Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vanuatu - a wild and crazy place!

I thought it might be fun to include another post with random notes about Vanuatu.

Food. Here is a new fruit that I haven't seen much of, but that you can find at the market more recently. It's called a star apple. If you cut it straight at the midline, the seeds make a star shape. I obviously didn't cut it that way. It is very sweet and unlike anything else I've tasted so I'm at a loss for how to explain it, sorry. It was good though. You'll have to come visit to try it out. From what I was told in the market, just the white part is edible. It's about the size of a big granny smith apple. Very pretty, don't you think?

People. At the end of the month, Ross and Lyndal, directors for SIL/Wycliffe here head over to PNG (Papua New Guinea) to work on a revision of the New Testament they translated there 10 years ago. We'll not see them again until we return from Australia. They have been great neighbors, friends, and ministry leaders to bounce ideas off of and learn from. Here's Tania, my teammate, and I. I need to get some more pictures of our team to post. Check out what's behind us though - a ginormous cactus - who would have thought?

Bugs. Well, as you know, many bugs here are pretty different than those in the States. Some sort of bug - not sure if it was fleas or maybe ants or what - decided to attack my legs and feet and one of my arms. Here is a picture of what some of the bumps from that looked like for several weeks. They weren't itchy, thank goodness, just red and whatever bug it was was very thorough in getting most every area of my lower legs and feet. Another lovely bug here is the mosquito. Of course everyone knows about those but here some of the ones that like to bite most at daylight and sunset can carry Dengue Fever. Symptoms include high fever for about 4 days that returns a few days later, bone and muscle pain, headache, eye pain, rash, among other less desireable possibilities. There isn't a treatment for it other than to just treat the symptoms. A blood test can determine whether or not one has Dengue but of course that costs money. Houghton checked out symptoms I had and is fairly certain I had a mild form of Dengue (right after I returned from Santo), as did little Addy (a week or so later), poor thing, and Ross had it several days before I did. While I was gone to Santo, Gretchen reported that trucks were driving through all the neighborhoods with megaphones yelling out stuff about Dengue incidence being high and everyone's need to get mosquito nets for their kids. That's a little different than they'd do it in the States too... :) It is spread by a mosquito biting an infected person, then biting someone else. Here's what my rash looked like for about 3 days. It was very itchy and was most painful on my palms and bottoms of my feet. I had it everywhere except my face. When I had the fever, it was up to 104F for one day but stayed around 102 for the other 3 days. I did have pain, mainly in my joints (especially knees and fingers) and muscles. I guess there are 4 varieties of Dengue and once you've had one variety, antibodies are built so you don't have it again in your lifetime. Yay - one down and only 3 to go, and I had it easy! :) Next, another one not unknown to Americans, lice. However, something a tad different here is that picking lice out of your child's hair (or your friend's if you're a kid) is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is eating the lice you find. And last but not least, this weird one. I have no idea what it is. Gretchen's guess is a worm that is just pulling it's cocoon around. Most of the ones I have around my house are just hanging on the walls staying in one place and the worm part isn't sticking out so she's probably right. Here's a video showing you how weird they look. They weigh next to nothing so a little blow on them can blow them across the room. I just let them hang out cuz they seem pretty harmless.

Picking your nose isn't impolite or unusual. No one worries much about anyone digging for gold here and no one hides it. Dad, you'd fit right in, come on over... :) Sorry, I don't have a picture to go with this one, I'll just let you imagine it. :)

Pedestrians don't have right-of-way in Vanuatu. Vehicles are first, then motorcyles, then bicycles (there's a few around), then pedestrians. Children know not to step into the street and to walk as far on the side of the road or path as possible to allow passing vehicles to speed by. It was hard to get used to looking to both ways to cross the street then - whoops - a bus is coming so to wait, then go. If you are in the middle of crossing the street and a vehicle comes, you run to get to the other side because they will not slow down for you and expect you to get out of the way. Different.

Busses keep the place hopping. What is called a "bus" is what we would think of as a large van. They have sliding doors on the right side and most can sit 9, some are able to seat 12 or so. Most are built with the 1st and 2nd row of seats having one that folds over and then the seat back folds up so if the bus isn't full, the seat is out of the way. If the bus is full, you get in, fold the seat out, and sit. Busses don't have specific routes, they go according the the closest stop for whoever happens to be on the bus. If I want to go somewhere in town, I ask the driver "yu go lo taon?" (you go to town?). If he grunts, nods, raises his eyebrows or says "kam" (come), I get in and sometime in the next 5 to 30 minutes, I get there. If the bus is full, he may take me first or I may be the last stop or I may be after others he picks up as we go to the stops of all the others on the bus if their stops are closer. This is a great way to get to know Vila because you never know where the bus might go on your way to places. For the example above, once the driver gets close to wherever I want to go in town, I say "stop ya" (stop here), I get out, and hand a 100 vatu coin (about $1) through the passenger window to him or give it to the guy sitting shotgun who gives it to the driver. Pretty much anywhere you want to go in Vila, you'll be taken right to it. They have taxis here too and they are usually smaller vans or cars. You know a bus is a bus and not just Joe Blow's van because the licence plates have B on them. Taxis have T and then public transport has PT. Left is a PT speeding by with a million people in the back. I don't really get how those work yet.

It's just pretty here (well, assuming you don't look at people's houses or garbage piles...). Anyway, going with the pretty - Coral Motel is right across the street from me. They keep up their yard with a gardener that's always outside raking and burning leaves, trimming trees and all sorts of upkeep.

Finally, the guys got back from a survey trip to Ambrym island about 2 weeks ago. They were checking it out as a possible place for us to minister in long-term. Check out their pictures and stories about it at: and and if you have a Facebook account become friends with Brad and Amber Jones and check out their pictures on Facebook.

No comments: