Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Animals of Ambrym

There really are very few animals in Vanuatu and fortunately none to fear (other than sharks).  Thanks to Gweny, I have a lot of pictures of them (animals, not sharks!) from when I let her run wild with my camera!

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Vistitors are the BEST! (Part 4)

Coconuts have so many uses! I have the desire (but no follow-through yet) to take pictures and write up a post on all the types of coconuts at their different stages and all the things they are used for. But for now, I'll content myself with posting pictures of scraping out coconut from inside old, sprouted coconuts, which is then roasted. This is called copra. When people need money (which they do occasionally), this is the main moneymaker out in the villages. Most everyone has their own copra bed to roast it on.  Virtually every family group has their own copra bed like this one just beyond our backyard.  Unfortunately, they (the roasting copra) seem to often catch fire, as this one did a few weeks before we left Ambrym so when people run around shouting in the middle of the night, we usually can guess the cause.
 And there are a few nicer copra roasting houses just outside the village that are regularly used as well.
 Copra goes on top of the bed, and logs go in the metal cylinder and burn to roast the copra.  When it's roasted a day or so, they pack it up in burlap sacks and put it on a ship to be sold on another island where some of it is processed into oil and other products, or sold to China and other countries.
They doesn't quite fit OSHA standards, but it works for here.  :)  Play the smilebox below for pictures of the process.
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Visitors are the BEST! (Part 3)

Having people visit, you get new pictures and perspectives of things around that we take for granted.  Casey and Val got some great pictures of what it's like in our village.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Walkabout to a garden

All the villagers gardens are way past the village up in the jungle (and I mean UP)!  (They were super nice and let us put ours right next to where our house will be.)  People work as subsistence farmers here, for the most part, so they go to the garden for most of the day, 5-6 days a week.  We haven't gone out with people much, but have had little introductions to the gardens by people whose gardens are closer to the village than others.  Some people walk HOURS to get to theirs.  Joed, a chief's wife, has one that is the closest to the village, being only a 20-30 minute walk away so we asked if we could take Val to see it.
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Whenever we ask people the specific way to plant things here, sometimes they have technical answers, but usually people just stare at us like we're crazy and say "you stick it in the ground."  And that is SERIOUSLY all you usually have to do.  To get new hibiscus plants to grow you literally only have to chop off a branch of an existing plant, cut it into pieces, and stick each piece in the ground.  How cool is that.  They complain in North Ambrym about how tough their ground is, and especially women who marry in from other islands complain about how you have to dig up the ground to plant.  But they showed us here to use a hoe (or in their case, a machete), and just barely dig up the top inch or two of the (very soft) soil and then stick our seeds/plants in the ground.  Yep, they grew!  Apparently on other islands all you have to do is chuck seeds all around on the dirt and they grow.  Nice. 

Visitors are the BEST! (Part 2)

Our flight into the western side of Ambrym island (Craig Cove).
The boat ride.  
This was quite the experience.  Once we stopped partway to pick up some spearfishers and pig hunters, there were 27 people, 3 dead pigs, multiple dogs, and loads and loads of cargo on this little boat.  The water level was literally inches from the lip of the boat. Poor little baby Becket didn't have a very fun time on the 4 hour ride with nowhere to go!  The ride can be as short as 1 1/2 hours but with this many people it took FOREVER.  We end up paying the full price of the trip regardless of how many are riding with us.  So, Houghton has since told all the boat drivers that as long as we're arranging for the boats and paying, there will never be this many on a boat again.  They got it.  We're learning...

 Don't let the guy wearing a coat up above confuse you.  It was hot hot hot.  Not sure why he wore his coat anyways!  :)  You'll see our fantastic sunburns from the ride in upcoming pictures!
 All the youth sitting on the shelter of the boat up in the front.
 Dogs are back with all the guys in the back of the boat.  Not sure why they don't show up in the picture - there were at least 3 of them!
Fortunately although all the rest of us made out with sunburns, Becket was spared!
Our arrival just outside our village in North Ambrym.
 Here's our nice sunburns.  Val taking a picture of Gretch and I back by our bush toilet.  :)
 Our welcoming crew in the village of Ranvetlam where we live.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Visitors are the BEST! (Part 1)

When we returned to Ambrym island in September, our friends the Ellis' from the States came out with us.  What an encouragement to be able to share what our lives are like out here with friends from our own culture! 
 Casey, Val, and baby Beckett with us just outside our village on Ambrym island.
 It was truly a blessing to have them for just under 2 weeks and experience life with us.  Please pray with them as they consider God's leading in their lives and whether He would have them make big changes like letting go of home and ministering overseas!

When they first got here, we had a few days in Vila finishing our village prep, then headed out to Ambrym together.  In Vila, they stayed in the duplex unit next to where Hought and Gretch stay when we're in town.
 Going out on the town together.
  A first taste of island food with neighbors in town.
 Sitting around having a chat about what's coming up in Ambrym.

 Vila domestic airport.  We're off to Ambrym!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ambrym airport

The guys doing our check-in at the airport in Ambrym on our way back to the capital city of Vila. 
 Since they're such small planes, everything gets weighed - cargo, people, carry-ons...  The scale is red and in the corner here.

Calling all librarians and teachers!

Somehow I managed to miss posting these pictures from last time we were in Ambrym.  The owner of the house we are temporarily staying in  is the principal at the secondary school (grades 7-10) in a village about 1/2 hour walk away (and so has his own housing at the school which makes his house open for us).  Here's the secondary school below. 
 Ambrym island, especially in the North, struggles quite a bit to get teachers because ni-Vanuatu from other islands are afraid of their reputation for black magic.  It seems to us that every people group in Vanuatu says "it's not us doing that stuff, it's them!" but still Ambrym gets the worst rap and so has a hard time recruiting.  Principal Sandy asked Houghton and I to help him fill in, because in addition to his work as a principal, he was trying to keep up with math and science for the whole school.  Understandably, many classes were just not getting taught. Houghton taught 10th grade science and did mainly health and hygiene.
I taught 9th grade science and had to do the icky science subjects like forces, electricity, and energy.  Why didn't I think to start with their end-of-year curriculum and do anatomy first!  :)
We only taught for just over a month and a teacher came in to take our place.  He finished off the school year the end of November (their school year goes Jan-Nov, being southern hemisphere) and then just last week shipped out to Fiji for IT school so not sure what's happening next year.  

It was a great opportunity and gave us a good insight into the school system, good contacts, and some good open doors.  We could very easily step in when students are teacher-less and teach literacy or translation or Bible or whatever, so we are very thankful we were able to help out our landlord and the community in that way.

Jesiah's school where he attended for 6 weeks or so was short on teachers too.  His teacher would teach his 1st grade class for the 1st hour or so of school, then disappear to the classroom next door to teach 2nd grade for an hour or so.  Most students would love the chance to hang from the rafters for half the school day but Jesiah is a child of order and didn't enjoy the chaos much!  Now that we're settled more in Ambrym Gretch is schooling him and the girls and he's liking that more, although he does complain of the lack of kids in the village on his break times!  :)
Teachers are always in want in Ambrym but we also noticed the distinct lack of librarians...  Literacy is just not a part of life here outside of those students who progress through school, so learning how books should be treated isn't even on the radar.  This is of course a concern in a Bible translation project so seeing this we saw even more the value of ensuring we put high priority on having oral Scriptures (recording Scripture on solar mp3 players called Megavoices), as well as teaching literacy and value for the written Word.  And if anyone wants to come volunteer, I know a principal who would love to have you help him sort out the library and teach some library classes...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We learn culture

Other than building relationships with our new friends on Ambrym, our main job now is learning learning learning.

(Hint on the Smileboxes below - many have the option of clicking to zoom in on pictures and for the ones with multiples on a page, that's kinda the only way you can see what's going on in them.)


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Wedding food:

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Custom ceremonies and dance:

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I didn't have room to add these last 2 pictures into the Smilebox but this is how the Rom dance ends - with the participants killing multiple pigs and then cooking and eating them.  An uproar was caused at one point when one victim ran away, but dogs and dancers soon chased him down.  Only dancers are allowed to touch the pigs and prepare the food.  The dance seemed harmless enough but Papa, the old woman we were sitting with (white hair in my header picture on my blog) said she was afraid.  When I asked why out of surprise, she said that after these ceremonies, emotions and jealousies run high and black magic is done against some people.  We didn't hear of anyone being hurt, but obviously we aren't really in a position to hear of these sorts of things anyway.  Another point of interest during the dance was that the guys wearing the Rom masks and costumes were often in need of being pulled (by certain straighter leaves on their costumes) by those not in costume into their required place.  When I questioned Papa as to whether these were the new dances that were just learning their places, she replied that they always require assistance because they are unable to see well.  Also, she said that there are no variations in the Rom dance, that whenever they perform it, it is always the same.  The whole dance lasted around an hour.
We had several hours to kill on our return to West Ambrym (Craig Cove)
to catch our plane back to Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu.  We just
happened to be flying out on the day that the (Australian) Red Cross was
 opening an office up in Craig Cove.  In honor of the event, there was
singing, speeches, and a custom dance.
Houghton and Taso (our friend from Ranvetlam village up north who accompanied us to Craig Cove) watching the ceremony.

School and community fundraisers:
Just in the large village north of us, Ranon, which maybe would be considered the capital of the language group, there is both a primary and secondary school from grades 1-10.  One of the chiefs in our village is the chairman of the primary school board and so led a community fundraiser for the school.  As Houghton and I were able to see with first-hand experience, resources are desperately lacking in the schools and so they hold a few fundraisers a year.

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