Mandela’s Lady

Shit. I’ve only got 6 months left of my Peace Corps life in Vanuatu. How quickly the time passes when time doesn’t exist. I’m partly excited to be moving on to the next adventure and partly devastated to be leaving my village, my family, and my home for the past two years.

But times not up yet so let’s not get all gushy and sad.

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Home gurls Vaena, Gris, and Glatina
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Floria cutting some green kokonas
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Gris and I

I’ve been having a blast at site: working with the teachers, going on bush adventures, walking all about. I’ve also got a new tawi (sister-in-law) now who happens to be a baller. Let’s talk about how my brother managed to snag such a hottie who’s talented, funny, and beautiful.


Mandela and Rolling Bete

At the end of June, there was a big celebration at a small village near the center of Maewo called Nakoro. A new nakamal, or chief’s meeting spot was built and kastom dancing, long speeches, and an unlimited supply of kava ensued— obviously. Prior to the celebration all the Naone (name of my village) boys had been going down to help build this natangura thatched bamboo structure. It was during this time that my brother, Mandela, told one of the girls who lived there at the opening of the Nakamal, he would be taking her home.

Early on Friday, everyone went down to Nakoro ready for a day of lafeting (partying). My sister, a few other girls from our village, and I arrived at Nakoro to Rasa Ure’s long and intense speech talking about I don’t know what because it was in local language. At this celebration, the prince of Maewo (rasa/high chief’s son) was also celebrating his birthday and return to the island. A small ceremony took place where he thanked all who came to help and gave away mats, bundles of food, and speeches. It was humbling to see the youth here who go away for school wanting to come home to help build up their country and to think about people from the states (aka me) who go away and never want to go home.

Kastom Danis
Naone boys

After that, there was tons of kastom dancing and of course the Naone boys put all the other villages to shame with their kick-ass dancing (I’m biased, but rightly so). Anyway, when the dancing finished there was the sharing of kakae and lunch was served. Everyone attending the celebration got a banana leaf parcel of fresh beef and rice. The nakamal was filled inside and out with kava drunk men and men drinking kava. Before it gets dark, the girls and I follow the road laughing and eating papaya the whole way home.

The next day as I am walking over to my family’s house, one of my cousin-sisters stops me and says, “Hey did you hear that Mandela brought a girl home last night?” I was like, “what!!!??” –super shocked so I hurry up to my family’s sticking my head in his house trying to look for this girl.

When she comes out it’s 20 questions: are you gonna stay here from now on? What if Mandela was a jerk and turned out to be an ass? What if you don’t like it here? Can you leave if you don’t like him? You’re gonna be his girl now? Like forever??

Yep. That’s it.  They’re together now. Getting married. She came over and now Naone is her home. That’s it—she’s his and he’s hers. She’s slept in his house so she has to be with him now. They hadn’t even talked really beforehand! So crazy!!

But I’m so happy and excited for my brother and for my family because turns out home girl is AWESOME. She’s brought a new energy to the family and has livened up the house with her constant laughter. It’s warming to see my brother become more involved, more mature and more helpful.

So much has changed over the past year and a half and I get to be a part of these changes. That’s probably one of the coolest things about Peace Corps—your there long enough to see change.

Just throwing this in here cause I love this




One Comment

  1. Lily Dmitrieva

    Mazel tov, Mandela!

    Lea – loved your post. I find this so inspirational, something hopefully I can one day add to my life experience as well. Glad you’re having a blast.

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