Friday, December 26, 2008

South Island

I'm in the South Island of NZ now, planning to around the whole island in the next 4 weeks. It should be really amazing: glaciers, mountains, beaches, fjordland, lakes, etc. I'm planning on bungy-jumping the highest jump in NZ (I think its around 130 m) so we'll see how that goes. Here are some photos of my trip so far:


Happy New Years everyone!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I <3 New Zealand!!!!

Hi Everyone!

I made it safe and sound to NZ and am making my way down from Auckland to Wellington in a campervan with 3 of my Peace Corps friends (McKenzie, Lizzie, and Jackie). Auckland was AMAZING, but apparently nobody spends any time there because the rest of NZ is so beautiful. So we left after 1 night of re-adjusting to normal society.

Our first stop was a bar for some REAL BEER, and it was awesome. Then we were off on our campervan adventure! We drove along the coast and saw some gorgeous beaches (much like the beaches in Vanuatu, so we didn't stop) then into central NZ for hot springs and geysers.
Tomorrow we are headed further south to do some hiking and soak in some hot thermal lakes (its summer here, but still FREEZING!) More updates to come!

Love, Laura

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back in civilization...

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the long delay. I just came back into Port Vila for the first time in 4 months. All is well here in Vanuatu! So much has been going on in Malekula.

We had our week-long Kamp G.L.O.W. and it was a huge success! (Thanks to all the WONDERFUL donations we received.) The girls had a blast, especially the six of us who ran the camp- myself and 5 amazing friends who came to help out. You can check out some photos here:

We've had 2 new PCVs join us on Malekula, including one in the NW, close to me. Next year, hopefully, it will be easier to do projects and activities, now that I have a neighbor to work with. The other PCV is based in the Education office in Lakatoro, which will help in my work with schools and teachers.

McKenzie and I are planning on doing another Kamp G.L.O.W. in her village, only this would be only for 3 days instead of 5. Other exciting plans for next year include Adolescent Reproductive Health workshops, helping out with Kamp G.L.O.W.s on other islands (Efate, Ambae, and Tongoa), and trying to find books/computers/shelves for our school library. The second year is going to fly by. Everyone in my village is already talking about how sad they are that I'm leaving so soon and how much they will miss me when I'm gone! I try not to think about it, since it will be hard to leave.

Tomorrow I leave for Auckland, New Zealand- I will be travelling around (mostly the South island) for 6 weeks! I will have internet access pretty regularly there, at hostels and internet cafes, so email me at:

I will be sure to post updates with links to pictures!


More photos:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Hello world-

I have a brand-new mobile (cellphone) and I have semi-reliable service in my village. Woo! I'm in town for the week, and definitely get service here, so give me a call if you would like.


More updates/photos to come soon!

Love, Laura

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kamp G.L.O.W.!

Hello everyone! One more post before I go back to my island for 6 months. In September, Elin and I are planning on hosting a week-long leadership camp for girls, aged 14-20. Kamp G.L.O.W. stands for "Girls Leading Our World" and it is a world-wide Peace Corps program. Unfortunately, there isn't any funding available for our camp, so we have a list of things we are asking for donations of from friends and family. If you could send any of the following, you would be helping us out a lot! This camp will mean a lot to all the girls who attend- it will probably be the highlight of their year. Here are some supplies we could use:

  • old magazines
  • glitter
  • glue sticks
  • construction paper
  • markers/crayons/colored pencils
  • pens/pencils
  • embroidery thread for friendship bracelets
  • beads
  • anything else you think would be good for a girls leadership camp!
Thanks for anything you can do to help us out! Send all supplies to:

Laura Klatka/Peace Corps
Matanvat School PMB 39
Lakatoro, Malekula
Republic of Vanuatu
South Pacific

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Pictures!!

Hello Friends and Family-

I have finally uploaded 6 months worth of photos!! Here are some links:

5 Months at site:

All-Volunteer Conference:


Love, Laura

Monday, May 5, 2008

Big City!

Hi everyone!! I'm finally back in the big city for our annual All-Volunteer Conference. There are almost 100 PCVs in Vanuatu and we are all in town for the next few weeks. Here's some journal entries from the past few months:


It's the fourth week of school already- I can't believe it! And just 2 months until All-Vol!! Elin got to go to Vila a few weeks ago, but when I go it will have been 5 months since last time in town. Hopefully next month we'll go to Santo, but right now I have lots to look forward to, even if we don't go. The first is MAIL, because this friday is Pay Day, so like half the teachers go to town and one will bring back my mail. Also Wednesday is a holiday, so I can sleep in. The other exciting thing is St. Patrick's day! We're having a big party and I heard from Kenzie that there will even be green beer. If the beer is as good as our last batch of homebrew, then I don't care what color it is. Plus I'm just excited to see Kenzie, Dan, and Elin. It feels like its been forever since I've seen them last.

So school is a little different than I thought it would be. Maybe the school visits in Vila deceived me. I assumed that because Matanvat is an anglophone school, the kids would speak English. Nope, not a word. Actually, I would be happy if they just understood me- the speaking part we could work on. The not-understanding-English thing wouldn't be so bad if every other subject didn't depend on it. I mean, math and science are hard enough for most kids even when they speak English. I get the feeling half the kids here go through a whole math lesson not even understanding what they're learning about. I was teaching third graders and they didn't even know the difference between a rectangle, a square, and a diamond. It makes me wish I had a class of my own- I'm not going to see a lot of progress just working with every class once a week. Although I can work with every teacher. I guess I'm lucky that 4/5 of my teachers genuinely want me to help them. (The other one is always late and doesn't care- he doesn't even make lesson plans!) And actually, the older kids (year 7 and 8) understand me fairly well. They still need a lot of work, but its more along the lines of learning the irregular past tenses and conjugations. In general its been a frustrating month but I'm enjoying it because I'm actually busy. I couldn't even write any letters this weekend because I had so many plans. I have teacher friends now, and at night we storian, play cards, and sometimes watch DVDs. Yes- one of the teachers at the school has a generator, TV, and DVD player. Last weekend we watched "The Punisher", "The Indian in the Cupboard", and that weird Mel Gibson movie. My life continues to be surreal. Its funny because I always thought that the ni-Vans would see the US as a kind of paradise, but they actually think that the US is a war zone and we are in constant danger. I tried to explain that towns were safe and you really only had to worry about the big cities like NYC, and one teacher says "Oh yes, the terrorists". I think many of them believe everything they see in the movies.

I almost forgot- I have a kitty! He's like 6 weeks old and his name is Uno. He's already spoiled, but by Vanuatu-standards, any pet that you feed daily and don't stone/hit/kick is considered lucky. Uno eats fresh tuna and laplap and pancakes- basically whatever I eat. And milk, of course. He's driving me a little crazy because he always wants to play, but I'm trying to enjoy his cute-ness while it lasts.


I'm having a great week- I'm finally "integrating". That is, separate from my host family. Last weekend I went to mass at the Presbyterian church down the road (I had promised one of my Aunties that I would go) and had some good storian-ing with the community afterwards. It was a little painful at first- I had to eat by myself while 20+ people watched, then was forced into awkward conversation with the mamas while the men just sat and listened and my Uncle proceeded to speak for the mamas whenever I asked one of them a question. But all is well now- 2 of the women walked me home and we planned another meeting time- women only! They've enlisted my help with a community project. My first secondary project! But really the best part is that they're finally comfortable around me and said I'm part of their family. (Aww.) Yesterday was especially great. We had the day off for Chief's Day, so i went to Matanvat Presbyterian again and went canoe fishing with Morina (one of my students). She's the only one who isn't scared to talk to me; she comes to me for english and math help, and hopefully the others will follow suit. I only caught like 2 tiny fish, but I took the hook out by myself! (Big progress, since I've never touched a live fish in my life). And I learned how to clean the scales. Later that afternoon, Morina and I learned how to make Tuluk, a kind of laplap that is filled with meat and cooked inside a piece of banana leaf. Mmmm...


The ups and downs here are unbelievable. Of course, they warned us in training about it, but its hard to comprehend until you experience it for yourself. One day, I will be loving my life here and wondering how I will ever leave in 2 years, and the next I will be asking myself what the hell I'm doing here.

I'll rewind a little, I guess. 2 weeks ago, I went "antap" to Lakatoro for St. Patrick's Day weekend. I had one of the best Malekula weekends ever- 10 out of 13 PCVs were in attendance (2 by accident) and everyone was in great holiday spirit. Green eggs, green pancakes, and real Irish carbombs with Guiness, Jameson's, and Bailey's. It was pretty amazing. Plus its always nice being around my favorite PCVs. For the first time ever, I didn't want to go back to my site on Monday. Usually, by the end of a long weekend, I am psyched to get back to my village/house/family. This time, I didn't want to leave. To make things worse, Elin and all the south-Malekula PCVs stayed because of the flooded roads. When I got back to my site, I was kind of depressed and wondered if its really worth being here just for one weekend of fun a month and maybe a few workshops a year. And am I just wasting 2 years of my life that I will never get back? But 2 things happened later in the week to make me realize how great my life is here. One is that on Thursday night, Elin unexpectedly came to spend Easter weekend with me in Matanvat, and also I received a great letter from my friend Joe. Elin and I talked until probably 12 that night (extremely late for us) and its always great talking to other PCVs because they're going through pretty much the same things. And Joe's letter was great because he said everything I needed to hear- he reminded me of what an amazing experience this is and how much cooler it is than anything he's doing back home (his words, not mine). Plus its always nice to remember that people at home still care and think about me.

Another reason for my turn-around is that while Elin was here, we planned 2 workshops (one at her site on 4 April and one at mine on 25 April). And we're planning a huge Camp GLOW (girls leading our world) in August. I decided that if that goes well, it will make my whole first year worthwhile. I think it could be a life-changing thing for all the young girls who attend; I'm hoping they all get a lot out of it.

A major first-thing happened to Elin and me last weekend- we weren't allowed to drink Kava! (Because we're women). Of course we always knew that might be the case in some places, but usually we are granted special exceptions to cultural taboos for being Peace Corps (aka white). So when we weren't granted special permission, it was pretty eye-opening. The funny part was that my brothers cared more than we did. They offered to leave the fundraising party that we were at if we wanted to (there was a really popular string band just starting up, so we stayed). Actually, one of them looked like he wanted to cry and talked about how some "kastom" is good, but some kastom is no good. Though it was a little disapointing, once the string band started playing, Elin and I had a blast dancing!


In less than 2 weeks I will be back in Vila- yikes! Again, I'm back to playing the waiting game. I try to distract myself, live in the moment, etc., but its hard when there's NOTHING to do. I've been feeling very blah these past few weeks. Not so much when I'm with Kenzie and Elin (who I have been spending lots of time with lately) but the longer I am away from my village, the less I want to go back. Which is strange because usually I feel "homesick" after a few days in town. Lately though, I just feel really disconnected with everything and everybody here. Its mostly my fault, of course, because this month I've spent more time at Elin's village than my own, but its just so much easier (and way more fun) to plan workshops and do work when you are with someone. The only downside is that we are way less likely to storian and integrate with ni-Vans when we are together. Although there are some really awesome people at Elin's site that I'm looking forward to getting to know better. I feel like here in my village, all the integrating I do here is one-sided; nobody ever will come to my house to story or invite me over for dinner. Its only when I'm walking to the store or going out of my way to visit Matanvat Presbyterian or the teachers antap at the school that I connect with people. i guess the only exception is my family, because they live so close. Other than them, it doesn't seem fair that I should always be making all the effort to connect with everyone. At Elin's site, I was amazed at the number of people who stopped by to bring her avocados, beans, fruit, or just chat. I'm sure that too would have its downside, but at the moment I feel like my community is becoming indifferent to me. There are a couple factors that are causing this minor slump I am going through. The first is that All-Vol is so close that its all I can think about (sad, I know) but I seriously can't wait to see everyone and have a few weeks of bliss. The second is that I'm getting to the point that I can't stand teaching, and its making me dread getting up in the mornings. Actually, I really like years 7 and 8, but everything below that I hate. Its not the kids, its me. I have no idea how to teach little kids. If it were high school math or something, I'd be fine. But with 8, 9, 10 year olds, its totally different. You have to make everything a game, which I like, but I have no clue how to do it. Maybe if I had my own class it would be ok, because I would establish a routine, I'd know their names, and I'd see their progress throughout the year. So my plan as of now is to tell the headmaster/teachers that I want to have a desk and office hours next term, instead of teaching, so I can help with lesson planning, grading, and making games for the classroom. That way I'll be available whenever they need me and I'll be an open resource. The last thing affecting my negative attitude is that it has seriously been raining every day for the past month (I'm not even exaggerating). This makes laundry hugely annoying, among other things. So mental note- don't let anyone visit until after the month of May.

Anyway, its T-minus-11 days until Vila and 4 days until Elin comes back to my site. Theres also our #2 workshop to look forward to and our April Birthday Extravaganza (for our 4 April birthday volunteers). So I have a lot to be psyched about. In the meantime, I'm going to stop being lazy and go visit the teachers. (Its Saturday, so of course I'm avoiding church like the plague). Hopefully the teachers will cheer me up!


In Vila now and doing great! I'm getting a little burned out from going out and dancing every night, so I think I need to start taking it easy. Anyway, I'm in town until May 17 or 18 so feel free to write me an email! Miss everyone tons still, hope all is well back home.

Love, Laura