Friday, August 10, 2007

A comedy of errors!

If I wasn't laughing so hard I'd be crying right now.

Mum came home from hospital on Wednesday and is definitely on the improve. If she can nag me then she must be getting better. The hospital visit itself was a bit of a balls-up, from the emergency room doctor canulating and taking blood without wearing gloves (who wants to share their blood borne diseases with him?), to the nurse wanting to remove my mother's catheter (only 1 hitch: SHE DIDN'T HAVE ONE!), to the doctor who wrote up another patient's medications on my Mum's medication chart (can anyone say lawsuit?). I think we were both pleased that she was outta there!

I spent much of Wednesday looking forward to my brother coming down from Queensland to help look after Mum. When he turned up on the doorstep on Wednesday he took me aside and asked for some medical advice. Turns out a friend staying with him this week has discovered that he has shingles and then my brother showed me some spots that had come out on his chest and face. He had chicken pox!!!! Totally unrelated to his friend getting shingles though!

So in the house I had my immunocomprimised mother who is recovering from a secondary viral infection with kidney involvement, and a 22 year old with chicken pox!!! NIGHTMARE!

Does the nursing ever stop?

So glad I'll be going back home to Vanners tomorrow!

Friday, August 03, 2007

No news is good news...

Once again it's been ages since I've posted.

Work has been crazy busy (nothing new there) and last weekend Mum flew over to visit us. Mum's visit unfortunately has not gone as planned. Within 24 hours she got really sick and wasn't able to leave the hotel room for 3 days. Yesterday I flew back to Sydney with her to get her admitted to hospital and get things sorted out. We would have done it in Vanuatu but the expats there have a motto, "if you're in pain, get on the plane". It's preferable to recieving health care in an under resouced hospital in a developing nation. So right now I'm back in Sydney and will be here for about a week until Mum's a bit better.

In other news, everything with me and Ben is going well and Choco is getting bigger everyday. I had to take him to the vet in the middle of June because he got sick and was throwing up. The vet gave him a vaccination against parvovirus and said that he had gastro and weighed him and he weighed 5 kilos. Last week (six weeks later) I took him back to the vet for a booster vaccination and the vet weighed him again. He weighed 10.5 kilos. In six weekis my baby has more than doubled his weight!!! I think he's gonna be a big boy. He's also started losing his teeth and getting his "big boy teeth".

I have also managed to work out this Facebook business... I'm a little bit addicted really. It's amazing who you can find on that thing!

Not much else is news at this point in time.

Once again I promise i'll try to lift my game and post more often.

Friday, June 29, 2007


I have had a few e-mails from people who have been worried that I haven't updated my blog, and that I may have dropped off the face of the earth.

Please be assured that I am alive, if not all that well.

I have been working 10 - 14 hour days for the last 12 days straight trying to get things sorted for our major projects that take off today. It has been totally crazy and I have been left feeling very run down and tired. As a result of being run down I have also managed to pick up a tummy bug and I have a boil on my back, so the party in paradise is not so much fun at the moment.

I'm so looking forward to having the weekend to crash out and try to forget about work.

Will write more next week and post some new photos of my "fur baby" (he's getting so big!!!).

Friday, May 25, 2007

What a week!

I'm a bit too lazy to write much about my week, which included the arrival of one of our board members from Australia to check out the organisation, a huge stuff up by the airline that was supposed to be flying Benson back from Epi, another huge stuff up on Benson's part, wasted money and time, the dog learning to "sit", and a hell of a lot more waiting around for Ben to come back from the island (which still hasn't happened).

So instead I'm going to post a joke and some photos...

Sleepy Dwarf and Grumpy Dwarf take Dopey to see the Pope.
They arrive at the Vatican and are shown into the Pope's private quarters where they are graciously welcomed.
"Pope," says Sleepy, "We were hoping that you might be able to shed some light on an issue for us... Can you tell me, do nuns wear black and white?"
"Yes", says the Pope. "Nuns certainly do dress in black and white habits."
Dopey looks triumphant and grins cheerfully at the other two.
Then Grumpy asks "But Pope... Do nuns have webbed feet and beaks?"
The Pope looks a bit confused and Dopey starts to look sheepish.
"No boys", says the Pope. "Nuns most certainly do not have webbed feet and beaks."
Sleepy and Grumpy look triumphantly at Dopey and sing "Dopey fucked a penguin! Dopey fucked a penguin!"

Benson and some of the kids from across the road on the fron steps of the office.

The "rego rainbow". This bus is still displaying its road tax stickers from the past decade! And what a lovely rainbow they make! (Yes, I have no life. I'm taking photos of road tax stickers... what did you expect?)

Friday, May 18, 2007

My chocolate dog...

It's been a rather stressful couple of weeks here in Vanuatu what with work going haywire and all. The major problem is too much work and not enough hands... Stressful and frustrating.

Benson has also been away for the last week and a half, on Epi Island for a family wedding which I could not attend due to work. To make matters worse, the first night that Benson was gone someone tried to break into my house where I was sleeping all on my lonesome. I didn't realise anything until the next morning when I went outside through the back door and turned to come back in and noticed a whole heap of scratches on the door near the handle where it looks like someone has tried to use a chisel to break in. The idiots didn't even try to do it properly though! Who tries to break in using a chisel on the door itself? You jemmie the door frame! Fools!

Anywho, I reported it to the owner of the house who tried to tell me that it was "wok blong puskat" (A cat did it), and I laughed in his face and asked him "what kind of cat? a tiger?" Honestly, I'm sure the man thought I was stupid or something. I told him it must have been one of the big two legged "puskats" that I've seen roaming around in the dark.
I made him put sliding bolts on the inside of both the doors and since then have had one of Ben's "sisters" sleeping in the house at night too. She's a whole other story though. It's all I can do to stop myself ripping her arms off and beating her about the head with them. Then again I suppose it comes down to the lesser of two evils... have the sister in law stay over? or potentially get raped and cut up into little pieces? Part of me wants to take my chances with the two legged puskats.

One of the only lights in my nasty fortnight has been this little green eyed guy.

This is Choco (short for chocolate dog), my puppy that Benson got me from his brothers house before he went away. He's cute and full of puppy unco-ordinatedness (and naughtyness too) and has made me smile, even on the worst days this week.

Don't you love him?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ding dong! Vanuatu calling!!

Well my first month here has ended and I’m into my second and I’m still alive, which is quite a big thing really considering the stress of the last month with 80% of our staff leaving, a visit from the big boss from Australia (which didn’t help us much I don’t think), and the huge amount of work that my colleague Joel and I are facing until the new Program Director arrives and our new staff begin. I am fast learning that working here is like trying to nail jelly to the wall… It would be a lot easier with support in the right places to stop bits falling down. However, as frustrating as it can be, the people that I get to work with make it all worthwhile!

In my work I am privileged to be able to work on a regularly irregular basis with Irene Malachi, an amazing lady who is one of only a handful of Ni-Vanuatu people who have been diagnosed and are living with HIV/AIDS. Irene now lectures about AIDS awareness for Youth Challenge at our Youth Skills Summits on outer islands and does a lot of other work for other organisations that are trying to raise awareness of AIDS.

My colleague Joel is another fine reason to keep turning up to work everyday. He’s a lovely guy from Erakor Island (the island opposite Le Lagon, for those in the know), and is always full of smiles, jokes and stories to get us through the day. He is a pleasure to work with and I can’t think what this last week (which has been pretty full on) would have been like without him.

In other news, Benson’s sister-in-law gave birth on Saturday to a beautiful little girl! We went around to her house on Tuesday, which was a public holiday, and met Fredalynn, who is absolutely beautiful. Fredalynn is the second of my friend’s babies to be borth this month. The day after I arrived here, my friend gave birth to her little girl, Lovelyn, nearly a month prematurely. Lovelyn weighed 1.7 kilos at birth and was kept in the premmie baby ward at the hospital until she reached 2 kilos. Apparently nearly 250 babies were born at Port Vila Central hospital in the month of April! They have been so busy that they haven’t been able to keep mum’s for more than 24 hours after birth unless there’s been a problem.

Fredalynn with her big brother and sister.

Last week we attended the Anzac Day Dawn service here in Vila followed by a tasty hot breakfast put on at the local yachting club (there's no RSL and the Anchor Inn had to suffice). I had a hard time trying to explain Anzac Day to Benson and justifying getting up at 5am to get to the service on time, but I think he got it in the end.

Sunset from our verandah.

The last month has been spent visiting friends and “family”, meeting other volunteers around town, working in our “garden”, and working full stop. Each Sunday Benson and I head out to Teouma to see his brothers who are all living there since the Blacksands riots, and to plant new things in our “garden”, which is more like a small farm really. So far we have planted more than 150 island cabbage plants, a heap of corn and spring onions, 40 taro plants (not my choice as I hate taro), and 70 chinese cabbage plants. This weekend we’re going to try and plant some garlic and some watermelon to add to the variety. Once everything is growing properly the garden is going to make things a bit cheaper for us as we won’t have to keep buying certain things at the market.

The weather here is still hot as anything although we have had a few evenings where Benson and others have worn their cold shirts (i.e. sweaters, jackets and jumpers). Mind you, these nights have been few and far between, and most nights I am still jacking up our electricity bill by running the fan full blast.

I haven’t been too home sick, I’m sure you’re pleased to hear. Mostly I wish you all were here rather than me being back in Sydney. However, I am missing the Thai restaurant in Lindfield. At this moment I would give my right arm for a chicken pad thai, some tofu and veggies in oyster sauce and some prawn crackers.

Hope you are all safe and well! Looking forward to hearing how things are going back in Oz!

Wish you were here!

Poor little Wigo, as mentioned in the last post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'm alive and well... with a mobile phone and a library card!!!!

Hi y'all!
I made it here safe and sound and have been flat out with work for the last couple of weeks. Our internet at the office isn't working so I'm in an internet cafe burning up my meagre volunteers allowance to check my e-mails and pop up a post, so instead of writing a real post I'm just going to post this e-mail that I managed to send home. I promise I'll put up a real post soon!

Hello from Vanuatu!

ADDIT: I’ve been trying to send this e-mail for the last couple of days but our internet here has been more temperamental than usual after the IT guy took our server away to upgrade it overnight, didn’t upgrade it and then returned it. While our net connection has PMS at the best of times, this is worse than usual and has delayed a lot of work and e-mails, this one included. But, fingers crossed, this attempt to send will work!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here only a week and a half! It feels like I’ve been here much longer now that I’ve settled into my new home and work.

My new place is a 1 bedroom “apartment” in a rent house in the suburb of Freswota. It has a verandah, a small kitchen area complete with bench and cupboard space, a relatively large bedroom also with cupboard space, and… (to cap it all off) a bathroom with a flushing toilet and cold shower (and here comes the best bit)… INSIDE!!!!! Those of you who have heard about the Blacksands house and my exploits pulling buckets of water from the well in order to cook, shower, and even flush the toilet, will somewhat understand and appreciate the significance of this!

Benson went to a lot of trouble to clean up and set up the house for me and has made it very comfortable and homey. Jin, I know you laughed at me when I brought over an inflatable mattress at Christmas time, but I’m so glad I did now! Soooo comfortable!!!! The only problem with the house is that the bedroom is right in the middle of the house and has no window access to outside which makes it very hot. As a result of a couple of hot and restless nights (following many hot and restless days) I trotted into town on my lunch break yesterday and bought an electric pedestal fan for AU$45 and then carted it back up the hill to the office before taking it home and setting it up. It was a great relief last night to lie down in relative coolness.

The weather here has been hitting 30 degrees regularly throughout the last week and a half (in fact it has been hotter now than it was over Christmas) and the humidity has been sitting at what surely must be 300%!!! Mum, you’d hate it right now! My routine has become get up in the morning, shower, eat breakfast, think about sneaking in another shower, get dressed and go to work, spend much of my day reminiscing about how pleasant my cold shower was that morning (even though at the time the shock of the cold water was anything but pleasant) and wishing I was back in the shower, going home, getting in the shower, cooking and eating dinner, thinking about having another shower before bed, and then trying to get to sleep in the oppressive heat. A lot of the expats around town haven’t been feeling too well thanks to the heat and I suspect dehydration has something to do with it so I’ve been taking advantage of the fridge at work and drinking litres and litres of cold water each day. At home we haven’t got a fridge (chilling the water somehow manages to temporarily eliminate the chlorine taste) so the little store nextdoor has been getting a heap of my money on my second daily runs to buy cordial, which masks the chlorine-y taste.

Work is great! Everyone in the office is lovely and very helpful. As expected the job description has once again changed and for the short term (i.e. the next 4 – 6 weeks) I’m helping with the recruitment of some new staff, co-ordinating and writing our 6 monthly report to Ausaid (who give us money), looking out for new office space for us as the current office is too small, and doing a few “bitser” jobs around the place that need doing. In the long term I’ll be working with our new Youth Program Manager (who we are in the process of recruiting) to plan, manage and implement our Ni-Vanuatu youth programs which include the current volunteer and training program as well as establishing a new internship program for Ni-Vanuatu youth who have completed the volunteer program. I still haven’t got a desk of my own yet (not enough space in the office) so I’m spending much of my office time either working on the couch or sneaking into other peoples desks when they’re out of the office.

It’s a very exciting, but also stressful, time for the organisation with a lot of change happening in the next 3 or 4 months. There is going to be quite a turnover of staff with Cheryl (another Australian volunteer) leaving our organisation in June, Jamie (a Canadian volunteer) leaving us mid-May, some Ni-Vanuatu staff leaving and some new ones joining the ranks, and my boss Negaya just announcing her resignation yesterday. She will finish up at the
end of April and we’re not too sure when her replacement will be found and arrive. As previously mentioned we are also looking for new office space to accommodate all us staff and to facilitate a small drop in area for volunteers and past challengers to come and use the computers. I’m going to head out this afternoon with Negaya to check out a house in Freswota that we may move the office to when our funding comes through from Oxfam.

In other news, I went down to Blacksands the other day to see Benson’s brother’s house which got burnt down. Not much house to see really, just a small patch of concrete and a lot of burnt timber. The beautiful avocado tree that grew over their roof has been totally blackened too. It was really quite sad. While there I found Benson’s nephew’s puppy, Wigo, still alive and scavenging in the neighbour’s yards for food. One of her hind legs had been broken by someone who had stoned her. Poor little thing. So I took her home, fed her some leftovers from the night before, and then Ben and I took her out to his brother at Teouma where they will use “kastom” medicine on her leg and nurse her back to health.

All in all it’s been a pretty eventful first week in town and I was stoked to have the Easter long weekend to settle in properly. I will try to send some photo’s when I get a chance. The internet here in the office is temperamental at the best of times. Hopefully though we’ll be getting broadband in the next couple of weeks and our server will be upgraded.

To all the nursing kids who graduated yesterday, I hope everything went well and you all had a great day! I hope you clapped loudly for me when my name was read out as graduating in absentia! I was thinking of you all on that special day… once again, we made it!

Hope everyone is well and that you all had a lovely Easter long weekend! Looking forward to hearing about what’s going on back in Oz!

Sorry about the mammoth e-mail. So much to say and so little time!

If you ever make it to this neck of the woods for a holiday let me know!

Thinking of you all!

Yaeli xoxo

P.S. If anyone is interested in being on our mailing list for our regularly irregular newsletter (it can't work out if it's going out every month or every second month) to see what Youth Challenge Vanuatu is up to let me know and I'll get you added to the mailing list.

I really need to work uot how to post to my blog from my e-mail address...