Saturday, April 14, 2007

I LOVE Vanuatu!

J'aime Vanuatu (French) Mi lavem Vanuatu (Bislama)
So many things were so crazy and different about Vanuatu that when I tell people about it, many are surprised when I say I loved it there. Here are the things I loved most about Vanuatu. First of all, the people are amazing. I love the friendliness, the generosity, the kindness, the shyness, the modesty, the simple lifestyle, the freedom from materialism, the slower pace, the love for children, the quiet smiles but also the energetic greetings. They are a lovely people. To the left is me talking with my "seatmate" on the flight between Vila and Santo. His primary language was his tribal one, secondary was Bislama, and tertiary was French. Fortunately for me, he was pretty decent in English too! The people are so patient and friendly and willing to puzzle out a conversation. With Mario here, we spoke a little bit of French, I tried to figure out a little of his Bislama, and we spoke a bit of English. I mentioned before how much I loved the singing at the various church services while I was there. This is the choir at Matevulu College. They were fabulous! I'm not sure I could ever get too much of being a part of the singing there.

Secondly, it is an amazingly gorgeous place! The Garden of Eden couldn't have looked a whole lot different. :) Here are some of my favorite shots of areas there. These first ones are of a place called Blue Hole, which is a lake formed from a fresh water spring source. We got to swim in it and it is quite cold, probably the only cold thing in Vanuatu! The water truly is this aquamarine color. I promise I didn't add in turquoise on my photo editor! :) This next picture is one of my favorites with the gorgeous blue sky and all the tall magnificent palm trees. Here are some great ones of the ocean after the cyclone blew over. It really is clear enough to see the bottom!
For another of my favorite ocean front shots, see my post on the storms (at the end). Here is an awesome shot Houghton got of some of the islands as we were flying from Efate down south to Santo island up north. The only real competition for scenery like this is Glacier National Park in Montana and Banff in Alberta, Canada.

Of course my other loves should be easy to puzzle out from my earlier posts about the food, the fun flora and fauna, and some of the great connections with people made there.

Over the summer I wrote out a list of my highest desires or wishes in life, especially in a missions setting. So many of those are met in Vanuatu. Those wishes include (in no particular order):

1. being able to support or lead with a role in logistics/administration (I got to do a ton of this on the survey trip and it looks as though there will be no shortage of ways I can be of use in these areas for the rest of the missions team.)

2. being involved in discipleship (Whether with kids or adults, I'm sure there will be connections with people right away to be able to encourage others in their spiritual growth in the Lord, not to mention many to introduce to the Lord for the first time!)

3. having a way to get away alone to refresh and be with the Lord (this one could be tricky, especially the first year there)

4. having connection with family (Here is my sister Gretchen and her husband, Houghton and their kids Jesiah and Gwenyth. We are all on the same missions team! What an awesome blessing too to have parents who are so supportive and invested. Here is my dad on this survey trip. My mom is looking forward to checking it out with him in the future!)

5. not being cold (no fear of that in steamy Vanuatu!!)

6. freedom from fear, safety (The guys ran into 2 single white girls working separately on Malakula island and although they were happy to see other white people who spoke English, they were very content and not endangered in that setting.)

7. having a way to exercise ( I still have to figure this one out in hot Vanuatu. I might need to get some better swimming skills.)

8. having friendship and accountability (This will be met on the team and with other contacts in Vanuatu and I'm sure the Lord will provide other great friends there.)

9. being able to work with kids (There's no shortage of kids in Vanuatu and they are happy to talk and interact even with people like me with limited language! I would enjoy contacts through a school there and this sort of connection seems to have unlimited possibilities for people willing to teach English, which I am.)

10. work with people who follow through (I really have a great team! See some of my first posts for a team picture. There is a possibility of another family joining in with us as well and they seem really awesome and like they would be a great addition to our ranks.)
11. a chance to use the French I've always prayed I would get to use someday (Even though I stink at it, it is really fun to practice and I got to do so more than I expected in Vanuatu on this trip! I'm also starting to learn some Bislama, the lingua franca in Vanuatu, and it is very fun to learn!)

12. husband (I'm still praying about this one but the Lord has truly given me great contentment as a single woman. I'm in no rush!)

These items aren't the result of any sort of Biblical or inspired list, just hopes and prayers. I'm not unwilling to be somewhere that this list isn't fulfilled but what a blessing that the Lord seems to be opening up a way to serve in a place where so many of them would be! What an amazing God! I prayed before going on this survey trip that the Lord would give me a love for the people and the islands. He certainly did that and much more. Should the Lord will, I would love to return and serve Him in Vanuatu. Now He just has to answer prayers for provision for this (the return) to happen for me and the team and we'll get this show on the road! May God be glorified in me! Psalm 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Culture and Spiritual Need

Ni-Vanuatu culture is obviously very different from American in hundreds of ways (many of which I'm sure I didn't even begin to realize on this short trip)! Here are some things I was able to pick up although please realize I am writing from an outsider perspective with no pretense of interpreting what I saw and thought with any great accuracy. Is that enough of a disclaimer for me to be able to continue on? :) I hope so. The first thing one notices and realizes upon entering Vanuatu is the slower pace of life, the greater enjoyment of life. At any time of the day, one can find men playing boules/petanque outside the market area. (I don't actually know what they call it there. My sister and I learned the game name as boules in French class but Brad learned it as petanque while in France. In my vastly extensive - right! - research on the internet, it looks like boules is the overall game name while petanque is a specific version of it. If someone knows the specific name in Vanuatu, let me know and I'll delete all this unnecessary verbiage!) That there is a shady place here in Vila makes this game all the more appealing I'm sure. I didn't get any pictures of this, but at the market, Ni-Vans lay on their handmade mats on the floor all day unless someone shows interest in their goods and then they magically appear from under the table or behind the table or something. It is very funny to see them pop up and say "halo" and tell you the price for the item or tell about all the items they have to offer. One thing of note when paying for items is that it is not polite to dicker like one would in Mexico or even at a farmer's market in the States. The asked price is the price one pays. At restaurants this is the same in that it is not polite to tip. The same goes for bus and taxi fare.

Along with the enjoyment of life and slower pace goes a love and appreciation for children certainly not seen in white cultures in general. In America and it would seem in European cultures, decisions about having children are made more on personal preference or on money or convenience for the parents. In the store, the movie theater, and most public places, children are seen as a nuisance if heard and are most appreciated if they are quiet and out of the way. This is not the case at all in Vanuatu nor did it seem to be in Fiji. Everyone from women to men to boys and girls light up when there is a baby or small child around. Gretchen often had her hands free because some stranger would come up and take Gwenyth or Jesiah and play with them and get them to laugh. Jesiah freaked out about this (except when it was other boys playing with him, he loved that) and he also got very upset, yelling "Gwenie, Gwenie" whenever someone would come take Gwenyth. This picture is a woman who was walking on the street near us in Fiji that just came and took Gwenyth out of Gretchen's arms to hold her for a bit. If people didn't just take the kids, they at least patted them or talked to them or touched them in some way. They would often say to Jesiah "kam" (come) and clap for him to come to them. Fortunately, Gretchen is about the lowest maintenance mom I know and wasn't worried or concerned, just enjoyed the free hands! She did always end up with the kids again sooner or later (usually if they were crying and couldn't be consoled).

Music seems to be another important part of culture. When we got to the Port Vila airport at 10PM their time, we were met by a ni-Vanuatu band playing us some songs. Keep in mind that there were about 15 people on this airplane and they still met us late at night to sing for us. Here's a blurry picture of our greeting musical band. Notice the box with a string on a stick for the bass! (This is the only time I saw guys in skirts in Vanuatu but Fijians wear them quite a bit). We saw either this band or others like them around town some too. As I mentioned on a previous blog site, when ni-Vanuatu sing, they bust it out! They are all about clapping and singing with everything in them. There is radio in Vanuatu too. Often the radio was played on buses and in taxis in which we rode. Many times the stations were fairly contemporary ones to what many people listen to in the States, which was interesting!

In Vanuatu, the night livens up as it is cooler and people come out of the woodwork! There is a whole culture around a drink called kava. I'm not sure I even understand a fraction of that, but from what I understand, kava is a root that is ground and then made into a drink. It is non-addictive and causes a calming affect and a general increase in amiability. Drinking large quantities can cause a hangover-type reaction. In many areas, only men are allowed to prepare and drink kava and it traditionally was used in war councils between villages. In town, kava "bars" are marked out with red lights in the evening for when they are in business. The light is turned off when they run out of kava. This picture is of kava drying on tin sheets. Kava is something one can purchase at the store. I saw it at the market for 4500 vatu (about $45). Compared to a bunch of bananas at 40 vatu ($0.40), that is pretty spendy! The guys said that on Malakula, there were meat grinders everywhere that they were using for mass production and grinding of kava to be shipped off to other Vanuatu islands and around the world. Hopefully I can get a picture of that to put on here later.

So how does one dress in Vanuatu? I guess the answer depends on where one is visiting. In the towns and everywhere we went in Santo, as well as just the general expectation, women wear skirts to the knees or longer. Girls can get away with Capri-type pants if they are loose, but I never saw women wearing them. Always the t-shirts worn with a skirt or Capri or long board shorts covered the backside. When a ni-Van girl was asked what ni-Vans think about a female wearing shorts or skirts much above the knee, she was very embarrassed and tried to refuse to answer, but finally was coaxed into it saying "vila." I guess this is the term used on Santo anyway for what they believe to be prevalent in Port Vila (the capital city on Efate island) - prostitutes. Wow, that puts most North American women and girls in the category of "vila" then, at least in the ni-Vanuatu estimation. I have to say though that after seeing everyone in knee-length or longer attire, at the end of the trip, seeing tourists in Vila right off the cruise ship in short shorts and skirts was a bit of a shock. Guys mostly wear long shorts or board shorts and t-shirts. In the villages and always for church, most women wear "island dresses" like what these girls are wearing here. The "kastom" (custom) dress on smaller islands and in the more remote bush typically involves wearing items made of leaves and nothing else. Children often run naked. Where we were on Efate and Santo, we didn't see any of this, but Malakula definitely has areas like this.
Men vs. Women
In town both men and women hold professional positions, although it really is more male-oriented. However, in the bush village, there was a definite separation and at all the churches we were part of (in the bush, at Matevulu College, in Luganville). In church, men sit on one side of the church and women on the other. In the bush village the women prepared the meals and typically don't eat with the men in the cooking house, but eat separately outside. When we ate at the bush village at the pastor's house, Gretchen and I were allowed to come in and eat with everyone else. The pastor's wife ate in there too but she sat apart and by the doorway. When we ate with a larger group of several pastors, she sat outside with some other women. It was awkward not knowing what was appropriate and offensive when we were eating there. I tried to wait until I was offered a plate or some food but we were told that we are given grace since we are visiting so that was reassuring. When we go to live we'll have to be a little more savvy with the whole deal. In town we only ate at restaurants where food is served up pretty much like a restaurant in the States. At the camp it was self-serve from Ashley's tasty creations and in Vila we just bought our own groceries. You can see in the picture here that in the cooking houses (different from sleeping houses with different roofs for ventilation from smoke from the fire) we ate on mats on the floor. It is interesting sitting on the floor in a skirt, by the way. No matter how you try to modestly arrange yourself, your legs still fall asleep. That will take some getting used to. One never wears shoes into a house so stuff isn't tracked in. Shoes are left outside the door. Here Gretchen is sitting with Jesiah, who was pretty great pals with Joab, the little boy sitting to his right in front of me. Joab played a game during most meals of going around the circle of seated people and touching them. When I kept teasing him and poking him back, he would come around and lean on me and run his hands through my hair and pat my back. Anyway, back on the men and women topic! Division of labor in "kastom" villages is pretty much women doing childcare, cooking and cleaning, and men hunting and fighting (and preparing and drinking kava)! :)
It is amazing to think about living without health insurance and easy access to doctors, hospitals, and medicine. As I think I mentioned on an earlier post about my getting cellulitis, many people die from things easily treated in the States. There are clinics around on the islands and a some care available in the towns. However, for anything big, from broken bones to childbirth, missionaries and other non-natives fly out to Australia for care. We were told that we should bring any and every medication we might have need of for our group. Something of interest to me was learning that the people here cover any area that is causing them pain. For example, in the bush village, a teenage girl had a sore that had swollen the area on and above her eye. She was wearing a t-shirt on her head to drape over the swollen eye. She was very embarrassed about her eye. At one point a friend pulled the shirt away and she very hastily got the shirt back and put it back on her head. We saw a child with a cloth tied around her head showing that she had a toothache. If someone has a sore or a pain in their leg, they tie a cloth around their leg. I was told that this is to signify to others "stay away, this part is sick" so that others don't touch them there for fear of possibly contracting the same problem.

Spiritual Need
Vanuatu has a lot of syncretism, or mixing of traditional beliefs with all the beliefs that have come in with missionaries of various denominations and groups. There are a lot of denominations serving in Vanuatu, as well as Mormans, Jehovah Witnesses, and some other cults coming in with a large Chinese presence in the country. The traditional island view is animistic, which is a belief in spirits and forces, to generalize a whole lot. To the right are some idols. From my understanding (from a woman at a market), only chiefs can carve these idols. These range from a few inches to these here that were 7-8 feet tall. Our hope in going into tribes is to go where a Biblical foundation has not already been laid and to teach chronologically through the Bible. In doing this, the prayer is that greater understanding is gained so that confusion about beliefs does not occur, like what is happening with the syncretism. Obviously, much of this is the work of the Holy Spirit in giving discernment and spiritual understanding, but this seems to be a method most easily understood, especially in tribal settings. Firm Foundations, a curriculum developed by New Tribes Mission, is a Bible study series with related materials that "centers on following God's progressive pattern of revealing His character and plan of redemption within the context of history." Here is a link to these materials: There are a great many people in Vanuatu who have never heard the gospel, or good news, about God whose Son paid our penalty for sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23) by dying on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Nor do many of them know that believing in this Son grants us eternal life and freedom from the punishment of death and hell (John 3:36; Romans 1:16, 3:22-26). Please pray for the ni-Vanuatu people that the Holy Spirit would be preparing many for salvation and release from the bondage and fear of spirit worship, magic, and animism.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Travel and Accommodations

Travel in Vanuatu is very interesting and different than America. There are no speed limit signs that I ever saw so the limiting factor is the smoothness of the road, which is fairly non-existant outside of the towns (and often even in the towns). Here is a pretty nice stretch of road between Matevulu College that we visited and Camp Shining Light where we stayed on Santo island. On the right is the road that goes right up to the camp. Both of these pictures are taken by me while bouncing along in my skirt while sitting in the truck bed. I found out on this trip that I did need to bring shorts - to wear under my skirts! I'll say more about dress code in a later post on culture. Ni-Vanuatu pack as many people as possible into the backs of trucks, sometimes 20 or more people! Here is how the Ni-Vans travel in trucks. Everyone is very friendly so they were all shouting ("halo", which is hello) and waving at us as we passed them on this road. (As a cultural note though, as Ni-Vanautu get older, they get shyer so it is mostly the young people who will shout and whistle, I suppose similar to Americans. Many Ni-Vans, when talking to you one-on-one, are very quiet and difficult to hear so once again, another time that Americans are the loud obnoxious ones in comparison to another people group.) This isn't even the most full many of the trucks are so hopefully I can get some better pictures later. The drivers tell people they pass on the road "fullup" if they can't take any other passengers. I'm not really sure what number they have to get to to be "fullup"! Another factor when driving out in the bush is river crossings. Here is one place we needed to cross the river to get to Ipayato, the bush village we visited. The river was about 4 feet deep on part of this crossing, so we were thankful when our Ni-Van driver, Raymond, took us around to another crossing (where it was ONLY about 1 1/2 -2 feet deep). Some of the guys here chose to walk it rather than ride it. To get to Ipayato there were about 3 crossings without bridges and we were told the 3 or 4 bridges we did cross have only been there more recently. Had we gone after the cylcone, I'm not sure we could have crossed here, I don't know. Here is a picture of how we packed into the truck on our way down to Ipayato in south Santo island. All the gear and 5 guys sat in the back. Women and kids (and Houghton) got to take the backseat so that was nice... at least on this trip. :) I told Houghton (my brother-in-law) that although we aren't related by blood, he is my sweat brother now. Whew! That trip was certainly not a fun one with Gwenyth screaming for most of the 2 hours of the drive. Upon arrival, you wonder if your brain is bruised from all the bouncing and your legs certainly are from bashing on the door with every bump. Raymond said tire changes are required about every 3 months.

In the "big city" of Port Vila down on Efate island, the main transport is by "bus" which are vans. Some are nicer than others but it is really a nice, cheap way to get around. It costs 100 vatu ($1) per person to be transported by a bus anywhere in the city. Busses stop for anyone and pack out as full as possible. Taxis on the other hand (same shape, just have a "T" on the license plate rather than a "B") are 1000 vatu ($10) for the group and take only your group (not picking up anyone else along the way) to your one destination. Here is a picture of us in one of the busses on our way to the Vila airport. Here is what the streets are like in Vila. It is easy to flag down a bus since within 30 seconds of standing on the street, 4-5 drive past. Luganville isn't quite so busy and doesn't really have the busing system like Vila. They do have taxis, but they are just little tiny mini cars, like VW Rabbits. One more bizarre note on travel in Vanuatu...every motorcyclist I saw in Vila was wearing a helmet; no one wears seatbelts. What?

My accommodations in Vanuatu were really nice, especially compared to what some of the people live in (see some of my past posts). In Vila we stayed in "flats" which were like apartments on SIL's property. See past posts for that picture. It was about $12 a night per person there. There was a phone, electricity, ceiling fans, and both hot and cold water - nice! On Santo I stayed at Camp Shining Light in a dorm-type setting for $15 a night (including 3 meals a day!). There is one bathroom for boys and one for girls and one kitchen that everyone shares. They had electricity in the rooms and ceiling fans (no AC anywhere we stayed so we weren't spoiled!) but only cold water in the bathroom. Cold showers really aren't so bad when it is 80-90 degrees with 90 % humidity every day though! Here is the shower - 2 on the girls' side and 2 on the guys' side. Here is the bathroom sink. It is all just tin and cement but has to be scrubbed all the time because everything here molds so fast. Home sweet home!

In Ipayato the shower situation is to go wash in the ocean in your clothes, so this was nice! Also, I didn't get a picture of the toilet in Ipayato (the bush village) but everyone who did check it out told me not to even go near it. It was just a hole dug in the ground and had bamboo around it for privacy. I chose to drink very little the 2 days we were there and sweat out most of my fluids and then just go for a few "hikes" by myself. Ipayato is very "modern" as far as bush villages go though so they had access to both fresh and salt water and had a system so there were 2 water spickets so it was nice to wash off there too. The Ni-Vans who live there said the fresh water they do have is very dirty though so only the kids swim in it. :) If you check my last post and see the picture of Jesiah chasing chickens, you'll see the cement building I pitched my tent in at Ipayato. The guys stayed in this building, on the right which is the school. They stayed in tents inside it too. Their church (left) was very nice (here is Gwenyth taking a nap on the cement floor of the church). We were able to join them for their Sunday service and women sit on the right side, and men on the left. In my visit to the chapel service the next week at Matevulu College, it was girls on the left and boys on the right so I don't think the side matters so much as that the sexes are always separated for church. I'll say more about some of this in a future post about culture.

Overall, I was very comfortable and safe in my accommodations in Vanuatu. (Ipayato wasn't as comfortable on the cement floor, but everywhere else I had some sort of bed.) The travel on the bumpy roads in the trucks is an adventure and I enjoyed the newness of that, but I'm sure the excitement would wear off and it would be a frustration after living there awhile. Nice vehicles are a must but are expensive too. Before the trip, I thought perhaps for me living in Vanuatu in the future, I could get away with a moped or 4-wheeler, but the only real option anywhere outside of town is a 4-wheel drive truck. Others on my team will probably have to purchase such trucks so in town I'll probably use the taxi or bus system and otherwise mooch off my team for rides! :)

Flora and Fauna (and food!)

I thought I'd write about and show pictures about some of the plants and animals seen quite a bit on Vanuatu. For local wildlife, the most commonly seen things are geckos, which are very cute and make a crazy chirping sound. They are everywhere. Here's one very tiny one on Jim's hand. Most are like 5 inches long. I guess the locals view something like this (catching one and having it on your hand) as being voodoo, akin to one of us holding a cobra. I guess they watch you after to see what terrible things will happen to you since you messed with a gecko, like you are calling down curses on yourself or something. I think Jim was one of the few in our group who never got sick or any infected cuts or bites so the "gods" must not have minded him messing with the gecko. :) Another really common thing is spiders, much to my dismay. This one is an orb spider and they were everywhere but most weren't this big. This one was about 4 1/2 inches long and about 2 inches across and was hanging above our drying laundry. Nasty! The one nice thing about all the spiders (and they had some kind of brown one as large as a tarantula too!) is that none of them bite or have poison. The worst thing they can do is just get on you but they do help by killing flies and mosquitoes! Flies and mosquitoes are everywhere of course so mosquito nets are a must even if sleeping inside a building. Here are Gwenyth and Jesiah inside a mosquito net in the room the Richards family stayed in at Camp Shining Light. The flies love sores so they are to fault for my infected mosquito bite. They crawl all over that stuff so it is essential to keep sores covered during the day and away from the flies! Some more pleasant animals are the cows, horses, birds and chickens. There is an "emerald dove" there that is truly just like our doves but is bright emerald green! They have lots of beautiful birds but they aren't quite so friendly and fearless as our robins or sparrows, so I couldn't get any pictures. The chickens are a little different than ours (taller with longer stronger legs and some different colors) but still chasable by 2 year old's. Cows and horses I think were imported from Australia but they do have native pigs. I didn't get pictures of them. They do have a decent market for pork there and the beef is awesome! Chicken wings are reasonable, but chicken breast was like $5 a pound! The interesting thing about having cows is that there is no dairy. The people don't drink milk or eat cheese. We found cheese at one store for $18 a pound! The only milk you can get there is the Australian long-last stuff. I don't like milk anyway so I won't miss that, but the cheese lack is sad! I guess the amazing bread makes up for it. Here is some of what the beef we ate looks like (on the menu this was stew and rice). This meal was $2.50 at a restaurant. Here is a picture of that "restaurant" in Luganville on Santo island. The woman behind the counter here took all of our orders and cooked all of it in her tiny little kitchen and had everything ready all at once for our big group. It definitely wasn't fast, but you learn not to be in a hurry in Vanuatu. We filled the restaurant so others trying to come in left when they saw us packing it out. I don't think this place had a name and was just a random doorway in a wall off the main street, but it was by far some of the best of what we tried on Santo. Food was just good in general there though. Ni-Vanuatu know how to cook up a great meal!

To finish up on the animals topic, there are cats and dogs around but they really aren't seen as pets in Vanuatu except if they are owned by white-folk. They are more just part of the food chain to kill off the rats. People don't pet them or feed them so they are pretty mangy and diseased, like what you'd see in Mexico. We were told in the bush village in Ipayato that we'd want to be in tents we brought even though we were put up in cement buildings because of the rats coming in at night. I never got any company in the night that I knew of so they didn't bother me but there were some living in the storage room at Camp Shining Light so I had some run past me several times there. There really aren't any other animals that I know of in Vanuatu, other than the flying fox I posted a picture of before my survey trip. On Malakula, the guys ate at a "restaurant" that had flying fox (a bat that has a face like a fox) on the menu. They tried it and the owner was very excited to serve it to them. Fortunately, he served it just as cut-up meat, not just off the fire like in the bush. They informed me that it tastes very strong, similar to liver. They got other meals in addition to the bat and decided that if they don't have to, they'd rather not eat flying fox again. Fish is prevalent too but I'm not a fan so I stuck to the chicken and beef for eating. There are lots of fish for looking at though. Here's a "Nemo" we saw.

I'll move on to flora now. Vanuatu is just in general a gorgeously green country. Everything is in season all the time and everything is green and growing. Here are a few trees that are everywhere.

This is a papaya on the left. On the right here is a plantain tree, which is similar to banana in shape but definately not in taste. Plantain is cut and fried while the bananas in Vanautu are typically smaller than those we get in the states but a thousand times sweeter. They taste fabulous! We had as much fruit as we wanted pretty much at all times, which was awesome! Here's another fruit tree, a citron. They are similar to grapefruit, although not needing sugar for sweetening. They are very messy to eat and no one has napkins there, but they are worth the mess! This is a citron tree outside the building we stayed in at the capital city, Port Vila.
Here is a picture of a typical breakfast for us - fruit (citron and banana here), bread, and something to spread on it (Nutella, peanut butter, jam). The bread is incredible, like what you can get in France. It doesn't get hard like American "French bread" so you can keep it in the pantry several days and it's still just as good as when it was purchased. It is about 50 vatu (50 cents) per loaf. One could get very fat on all the rice and bread that is available! There are lots of starchy vegetables, like manioc, taro, yams and potatoes so the people here are more often somewhat overweight than underweight. All the fruit and vegetables I tried were very good. I had great pineapple (which I guess was out of season so not very available), mango, passion fruit, limes, lemons, and oranges (which are usually green!). I pictured breadfruit and noni fruit on one of my earlier posts and I didn't try those. There was a noni fruit tree in the yard at the camp but the staff all called it "stinky fruit" because of the vomit-like smell coming from those that were rotting on the grass. Maybe I'll try one another time but I know I'm not interested in trying an old one! I did drink from a coconut, which had little taste and I did eat from a few coconuts. The ones I tried were pretty bland but I guess taste varies like shape so I'll have to try some more. This picture is of a guy in Fiji (Indian, which was like 1/2 of who we saw in Nadi, the capital city there because they are really immigrating in mass numbers to Fiji I guess) who cut open some coconuts for us when we were there for our 16-hour layover on our way to Vanuatu.
The vegetables were interesting. Yams were fabulous and manioc was prepared like french fries (frites) and tasted just like them. Taro is boiled and then cut into pieces. It tastes starchy and was strange the first few bites, but it grows on you and I really liked it. When boiled it is taste-wise somewhere between a baked potato and a dumpling. This picture with the long dark roots in the middle is taro I think, coconuts are the lighter round brown ones on the outside, and the green toward the back is plantains. They have enormous beans (about 1 1/2 feet long) but we didn't try those. Cucumber grows and is good there and we had tomatoes at some of the restaurants, but I don't remember ever seeing either of those at market.

So, when you all come visit me in Vanuatu in a year or so, you'll be set up for food and won't go hungry! Bring your own cornmeal, dairy and apples though cuz you can't find them there. God did some amazing things when he made Vanautu!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

My tasks on the survey trip

I'm sure the main question most of you have about the survey trip is "what did you do?" My tasks there were mainly the things I would be doing for my team when living in country, Lord-willing. Those tasks fit in with my role as "logistics lady." On this trip that looked like the following: typing up team meeting notes and distributing them to the team (this picture is me typing up notes from our big meeting with other missionaries there on Santo island) and doing financial paperwork. (This picture is me checking out the market in Luganville, the one town on Santo, to get prices on fruit and vegetables. Just FYI, we got there when it was closing so usually there is much more to it than what it shows here. This is contrasted with the huge produce market in Port Vila, shown here.
The next picture is of LCM, a Chinese-run store that is the closest local equivalent to Walmart. It's far shot from that for sure! Most of the businesses in town are Chinese-run so it is an interesting dynamic.)

For finances, I was also asked to keep track during the trip of all expenses paid by each team member on behalf of the team so we could even out the expenses at the end. For example, we bought about $136-worth of food for our trip to the bush village. Rather than each of us paying a little and driving the cashier crazy, I paid the full bill. Others paid the full gas bill, others paid the full flight bill for those who went to Malakula, etc. All these expenses were tracked by me (and Brad for the Malakula expenses) and I divided it all out in the end to see who owed who money.

I was also very involved in helping my sister out with childcare, which was certainly no skin off my back! We got to do some really fun things together. This is me on the left holding Gwenyth, my 6 month old niece after I finished soaking my infected leg! To the right is me swimming with Jesiah, my 2 year-old nephew.

The whole team was also involved of course in making connections with local missionaries and in getting familiar with people there and some of the ministries going on. Here are some pictures of the staff who work at Camp Shining Light where we stayed most of our time on Santo. Phil Pinero is the main missionary there (he is pictured here in the blue shirt). He has college-age students for the most part who make up mainly shorter-term (a few months to a year or so) teams working at the camp, which is new as of November 2006. The girls pictured here with me are Cara (New Zealander), Lydia (from Indiana), Ashley (from Oregon) and me. Zach (New Zealander), in the middle of the picture of the guys is more long-term staff as the maintenance director at camp. The other guys pictured are Daniel and Tim (Australian). These staff groups were very accommodating and were a great blessing to us while we were on Santo.
Here is Nurse Jane (Australian) and I. She is a full-time missionary serving as a nurse. Locals come out to see her for medical issues. She was a great help to me with all my infected cuts and bites (since they flared up after my nurse brother-in-law left for Malakula)! Houghton got some good notes from her about medicine and supplies needed for a bush medical facility. Nurse Jane was also a great help to me in getting lists of personal items and other things needed for living in Vanuatu.

Two missionaries who live in Luganville (not at the camp but who also help Phil out) are Gladys and Bill Scrimsher. Gladys gave me invaluable information on utilities costs and items that are best to ship over from the States rather than buy in Vanautu.

A very special person I met on Santo was Esther, who is Ni-Vanuatu. I am so bummed I didn't get her picture! She came during the mornings to help with meals and clean-up at the camp. She was very gracious to me and allowed me to record her reading in the Bible in Bislama from Romans 3. I am planning to use this recording to practice the Bislama accent and pronunciations. I bought a Bislama Bible as well as some other books so I can start to learn it stateside. Esther gave me her address and said I could write to her to practice my Bislama and she would write me back in Bislama and English.

Another task of my team was to meet some of the local people. Here is a picture of me with some kids at a church in Luganville and a picture of some of the girls at a school called Matevulu College (for grades 8-13, which would be our 7th-12th grades). I got to go to this school for a chapel service on Sunday. I got a great voice recording of them busting out in song - wow, was that ever an experience! If any of you are technologically savvy and know of a way to put voice recordings on a blog site, let me know and I'll post it. It'll give you chills! These kids are not afraid to lead out in song or harmonize or sing at the top or their lungs! When 400-some students sing a capella at the top of their lungs, it is a joyful noise! Brad from my team preached at the chapel service but high school kids led out all the singing.

Another ministry we were introduced to there was one called Frangipani ministry and is for disabled children. Some of them stayed in my "dorm" room at the camp a few nights so here is a picture of them all sacked out. Many chose to stay on the floor rather than on beds because that is what they are used to. Part of the Ni-Vanautu culture is a love for kids but most disabled kids are not allowed to live. This woman, Drusilla, has a ministry of educating villages and families about care of disabled children and is working to make sure they are treated with respect and given the same opportunities to live and enjoy life as their able-bodied peers.
I met a separate missionary, Christina, who is in town (Luganville). She introduced me to Andria, who is a teacher in the primary school there. Maybe I would have some kind of connection during my short time on Santo at that school or up at Matevulu College. Here are Andria and her daughter and Christina and me. I was blessed by the librarian at my current school to bring over to Vanuatu some school supplies to give to kids. I was able to give these supplies to the principal of the bush village, Ipayato, that I visited at the beginning of my time on Santo. This is a picture Phil took of the kids at that school
(I was there on the weekend so couldn't be a part of the school experience there). He had as his picture caption that at that school there are 3 kids per pencil! I was able to pass off to them some crayons, pencils, rulers, and paper thanks to Lynn Wangen at Willow Creek Elementary. Brad got video of me presenting that to the principal so hopefully I will get to show that to some of you. The Ipayato Ni-Vanuatu only spoke Bislama and French so since I don't know Bislama yet, I had to do the presenting in French so it was pretty limited on my part, but he got the point.

I met some missionaries in Port Vila with an organization called SIL that does Bible translation but I didn't get pictures of them either! This is the building we stayed in there. Those missionaries, Ross and Lyndal, did have a chance to meet with us one time. It was great on this survey trip to have people in-country to set up accommodations with so we knew we had places to stay! I was in charge pre-survey trip for the Vila accommodations with Ross and Lyndal and Steve took care of the Santo and Malakula accommodations with Phil. This worked out very nicely!

The final task in Vanuatu was applying for visas. The area director for Biblical Ministries Worldwide for our area (South Pacific and Asia) came with his wife to be with us at this end part of our trip. Bill and Deborah Lake assisted us in our meeting with missionaries in Vanautu about entering the country. I in turn was able to assist them with some of the flight plans for them to come in from Port Vila to Santo. Here are Bill and Deborah and I in Luganville at a Chinese (Australian run...?) restaurant we went to one night.
I helped in the paperwork collection aspect of the visas and also went into the immigration office with Phil Pinero and Steve Gibb (on my team) to watch Phil do his sweet-talking (in Bislama) with the secretary there to get her to go through our packets. Praise the Lord, our money was taken (a whopping $700!) for visas and work permits and a receipt was given so we are able to come live in the country at any time! In Vanuatu the receipt for the money is all that is required to come live in the country. They'll still process our paperwork and give us the actual visa later, but we are all welcome to move there as soon as we have the support raised to do so! It was very stressful to go through that process but the Lord gave favor, praise Him!

Well, those are the main things I was involved in on this survey trip. (The guys checked out Malakula and costs there as well as opportunities so I hope to add a post about that when I have pictures from them.) There was certainly plenty to do and to soak in but it was nice to have some down-time to rest as well. It was a great mix of both. The Lord allowed much to be accomplished and many connections and new friendships to be made!