16 September 2009

A few more pictures...

I'm in room #5. My roommate decided to leave the Peace Corps today, so now I live alone.
Interesting tropical leaf I found.

The beach near our training location.
Me messing around in language class.
I think this is a sea urchin shell, but I'm not sure.

Pre-Service Training

Fellow Volunteers (Leah is looking back)

The houses we are staying in currently.

The view from my house, an 'intracoastal' sort of, which goes out to the ocean.

We were greeted at the airport with lavalavas, suvasuvas (the necklace and skirt) and coconut water.

Hello all,

I’ll try to summarize my experience thus far with bullets:

-Flight was long and arduous. I was completely happy to have arrived here and have a safe place to drop my bags and not be sitting in an airline seat. Our Country Director said that its one of the longest transit times of any country that the Peace Corps serves.

-I had no anxiety whatsoever until the plane landed in Port Vila. It was a passing moment where I said to myself “This is your home now” as I looked at the airport, which is one rectangular, two-story building which you can walk from one side to the other in about 1 minute or less. The anxiety quickly passed (in about 2 seconds) and I feel totally at home here.

-Currently I am considered a Peace Corps Trainee, and at the end of eight weeks, I will be sworn in as a full-fledged Peace Corps Volunteer. If you are wondering how things are going now, I can sum it up in one sentence: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

-This week we are staying at a resort which has sharks and coral reefs and some simple brick buildings where we sleep. Water is usually cold, electricity goes in and out, and our toilet does not flush, but it is still paradise. There have also been some reports of spiders that are as large as one’s hand which have managed to somehow ‘disappear’ as one of the trainees was trying to kill it. My roommate says he can hear a rat too, at night. This, and a few unfortunate run-ins with UNUSUALLY large webs which coat my face as I try to leave my room in the morning, cause me to shake the sh** out of any towel or piece of clothing I am about to put near my face. Keep in mind these large webs are INSIDE my room, not outside, which means there are spiders, I just haven’t managed to see them yet.

-I get up at 6:30a, do yoga with my friend Amy, eat breakfast, and have class from 7:30a-5:30p, including lunch and tea breaks. We follow it up with some snorkeling or kayaking before dinner in the evening. Classes taught include Bislama language (which I love), medical classes about how everything here will infect us and make us sick, and cultural training.

-The food can be hit or miss. For some reason taro root makes me gag. But aside from that most of the food is excellent if only a little bland, and the fruit is easily the best I’ve eaten in my life.

-Tonight we are watching a Vanuatu movie called “Sorry Sally” about Sexually Transmitted Infections. Sorry indeed.

-It turns out that Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have the highest incidence of malaria in the world. This hopefully won’t affect me, as I’ll be taking Mefloquine on a weekly basis. However, the World Health Organization asked that Peace Corps to assist in their new project for Vanuatu: malaria eradication. This won’t just be for health volunteers; I too will be assisting in ending malaria in Vanuatu. They asked us to help because we have a huge presence here in Vanuatu, and decided we would be easier to use than to try and install their own people in the villages. I’m really excited to be a part of this legacy.

-This Friday, I am moving off to my training village, which is on the north coast of Efate Island (I am not allowed to say the specific location for safety reasons). Here I will be staying with a host family (Helen and Taman) with about 4-5 other volunteers near me, staying with other families. I’m really excited to meet my new “mama” as they are called.

All in all, everything is perfect. I don’t feel homesick at all, I love my training group, and I’m really excited to get my technical training started so I start to hammer out my actual job. For now, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. Don’t be too jealous, this one week is just to get us all of the critical information before we get put out into malaria zones and have to communicate with Ni-Vanuatu (the term for people from Vanuatu). You probably won’t hear from me until November, so for now, I will say goodbye in Bislama: “Ale, lukim yu bageken!” (Alright, see you again!)


10 September 2009

08 September 2009

Are you excited/scared? - Reflections on 2008-2009

At a wedding, Gainesville.

Acting like an idiot, Las Vegas.

Com meu irmão, Rio de Janeiro.

DeSoto Parade Weekend at Rani's, Bradenton.

Biking the Hawthorne Trail, Gainesville.

"The map says it should be right here." HAR HAR HAR.
Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong.

Subway, Seoul City.
(photo credit: Alex Kwon)

Carving mildly racist pumpkins, Gainesville.

The number one question that I am asked on a daily basis is "Are you excited (and/or) scared?" The answer is “not really.” I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with old friends (thanks Keshia, Leigh, Katie), drinking a couple of beers, eating pizza, burgers, sushi, more sushi, more pizza, more beer, and then running. Yes, I have gained weight, but I’ll probably lose it quickly.

While working everyday helped me to feel accomplished, just having a hiatus from life as I knew it has given me the opportunity to reflect a bit on my life. I re-read this pathetic blog and relived a lot of incredible moments from Asia (thanks Becky, Alex, Matt, Jessica, Erin & Mr. G). I usually think of blogging and photography as incredibly narcissistic (I know I know, the blog is presumptuously named “Your Favorite Joe…”), but reflecting on my prior entries really brought me back to where I was over a year ago, and reminded me how much can happen in a single year.

That is to say, in an effort to give these same feelings of nostalgia to the “Joe-of-the-future,” and to let my friends know that I genuinely appreciate them, I am going to brazenly and publicly display some very personal thoughts and pictures, thus providing a snapshot of my life, before I go through another year of inevitable change.

This past year has been the most emotionally challenging year of my life. It feels silly to say that, considering the challenges that many of my friends have been through. But while my problems pale in comparison to those of some of my friends, that doesn’t mean I don’t have problems, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to learn from them.

I made a huge mistake in trusting people that I should not have trusted. And when the problems began showing up in my life, I blamed everyone but the responsible party. I almost lost my best friend, I got into fights with my parents and my brother, and ultimately, it was my fault. It is my responsibility who I allow into my life, and who I let affect me, and I should have been a man and bared that responsibility instead of shifting it to other people.

That said, I have since corrected my life, and while I still have problems understanding what happened, I am learning to say “it doesn’t matter, because I am happier and hopefully smarter now.” The lesson learned is that I am an impressionable person, and while good people have a huge positive impact on me, bad people have an equally negative impact on me. I should be more critical of the people that I allow close to me.

That aside, I have had an incredible life and I can’t possibly see how it could get any better. I am genuinely thankful to the universe for bestowing an unusual amount of high quality people in my life, which is includes family, friends and coworkers (thanks Renee, Patrice). As I said this was the most emotionally challenging year of my life, but at the same time, I’ve never dealt with it better, which is certainly greatly in part to the people that I still have in my life today. Unfortunately for you guys, you are real gems in my life, and there is no way you will escape now.

So if you're wondering if I'm excited/scared, well at this point I'm downright invincible. I hope you enjoyed the embarrassing picture potpourri.

Much love,


04 September 2009

Cultural Learnings via YouTube

So the more I watch videos about Vanuatu (music videos) the more I come to terms with the fact that I'm going to a really kick-@$$ place. Check out the two short videos below to get a more accurate idea of what Vanuatu might look like (the second features Bret McKenzie of 'Flight of the Conchords' fame).