And then there were 28

In my first blog entry, I mentioned that I don’t believe in peace, but instead in friendships. If anything, I’ve felt that sentiment strengthen since I’ve been here. Not just because I’ve befriended many Ni-Vans, but because of the support system I’ve built with my fellow 29 volunteers, the collective known as Group 25.

We all first converged in LA before flying out to Vanuatu together. It’s quite an impressive feat that our plane managed to hold the weight of 30 excited idealists, heads crowded by aspirations. Since then, together we’ve stumbled through Bislama classes, we’ve shared the weight and pain of being far from family and friends, we’ve fought unknown sicknesses, and we’ve adapted to a very different way of life.

It wasn’t easy at first. Group dynamics are difficult enough to maneuver without having the misfortune of being quiet in nature too. Yet, after two months of training, I had found that I had made the fastest twenty nine friends of my life.

Part of that is because out of everyone in our lives, it is these people that will come closest to understanding what we go through during the course of the next two years. We have to be friends because we’re the best support system we can possibly have. Our reasons for being here may all be different, our personalities even more drastically diverse, but we’ve managed to find common ground and solidarity anyway.

And that’s why it’s particularly tough to lose some of those people. Like lifelines in jeopardy, their absence puts you one step closer to defeat. That wall between you and the edge of the cliff thins just a little bit more.

At swearing-in ceremony, one fellow volunteer used his wit and absurdity to eloquently express just how much he cared for us, his fellow volunteers. Unfortunately, he did so in front of quite a large audience and used a few poorly chosen words and phrases. He paid for this with his entire service, and was sent home only seven days later, despite our efforts to keep him here.

Our second casualty leaves for home this Thursday. She weighed her options and found that she felt her future held stronger promise back home.

Both of these people are my good friends. My journey has already been significantly shaped by them. And really, how could it not be? We draw on one another’s strengths and weaknesses. We rely on them for laughs, for encouragement, for that push forward when we’re tired of moving. They make us think. They challenge our ideas of what it means to be alive, on what it means to be strong or brave or happy. And sometimes, when we have no faith in ourselves, it’s our friends that give it to us.

The right friends are one of the most powerful things in the world (second only to family). I have some of those back home. I never expected to have them here, and yet I’ve found some anyway. 29 people filled with plenty of heart, courage, and talent.

I tend to believe that no matter what we do, we will inevitably be following our heart, and as a result, always end up where we were always meant to be. It’s only the roads that we take to get there that change, and with it, the people we meet along the way. And if you find those right people, (even if they sometimes happen to be redheads), they can make that journey just a little bit more colorful, a little bit more absurd, and sometimes, miraculously, just a little bit easier.

This week, the loss of two of my lifelines weighs heavy on my shoulders. Even stronger, I feel the presence of the 27 I have left. And yet even stronger still, I feel the friends and family back home that still-despite all this distance- have found ways to make the road I travel just a little less bumpy.

So thanks, G25, for eating ice cream with me on the 84th day in a row that I sweat profusely just by sitting still. And cheers to the next 730.

Please check out fellow volunteer blogs. Both of these amazing people are fantastic friends and extremely talented people.