Lava hot springs on a hot day: GLORIOUS

The pups just a few weeks old! Ours is the white girl!
The pups just a few weeks old! Ours is the white girl!

Hello backagain! WE COMPLETED PRE-SERVICE TRAINING! We officially swore in, taking the Foreign Service Oath, on Thursday December 6th. We will be flying to our new site on Erromango in just a few days to set up site and dive into our new community. Wish us luck!

Really quick, the boring stuff with regard to contact info:

Packages will still reach us if you mail them to the following address:

Peace Corps Vanuatu

Nicci and/or Peter Arete

Peace Corps Volunteers

PMB 9097

Port Vila

Republic of Vanuatu

South Pacific

This is called a Christmas Tree because it blooms in December. Happy Holidays!

We do have an updated address that I cannot put on social networking sites. That address will get mail to us significantly faster, hopefully. If you would like it, send me an email or facebook message saying so. If you want to know what would be worth its weight in gold to us were we to receive it in a care package, the following items are unavailable, too luxurious to justify, and/or extremely expensive here: Comfortable shoes for hiking for hours on rough terrain and/or walking through water (like Keen’s or vibrams- I’m a size 7 and Peter is a size 11 1/2); organization supplies- both for the office or otherwise (I’m wishing I could find a lightweight closet organizer than I can hang up and store my clothes in, away from the rats!); all other office supplies—they are really expensive here and we will never stop needing/being able to make use of just about everything; a small travelling magnetic chess set!; dried delicious food goods; magazines/newspapers about current events; books; dog care supplies such as flea treatment, de-wormer/worm management, chew toys, etc… I do not suggest sending anything meat-based.

All in all though, we really just love hearing from people more than anything. Even a quick little note in the mail that has gone through the trouble of travelling all the way to us to remind us that you’re thinking of us means more than I can say.

My training host family in Malafau under our wonderful mango tree! I'm going to miss them!
My training host family in Malafau under our wonderful mango tree! I’m going to miss them!

All that said…

There is a lot I could write about, but to keep this tolerably short, I will restrict myself to telling a story from our visit to the island of Ambrym that gives an idea of what it’s like to be a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu (minus the work that goes into it):

After visiting a secondary school, we decided to walk to some hot springs we had heard about. Peter and I were walking with two current volunteers, Mi and Kirsten, two other trainees, Sheena and Elizabeth, and a couple members of Kirsten’s host family. We walked and sweated and walked and sweated…  and sooner than later really began to wonder why we were walking so far and dying of heat in the meantime to get to some hot springs. But alas, we are Peace Corps volunteers! With just crackers, peanut butter, tuna and a lot of water to fuel us, we persevered. Finally, after maybe two hours of walking, we reached the last village we would need to traverse to get to the hot springs. It was here that we were stopped and asked to wait. We stood in the shade, somewhat lost to the delirium of the heat, and waiting for a good ten minutes before a couple men came out to greet us. After we told him of our plans to go to the hot springs, he informed us that the chief charges 500vatu per person to swim in the hot springs. We were baffled. And broke—as Peace Corps volunteers often are. We all looked at each other blankly and at a loss for a moment before Kirsten managed to respond: “Really? Even for Peace Corps? I don’t…” and before she could finish, he was grinning and said “You’re Peace Corps! OH! Go swim! It’s good! You have the skin of tourists! No no no, go swim now!” And then he graciously walked us toward the water.

After that encounter, we (I) timidly stepped into the hot water, which initially burned my feet. Big black rocks surrounded us and we could see straight through the water to the black sand on the ocean floor—the hot springs fed straight into the saltwater. If right on the beach was too hot, one needed only to walk further into the water where it gradually became cooler and cooler. It was so beautiful. We soothed ourselves in the water and watched small crabs and lizards scurry around on the black rocks. Priceless day in so many ways. I wish I had a picture.

Me, Peter, Mi, Kirsten, Elizabeth, and Sheena just before we flew off of Ambrym
Me, Peter, Mi, Kirsten, Elizabeth, and Sheena just before we flew off of Ambrym~the only picture we took on Ambrym

That’s about all for now. If you want to hear about anything in particular, comment and let us know—we’ll be able to update again in another month- 2 months. Peter will likely be posting his own update tomorrow.  The most day to day experiences are easiest to share in letters—and I’m trying to get a good supply of them out before we head to site. We will definitely love and appreciate anything and everything we hear from you as well, and will absolutely positively get letters out to anyone who sends us letters.

I apologize for this getting rather long anyway. It was bound to happen. We love you all!  Xxoo!

NUMBAWAN! (this is my training host sister, Lucy, in Malafau)
NUMBAWAN! (this is my training host sister, Lucy, in Malafau)

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