Monday, December 13, 2010


I have decided it would be impossible to give an adequate description of all the wonderful people in my life here in just one post, so I have decided to do a series of profiles. To start, I want to introduce you all to my sister, Yvette.

First though, a note on names since I bet some of you are confused to encounter a “Yvette” on a small island in the Pacific. Really, there is no rhyme or reason to the names here. Some are classic Christian names (Patrick, Mary, Andrew), some are traditional Ambaen names (Mwerta, Tari, Garae), there are a few old-school Victorian names (Evelyn, Crimson), and then there are the random names that seem to come from nowhere (Hugh, Yvette, Ivanna, Anita). There is no way to explain where the practice of naming seems to come from, so instead you must accept it as yet another peculiarity of my strange new home.

Yvette was my first friend here and has been my saving grace in the month I have lived in Quatamwele. From the day I arrived – feeling overwhelmed, shy, exhausted, and in way over my head – she has taken me under her wing. Somehow she has a sixth sense about my moods and feelings and is amazingly adept at showing up at exactly the right time with just what I need. A day when I’m feeling lethargic and useless Yvette will come to my door and ask me to go to the garden with her. When I have nothing to say but need to be around people Yvette will call me down to her kitchen and talk and talk while I sit and listen. When all the praise and stories about the former volunteer start to annoy me a little, Yvette will jump in and highlight some of the differences between us and talk about how lucky the village is to have me now. All without me saying a word.

My sister has a great sense of humor, a mischievous crooked smile, and an energetic sparkle to her eyes. Although she spends all her days corralling her five children, cooking for her husband, doing the wash, and also managing the village’s handcraft group, her enthusiasm and liveliness never flag. She loves to play volleyball (although she complains she was much better before kids made her “fat-fat”), go to the garden, and tease her husband (the only one who can get away with poking fun at the chief and chairman of the village). She and I work together closely in regards to the handcraft group and I am consistently amazed at how quickly she picks things up and how well she manages people with a mix of affectionate humor and firm guidelines. She has no idea how talented she is and continues to lack confidence in her abilities to manage money, but I hope soon she will realize what a great asset she is to the community. I cannot imagine how dreary life would be here without her, and she says as the only girl with six brothers she’s ecstatic to finally have a sister.

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