Mary Ann Goes to Vanuatu

Most of us on occasion live vicariously through the adventures of others. My kid sister, Mary Ann, provides my window to the world today!

Today my sister Mary Ann is 70. That’s hard to believe.

When she was born, I was the only child, 2 1/2. I thought she was a pest. She and two of our three other siblings verify that I could be less than kind (the youngest, John, was too young to bother with, I guess! At any rate, he’s never lamented living in the same house with me.)

Anyway, Mary Ann (she goes by Mary) is 70 today and she’s somewhere on Vanuatu, small island country in the remote South Pacific, apparently a third-world country that is said to be the happiest place on earth.

Mary was here to visit Sep 26-Oct 1, and a few days later left for Vanuatu preparing for her tour of duty in the Peace Corps as a Health Care worker there (she’s a retired Nurse Practitioner).  (She's at left in the photo in Minneapolis from Sep 29, 2012)

Here’s a BBC story about Vanuatu, and a couple of maps of its vicinity (look for the arrows pointing to the approximate spot: Vanuatu001

Below is Mary’s in-person account of her first days in Vanuatu. (She is by nature an adventurous spirit, and has previously had many interesting experiences in many countries, including two tours on the Hospital Ship Hope earlier in her career. I’ll attribute that to the family Voyageur gene from the French-Canadian ancestors Blondeau! The rest of us seem to share that gene as well.)

As our Dad used to say, I’ll follow her exploits on paper. A friend has already suggested that she do a blog of her own!

Mary Ann, October 10, 2012:

Hi all…your first taste of bislama (Means Peace Corps and You Week)

Just a quick update as we have been sprung from the training camp for the afternoon to come into town to get immunizations and do some interviews at the Peace Corps Office. There are thirty trainees and to say the days are full is an understatement! Breakfast call at 7 AM and lights out at 9 PM (cause that is when the three hours of generator power ends!!)

Add to that jet lag from the 22 hour plane trip and temperatures of 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity and this is quite the place! Beautiful, reminiscent of Jamaica but any thoughts of visiting Vanuatu would not be this time of the year. My leather sandals and expensive orthotics will just have to rest for a few months till the weather cools down. Fortunately, I have a great pair of sandals that I can wear and the rest of the clothing that I brought is ‘island appropriate’ – long skirts and loose tops always for the women but needless to say that anything wet will stay wet for a couple of days. The camp is right off a lagoon and there is a decent breeze.

Food is prepared for us by the Pango Mammas (must be sort of like a church group but I have not really figured that one out yet) We have island foods – papaya/mango/orange/cabbage/yams/carrots/potatoes/kassa/and a splash of some kind of meat with the three meal a day rice and beans. Instant milk is the only dairy as there are no refrigerators. I have not seen an egg all week but apparently they are available. Water here is fine so that is a big plus.

Food is good – heavy on the starch, light on the chocolate, absent on the desserts. Oh well – all acquired tastes!

Went to the clinic yesterday to observe some community health in action (my area) Basic, for sure, but again, very reminiscent of the rural areas in Jamaica.

Tomorrow is a day of water safety (AKA snorkeling on the reef) and on Saturday we move to the training village. I am one day ahead of all of you and there is 10 hours of [time] difference on the east coast.

We are not sure yet about our placements as those assignments do not come down until we are here another two to three weeks. Suffice it to say it will be in a village setting on one of the islands and since there are fourteen with peace corps placements I can only guess at this point.

More later .. next week is “Laef long Komuniti Mo Save About Wok Blong Yu Week”, or bislama for living in your community with your host family.

Have a great day-enjoy your parkas and cool weather!



October 31, 2012: Mary Ann’s first correspondence home since she arrived in Vanuatu.

I did send an air letter about a week ago and hopefully you will get it [Nov 10, not here yet]. When you do please route it around. I am doing fine but off in the village of Malafau so the e mail time is very limited. We came into the port city today (Port Vila) so I do have internet access for a few hours. Bottom line is that I am learning Bislama, living with a family of eight, and have no water or electricity. Use solar for the flashlight and the reading light and carry water from the town pump for boiling for drinking and for the ‘bucket showers’. But I have banana and coconut and mango in my yard and I have a little bamboo house all to myself .. the village is very clean.


From time to time I'll add chapters to this post at my regular blog here.

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