Capsule Stories VI

Repulsive Rumors Result in Critical Culture Confusion church in Port Narvin, 2013

That time in church when the pastor told his audience that Americans were getting implants that would allow the devil to always track them. I look at one of my all-time favorite people, mama Sonia, who is looking back at me with a look of desperate confusion, like “Is this true? What can this mean?” and I don’t know how to respond except to shrug my shoulders, suggesting I haven’t heard this big news yet. We stopped going to church before long.

Somehow I went two years without ever taking a picture of a church. But this is the set up right next to the Seventh Day Adventist church in preparation for a wedding!
Somehow I went two years without ever taking a picture of a church. But this is the set up right next to the Seventh Day Adventist church in preparation for a wedding!

The Point of Peace Corps? Perspective (also probably my favorite story ever) Port Narvin to Ipota, November 2014

Walking out of Port Narvin for the very last time, we are accompanied by several of our brothers and sisters. We brought small candies to share with them, but were horrified as they would unwrap them and toss their garbage onto the beautiful rainforest floor. Had we taught them nothing??? Peter and I rushed around to pick up the garbage. We were giggled at for our efforts.

Then, halfway to Ipota, we stop to enjoy the most beautiful watermelon I have ever seen. Hungry, thirsty, and in need of the liquefied energy boost, Peter and I dug in happily, spitting out the numerous hard black seeds as we went. Before long our 8 year old sister was running around us, collecting the small seeds off the rocks, again looking at us like we’re crazy.

So we’ll carry collected garbage with us on a 10+ mile hike, but carelessly toss the seeds of future nourishment? Thought provoking, to say the least.

That was one of the sweetest watermelons I have ever tasted~ and look at that color! Beautiful!
That was one of the sweetest watermelons I have ever tasted~ and look at that color! Beautiful!

Unforgettable Gratitude Mama Sonia’s kitchen, November 2014

We enjoyed a small “last kakae” (customary last meal) with Daddy Bob, Mama Sonia, and their family before Mama Sonia left for the capital to deliver her baby. As is the norm, plenty of time was spent giving speeches. Every adult in the room (5 or 6 of us) was given as much time as we cared to take to comment on the honor of the occasion, the memories from the past two years, and share our grief that the time was coming to an end. Each oration was heartfelt and touching. Nearly every one of us spoke with tears running down our face. All the while, our two little brothers, Patrick and Avi (7 and 5 years old, respectively) sat quietly, watching us strange adults go through this lengthy custom.

When all our sentiments has been exhausted, it was announced that we would commence with the feast…but before the announcement could be finished, Patrick whispered something to his mom, who then said that there would be one more “toktok,” given by our seven year old brother.

I briefly reflected on my history with this little boy. During our first year in Port Narvin, I taught at his pre-school where I saw this crazy fire-cracker of a child bounce off the walls uncontrollably. But you couldn’t be mad with him for long with his unbearably adorable smile. After I spoke to Mama Sonia about his behavior, he began joining me in my kitchen after lunch each day to practice his alphabet and be read to for an hour or so, then rejoin us in the evening to study some more. Initially shy, he worked hard and was always eager, never lost his playful and goofy spirit (especially when Avi was around), but learned to control himself in appropriate contexts. Before long, I could hear him trying to read borrowed books at his own house.

During our second year in Port Narvin, Patrick was the star of the first grade, blowing everyone away as he outperformed even some of the students from Class 3. He continued to study with us during our evening study hour. By the time of this last kakae, he had matured into a handsome, smart, well-mannered young boy whom I am proud to call by brother.

Here in front of me I saw all the shy he had ever displayed swarm back to overwhelm him, but he recovered quickly. He straightened up, looked at me, then said, in slow English, “Thank you Nompunvi and Nesi for teaching me and helping me.” Then there was that gorgeous smile again.

Tears started streaming down my face all over again, as they are now.

Patrick, having already mustered the courage and said his piece, feeling free to chow down on some New Yam laplap in Mama Sonia's kitchen. <3
Patrick, having already mustered the courage and said his piece, feeling free to chow down on some New Yam laplap in Mama Sonia’s kitchen. <3

Some Things Come in Threes

There are many challenges that come with being in the Peace Corps. Probably the greatest challenge, however, is being so far away from family when tragedy and challenge strikes.

Imagine then how I felt when I learned that lymphoma had been found in my grandmother’s chest. On top of the fear of losing my grandmother, I knew how much my mom would be struggling to work through the threat of losing her own mother. But there was little to nothing I could do. I was on the other side of the world. I didn’t even have internet. My grandmother beat her cancer, but is now struggling with congestive heart failure resulting from the chemo.

Within a week I learned that my step-mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. With little information to go on and no way to follow what was happening, I had no idea what to expect. Again, there was little to nothing I could do. I was on the other side of the world. I didn’t even have internet. Most fortunately, my warrior of a step-mother won her battle with cancer.

Then there was Kay~ When my brother married this incredible woman named Karen, we learned that she came with an equally wonderful family. Her parents, Kay and Gil, were among the most supportive of us while we were overseas. They wrote us regular letters, contributed to packages, and poured on encouragement and love every time they saw us online. I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of Kay’s struggle with Multiple Myeloma, which had gone on for over a decade. We had no idea she was sick until, amongst all the other news of cancer, we were told of her 6-month prognosis, 8-months before we were due to return to the USA. September 4th, 2014, she passed away peacefully in the Huntsman Cancer Hospital ICU. There was little to nothing we could do for our star supporters. We were on the other side of the world. We didn’t even have internet. We are now enjoy the breathtaking hospitality of Gil and his son, living with them in their home.

(Enjoy this picture while you take a refreshing breath to recover from all that overwhelmingness, then finish your reading with the upbeat message below it.)

When I was at my most overwhelmed with not knowing what was happening with my family in the USA, this little guy, my brother Aaron, was born in the house next door. He served as a great reminder not to forget the value of the family I have on BOTH sides of the world.
When I was at my most overwhelmed with not knowing what was happening with my family in the USA, this little guy, my brother Aaron, was born in the house next door. He served as a great reminder not to forget the value of the family I have on BOTH sides of the world.

So we missed a lot when we were gone, and often felt so overwhelmingly detached from those we needed most. But now we’re back and want to make up for lost time. Every year, the Huntsman Cancer Foundation holds a fundraiser via the Salt Lake City Marathon called Huntsman Hometown Heroes.

Since Peter is a runner, and I’m a …volunteer-er, we decided to take advantage of our time in Utah and participate! Now that you’ve read our story, p-p-p-please click here and make a contribution to our personal fundraising. Even if it’s only a few dollars, every penny counts and it all adds up in the end. We thank you in advance!

Wow! This is Peter running a leg of Hood to Coast in Oregon in 2011. He should have no problem with a half-marathon in April--but only if he gets enough support to raise $500 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation!
Wow! This is Peter running a leg of Hood to Coast in Oregon in 2011. He should have no problem with a half-marathon in April–but only if he gets enough support to raise $500 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation!

Capsule Stories V

Writing these is both breaking my heart and helping me process. Hopefully there will be balance in the end. Anyhoo, here are some more to enjoy~

Learning Tolerance and Patience…then Depleting It Vanuatu, 2012-2014

All those times we asked if someone would be interested in helping or doing something and they enthusiastically agreed—often multiple times, only to show that they truly were not committed to the idea by simply not showing up. Then them not showing up for days or weeks afterward because they are “shamed” and want to avoid confrontation. All this, we’re told, because they don’t want to hurt our feelings.

Learning to understand this behavior, see the signs, behave compassionately, and work around it somewhat successfully for two years—only to lose my sh*t over it all over again two months before we leave.

One of the days a counterpart simply didn't show up.
One of the days a counterpart simply didn’t show up.

Dude, Kava Lost My Phone Port Narvin, 2013

That time Don went home after an evening of kava at our house, only to return ten minutes later shining a little light everywhere in search of his mobile phone. Then Papa Joe asking, “What kind of torch are you using?” Don looks at the phone in his hand, turns off its small light, then slips away back into the darkness without a word. And never lived it down thereafter.

Last kava with Don.
Last kava with Don.

Manbus’s First Canned Beverage Port Narvin, Oct 2014

That time when I opened a Johnny Arrow, then realized there was some dust and dirt on top of the can. I took a deep breath to blow all the dirt off, then subsequently blew just right to make the beverage explode all over my face (and all over everything else). I remembered to check for dust BEFORE opening a can thereafter.

Me and a JA...though this story happened in our kitchen on Erromango more than a year later, not in a nice hotel room.
Me and a JA…though this story happened in our kitchen on Erromango more than a year later, not in a nice hotel room.

Our Carbon Footprint Port Narvin, 2014

All the times we knew it had been too long since we cooked over fire based on the strength of the smell our pit toilet was emitting. (10 points and a high five if you understand why.)

hint: What good are the ashes of a fire?
hint: What good are the ashes of a fire?

Studying by Osmosis—Attempted Everywhere Port Narvin beach, 2014

Remember when you were a kid and you insisted you could do homework in front of the TV, only to fall asleep on your book? Then when you thought you were witty by telling your parents you were learning by osmosis? That happens everywhere, only instead of a couch, it was sand; and instead of the TV, it was the ocean.

Port Narvin's loooong black sand beach--favorite studying/napping grounds for just about everyone on a hot day.
Port Narvin’s loooong black sand beach–favorite studying/napping grounds for just about everyone on a hot day.

Capsule Stories IV: Departure Moments Accompanied by Flashbacks

Sign My Shirt? Port Narvin, November 2014

For some odd reason, when we were waiting for the plane that would take us off of Erromango for the last time, Don (Peter’s counterpart and now our good friend) asked us to sign his shirt. Peter signed first, then handed me the marker. The moment I had the shirt signed, I was pulled into the throng of hugs and goodbyes as I was ushered onto the plane, the marker in one hand, its cap in the other. At the last moment, Don managed to reach through and grab the marker. As I stared out the window of the plane, Peter gets my attention to tell me “I told Don you’d end up stealing the cap to his marker.” I looked down to see that the cap was indeed still balled in my fist. Now it’s a month later and I’m typing this on one of the planes carrying us from Thailand to Utah, and I still have it.

Don and Peter Nesi preparing kava, 2013.
Don and Peter Nesi preparing kava, 2013.

Nothing Gonna Slow Us Down Erromango, Nov. 2014

When our aunties, mamas, and papas sang a farewell song to us over a breakfast we couldn’t touch for lack of being able to control our sobbing; then that song starting the waterworks every single time we heard it. Exhausted by the farewells, as they all joined us on the 7 hour hike out of our village to the airport we insisted no tears while we walked. This meant they could not sing that song. Instead, we taught them Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride.” We sang, whistled, and hummed it together, laughing and giggling all the way to the flight that would carry us away from Erromango.

"I've got to keep on MOOOOVIN'!"
“I’ve got to keep on MOOOOVIN’!”

I Scream, You Scream, Some Don’t Scream for Ice Cream Ipota, Nov. 2014

When we had the opportunity to share ice cream with our Erromangan brothers and sisters—the first time they had ever had ice cream (or ANYTHING cold at ALL—just think about that for a minute) in their lives. We (unsuccessfully, mostly) tried to capture the looks on their faces as this sweet treat burned their tongues with its strange frozenness. Our oldest sister (11 years old) tried her best, but could not do it. Before long, most of her ice cream was added to our papa’s bowl.

A little brother (3 years old) would close his eyes, stick his tongue out, and sloooooowly move his spoonful of frozen toward the tip of his tongue like it might do something unexpected at any moment.

Just when we were sure they all hated it (though we didn’t mind, it was still worth watching them attempt it), Nesi (10 years old), emerged from the corner where he had been quietly munching, his empty bowl held carefully in both hands. He walked up to Peter to inquire, “So, how much does this ice cream cost?” We laughed and Peter told him the price, adding, “That’s why education is so important! So you can get a good job that pays enough to be able to eat ice cream every day!”

SO COLD! IT BURNS MA FINNERS! what do I have to do to be able to eat ice cream EVERY DAY???
MMmmm… what do I have to do to be able to eat ice cream EVERY DAY???
That wasn't so bad....once it was melted!
That wasn’t so bad….once it was melted!

Flashback: An Adventure Any Boyscout Would Be Ashamed Of Port Narvin-Ipota, 2013

My first time making the trek from Ipota, the location of the airport, to our village (rather than going on the ass-numbing boat ride)— We leave later than planned, but it’s a beautiful day. Raining off and on, we are kept cool, if wet. Most of our luggage is travelling by boat, so we barely have anything to carry; just water, some small snacks, and our mobile phones. Six hours after we left Ipota, we reach Cook’s Bay with just the hike over the mountain between us and our village. The sun is just beginning to go down. Friends in Cook’s Bay ask us to spend the night before hiking up and over the hill because it is getting late. We consider their offer, but we are both aching for our own bed. We trudge on.

Not long after we began up the hill, two unfortunate things occurred: 1) the calm, cooling rain turned into a downpour, turning the steep dirt path into a muddy slip and slide that would be sufficient for snowless skiing; and, 2) being relatively near the equator as well as under a dense canopy, “the sun starting to go down” suddenly turned into just plain dark.

So we hiked up and over an unfamiliar and steep and impossibly slippery hill at night in the rain, with terrible shoes (Peter in water shoes, me in soaked tennis shoes), and no light other than the pathetic torches on our mobile phones—and it was all we could do to keep the phones from getting soaked in the rain.

Our host family (still new to us at the time) called us every 10 or 15 minutes, tracking our progress like worried parents, but also making it more difficult to focus on the difficult climb due to adding the struggle of answering the phone so often. Eventually they dispatched Papa Joe to meet us close to the top of the hill and guide us down the other side.

It wasn’t until the next time I made that hike that I learned I was on a slippery path on a mountain with steep drop-offs, often on both sides of where I was walking—in the rain—at night.

Just a few hours into my first hike between Ipota and Port Narvin. Aaaah those naive and joyful moments, about to be crushed. (dundundun)

Flashback: She* Gives Me Fever Port Narvin, 2014

When all three Erromango volunteers got dengue fever in succession. Corey first: 106°f fever in the sweltering heat of March in the tropical Southern hemisphere; Peter second, an equal fever and inability to move during the nice, cool, but violent weather of Cyclone Lusi; Me third, 104°f fever that begins as soon as the sweltering heat returns, this time the heat accompanied by renewed humidity and me by a body covered in hives—oh and by frustration/envy of Peter who barely noticed the cyclone go by and enjoyed constant cool wind throughout his fever.

Cyclone LUSI! (those little outlined dots are Vanuatu's islands. Erromango is toward the bottom of the 'Y')
Cyclone LUSI! (those little outlined dots are Vanuatu’s islands. Erromango is toward the bottom of the ‘Y’)

*’She’ because, if I remember right, all mosquitoes that bite you are female. And, of course, dengue is transmitted through mosquito bites.


Major Tom to Ground Control: Re-Entry Imminent

Oh no! We have to plan for our lives to start again now! Ah! HEEELLLPPP!!!

But really only kinda. We know what we’re doing with our lives, it’s just not starting for 6-8 months, and we don’t know where that will be yet. We want to build lives of service, starting with Peter going to law school to study social justice, and me furthering my experience in refugee resettlement assistance. But to transition from our service overseas to putting down our routes for our domestic service, we are going to need all the help we can get. Until we move to where Peter is going to school, we’re trapped in the gap, whether we mind it or not.

So we need to plan for the interim—the majority of which we’re likely spending in Northern Utah. We need to plan how we’re going to do it: where we will live, what we will do to fill our time, how/what we pay for, etc. If you’re interested and/or able to help, here’s what we’re taking into consideration:

  • Volunteering at IRC in SLC
    • Intro to volunteering Jan 7
  • Won’t know where we’re moving until March/April
  • May not be moving until August-ish
  • Peter wants to take post-bacc/pre-law classes
  • Short term income would be nice
  • Don’t have/want to spend money (as little as possible) until we move
  • Graciously want to enjoy time with hospitable friends and family without outstaying our welcome or being obnoxious or burdensome guests.

So here’s what we need your help to answer:

  • Where can we stay, when, and for how long (and for how much)?
  • Is there an opportunity for short-term employment for either of us?
  • Where can Peter take classes?
  • If we are far from volunteering/work/school commitments, what about transportation? 

Any suggestions, offers, connections, tips, or anything that anyone can give us is welcome—and we are infinitely grateful to you! Thank you all in advance!

Descriptions of Service

COMING SOON: more capsule stories with fantastic pictures!

But for now, anyone who is curious about what we DID here, professionally, here is my Description of Service (DOS). Peter will post his if he wants. I don’t feel comfy posting his without his permission.




After a competitive application process stressing technical experience, ambition, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, the United States Peace Corps invited Nicole Areté to serve as a community health facilitator in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu from December 6, 2012 to December 5, 2014.


Nicole began her 10-week Pre-Service Training on October 7, 2012. This training included the following elements:

  • Language: (53 hours) developed intermediate fluency in Bislama, first national language of Vanuatu.
  • Cross-Cultural: (47 hours) learned to appropriately navigate Vanuatu’s culture and adjust to the new lifestyle.
  • Technical: (127 hours) learned how to facilitate community projects and prepared for teaching various kinds of health education.
  • Safety and Security: (25 hours) prepared for safety and security risks in Vanuatu, ranging from potential natural disasters to personal security.
  • Medical: (25 hours) learned to identify and treat common ailments with only the remote help of a medical officer.

Nicole also completed the following In-Service Trainings:

  • Project Design and Management: (24 hours) trained for agency collaboration, community mobilization, and project planning and follow-through.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction: (24 hours) trained to improve a community’s preparedness in the event of a natural disaster.


On December 6, 2012, Nicole completed training and was sworn in by Peace Corps Vanuatu’s Country Director and other Vanuatu officials as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She was assigned to the village of Port Narvin on the island of Erromango. While living in Port Narvin, Nicole facilitated health education and development activities conducive to improving her community’s health.

Port Narvin is a rural village on the island of Erromango which is located approximately 80 miles southeast of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila. Port Narvin has a population of less than 700 people, located approximately 80 miles southeast of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila. Reaching the village from the nation’s capital requires hours of both boat and plane travel. Nicole was assigned a host family who adopted her as their own. She learned to adjust to their lifestyle. Living in a house of bamboo and thatch, she regularly engaged with her host family and other community members, as is traditional, both in her kitchen and theirs. She learned to cook traditional food, wash laundry by hand, take part in traditional ceremonies, and much more. She accomplished these feats while living without electricity, indoor plumbing, or climate control of any sort. Nicole’s achievements were due to the strong relationships she developed with family and friends she lived and worked with.

Activities For Fulfillment Of Primary Objectives

  • Made herself available as a resource for health information, including a community Question Board located on the village’s main road where people submitted health inquiries. Answers were publically displayed on the board for all to see and learn from.
  • Provided training to local counterparts to developed skills such as completing Higher Education applications, writing formal letters to government agencies, and completing grant applications.
  • Trained a local health worker to create and implement health outreach workshops. After the first year, she was no longer afraid to speak on health issues publicly and was designing workshops on her own.
  • Taught supplemental as well as curriculum-based health classes collaboratively with local teachers. These included a supplemental health and hygiene class with Class 10 students at Danpy Secondary School as well as co-teaching creatively implemented health curriculum to Classes 1-4 in Port Narvin Primary School.
  • Collaborated with other volunteers and various local partners to run health workshops. Some examples are: STIs and Youth workshop, Family Planning with SDA Mamas, Four Kinds of Health with the combined villages of Erromango, and several other workshops on hygiene, sanitation, and various other health topics.
  • Coordinated “Run for Your Life,” a biweekly sports and running program for women with the goal of reducing rate and impact of NCDs.
  • Conducted two community-wide surveys. One to acquire general community health baselines, the other to collect community opinion with regard to a development project.
  • Facilitated and supervised planning and management of Port Narvin Rain Tank Project, providing the entire village with a reliable source of potable water.
  • Created a team of Class 6 students and supervised their designing and building of hand washing facilities at their school.
  • Conducted amateur eye screening with local counterparts at Port Narvin Primary School to assist teachers in meeting the needs of their students.

In addition to these accomplishments, Nicole was instrumental in bringing the renowned Grassroot Soccer Peace Corps SKILLZ program to the Pacific Region for the very first time. Nicole ran the pilot program for Vanuatu youth first in an urban local and then repeated the program in a rural setting. SKILLZ is a program for youth that combines soccer with life skills training and Adolescent Reproductive Health education. Nicole also created well-developed materials adapting the program to Vanuatu’s needs and culture, as well as translating printed materials into Bislama.

Secondary Projects

  • Conducted a Study Hour with 30-40 students and parents from every Class Level each school night. The objective was to teach students effective study habits and teach parents positive ways to help and support their children. This time included playing educational games, providing extra homework, and answering questions for both students and parents.
  • Organized Port Narvin’s youth group “Yut i Laev Bakegen,” a youth empowerment group, and helped them facilitate community-wide fundraisers to support development in the community and other projects.
  • Held study sessions where adults would trade lessons in the local language, Sye, for English practice.
  • Taught “Kitchen Kindy”: a program where 3-5 pre-school students would practice their alphabet and other pre-reading skills with Nicole. This program was designed to augment Nicole’s twice-weekly visits to the Pre-school to teach pre-reading skills and demonstrate positive teaching practices.
  • Facilitated formation of the Unurvati Environmental Network (UEN), a network of committees committed to managing and preserving the island’s resources. Nicole particularly assisted in creating the official UEN Guideline Document.
  • Throughout her second year, Nicole held a Friday night “Girl’s Night” with her oldest host sister where they practiced English, taught each other about their cultures, and discussed topics relevant to her host sister’s upcoming adolescence.
  • Directed, edited, and produced a music video with and for the Port Narvin community.

Nicole Areté completed her Peace Corps service in Vanuatu on December 5, 2014.

Capsule Stories III

Intellectual Rollercoaster Vanuatu 2012-2014

2012- open-minded and humbled; 2013- stop caring about spelling (doesn’t matter in Bislama) and can literally FEEL my thoughts slow and simplify, the quality (and vocabulary!) deteriorating; 2014- thankful to see that my cognitive regression was not permanent—or at least, I’m either getting back up to speed or getting used to my newly simplified mental existence; second half of 2014- spent panicking because it’s all not coming back fast enough, no spelling looks right, and why can’t I think of that damn word?!?! (any of them!)

An example of writing in Bislama. Take a look at this and maybe my story will be easier to understand. “Komputa Literasi Klas,” for example.


Boogeykids! main road in Port Narvin, 2014

Starting with little Nesi (9), the students would hide in bushes, behind trees, in the grass, and try to jump out and scare us on our way home from homework hour (in the dark). This generally resulted in us chasing them all screaming across the village. Nearly every night.

He’s a boogeyman alright. I see it in his eyes. Teehee~ this is Nesi, inspiration of the boogeykids. <3


Ants Schmants everywhere 2013-2014

All those times we opened some invaluable food item to find it covered in ants or full of boll weevils, or something of the sort—and that it simply meant spending a minute or two pulling off the most visible bugs before enjoying anyway.

THIS is a peach cobbler. Made with special imported, lugged to the island and otherwise unavailable ingredients, then cooked in an oven that is a hole in the ground with a fire in it (basically dutch oven)…. this thing was valuable beyond measure. So when we couldn’t finish the whole thing in one sitting, but we came back to it later to find it covered in ants? Well I didn’t NOTICE that it was more crunchy……


Nakamal Sardines Rungu Nakamal 2013

That time we were swarmed with students of all ages, as we were every night to help them study—packed around the table like sardines—and suddenly Alikton looks up, crunches his nose and whines, “Mr. Peter, wan man i fart!”

We were always too busy to get pictures while packed in like sardines. So here’s a picture of the roof of the nakamal. Natangura is the name of the grass they make the thatch out of.


Learning to Fly Port Narvin to Ipota, 2014

That time when I walked from Port Narvin to Ipota with my friend Susian, determined to maintain HER pace. 4 hours and 40 minutes later, I had completed the hike that before had taken me 7-8 hours each time. Just as I began to feel pretty impressed with myself, Susian turned around to “hurry and get back to Port Narvin before it got dark,” completing the 15 mile hike twice in one day.

While she (leisurely, for her) sped back, I reclined and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to walk normally for at least a couple of days. In all my humility, I spent the majority of those two days bragging.

Just one part of the walk~ over the many times I’ve done this walk, the time I sped over these razor sharp rocks, rather than carefully take my time, was the one time I didn’t slip and draw blood. Maybe there’s something to that.


Capsule Stories II

Who Needs a Pee Bucket? our house, Port Narvin 2013

Some volunteers, not being fans of going out into the weather and/or night for their toilet needs, reserve a ‘pee bucket’ for the purpose. I am proud to say, Peter and I never resorted to such an extreme.

But the day I accidentally locked Peter inside the house for half the day, he became extra grateful that we had a new kitten, and the litter box became the exception.

I got your back, human.

Learning to Swim, Port Nouma 2012

Playing in about 4’ of water, we tried to coax our 2 ½ month old puppy into the water for her first swim. She whined and cried, touching the water with her paws, then jumping away repeatedly. As I called and cooed her name, Peter snuck up behind me and pulled me under the water, making it look like I would drown. Instantly our little wriggly puppy dove into the water and swam to my rescue.


Giaman Kanu! Port Nouma 2012

Auntie Yam and I playing with logs in a river, trying to balance on them like they were real canoes. We played and laughed like we were 9 years old, at the ripe (and shared) age of 27. A great introduction to my new family and community.


Nicole, the Dancer and High-Fiver, family nakamal, Port Narvin 2014

What 20 month old doesn’t LOVE attention? Well, this one more than most. So when her mom tries to stop her from eating rice covered in hot chili sauce, she naturally needs to sneak an entire spoonful into her mouth. All looks fine at first. Then, just as Peter says, “There’s not much hot sauce, just enough to make it tangy probably,” we see her expression begin to change.

Her top lip transforms into a squished ‘M’ and her lower lip a “W”. Then out comes the tongue and her mouth slowly stretches wide open, becoming almost as large and round as her alarmed eyes. But does this girl cry? Oh no, she just pants and laughs with us (Mama Claudie, Peter and I, who are rolling on the floor) even as her mouth is stretched as wide as possible. And what does she do the moment we all recover? Where did that plate of rice go?!?!?!


“Bring shoes you can cross a river in.” Cooks Bay 2013

That time when Triston and Karen casually, but with difficulty, swam across the Cook’s Bay river, both in their shoes and Triston in a nice button-up shirt. They were ready for anything. Well, nearly anything. ;)


Capsule Stories–First Installment




The Great Escape, Port Narvin, Erromango 2013

Walking down the main road in our rural village, we hear a commotion heading our way. Dogs, chasing something. Kids yelling and chasing not far behind. Must be a chicken trying to escape the saucepan.

We wait and listen as the noise moves in our direction. Then boom! A pig comes flying out of some bushes, 8 or 10 dogs frantically barreling right behind. The small pig swooshes past us and down to the beach. Another unfortunate pig tied to a tree nearby squeals as it’s confused for its brother by one of the dogs. Before we know it, the pig that had shot past us like a bullet was splashing into the ocean and began to swim. A pig! Swimming in the ocean! The dogs are too afraid of the waves to continue in their pursuit. We watch as the latest refugee grows smaller and smaller, paddling straight out into the bay.

“Pigs can swim?!” I asked my host pappa. “Of course,” he answered, “but they usually just get eaten by sharks.”

There’s a meal i never imagined on a shark’s menu: bacon.

We later learned that the pig managed to swim around and come out at the end of the bay, several kilometers away. Super pig!



The Universality of Toilet Humor, our kitchen, Port Narvin 2014

That one time over dinner in our kitchen when Esther (age 8) farted loudly, and the ever-silent Mama Claudie, Alisia, Nesi and I didn’t recover from our giggles for at least 10 minutes. Then Mama Claudie told Esther she must have had an inflated balloon in her stomach—then let go. Another 10 minutes of giggles.



Ben the Co-Op Keeper, Port Narvin 2014

The store keeper who blamed Peter for his store never having any peanut butter. Corey visits:

Corey: “Good morning, Ben! I need peanut butter!”

Ben: “Sorry—Peter buys all of them!”



Um. NE Erro Council HQ, Port Narvin 2014

That one time when the conversation at a Gender-Based Violence workshop digressed into a 20 minute debate about whether women have moustaches as often as men. (Gender, or sex?)



Teaching Life Skills to One Eleven Year Old at a Time, our kitchen, Port Narvin 2014

The first time I played the Game of Life Card Game with my sister Alisia, we practiced stealing each other’s pets, husbands, and children for two hours, laughing harder than we ever had together.


This blog is solely our thoughts and opinions and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps or the United States government


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