Working 9 to 5 (Carmen)
Working on Ambrym is….well, relaxed. We have no office so office hours are non-existent. If it’s a nice sunny day and we want to go for a swim, we don’t need to wait for the weekend. I have even stopped wearing my watch as time here is a fluid concept - 9am could mean 8am, and just as likely 12pm.
Our work is spilt into council work and village work. Our work with the council (to increase the skills of the mamas on the council) is slowly moving along. The council gave us some projects to work on such as getting the council boat up and running again (the main source of income for the council), building a market house and helping with fundraising for Magam Primary School. We have council meetings, meet with others in the community about our projects and more recently have started to look at training material. But at the moment village work takes up more of our time. Making cakes for fundraisers, learning to make lap lap (finely grated root vegetable with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and baked on volcanic rocks - a national dish) and chatting to our big village families is what fills our days.
So when we get asked, ‘how is work going?’, its not an easy question to answer. Work with the council is slow and we are not eager to suggest too many changes until we have listened, watched and asked enough question to understand how things work. Our main work especially in the first two months is to build relationships, so our village work is just as important as meetings with the council.
Even though we have only been here for a short time we have a big list of jobs to get done when we go to Vila.
Back to the Big Smoke (Carmen)
After two months on Ambrym it was time to go back to Vila. We have slowly been chipping away at the projects we have been given by the council but only so much can be done without funding and resources…so off we went.
At the airport we were picked up by my uncle’s wife’s father who owns a taxi in Vila. That’s how things work here, no matter where you go you are related to someone. So Abu Charles took us to our wonderful guest house, La Maison Bleu. I admit we were very easily impressed at this stage - with an inside toilet, lights and running water we felt like we were in heaven. I unpacked our clothes and although we packed our cleanest clothes, it all stunk, the wet weather on Ambrym had made everything mouldy. All our clothes, except the ones we were wearing, were thrown into the washing machine - yes they even had a washing machine.
For our first night back in Vila our friends organised cocktails and dinner at a fancy resort. We probably looked a sight in our mouldy clothes and dirty feet but I was assured that we didn’t smell - I’m sure it was a big white lie.
Our first week was filled with meetings and using the internet and most importantly eating at all the restaurants and cafes and town. In the second week we moved from our beautiful guesthouse out to Mele Village, a village just outside Vila to stay with Jessie and Andy. Our days were much the same, meetings, internet and funding applications but at night we played 500, drank, laughed and generally didn’t get to bed until after 11pm (way past our Ambrym bedtime). Jessie organised a trivia night for her work, the Vanuatu Society for Disabled People, and we joined the Mele table and after three tie-breaker questions our team won! Rich was very excited. I can’t remember answering a single question all night - not even my usual token question, however I do remember talking to lots of people.
After two weeks it was time to head back home. We still had things on our list we didn’t get to finish but we were run off our feet the whole time in Vila and very much looking forward to getting back to island life.