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!). :)