Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Kymani Marley Saved My Relationship

This past week in Vila has not been a good one. Of course I'm enjoying showers, lights, and seeing all my PC friends, but in general my initial optimism and humor where Vanuatu is concerned was growing thin. And I believe the problem comes from the fact that Vanuatu and I have reached the point in our relationship where we are past the honeymoon phase but not quiet truly comfortable with each other yet. All those little things that were so charming and original when we first met have become simply another annoyance that often leads to a fight. Where before I loved the relaxed, easy-going way of life, now I am frustrated that it takes infuriating amounts of time to accomplish anything. My initial appreciation of the friendliness and openness of everyone in this country has turned to aggravation at having to explain my story to everyone I meet. I used to admire the fact that business is not the most important thing to people here, but now I am plagued by stores closing for lunch "hour" every day or shutting down operations at 3:00pm. Even the weather has become nothing more than a thorn in my side, and at night I lie sweating in bed longing for the days I complained about the snow and frigid Northwest temperatures. I was losing my infatuation and starting to wonder if maybe Vanuatu and I weren't cut out for a serious relationship. Maybe I should start seeing other countries.

But then Kymani Marley stepped in and showed me the error of my impatience. Now in the U.S. when an offspring of Bob Marley announces a concert date, for most of us it means nothing more than an excuse to wear hemp, wave a lighter back and forth, and maybe even smoke something you haven't touched since college. But in Rasta-crazed Vanuatu any son of Bob Marley is royalty, and consequently this week leading up to his concert has produced waving flags, Reggae blasting from every speaker, and posters of Kymani plastered on every available surface. To say people are excited would be an understatement. As I was bumping along today in a beat up old bus on my way home to my hotel, my driver suddenly turned into a dirt parking lot close to the waterfront. "Be, yumi go wea?" I asked the driver, hoping I wouldn't have to brave the downpour to find another bus going my direction. The driver turned around and excitedly told me Kymani Marley's boat was about to land on this very dock. He then asked, with the pleading eyes of a child in an ice-cream shop, if we could please just wait 5 minutes till he arrived. He just wanted a look at the legendary man's son. Although I was annoyed and the word "typical" flew through my brain, I fought down my new-found cynicism and agreed that we could indeed hang out for a few minutes. I got out of the bus, camera in hand, and waited. Soon a group of boats could be seen coming around the corner, and the sight took my breath away. One weighed down boat with the celebrity on board was surrounded by smaller boats, overloaded to their limits, zipping around the bay. People were singing, using the side of the boats as drums, and waving a huge flag. Not part of his official posse, people had jumped on any seaworthy (I use that term lightly) craft they could find and rushed to be part of this Rasta sea parade. People began to swarm off the streets and line the dock, all wanting a look at Mr. Marley. It had the feeling of a carnival and everyone was laughing, singing, making beats, and dancing long after the superstar had entered his hotel.

I don't care that I saw Kymani Marley. Until a few days ago I didn't know he existed. So why was he the perfect form of couple's therapy for Vanuatu and me? I'm not exactly sure. It was just another display of chaos that is so prevalent in this country, but for some reason I began to smile and cannot stop. The people of this crazy country are so vibrant and alive. Yes, things can be extremely annoying here, but you will always find people willing to dance, laugh, and sing. And aren't mutual love, a sense of humor, and a dedication to working things out the most important things in a relationship? Maybe I'll give Vanuatu another chance. But I better be getting flowers out of this. . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You can help!

As you sit at your computers, reading about the amazing people that live in Vanuatu and some of the extreme challenges they face every day, I bet you often wish you could do something to help improve the lives and the opportunities for these unique and wonderful people. Well good news - now you can! By following the link below you can donate any amount of money, however small, to help the Gender and Development committee work to provide support for the country's youth.

But what is the GAD committee? We are a group of eight volunteers who meet three times a year and try to address issues of gender inequality, gender-based violence, and others in Vanuatu. As our mission statement says, our goal is to "encourage cooperation between women and men to build strong families, communities, and nation." This encompasses a broad range of activities from raising awareness of domestic violence to helping people re-evaluate gender roles to providing training for Peace Corps volunteers in GAD related issues. But one of the most important things the GAD committee does is to focus on educating the youth of Vanuatu and helping foster confidence, leadership skills, healthy relationships and much more. As we focus on empowering the young people of this country we are ensuring that the next generation of Ni-Vanuatu will have the strength and the tools to improve the country from within. By providing training we can hope to put into place a sustainable development plan that will flourish without volunteers and will hopefully eventually make Peace Corps's presence in Vanuatu unnecessary.

A way to accomplish this is by running BILD (Boys In Leadership Development) and GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camps in different locations around the country. These camps are a great way to gain access to and engage the country's youth and have been proven time and time again to be effective. Although the Peace Corps is extremely supportive of the GAD committee and our mission, unfortunately for the moment there is no available funding for us to run these camps. So instead, we look to you! You can help us accomplish our goals by donating any amount of money. Any gift of any size is greatly appreciated and gets us one step closer to our goal. So if you want to help the youth of Vanuatu, or get a nice little tax deduction, or if you just want to support your favorite Peace Corps blogger, please follow the link and donate anything you can. Thank you!!