Eagle Creek woman publishes experiences in South Pacific

by: COURTESY OF JUDY BEAUDOIN - Kim and Judy Beaudoin arrive in Vanuatu to begin their two-year stint as Peace Corps volunteers in 2000.You’ll never appreciate cubed ice so much as while reading “Boxed Wine at Sunset.”

With their kids off at college, Kim and Judy Beaudoin sold their house, cars and boat, quit their jobs and traveled to the South Pacific as Peace Corps volunteers in October 2000.

“We had an empty nest, so we sold our nest,” Judy explained in an interview.

by: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Judy Beaudoin collected her journals, photos and artwork from her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village on an island in Vanuatu, a country in the South Pacific, into a book titled Boxed Wine at Sunset. Beaudoin lives in Eagle Creek now.They were settled in the small village of Saralokambu in the island nation of Vanuatu, where they would teach in the primary school and Rural Training Center for two years and attempt to get various projects up and running.

There, Judy chronicled their adventures of acclimating to the climate and culture, teaching, surviving without electricity, learning the Bislama language and doing without a flush toilet.

Whenever they made the trek to a city with access to the Internet (usually via Internet café), the Beaudoins would send the journals home to family and friends … and for publication in the Clackamas County News (the predecessor to the Estacada News).

Fourteen years later, the journals, along with photos and artwork from the experience, are collected in the book “Boxed Wine at Sunset.”

It’s a great read.

Judy’s descriptions will put you right there in Saralokambu along with them. You’ll feel the oppressive heat and insect bites, crave Taco Bell, luxuriate in your shower (not out of a bucket or water glass), hope they get the library and egg-layer projects up and running, find hints of English as you mouth the Bislama words and be unbelievably touched by the people in the village.

The shift is a big one. The whole pace, sensory experience and daily rhythm was totally different to the life the Beaudoins were used to in the Estacada area.

“We had to learn how to walk slow,” Judy said.

They had to, she said. Everyone walks slowly because it is really hot.

“I had that ‘not so fresh feeling’ if I didn’t bathe every day. Now I have that ‘feeling’ almost all the time, including about six minutes after I bathe,” Judy wrote in a journal entry listing major shifts in perspective since arriving in Vanuatu.

In the book, Judy describes the adjustments to Saralokambu with warmth and curiosity, paying great attention to the little details and making readers feel as though they are having the experience themselves.

Judy is referred to respectfully as “Mrs. Kim” in Saralokambu, whereas in Estacada it was more likely to hear Kim referred to as “Mr. Judy.”

It’s easy to feel your own frustration mounting as another shipment of food and supplies is late or lost (again), only to turn up inexplicably weeks after it was expected.

Judy breaks up her narrative style throughout the book, and the reader is treated to learning how Saralokambu specifically affects various parts of the body (length of body hair, brain, etc.); a movie-review style account of when Judy and Kim’s kids and their three friends visited; a sensationalist journalism account of when Judy’s sister Linda Lawrence and Sandy Walker (owners of Harmony Baking Co.) ditch the long skirts local women must wear when boarding their departing flight; new things to associate with each letter of the alphabet (“k” is for kava, which men drink together socially and has a rather intoxicating effect); an account of the animals one is likely to encounter (flying foxes, for example); and the colors of the country.

An especially enjoyable passage spells out Bislama sayings.

For example, Judy gives the direct translation of “Tank yu tumas be mi kakae finis” as “Thank you so much, but I already ate.”

She explains what it really means is, “If said by Kim this probably means that he did already eat and is actually ‘full.’ When said by Judy, it means, ‘I am actually hungry but if you put that chicken leg (with foot attached) on my plate I am afraid I’ll be sick all over everyone.’”

Another special treat is Judy’s advice for marital bliss published in a Peace Corps Vanuatu newsletter in 2002.

To summarize some of her sound advice: Bathe (even if you have only half a glass of water, just wash the important parts); hire out your laundry; play cards when your eyes are too tired to read by candlelight or a dulled kerosene lamp; let the little things go (implied: remember you’re in a patriarchal society), so don’t sweat it when your husband goes off to drink kava with the boys or you’re constantly referred to as Mrs. Kim.

And, of course, wine makes everything better.

“It comes in a box (white Burgundy is the best), helps you visualize the breathtaking sunset over the water that you cannot see because you are sited in the bush with only banana coconut trees around you, and thankfully helps to morph that partner sitting across from you from a rashy, sweaty, smelly creature with nangai stuck in his teeth to some golden, glowing specimen right out of an Eddie Bauer catalogue. Thankfully, his vision is equally affected,” Judy said.

Some of the sweetest passages in the book are about Kim and Judy’s interactions with their students or the village children.

At one point they take Charlie and Lucy, the two young, live-in grandchildren of the principal of the school, to the city of Santo.

Judy lists highlights of the experience, including “explaining how (and why) to flush a toilet,” “realizing the intent gaze on me as I put a water bottle in the refrigerator was because they had not seen a strange, white, plastic box like this before (with a light on the inside)” and “watching videos (on a TV that plugs into a wall, no background generator noise)…”

by: COURTESY OF JUDY BEAUDOIN - Judy illustrated her experience taking her Saralokambu fifth-year primary students on a field trip.

It seems they accomplished a lot while there.

As they prepare to leave for the United States when their two-year stint is up, Kim and Judy go to survey the school they are leaving behind.

“It was striking to remember how this scene looked on our ‘wokabaot’ here two years before, an overgrown field with posts in the ground at one far end that edged the beginning of a new classroom,” Judy wrote in a journal dated Dec. 7, 2002. “On this day, we saw that beautiful new classroom realized, striking and strong, able to fit 70-plus students and already with a short history of providing welcomed instruction.”

More than a decade later, the memories of their time in Saralokambu are still vivid.

In her Eagle Creek home overlooking the Clackamas River, while surrounded by local artists’ work, Judy speaks at length about the politics and culture of the village.

Remembering was a central goal of the publication of “Boxed Wine at Sunset,” Judy said.

The prologue of the book states, “We returned to the states, I found employment, Kim built our house. Our daughter married, our first grandchild was born. We very suddenly lost Kim’s mother, Alta. I always meant to pull together all my Peace Corps journals, photos and drawings for posterity … but never found the time. We welcomed another grandchild, we worked, we kept busy. In November 2012, Kim was killed in a car accident. Suddenly nothing was more important than to preserve and share this most amazing journey we had together.”

“Boxed Wine at Sunset” may be purchased on or ordered by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

After recovering the cost of printing the book, Judy hopes to use proceeds to put toward a scholarship fund for students from the island.

Limited copies are available for checkout at the Estacada Public Library.

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine