Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Long Road From Lakatoro

Yesterday I needed to run errands that required a trip to the provincial center and main city on Malekula, Lakatoro. I needed to purchase some supplies for my new house, such as cooking tools and an aircard for Internet access. I also visited the post office and was pleasantly surprised when I offered 100 vatu as a tip for maintaining my mail and was declined. I thought, the Peace Corps must be held in high esteem in Vanuatu if the post office is willing to maintain a mail box for me without any compensation. Since I also have free access to the solar power at my school in order to charge my cell phone and computer while most people are charged a small fee, this to me is the most authentic indication that the Peace Corps is conducting worthy and productive projects here. While I was able to purchase many products I needed, I was not able to locate everything. The main disappointment was the aircard. I walked into an outlet owned by Digicell, the main phone and Internet provider in Vanuatu, and was told they did not have an aircard and sent me to another store. When I went to that store, I was told to try somewhere else. This kept happening until I decided I was too tired carrying many heavy cooking supplies to keep running around Lakatoro in search of an aircard. I walked back to Digicell and asked them to order an aircard for me and call me when it arrived. They said they would, but I do not feel confident this will actually happen soon, if at all. For now, I will be forced to come into Lakatoro and use the Internet at my friend's site. The ride back to my village was both beautiful and wasteful. I saw many variegated birds and trees and even a flying fox. However, the driver made several detours with no apparent purpose behind them. He drove us all around Lakatoro and, after leaving Lakatoro, through a forest outside my village. The ride took about an hour and a half longer as a result. While the scenery was breathtaking and left me wishing I had brought my camera, it was also an enormous waste of gas and time. I was tempted not to pay the driver, thinking a New York cab driver would have been discharged for such a ridiculous lack of professionalism and concern for our planet. Then, I remembered that this sort of thing is much more acceptable in Vanuatu than in the United States, and I did pay him. I came off the truck dizzy and in pain from sitting on the back of a truck for hours. I realized the urgent need for an environmental movement in Vanuatu that educates people about such the dangers of such prevalent practices as burning garbage, wasting fuel, and powering their houses with generators. Perhaps this will be my next project here as an educator.

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