Saturday, September 27, 2008

Update on Outgoing Needs

Here is an updated chart on my outgoing needs as of my giving statement for this month. I change the sidebar (see right on my blog) every month but here is the breakdown if you prefer it visually. God has been providing through many of you every month. Thank you so much! In the coming months, I'll be looking into purchasing many of the specific items in the categories listed in these charts to meet the May 2009 deadline to avoid duty and customs fees. Please e-mail me if you have questions!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making laplap

I have officially made and eaten laplap, an "aelan kakae" or island food, a staple here. In the Bislama dictionary it is described as a pudding, or grated tuber or banana mixed with coconut milk and sometimes meat added, sometimes surrounded by island cabbage. It is wrapped in large leaves (laplap or banana tree leaves) and cooked on hot stones. Here's the finished product to the right, only note that it is rare for it to be made with chicken (the big white chunks) like this - usually just yams and cabbage.

My friend Magreth and I had planned to get together so she and her cousin could start teaching me to make mats. Magreth's dad didn't want her to show me though because the dye from the mats stains hands and everything else it comes in contact with. He didn't want her new white friend to be pink. She's close to having him convinced that I really am ok with that so we'll see... Anyway, making laplap was a great alternative. I went and hung out with her and her family last week and met most of them, but got to meet a few more and get to know them a bit more. Here are her 2 girls, Sevanda (8) and Lin (7) as well as her nephew, Jak (on the right with the crazy hair). :) She also has a 15 year old son, Prin, who is visiting family on another island right now.
Here's how the process works (sorry for the poor quality videos - just imagine you are on a rollercoaster and it will seem more fun... also, FYI, some language on the videos is Bislama, the trade language I'm learning and some is this family's tribal language from Tongoa island where they are from):

0. Purchase all ingredients and cut or buy laplap leaves.
1. Prepare island cabbage by spreading out leaves and breaking off stems an inch or so from the base of the leaf. Keep back all small leaves in a separate pile.
2. Peel yams and wash them
3. Grate yams into a huge bowl with water in it4. Add salt and sugar to grated yams, then squeeze it until it is pudding-ish. (hands must be washed after so they don't get itchy from the yams)

5. Crack open coconuts, then grate them into a bowl with the water from inside them.
6. Squeeze out the milk from the grated meat ("melekem"). This can be done with hands like I did out in Pango or with the gratings inside a piece of cloth, or the husks off the coconut can be used to put the meat in to be squeezed.
7. Start the fire. Special rocks are needed for this that hold heat well. Rocks go on the ground inside the cooking house, then sticks are lit on top. When a fire is going, more stones go on top of the sticks. Rocks are moved with tongs made from a branchy part of a coconut tree. I was laughing because Magreth's family has a few metal pieces they put in with rocks - some parts from an old lawnmower. Jen, one of Magreth's sisters said that they get hotter than the rocks so are nice to use.
8. Strip laplap leaves of their stems or bones ("bun") as they call them.
9. Bring laplap leaves down to the cooking house and lay them out. 3 go up and down, 3 across, then 3 more up and down. Two are put on the hot stones so they get soft and these go on the top of all the others. The laplap is made on these.

10. Take all top stones off the fire and take out the wood.

11. Lay out island cabbage facedown, all layered with stems pointing out.12. Pour yam mess on top and spread over the surface.

13. Milk coconut meat another time, this time after it's soaked in water, and squeeze on top of pudding.

14. Layer all small, set-aside island cabbage leaves on top.>

15. We bought some whole chickens (they wanted chicken wings but the whole town was out - we tried nearly 10 different store) and put chicken pieces on top.
16. Spoon strong coconut milk on top.

17. Fold up laplap leaves. Using a tie from the stems of the laplap leaves (removed earlier), tie up the bundle.
18. Put the bundle on top of the bottom rock layer. Using the coconut branch tongs, place the top hot rocks on top of the bundle.

19. Layer laplap leaves on top.

20. Layer burlap sacks on top. (if you don't have burlap, just use more laplap leaves)
21. Wait a few hours.
22. Take off all the top layers and bring the bundle up to the table. Unwravel, cut and eat! It was really good with the chicken in there. I'm not sure I would have liked it as much without the chicken flavoring everything, but still, a full day of work for enough food for the whole family (remember that family means extended since they all live right together). They don't have refrigeration so if any is leftover, they put it in a cabinet with a metal door that sits out in the yard. Kids get in and out of this all day long. They keep meat, milk, and other ingredients back like this at the market too.
Here's the crew: Magreth's mom, Rupi, sister Jen, me, Magreth, and cousin Priscilla. What a sweet family! Since I started this post, I was able to hang out one other full day with them while they taught me to make "mambor," a cabbage-ish plant. We made it with cooking bananas and strong coconut milk - yum! I must say, mambor tastes a lot like grass (and they even said they think it smells like grass), but it fills the belly and was fun to learn.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Custom dance and song

The evening after I learned to make laplap, I was able to go with friends Pete and Liz, who are support staff for SIL/Wycliffe (and my across the hall neighbors) to a fundraiser for USP (University of the South Pacific, which has a branch here in Vila). Liz needed to leave early to help a friend, but Vanuatu dance and songs were at the top of the program so I got some short video. I really need some more practice with the video camera thing - sorry I'm aweful, but at least it gives you an idea of custom clothing, dance, and song.

Random pictures and stories

Here are some random things I haven't put in any other posts yet:

Video of Sevandah, Lin, and Jak messing around.

They were smashing nangae nuts. They come in a squishy skin kinda like the size of a lime in the States. You smash that all off (and if they are ripe, it sprays everywhere -I won't tell you what they call that...). Then there is a seed you have to whack. After that it is in a shell that you peel off. The inside nut is kinda flat and is white. I'm not a lover of nuts, but these actually are good!

One day it really decided to rain - the rainy season is coming in the next few months but it hasn't been doing a whole lot of this yet here.

I was supposed to be walking up near Houghton and Gretchen's to see Monique when it was pouring like this but I didn't have an umbrella. So, I waited awhile until it slowed down, borrowed an umbrella from Liz next door, changed from my longest skirt to a shorter one, then tromped through the mud up to her house (slowly - so as to get the least amount of splatter up my legs and clothes...)

Here's Gretchen, Monique, Addy, and I at a concert at the Gibbs' house put on by their children. Notice that Monique is wearing a coat while I'm looking sweaty in my tank top. It's "winter" here so she was cold. It was probably 70 that night so I'm betting after I've lived here awhile I'll be throwing on coats then too, but until then, it's weird. :)

Next random point: Why I can't be lazy in doing my dishes. I had even rinsed this plate but didn't want to run water and get soap for one plate. If you click on the picture, you should be able to enlarge and see all the ants going to town on my plate. They just live with me in the kitchen and I'm tired of trying to kill them...

And last but not least: My hands down favorite kid ever. The kids in Magreth's family are growing on me so I might not be able to say that much longer, but this is Atkin on the right (Jesiah left, Charlie middle). He is sweet, thoughtful, helpful, safety conscious, unselfish, and funny, not to mention very cute. Every time I've been down by the market at a park near there, he appears. He carries Jesiah and Gweny around, plays with them, keeps them from jumping off the dock into the ocean, helps them if they are stuck somewhere, and just generally keeps them entertained and happy. His parents cook at the market so I ate at their table one day. His dad used to be head chef at Club Vanuatu so he showed me some fancy things he can do like make cucumbers into butterflies. :) And the food at their table was amazing, by the way. It's 300vt, or about $3 to get a plateful of food (your pick of meat between beef, fish, or chicken wings, a bowlful of rice, and a pile of some kind of veggie). You are eating on dishes washed in cold rainwater and typically the meat has been sitting in their cupboard all day, but if you can get past that, it's really good. :) He actually went and bought fresh meat to make mine though so I was impressed at that. I'll definitely be going back to their table.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pango village visit

(A note on this post - the pictures are small but high resolution so if you want to see mentioned items more closely, click on the picture and it should load to a big size.)
In in a previous post I said that I was able to spend some time in a village south of Port Vila. The village is called Pango and I have a friend, Elodia, who works in the city but lives out in Pango. Chrisenthia, who I met my first time out in Pango attending an event at the YWAM (Youth With A Mission), was celebrating her birthday with Elodia's family. Here are some pictures from our time out there and some discussion about the things I learned. Elodia is here with me after she gave me this lovely island dress "aelan dres." Ni-Vanuatu are so generous. She had given Chrisenthia a dress for her birthday and then gave me this one just for coming, or if for another reason, I don't know it. She taught me a lot about island cooking in a "local kitchen" which is what most of these pictures are. A local kitchen is basically a thatched hut with walls and a roof but it is still all open to get breezes in. Floor is just broken bits of coral on top of hard-packed dirt. Woven mats are laid down on top of the coral and you always take your shoes off before entering a house or local kitchen.

First of all, Elodia showed me how to peel yams. There are all kinds of yams - some pink inside, some white, some purple, some peach. They all taste a bit different too. They are meant to be peeled, then cut up and boiled. They are typically boiled in coconut milk, which is milked or "melekem" by hand. Here is a picture of Chrisenthia "melekem" one coconut. They are grated, or "scrajem" on a grater you sit on (see foreground of local kitchen picture above on the right). The gratings have a bit of water added to them, then with your hands you squeeze the milk out of them. That is poured over the yams and salt is added (me adding salt here). In a local kitchen, they are boiled over an actual fire here on this metal stove. Elodia's family also owns a sawdust oven where sawdust is burned inside a small metal box on top of which pots are set. Check out the small box (yellow) on the ground in the local kitchen picture up above (to the immediate left of the fire).

Elodia told me that all starchy root vegetables (yams, sweet potatoes/kumala, manioc, plantains/cooking bananas) are prepared pretty much this same way. They must be washed well (which in Vanuatu means rubbed "clean" in cold rainwater - even when you are eating at the market your dishes are washed this way). If they aren't peeled enough or washed off enough, they make you itchy. If they are eaten this way, your lips, mouth, and esophagus are itchy for a few days. She said your hands can be itchy too but coconut milk takes the itchiness away so if you melekem one coconut after you peel a root veggie, you won't get the itchiness. Pretty cool natural remedy, huh?

Here is the dishwashing station at Elodia's house. Her family buys regular dishwashing soap at a local store, then washes dishes in cold rainwater, rinses them and then they're ready for the next time. Same method is used whether dishes were used for raw meat, cooked food, or whatever. Dirty water is emptied out behind a tree in the yard (banana tree in this case).

The other thing we did was roast "rusum" meat in the local oven, which is a ginormous metal cylinder with burlap sacks over it (see right and also in picture up above with the big bright blue water container). These ovens are used to bake bread as well. Most bread here is sold as long baguettes, like in France. However at the market in the evenings, you can buy homemade bread in loaves and buy coffee from one of the "cooking mamas" and sit and have coffee and bread. The market is alive and well after dark but it's hard for me to go then as it's not really good for me to be out alone after dark here. It gets dark around 5:30PM here so the day goes by fast! I've been able to go a few times with friends.

After all the food was prepared and ready at Elodia's house, we had a feast and then just sat around talking ("storian"). We had drinks made with cordial concentrate (from the store) mixed with collected rainwater. Everyone lives in community here with all their extended family so I got to meet several of Elodia's siblings (she has 9), her parents, some in-laws, and nieces and nephews. The little girl in the picture at the top of the post above with Chrisenthia and I, Lolo, is one of her nieces. Elodia's family is a great one to hang out with for learning Bislama. They all are fluent in English (among other languages!) so when I don't know how to say something, I can ask in English and they are great at teaching the Bislama phrase or word. They are also pretty accustomed to foreigners being around because they host lots of YWAM kids and staff, living just right by the base. Elodia's dad is an elder at a local Presyterian church in the village. What a sweet family! I hope to be able to get out to Pango more in the future to get to know Elodia and her family better.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My new (temporary) home

Here's where I live now - in the office building of SIL/Wycliffe Bible translators. My across-the-hall neighbors are Pete and Liz from Australia (picture to come later when I can figure out what is wrong with my camera). Pete is the maintenance guy and Liz is the office manager. They are very fun neighbors. They move back to AUS the beginning of October and then I'll move over into their place, which is a one-bedroom. In the meantime, I'm in a 2 bedroom place. Upstairs from us is the SIL library and some work rooms, as well as the apartment of Ross and Lyndal, also from Australia. They are the directors for SIL-Vanuatu. Prior to their work here, they translated a New Testament in a language in Papua New Guinea. Downstairs are the SIL offices and another apartment that visitors come in and out of. SIL has been very generous with us with housing and very helpful in making connections, learning Bislama, figuring out good stores for grocery items, and just offering good fellowship and friendship. I'm putting some pictures here that I took before my camera broke of the view from my new place (beautiful but not quite like the view from the Richards' place up at Hilltop) and I'll add more pictures later of people I'm talking about. The white building way up in the trees in the long picture is a kava bar up and behind my place. The main street, Lini Highway is just down from where I live.

Another SIL person here is Serah, who is Ni-Vanuatu and is the secretary for the VBT - Vanuatu Bible Translators. She's worked for SIL for a whopping 25 years. Starting this week, she's agreed to meet with me one day a week for Bislama help. It will be nice to have something more scheduled and purposeful like that. I've been learning heaps from general conversation with new friends, but Serah will be great for correcting my mistakes and going back to basics so I can fill in some gaps.
With Liz leaving, someone needs to take her place so Anna is training to do that. She is American and works with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) here in Vanuatu. However, she and her husband's (Ben, from England) ministry starts back in full again next year so she wanted something concrete to be doing in the meantime. She's been a really good friend as well as Liz so I've enjoyed hanging out with both of them. Liz and Anna attend a free exercise class that I've come along to a few times and hope to continue to attend. Anna also introduced me to some "mamas" (older women) at the market I can practice Bislama with, as well as taking me out to a village south of here, Pango, for a YWAM graduation at a YWAM base out there. On the way to Pango I met Chrisanthia, a Christian girl from Papua New Guinea (PNG), who is awaiting her work permit to work with Digicel (new cell phone company here). She and I have hung out a few times now. In Pango, I met Elodia, who works in town at a Drug Store and speaks proficient Bislama, French, English, and the south Efate village language. She's grown up in the village with her dad being the elder of a local Presbyterian church and hosting YWAMers from all over the world. She and her family are accustomed to helping people learn Bislama. I went back out to the village to see her and her family the next week. I'll make a new post for that story though.

More SIL contacts are Luwi and Monique and their daughter Susanne. They live up at Hilltop where Houghton and Gretchen stay so I got to know them the first 2 weeks I was here since I stayed up there as well. They have twin boys on Epi island going to school and staying with extended family. Lots of Ni-Vanuatu here in Vila (the capital city) live here and work to pay for school fees for their kids. Some end up staying, but many talk about their life on the island (as in their home island) with longing - for the cleaner, less polluted, slower lifestyle with more readily available food. Here in Vila, living is very close quartered and gardens are way out of town so people have to go to market and local stores for food. Out in villages, fruit trees and vegetables are in abundance right on people's land or they walk a ways several times a week to their own gardens to provide for their families. However, since school is all paid for individually here (not free like in the States), this is a hardship for many families, hence the migration to the city and toward jobs. Monique does cleaning and cooking for SIL among other jobs and Luwi does maintenance and gardening. Susanne attends school in Vila. Monique took Gretchen and I to the market one Saturday to try "tuluk" which is a mashed, starchy vegetable on the outside (like yam, plantain or manioc) filled with meat and onion on the inside (chicken, beef, pork or fish). It is wrapped in a laplap leaf and then roasted in between hot stones over a fire. It has a bit of a smoky taste but is pretty good, albeit sticky! Here is Gweny trying some and a picture of Monique holding Addy. Everyone here loves little kids and fortunately Gweny and Addy don't mind too much. Addy grants everyone smiles all around so she's quite the crowd pleaser. :)

I've also met most of the SIL missionary families that are serving on various islands. I don't have pictures of any of them yet but we've been able to get to know many of them and hang out a few times now. Some of them have given us great insight into island living and preparation tips for our time out in the bush so I am thankful for the new friends God has given us!

There's much more that could be written, but I'm going to close out this post with some pictures of the beauty of this place. I walk to the market or to town - about 15-20 minutes away - a few times a week and these are all pictures on the way over to there. Check these out and explain why it is you aren't moving to Vanuatu! It's beautiful! (Just don't read my post about all the quirks and the expensive electricity and you'll be fine!). :)