Monday, August 24, 2009

Lovely Weekend

I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing people while I have been staying in Port Vila. On Friday night Kelly and I were invited (by an American midwife, Olivia, who has visited Vanuatu a few times and worked in the hospital here) to a kava bar called "Felix". Kava is a medicinal herb (an anxiolytic and sedative) that is drunk here recreationally and kava bars are very common. Traditionally only men were allowed in the kava bars, and that is still the case on most of the islands (where a Ni-Vanuatu woman would need to get permission from the village's chief to drink kava) but on Efate it is common for tourists of both sexes to go (and still rather uncommon for Ni-Van women). The kava experience was pretty great, a little gross, and pretty funny since there is a whole ritual around it. You can buy a small or large "shell" of it, and the kava itself has a sort of grey-green dirty dishwater appearance. You are supposed to shoot it, swallow, then spit (which you will want to do since the taste isn't the best). Usually people, it seems, chase it with water or beer. The taste may not be the best, but the effect, I think, is pretty great. Usually your lips and your tongue go a bit numb or get a little tingly and you feel very mellow and relaxed.  I also noticed that when I stood up I had very poor balance as though I had had too much to drink (I swear that I didn't!)
Another great person that Kelly and I have met is named Seamus, and he is part of an organization called Project M.A.R.C. (Medical Aid to Remote Communities). Project M.A.R.C. participates in many medical endeavors throughout Vanuatu and when they do, they commission a ship called 'the Alvei' (a beautiful tall ship that was built in the 1920's, I believe, and then completely gutted and re-done on the 80's) to take them to whatever island they're going to. Next year they are involved in a project on the island of Santo, which deals specifically with training some of the traditional midwives there as well, I believe, in training new midwives. This project, of course, is of particular interest to me as overseas medical work has always appealed to me (and essentially brought me to Vanuatu). 'The Alvei' had recently gotten into port here and Seamus invited many of the 'Baby Docs' as well as local volunteers (Peace Corp and AusAid) to a bbq on Saturday so that we could meet each other, the crew, and learn more about M.A.R.C. It was an incredible amount of fun and Kelly and I have since been invited to join the ship in Malekula (a remote island of Vanuatu) for a week later this month where we would have the opportunity to facilitate a discussion among local women there in regards to sexually transmitted infection prevention, maternal health, the importance of antenatal medical care, and prevention of domestic abuse (to be truthful, I have no idea about how this last topic will go since the rate of domestic abuse is, as I have been told 110% as it happens in every single home). Kelly and I need to make a decision as to whether or not we will be going and meeting the ship in Malekula in the next day or two.

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