We have been in our new community of Galili for a couple months now and while we still miss our Ambae family everyday and wonder what might have been, we are starting to feel settled and at home in Malekula. Our house was finished at the end of November and we were humbled at how hard the community worked to meet the Dec 1st deadline. Our stuff from Ambae arrived mid December and while we still have a few projects we are starting to feel at home in out new cottage.
While our house, toilet and swim facilities are complete, our kitchen was put on hold while the community works on a few other more pressing projects such as a new health center, kindy classroom and house for a government teacher starting this month. Because of this, we have been cooking and eating with our family 3 times a day. In an earlier blog i discussed the national food of Vanuatu called Lap Lap. Just like on Ambae we are eating lap lap multiple times a week if not every day but Malekula has a special version of lap lap called lap lap sorsor (Shown in the two left photos below). It starts with a pile of grated starch but unlike Ambae laplap the middle is filled with a meat and veggies. Hot stones are placed with the meat and veggies and coconut milk is squeezed in the middle. The sor sor is covered with leaves and cooked under hot stones. Sorsor is a community meal where everyone sits in a circle, tears off a piece and dips it into the soup. Brian and i have also introduced a few favorites of our own such as banana pancakes (which my family loves) and spaghetti (Which they did not).
Our days in the village when we are not working on our primary or secondary projects involve living life with our neighbors. The people of Galilie know how to work hard, play hard. The morning will typically involve helping with community construction projects or going to the family garden. Unlike in Ambae, we have not yet started our own garden because the community has told us we should wait until after cyclone season or the nursery will be washed out. In the afternoons, the mamas braid each others hair and the kids play at the river. In the bottom right picture are my partners in crime, Dechen and Brisca.
The community of Galili is Seven day Adventist so they do not celebrate Christmas, However, the week leading up to and following new year was celebrated with balloons, card playing and fish! The game of choice in Galili is a game called seven luck which is played with poker cards but is suspiciously close to Uno. We have also introduced go fish, speed, and kings corner, but seven luck is still the favorite.
In between card games and making lap lap we have also found a little time to do our job as water and sanitation volunteers. The community of Galili along with the previous Peace Corps volunteer worked hard to bring fresh piped spring water to the village. Before this project they hiked an hour or more to collect water from a nearby river. Now that clean water is just a few steps away, the community is working on adopting hygiene practices that were previously unavailable to them due to a need for extreme conservation. Common hand washing practice in Vanuatu involves a family bowl of water near the latrine with or without soap nearby that everyone uses to wash their hands. Depending on the availability of water this might be changed daily or just a few times a week. Since taps are now available throughout the community, many people choose to wash their hands at these taps instead of at the bowls however soap has not been placed at the taps until now. Our counterpart Moses worked with us to install soap stations throughout the village. These simple stations involve onion netting to hold the soap and a half coconut shell to protect it from the rain. So far these have been very successful, especially with the kiddos. There is also a local NGO that sends bush villages free soap on a regular basis so the community doesn’t have to worry about who is responsible for replacing the soap at any given tap.
In addition to hand washing, the community is interested in improving the pit latrines they are currently using to cut down on fly populations in the Villiage. There are several kinds of sanitation options used in surrounding areas (water flush, compost, VIP). Our first step along with the health committee was to help determine what kind of toilets were right for the community. There are a lot of factors to consider but luckily we found a resource from a local NGO (Live and Learn) that provided a decision matrix! The right toilet for our communiti came down to a soil permeability test leading the community to favor VIP toilets over pour flush. Hopefully we will continue being involved in the construction of VIP toilets after the rainy season.
I am now out of internet time and about to be kicked out of the resource center (i always wait till the last moment to blog). In the coming months we will be working with the community on a solar project for the school along with a food securing/ micro business improvement opportunity. Cant wait to tell you more next time we have internet service!!!!! -Laura and Brian.