That moment in the car, bass booming, me singing, that I suddenly stop. I just stop. Stop and realize that I have been taking the joy of my technology and the freedom of my music for granted for days now. I thought nothing of it. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the simple details that add flavor to our lives.
Then I remember that as I sit there feeling the vibrations of my sound system, my Vanuatu family and friends are preparing to be smashed into by two major cyclones. At least, I hope they’re making preparations. I have no way of knowing.
This moment on the same day we finally received a couple of the packages we mailed to ourselves from Vanuatu more than 3 months ago.
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.
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.
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.
This blog is solely our thoughts and opinions and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps or the United States government