Band Aid, Radi-Aid, and how to improve our compassion for the world

Inspired by a brief chat with a co-worker about food aid in Africa, I've started reading a fascinating book: Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia since Live Aid by Peter Gill.  The book begins with Ethiopia's 1984 famine, and the reaction it inspired in western countries - including Band Aid, the charity created by pop singer Bob Geldof which made 5 million pounds for Ethiopia famine relief with their record 'Do they know it's Christmas.' "As Ethiopians have pointed out ever since,"Gill writes, "they did of course know it was Christmas because the starving were mainly Christian." 

I wasn't around to watch pop songs in 1984, but did encounter the 2014 remake of "Do they know it's Christmas," which raised money to fight Ebola.   I came across the song on the site of Radi-Aid*;  it was the winner of the 2015 "rusty radiator" prize which goes annually to "the fundraising video with the worst use of stereotypes.”  Other cri…

My Life as a Port Vila Volunteer

One of the benefits to Port Vila - weekend scuba diving!

The other day, someone I met asked me how being a Peace Corps volunteer in the capital compares to serving in a more rural community.  While I haven’t served on an outer island here in Vanuatu, I did serve in a rural community in Benin – and told him that “it’s completely different – it’s like having a regular job, only without the money!”  Working with World Vision is very much like having a regular job.  I have a desk and a computer, I’m in the office from 8 to 5 – and there’s lots of work to do.  While I wouldn’t trade the challenges and rewards of serving in a rural area during my first service, at this point in my life this is exactly what I need.  I often find it amazing to look back over my time in Vanuatu so far, and think about how despite all the challenges and uncertainty of my first four months I ended up in a situation that is such a good fit – really a much better fit than my experience on Ambae would have been.Here…

"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 …

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 chattin…

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 pas…

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 comple…

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 …