting checking our family's post office box at Paul Smith's College was when I was a child - box 265.  I can still remember the combination.  And the box I rented at the post office in Kalale, Benin.  I'd swing by when heading back from Kalale to my village, Peonga, which was a 30 minute motorcycle ride away.  The post office boxes were outside, near the market - I'd ask the motorcycle drive to wait while I hopped off and ran over with my key.  More often than not, the only thing in the box was a thick layer of fine red dust, the dust from the road that had found its way through the cracks.  But sometimes, a letter from home - always covered in red dust itself.  And then the post office in downtown Sitka, Alaska  - where I also rented a box.  I remember sending an Alaska-themed care package from there to my friend Camille, who was still serving in Peace Corps Benin; smoked salmon, pine-scented soap, a t-shirt, fish flavored cat treats for Furlock, her kitten. I spent a long time in the post office trying to figure out what items to remove to make the package a more affordable weight.

The woman sitting next to me on the bench in the Port Vila post office was playing with her keys in her hand, making a rhythmic jingling noise.  "They're all coming back from the RFU", she said to me, starting a conversation.   She was talking about the long line of people collecting money from the Western Union counter in the main lobby.  I asked what RFU meant, and she said it was the people who go from Vanuatu to pick fruit, apples or grapes, in New Zealand for a season.  They had gotten back the day before, and were collecting their money.  I asked her what island she was from, an easy conversation topic in Vanuatu; she was from Makira, a very small island part of the Shepherds group north of Efate.  We talked about how a Peace Corps volunteer is serving there right now.  Then after a while she got up and used her key to enter one of the back rooms, and I kept sitting alone.

And I waited.  I thought about how glad I was to have so many memories to keep me entertained.  Really, I thought, the phrase "I've lived a long and rich life" could be applied to me.  Why only use this phrase when at the end of one's life?  It's good to take pauses at any point to appreciate life's richness so far.  So I thought about more memories, and kept waiting, and watching other customers...and slowly the waiting started to get old.  That's the thing about the calm, patient waiting state of mind we take on as Peace Corps volunteers - it runs out.  We're patient, and it's fine...until all the sudden it isn't, and the fact that we've spent more than an hour sitting on the side of the road waiting for a bush taxi, or on our porch waiting for our counterpart, or on a bench waiting in the post office, whatever it may be, starts to feel unbearably frustrating.

I could tell I was transitioning from blissfully grateful for this opportunity to reflect on my life to unbearably frustrated at how long I'd been sitting on that bench, so I got up to buy some post cards.  I ran into the woman from the bench again - it turned out she was the janitor.  "The men haven't come back yet?" she asked, and then told me she'd give them a call.  I chose my post cards, and then waited again in a different place - a long line at the cash register - when finally, I saw one of the men come back in the front door.  He gave me the invoice - an official-looking form with photocopies of the packing slips - and I was finally able to pay the customs fee and be on my way.

Thinking about it, I'm pretty sure those two men had gone all the way to the package sorting center, in a completely different part of town, to get the form I needed for me.  Certainly not part of their job.  Nor was it the janitor's job to call them and find out what was taking so long.  The whole experience was an example of how things get done, here in Vanuatu, and also in many of the other countries I've spent significant time in, like Nepal and Benin.  Systems are in place, or at least the appearance of them - offices, desks, lines, forms.  But the way things really work is by chatting, making friends, telling the other people sharing your bench your story.  And then they choose to go out of their way to make whatever needs to happen, happen.  Would it have been nice if I'd dashed into the post office, paid the fee, and then been on my way?  Sure - but then I wouldn't have developed connections to other people, and have that warm feeling in my heart that comes from being helped by strangers.  So all in all I'm grateful for the experience.

And glad it's over.

Surely it was a one-time experience -

The post office had better not always take that long...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Catching up on Efate Adventures Part 1: Lololima Waterfall and Wading to the Grocery Store

Most of my time here in Vanuatu has actually been spent in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila - waiting for work to get started between trips out of town.  I haven't written about many of that time - a lot of it has been wasting days on the internet, nothing that would really be interesting to read about (although maybe it would give a more realistic view of what my service has really been like).  But several adventures have been sprinkled in.  Here are some of them!

One weekend early on in my stay here, another volunteer and I decided we wanted to visit Lololima Waterfall.  He'd heard the waterfall was cool, but neither of us knew how to get there.  I asked the women who work at the hotel where I've been staying, and they thought we could probably flag down one of the "busses" in Port Vila and get it to take us there for around 400 vatu ($4).  Busses in Port Vila are actually minivans that act sort of like taxis, driving around and picking up and dropping off passengers wherever they want to go. Well, we stood by the road and flagged down several busses who either didn't know where the waterfall was or weren't willing to take us there.  Finally, we found a bus who, like the others, wasn't sure where the waterfall was - but he was willing to try to find it.  We got in, and off we went, asking for directions along the way.  It ended up being much farther into the bush than any of us had thought - the paved road ended and we bounced along a dirt track, asking for directions from a group of horseback riders and people in houses.

 Once the bus driver realized how far away it was, he asked us to charter the whole bus for the afternoon; there was no chance we'd be able to find another bus to get back in that remote area.  We agreed, especially since he was concerned that he might be harming his bus on the dirt road.  Now we weren't the only passengers in the bus; other passengers included a young woman who had been on the way to the hospital for pneumonia before we took over the bus.  I kept telling the driver that we could swing by the hospital and drop her off first, we didn't mind - but she kept saying "no, no, it's ok!"  So she came with us.  (I think she was one of his relatives).

When we finally found the waterfall it was all worth it- very beautiful, with deep, cool pools to swim in and even a small cave to explore.  We all - me, my friend, the driver, and the other passengers - went swimming together and had a great time.  None of them had been there, and the woman who had been on her way to the hospital said "Oh, I feel much better now, this water is great!"  It ended with the bus driver giving us his phone number for our future adventure needs.

A second, more recent adventure took place on what should have been a pretty ordinary errand - running out to the grocery store for supplies.  I had just gotten back to Port Vila after my time on Ambrym, and wanted to walk to the nearby Au Bon Marche (Port Vila's grocery store) to buy food.  Now, Cyclone Cook had brought quite a bit of rain to Port Vila, and the road between my hotel and Au Bon Marche has a deep dip in it.  When I got to that part of the road this is what I saw:

The water looked to be at least waist high at the deepest points.  Only the hardiest cars were crossing - making big waves in front of them as they did so.  Now the logical thing to do would be to turn around and take a bus to one of Au Bon Marche's many other locations in Port Vila, but I saw that some other people were wading across - and if they could do it, so could I!  So I made my way across, helped by the many people who called out to me to tell me the best way to go.  A group of men in a construction site helped me cut through their site to avoid most of the water, but I still waded up to my knees at one point - and combined with the heavy rain that was coming down I was completely soaked when I got to the grocery store.  

On my way back, I decided to try to take a dirt road up a hill to avoid the water.  When I asked a young woman I saw how to get back down to the main road on the other side of the water, she pointed out the way, a path between houses - but also said that there were dogs along the way that could bite me.  So she and a group of girls walked along beside me to protect me from the dogs, holding their flip flops in their hands to fend them off.  We all laughed about the situation.  I got back to the hotel safe and sound, and don't even remember what food I ended up buying - but the memory of the adventure stuck with me.  The way that seemingly routine tasks can lead to adventure and connections with strangers is one of my favorite things about experiences like Peace Corps.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ambrym Lessons Part 2: "Who's the Lucky Lady?!?"

Ambrym is a beautiful island, and not all of my three weeks there was spent lying around on the floor - I also went swimming in the ocean almost every day.  Another good place to reflect on life.  I'm not dating anyone right now, and while I love the freedom to pack my bags and move to a tropical island in the South Pacific whenever I want sometimes I really feel like I'm ready to find my life partner.  The idea of sharing all these experiences sounds great.  One day on Ambrym I was alone at the beach, standing in the water and thinking about this.  I thought about how many of us have this desire to find a person that will make our lives feel complete, to be able to say "you complete me."  I've been in love in the past, and have dated some wonderful guys, and I do know that it isn't that easy - no matter how great a person is or how much you love them, they never are able to make everything perfect.  Maybe we're thinking about the phrase "you complete me" all wrong, I  thought.  We are always being completed, moment by moment, by many different things.  Every experience we have, everything we see, helps complete us.  At that exact moment, I was being "completed" by the beautiful beach where I was.  So I ran my fingers through the water and thought, "You complete me."  I put on my mask and snorkel and swam, thinking "You complete me" to the fish I saw swim into a tin can.  I floated on my back, looking up at the beautiful blue sky and enjoying the water's support, thinking about how important it is for us to appreciate the beauty of every moment and its role in making us who we are.

Hard not to be inspired on a beach like this

Another related insight I got on Ambrym was about another common phrase: "Who's the lucky lady?!?" or "Who's the lucky guy?!?"  We usually say this when a friend has gotten engaged or started a relationship.  Of course that's exciting, but why not think of using the phrase more often - even in just thinking about ourselves and our lives.  After all, a lucky lady isn't just someone who's found their life partner - they can also be someone who's got a great job, or just bought a plane ticket, or is  enjoying a beautiful sunset, or eating a great ice cream sundae.  I wrote this idea into a poem for my friend Taylor in Alaska.  Taylor had sent out poems that she wrote to several of her friends, including me, months ago, and I'd told her I'd write one in return but never got around to it until my time on Ambrym.  So here's what I came up with:

"Who's the Lucky Lady?"
A Poem for Taylor Ciambra

Who's the lucky lady
With blisters on her toes
Poems in her typewriter
And flour on her clothes?

Who's the lucky lady
Who saw the northern lights
And learned about banana slugs
And read a book last night?

Her life's no fairy tale
It's got far too much rain
And awkwardness and "now what's next?"
And little bits of pain.

No "happily ever after" -
Her story's got no end-
But off she goes in her Xtratuffs
To find the happy around the bend.

Maybe she'll marry a prince one day
No one really knows
But a lady's luck is always born
In the blisters on her toes.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ambrym Lessons Part 1: Insights from Lying on a Concrete Floor

Peace Corps, especially in Vanuatu, is certainly full of adventure - but the experience also involves a whole lot of personal reflection and wrestling with complicated issues.  Figuring out personal relationships, dealing with uncertainty about what my service is supposed to be about, what in the world I'm doing with my life, etc.  When I spent three weeks on Ambrym last month (the island where I went through Cyclone Cook), a lot of this wrestling came to a head.  While there, I learned that the funding for the project I originally came to Vanuatu to do had still not come through, and there were some serious doubts about if/how the project would go forward.  Everything felt very uncertain - I didn't even know for sure if I'd be able to finish my service here in Vanuatau.  This was pretty stressful for both me and the other volunteer I was staying with, who was doing the same project in her community.

One day we were both particularly down about the whole thing, which is never a good combination - neither of us felt very optimistic or able to cheer the other one up.  This being Peace Corps, there was a lot of down time that day and it was also quite hot so I went to lie down on the concrete floor of her house for a nap.  This nap ended up being a sort of turning point for me - instead of sleeping I ended up thinking and praying about my situation for an hour or so, and by the end of the time my thought had turned around.  Nothing had changed about my situation, I still had no idea what was going to happen or even what I wanted to happen.  But I felt motivated and happy to find out how I could best be helpful.  Instead of feeling that none of the possible scenarios for what would happen next could work or make me happy, I felt like I had the ability to be happy no matter which one happened.  After all, if I could turn my thought around by doing something as simple as spending time lying on the floor, the ability to make my situation happy is clearly something inside of me, that I can never be without.  Once I returned to Port Vila it turned out that our program was cancelled after all, and it's taken more than a month to figure out how I'll spend the rest of my service.  I can't say that I've always felt perfectly calm and happy about all the uncertainty, but I've also never stayed down very long - my perspective had changed in a small but permanent way that day on Ambrym.

No good photos were taken of the concrete floor in question.  But you can see a bit of it in this photo of a cute dog!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Meet Cook, my very first Cyclone!

I recently got back to Port Vila after three weeks spent on Ambrym, another of Vanuatu's islands.  I was spending time with Kathleen, a volunteer there who is working on the same project as me.  I helped her lead part of the two-week training with youth that starts the project, and had plenty of time to enjoy her site - one of the most beautiful villages I've been to so far.  Ambrym is volcanic (it has two active volcanoes), so the beaches are all black volcanic sand and it has a beautiful, mountainous landscape.

At the end of my second week there, Cyclone Cook passed through Vanuatu.  This is the first time I've experienced a cyclone or hurricane firsthand.  A couple days before the cyclone passed through our area, the weather started to get windy and the waves were stronger than before.

Peace Corps does a great job at looking out for the safety of volunteers, and we began to get regular texts from our Safety and Security manager in the office about the storm's location.  Vanuatu has a cyclone tracking map - here's an image of it.  Along the side of the map is a description of storm categories; Cook started as a "Tropical Low", but was a category 1 cyclone by the time it reached us.  It ended up reaching category 2, but by that time it had moved further south than us.  Peace Corps used the coordinates on the map to tell us where the storm was located, and the national government was also sending out the same information by radio.

As the storm got closer, the wind and rain picked up.  Some members of Kathleen's community own fiberglass motorboats (used for fishing and transportation), and we went down to the beach with a group of men to help haul the boats out of the water.  They were pushed high up into the bush by rolling them on plastic pvc pipes, so they couldn't be swept away by the waves.  It was fun being out there in the rain with everyone, getting soaked and helping push the boats.  Everyone prepared their houses, as well.  Many of the houses have thatch roofs, which are great for keeping a house cool and allowing air circulation - but the thatch can be blown off in heavy wind.  To prevent this people cut coconut leaves, tie them together in sets of two, and lay them over the top of the roof to weigh the thatch down.  Here's a photo of Kathleen's house once we'd done this, with the help of her family in village:

Once the house was all set, nothing was left but to wait for the cyclone to blow over.  It never went right over where we were, but passed relatively close by - we had one very windy night where neither of us got much sleep, but the roof stayed on the house and only a little rain got in through the walls.  In the village as a whole, most of the houses got through the cyclone just fine, although lots of banana trees and manioc plants in the gardens were blown down and will take a long time to grow back.  But everyone was safe, and once the wind died down we all got to work cleaning up downed tree branches, drying out wet clothes and mattresses, and starting normal life again.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The case of the 2,000 ducks and the house without walls: aka what is my job and where do I live?

It would be fair for readers of this blog to wonder if I have a job here at all, or if my Peace Corps "service" just consists of being flown around to ever more beautiful islands, spending time on the beach and going on adventures.  Usually work for a Peace Corps Response volunteer starts right away, and in fact all of the other Response volunteers here in Vanuatu were packed off to offices around Port Vila right after their two-week training to start 9-5 desk jobs.  My case is a little unusual, but I am here to do a job, and here's some more info on what it is.

I was invited to Vanuatu to work on a program called Youth at Work, a program organized by the South Pacific Community  (SPC).  The program's core goal is to help out of work youth find employment, usually through starting small businesses.  It's been active and successful in Vanuatu's neighboring country, the Solomon Islands, for some time now, and SPC is now trying to introduce it to Vanuatu.  They've asked Peace Corps to help with this.  The Youth at Work program has an urban version, in which youth can either start businesses or intern with existing organizations, and a rural version, which I and three other volunteers will be starting on our islands for the first time this year.

The Youth at Work rural model is a 20-week program that has focuses on climate change adaptation, community service, and small business development.  I will run the program twice, in two villages on the western part of Ambae island - Walaha and Tavala.  In each village, I will work with a committee to select 20 young people between the ages of 16-29 who are not currently in school and would like to participate.  The program will begin with a 2-week training (basically like a day camp), in which the youth will be trained on topics like climate change adaptation (including things like agriculture and natural resource management), self confidence/goal setting, the importance of community service, and small business development.  After this, I and the youth will conduct community service activities in the village for 18 weeks, while continuing small business trainings.  Ideally much of our community service work will be related to making the village more resilient to climate change.  At the end of the program, participants will receive help with writing business plans for their own small businesses, and starting said businesses.  

So that's the well-worded, organized-sounding description of what I am up to here.  Like any time multiple organizations try to work together on a new program, however, everything is a bit up in the air.  Funding is one question - we're still working out where the money is coming from for the expenses associated with the training and starting the small businesses.  This is one reason I haven't started the program on my island yet.  And of course everyone involved in the project has different ideas for how it will go.  My first meeting with SPC, just a little more than a week after I got to Vanuatu, was quite a whirlwind.  It felt like jumping into the last third of a conversation that was well underway.  The whole thing was in rapid-fire Bislama.  Everyone was talking about how this and that minister should be involved, and we need to be sure to be represented at a big upcoming government meeting, which may or may not be on Epi island, and by the way there are 2,000 ducks in New Caledonia that need to be used, so can we work them into the project?  

Wait a second - ducks?  It turns out SPC had budgeted funding for ducks in their Cyclone Pam recovery funds (Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu a couple years ago, and many organizations have been helping replenish lost livestock).  But no one is really sure what to do with the ducks, so in the meeting I was told to do my best to incorporate around 700 ducks into my Youth at Work project.  I clarified that the ducks are a budget line item, not physical ducks sitting in a crate somewhere - if they were 2,000 ducks stuck in a box, this would be very urgent!  Instead, the plan is to purchase them from New Caledonia when they are needed.  So perhaps some of the youth in my program will end up as duck farmers.  But then again, not much has been heard about the ducks in the month since the meeting so maybe they've been taken care of some other way?  

So starting up this program will be interesting, to say the least.  An added issue is that, for those of you who are good at math, you will notice that running this 20 week program in two different villages will require around 10 months - 5 months per site.  This is assuming a mythical perfect world in which all the youth are already in place and ready to go, it takes no time to discuss the project with the community, it also takes no time to move house from one village to another, there are no local holidays to slow work down, and no follow-up is needed with the youth at the end of the program to make sure their businesses are going well.  Anyone who has served in the Peace Corps knows that this mythical, smoothly oiled world is so far from real that it's almost impossible to imagine.  So let's add another month for miscellaneous tasks and delays (which is pretty conservative).  That brings me to 11 months.  Now my contract here in Vanuatu is for 12 months, and as my faithful readers are well aware I have spent two of those months doing things like watching sunrises on Pele island, snorkeling in an underwater plane, riding pickup trucks around Malekula - and most of the time, sitting in the Peace Corps office on my computer - but either way, not running the Youth at Work program on Ambae.  The current plan has me moving to Ambae mid to late April, after assisting with the launch of the Youth at Work program on another island.  So essentially, I'll have 9 months to do what should really take 11 or's looking like this Peace Corps service will be significantly more fast paced than the last one.  Fortunately my two villages are close to one another so it should all be possible, I should be able to start working with the second village before I've finished in the first one.  We'll see!

Although I haven't started the Youth at Work program yet, I did get to finally visit my site last week!  I and Fredlyn, the Peace Corps staff person who coordinates Peace Corps Response here in Vanuatu, visited Walaha for three days.  We met my future host family, who seem wonderful, and saw my house - which lacks walls, roof, and floor, but otherwise is great!  As some of my ever-positive Facebook friends who have served in Peace Corps before commented, the house has great ventilation, excellent natural light, is very energy efficient, and does not have bats living in the ceiling.  So the proverbial glass is solidly half full, if not overflowing.  I also got to meet with some members of the committee in village who will be helping me with the Youth at Work project, and I think we'll work very well together.

My house - so much potential.

Meeting the family!  

Here are a few scenery shots of Ambae.  Every island in Vanuatu is so different- Ambae is not at all beach-y like Pele, and instead has a rugged coast made of black volcanic stone.  In fact, the coast is so rocky that it wasn't possible for a road to be built that goes all the way around the island - if I want to visit Peace Corps volunteers on the eastern part of the island it will need to be by boat!  Ambae is also significantly hotter than Port Vila, being closer to the equator.  It's beautiful, though, and I felt at home.  

The view of the ocean from the guest house where we were staying

The Ambae coast - this is where I'll be swimming every day :)

Heading back to Port Vila.  The airstrip is grass - which means planes can't land when it's rained too much.

Ambae from the air

My village - the building with the large pointed roof is a church, and my house is pretty near there.