Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Our North Ambrym Trip... Volume 2

Before I start I need to tell you that I totally cheated on this one and used smaller sized pictures. SO if you are wanting to use one of our pics for copying for any reason, just e-mail us ( and I can send you whatever you would want....

For the first week we were in Ranbwe the kids had a break off school because the teachers were at a convention so there were always kids around.  I was quite thankful for this because the next week, when they all were back in school, proved to be pretty quiet!  So we were lucky (as God orchestrated) that we had this first week with all the school aged kids around!  We played lots of games.  Tania and Laura and I brought Skipo, Uno, and a memory matching animal game.  We were very thankful to think of bringing these things.  There really isn't a whole lot going on otherwise.  Most of the adults would be out at their gardens during the day and then the ladies would come home and start fires to cook their supper.  Some ladies (and men) were around throughout the day also.  We would just hang out and talk.  Do some wash.  Clean up our house and yard.  Walk around and go to the salt water.  Sometimes the guys went fishing with some of the men from Ranbwe.  Or sometimes just Hought and Jim would head to the ocean and do some line fishing with Josh and Si and some of the other kids would follow and all hang out on the beach catching bait with Josh and Si.  They would chase crabs, small fish, lizards and occasional snakes.
The boys would also carve on wood.  Kids in the village know how to manipulate knives at VERY young ages.  They are carrying around machetes as soon as they can walk really.  So Jesiah is a little behind the game in this.  Houghton would have Si go and just chop and wack at things here around our yard with our machete to get him a little less foreign with the use of it.  However, the finer art of small stick carving was still out of his knowledge.  But Houghton would watch Si on the beach and gave him his buck knife to join in with some of the other boys.  And as you would guess, there was a large slice through his finger that would soon follow!  The boys were amazed at the amount of blood that poured from Si's finger!   They felt very bad for him but Si was tough and I was thankful for a wonderful husband who is savvy with all things to do with wounds.  SO we took good care to bandage that finger up and keep it clean.  It healed VERY well a couple weeks later. :)

So what are some other things we did... Well here are some kids eating the inside of a coconut tree, that same tree that the chief chopped down, remember from last post?  Who would of thought?  Isn't it wild where some food can come from?  The tree tastes pretty good. :)  It has a sugary flavor with the texture of a grainy apple.  Also with the leaves of the coconut tree, the boys (Josh's idea) made a fort type thing.  That fallen tree provided all these things, food, fans (weaved from the leaves), and a bench!  Waste not, want not. :)

 So I mentioned that we brought some games.  Below we are playing the kids' game of animal alphabet memory.  This was interesting as most of the animals were completely new and foreign to them.  Such as "s" for squirrel, or "w" walrus, "b" bear!  Can you imagine?  They have NO large animals in Vanuatu.  The only ones they would have would be cattle (imported), pigs (imported), horses (imported) even the rats are imported!  Wild huh?  Jesiah really wishes there were monkeys! :)  It was fun to talk about the animals on the cards as we played and really interesting to explain some of the animals!
We walked to the ocean a couple of times.  To get there we would walk in the dry creek until it opened up into the salt water.  It was about a 15 minute walk was all.  Us ladies were asked to only wear skirts (or dresses) while we were on Ambrym by one of our contacts in Ranbwe.  However, they said it would be okay if we wore our board shorts with t-shirts when we went swimming in the ocean.  I never saw any women wearing anything other than skirts or dresses on our entire trip.  Very occasionally I would see a younger girl wear board shorts, but the norm is skirts only.  So when we live in a village skirts and island dresses will be our norm.  I heard some good advise by a friend who was a missionary in a similar culture/country and it was to always keep a skirt by the front door so if you need to leave the house and were wearing shorts (in the house) you could throw it on before heading out the door.  Skirts get really annoying 24/7 so I know that having a break from that in the comfort of our own home (we didn't have this comfort during our visit) will be really nice.

As I very briefly mentioned in Volume 1 of my North Ambrym post, the toilet situation was a battle!  Houghton brought back pics of what it looked like so we could better wrap our brains around it and be able to mentally prepare.  I felt this was SO necessary for Gwen.  Even when we moved here to Vila she was freaked out by our toilet.  Just because of the discoloration in the bowl as a result of minerals in the water.  She was scared to use our toilet here in our house so I knew that she would have strong feelings about a bush toilet.  We talked a lot about the toilet and how we would help her and that it would be SO cool for her to be so brave etc.  The first time around (in Craig Cove before we hopped on the boat) was a failed attempt.  After some terrified cries, we used a better option (in her mind) and she went outside in the dirt....not all that better in my mind, but in the mind of my three year old, it was WAY better.  After moving into Ranbwe it took only 2 times for her to get the hang of it and she was totally cool the rest of the stay!  What a stud!  Si was very brave about it too and he was able to figure it all out by himself.  Our little adventurers. :)  This is a humorous pic taken of all of us sticking our heads out of the "small house" as they called it.  Can you see Laura up at the top?  The leaves are trying to cover her up. :)

Addy had moments of freedom from my arms.  I am convinced this was God's grace on me.  I think I would have had a harder time if I wouldn't have gotten any relief from the CONSTANT clutch of the kids on me.  It was exhausting.  After a while I did just cope with it and stopped trying to get the kids to go and DO something!  I knew that they were dealing with some serious culture shock and my nagging wasn't going to help any.  BUT God was good to give me a break here and there.  I know that as soon as our kids get used to any new place and all the adjustments that go along with it, they will thrive!  When we first moved to Port Vila they were hesitant about a lot of things but after a little time they really thrive here now.  Village life is difficult but it can also be heaven for a child! Friends all around!  So when the kids were ready to venture out while in North Ambrym, they were met with many happy smiles!

I mentioned in the last post about how the chief tried and tried to get the girls to warm up to him.  This is a precious pic of him playing a little hand game with Gwen. :)
Si wanted SO badly to go and shoot things with a sling shot or a bow and arrow.  Unfortunatly the bow and arrows were made the last day we were there.  But this is Si playing with a stick.  When I say that the kids didn't have any toys I am completely serious!  The only form of anything was a volleyball and some marbels.  That is ALL I saw in the 2 1/2 weeks there.  So they have totally different ways to keep busy.  Dirt, rocks, sticks, animals, EVERYTHING natural has a million uses!  Addy (or any toddler for that matter) figured this out easily and constantly played in the dirt!

Gwen playing patty cake games with the girls.  Sing-song patty cake games were a life saver.  Laura taught some to Grace Kenner and another girl about Grace's age and they in turn taught it to everyone else!  Some of them knew some of their own.  This was another one of those things that kept the kids busy.  Some of the kids knew Bislama so they were able to talk with us.  Their tribal language is VERY strong (spoken a lot), one good reason we are looking at living in North Ambrym.

After about a week in, our family needed to get some time away so we headed down to the beach before breakfast. Yes, BEFORE breakfast - village time is very different than city time.  We woke up at about 5 AM everyday, just before sunrise, and the kids would go to bed about 6 PM, just after sunset.  Life is built around the sun when you don't have electricity!  So we woke up before the sun and took off down the creek to the beach.  There is SO much beauty there!  I will just let you soak in the pics! Go ahead and click on them to enlarge if you would like to see them larger.

We were SO blessed by the people of North Ambrym.  They cared for us so graciously and selflessly.  We enjoyed just sitting and talking with them.  Meeting their family, learning some bits of their language, playing games, whatever we could think of.  Most of the women that hung around close to our house knew Bislama.  There were some that couldn't speak it and so they weren't around much.  There were some times of awkward moments figuring out that the person you were speaking to couldn't understand BUT we are again thrilled that their own language is still going strong!  There are many people groups around the world that are loosing their mother tongue because parents don't teach their children their language and instead only use an LWC (or Language of Wider Communication - in our case here in Vanuatu - Bislama). So, after only 1 or 2 generations a language could be lost.  This also goes along with losing some cultural things because once language is missing, so do some of the things that are tied with it. 

This womans name was Gwen (below)s.   There were two girls that I heard of in North Ambrym with that name.  I thought this was fun.

We ate nearly all our meals in the large room of our house.  As mentioned previously, they had a schedule of people who would bring us meals throughout the time we were there.  Sometimes we went to their house, but mostly they carried the food to us.  Even if they were a village away.  There was even a time when they crossed the rushing creek to bring us food.  We felt bad about this, but that is just their life.  Nothing different for them.  We ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, had too much food.  We would eat and eat and eat but still we couldn't finish all the food they would bring to us three times a day.  So we shared it with various families around the village.  They were ready and willing to take any leftovers we had.

Gwen LOVED to help me wash clothes.  She was really good at it! 
A cultural thing here in Vanuatu is sand drawings.  Most drawings have a story that goes along with it.  Below, Si is drawing in the dirt with them.  Laura is in the background filtering our drinking water.  North Ambrym is also known for their tam tams.  They are well know for wood carvings like the one in the picture below.  They are able to sell them all over the world.

Another anxiety for us ladies before going to Ambrym was showering.  We went to Ambrym thinking that we would be having to shower in our clothes.  But as it turned out we were able to shower quite comfortably in this little bath room.  We would fill up a bucket at our rain tank and then carry it to the water basin in the bath room.  It took about 2 bucket loads to fill it up.  And once you got over the initial shock of the cold water (Addy NEVER got over that shock and I started to use our leftover hot water from breakfast to help warm the bath water for her) then it was pretty refreshing!  We had been having the kids get used to cold showers here in Vila (wow we sound like evil parents!!!) so they wouldn't be totally spun out by the thought of showering in Ambrym and it totally worked for Si and Gwen.  Addy was just to little, so she got the extra hot water. :) See, we aren't THAT bad! ;)  Needless to say since we have come home and it is shower time the kids still ask if they are going to take a hot or cold shower.  And gladly I can say HOT! Haha.
I have always loved watching Ni-vans milk a coconut.  I love the way the coconut milk washes over their skin.  Tania got an awesome pic of Esther milking a coconut over some creek cabbage (island cabbage that grows in the creeks).
Check out these beautiful smiles!
Addy could jump off things all day long!  And a friend to join her never hurts!

Gwen, Addy and I got to feed chickens.  I was amazed at how quickly these chickens ate up this "makas".  Makas is the shavings from a coconut after it had been milked.  Chickens roam around the village.  They mark them by cutting one of their toes so they know whose is whose.

Here is a good depiction of what I looked like most of our time in Ambrym!  Kids, kids everywhere!
For a large chunk of our time in Ambrym we were blessed with good health.  About 3/4 of the way through, the kids started a very long bout with diarrhea.  Hought thinks it was more than likely giardia. We were able to get them on some antibiotics after about 10 days of them having diarrhea.  They were so tough through it!  After several trips to the toilet throughout the night we desided it best to not go to church that Sunday.  There was a joined service in another village.  A village which happened to be at the top of a hill.  And not just any hill, but a stinkin STEEP hill!!!!!  So after AN HOUR AND A HALF of hiking at about a 60 degree incline we arrived at Fondrareo.
During the climb I was very glad that Si and Gwen were too sick to go with us.  I knew that they wouldn't have been able to make the climb! All throughout I was convinced I wouldn't be able to make it!!!!!!!!  We stopped several times to catch our breath.  Thankfully the locals too were winded and rested with us!  I am sure they wouldn't have rested AS MUCH as we did had they not been with us BUT that is beside the point! Haha.  After about 40 minutes up the hill I gave up and passed Addy off to Laura.  She graciously helped me carry her up to the village ontop.  Many of the ladies with us offered to carry her and tried to take her but she would immediately freak and would clutch me like an octopus!  So that was no use.  One of the ladies suggest that one of the boys ( he was probably about 15 ) carry Addy. I told him thanks but she wouldn't go to anyone else.  So I suggested that maybe he could carry BOTH of us!  We all had a good laugh at that.  Later Jim told me that he noticed that after I said that they boy had a funny look on his face. Apparently he didn't catch that I was kidding!  I am sure I scared him pretty good.  He probably could have carried both of us up the hill (they are SO stinkin strong)  but he still was a bit nervous at the idea. HAHA!

We made it!!!  Some girls playing peek a boo with Addy after church.

Like mentioned in my previous post, after church they often eat together.  This was our spread of food!
And this was theirs!  All different kids of lap lap.
And back down the hill.  My legs were shaking the whole way down.  It is just steep enough that my quads were having a nice workout the whole hour down!  But WOW was it beautiful!
While we were gone at church all day Hought, Gwen and Si played card games, tried to take a nap (unsuccessful because of our curious neighbors) and took trips to the toilet a hundred times. :)  Here is a pic of the room our family slept in during our stay.  We hung up the mosquito net and me and the kids were all able to fit in.  Hought unfortunately couldn't also fit (hmm, he DID end up with malaria too!)  The windows don't have screens on them so the nets were necessary.  After a couple nights in this room, Houghton thought best to pitch the tent and he ended up sleeping out in that for the rest of our stay.  When the kids started getting sick they started sleeping out in the tent with him.  It was closer to the toilet!
Ranbwe has an amazing string band!  This is the music from Vanuatu and I LOVE IT!  I will post some of the video we took on you tube as soon as we are able to pull it off of the camera.  I SO want to learn how to play the box bass. It is just a box that has a stick with a string connected to it and you push the stick to bend it to change the pitch!  I suppose it wouldn't be too ladylike to play it but I hope to get the chance none the less!

I'm not sure if you can see it all, but I love this picture because of all the things going on!  There is the string band playing on the left.  Jim videoing the band in the middle, the boys watching the display of the camera (in amazement!) and up above is Houghton sitting in the tree to get some good video footage as well!  Cool... and where are all the ladies.... well, culturally we are not allowed close to them but they were very kind and played right next to the house so we could sit in the doorway and watch!
Here we are enjoying from a distance.
Apparently Addy got a little board and found more excitement in the dirt.  Imagine that!

After they were finished playing Hought gave a try with Addy on the ukulele.

Ranbwe is hedged in by two creeks.  These creeks are dry most of the time (hense how we walked them so often to get to the neighboring villages and also how we got to the beach) but when it rains, water rushes through these with such force that it literally shook the ground as it coursed through the dry bed.  It was amazing to see and hear.  But a bit unnerving knowing that it was blocking us in on every side from the rest of the world and our way off the island only three days before we were suppose to leave!  Though its uncommon, when this creek is at its fullest it poses a threat to the homes close to its banks.  And as you can see from this picture... that is some amount of water!  Here it had gone down considerably, but it never was a threat to us other than hindering us from getting to our flight in time.

Like I have mentioned before, Vanuatu doesn't have many animals (or insects) that prove to be harmful.  Spiders included.  The kids LOVE to find all kinds of bugs and keep them as friends for the day.  This day a banana spider proved to be Addy's pick of the day.  I think it is adorable that she is fearless from these creatures.  I am not interested at all in keeping one of these as MY pet, but I am happy they are comfortable with all the creepy crawlies that are here!
(look closely in this pic...the spider is crawling up Addy's chest)

So back to finding and using EVERYTHING here as a toy, this boy had caught a butterfly and tied a string to it!  It totally worked!
We were cooked fresh bread everyday for breakfast.  This is pretty uncommon in villages in North Ambrym.  It was an earthen oven - concrete domes that you can put wood in to provide a fire for it to cook the bread (or whatever).  This absolutely amazes me!  Our bread was beautiful every morning.  How to cook bread with such precision and knowledge of fire...amazing. 
I'm not sure what Si and Paul are doing here, but it was cute.
An idea of what our spread looked like two times a day!  We were brought SO much food.  We tried very hard to "flatten" (or eat all) of it, but after nearly every meal we would share the food around with anyone who was hanging around the house or we would take it to different homes throughout the village.  
What you see in this picture (starting from top to bottom) is rice, taro, yam, noodles (like Ramen) with chicken, island cabbage, pomplamouse (like a sweet grapefruit), fresh water prawns (a real treat for us this night), island cabbage, and a couple different kinds of simbaro.
Normally we would eat alone.  Our friends wouldn't come inside and join us BUT thankfully on our last night Leena and two of her kids joined us!  We FINALLY convinced them to eat WITH us and not wait for us to eat and then eat after.  This is customary to have "white man" eat first.  It is a hard thing for us to get used to.  Its awkward of it thinking that it is coming from the idea that they need to do this for us.  We desire so badly to be treated as equals.  But that is just how we view it.  We don't know why for sure they do this and what it springs from.

The day we were scheduled to head back to Ranon and catch our boat back to Craig Cove we wanted to get a picture of us with all of Ranbwe.  We asked around the night before if we could take a picture at sun up the next morning.  All seemed that it was a great idea so we waited around that morning for all to gather.  When it was nearly an hour passed our desired time to take the pic, we thought best to just go ahead and take it with those that were there.  So we started heading to a open area.  I was totally bummed that more people didn't show up for the picture but knew that they surely had things they needed to do and that it was a bit "pie in the sky" for me to think that we would really get a group shot of an entire village on a Wednesday morning!  So off we went to take our pic with this many people. 
And after some yelling from Leena (she cracked me up!!) she called the entire village in about 10 minutes for this picture!!!  Everyone from Ranbwe was able to come! 

Now it was time to take off.  The creek had gone down far enough for us to cross to Ranon and catch our boat to Craig Cove.  So we packed up all of our stuff and said our good-byes.

Crossing the creek.  We had some guys from Ranbwe come with us on our boat ride to the half way point (remember how we stopped half way on our trip to Ranon -last post-) so they could "run pig".  Running pig is ultimately pig hunting in the bush (up and down hills at break neck speed) with dogs.  Sadly Hought and Jim just aren't in good enough shape (you pretty much have to be born Ni-Van to handle it!) to join the guys.  So they were going to do some scrub duck egg hunting instead. (also read my previous post for more info on these eggs)


Taking a break at our halfway point on our boat ride.  The guys are all off running pig and egg hunting.  So us ladies and kids just hung out.  Well, that was what we were expecting to do anyway, until Tania and I started to watch our boat (anchored just off shore) and we began to get a bit worried.  The water was rough that day. and it was hitting our empty boat pretty hard.  Many times I would watch from the beach and hold my breath as a wave would toss our boat around.  All of our bags were still on that boat as well our way home and the man who had stayed back from the hunt to watch over the boat was out of our view.  So I decided it best to stop watching and worrying. After taking Gwen to the bush to go to the bathroom we returned to the beach to find our boat rocking in the waves and the man who was watching the boat yelling for help.
Tania and I, Josh and Grace all ran to help.  Laura was off a ways with Gwen and was out of yelling range.  So off the four of us ran to try and control a boat in rough water!  Come to find out the anchor line had broke and the boat needed to get pulled up onto shore before it went off into open water or flipped.  So we ran into the water to join our Ni-Van friend in a lame attempt to pull it in.  With all our might we could barely get it up onto the beach.  Laura ran to help and the five of us would time the waves and we finally were able to get it half way up the beach.  Its back end was still rocking in the waves.  With all our pathetic girly might we couldn't get it any farther!  So Tania made the good suggestion to unload all of our packs off the water filled boat.  We off loaded all of our water spoiled packs onto the beach and could do nothing but wait and pray that the waves wouldn't come onto the beach far enough to take our boat out to sea.  Thankfully three guys came back with a pig, cut into three pieces, and Josh ran to tell them our situation.  Once they hung the pig in some trees they went and hauled the boat up onto shore the rest of the way.  To our credit it did take them some work to get it up. :)  So were weren't TOTALLY pathetic in our attempts. Haha.  I was bummed when we got home because I realized we never got a pic of my leg.  During our attempts to get the boat up, we timed the waves and pulled, as I pulled one time the boat came up and fell down onto my leg, scraping down my right leg.  It looked pretty hard core bleeding into the salt water.  But no pics to show for I will leave it there. ;)
After unloading our packs onto the beach.  You can see how far us ladies got the boat up onto the beach in this picture.  This was taken before the guys came back from the pig hunt and pulled it farther on the beach.

Waiting for Houghton, and Jim to come back.  They were still off digging for scrub duck eggs.  The other guys were busy chopping down branches to make into huge spits to roast the pig.  It was amazing to watch them roast it.  Like an art.

Check out that huge spear held up by a brace made from a 'Y' shaped branch shoved into the ground.

And here comes the egg hunters!  Houghtons body shows how far down into the sand you dig for these things!  His body was in a hole in the beach as he felt with one hand down the hole and dug deeper.  He is holding his treasure! :)  A scrub duck egg!
Si and Gwen watching on as they prepare to roast the pig.

The pig tasted AMAZING!!!!!

Waiting at the airport.  Our plane was a little late so we got to hang out a bit.  Don't you love the look of this "airport"?

Houghton and Jim outside the airport.

Little did we know we were  the verge of a sickening airplane ride for the next hour.  It was pretty miserable!  Weather was bad, rainy and windy, and our little plane wasn't liking being in the middle of it.  I have never wanted to be somewhere else so badly before!  BLEH.  Poor Gwen, who also gets really motion sick, was having a rough go of it.  I was SO thankful that Addy was asleep on my lap.  So after an hour of wanting to puke and very sure that I didn't want to get on a plane again for a while (knowing full well that as soon as we got to the Vila airport we would be taking another plane to a Northern island, Santo) we landed in a VERY windy Port Vila.  The rain was coming down so hard that our run to the airport from our plane on the landing strip made got us drenched. 
Thankfully we had a 2 hour layover in Port Vila before he had to fly out to Santo. I was so thankful for the long lay over so I could get over the previous flight.  A friend came and brought us our luggage for Santo and took what we didn't need from our Ambrym trip. This was such a blessing so we didn't have to pack for Ambrym AND Santo before heading to North Ambrym.  She also brought cinnamon rolls....this was a God sent!  Cinnamon rolls!  After eating a totally different diet for nearly three weeks we got to eat cinnamon rolls. :)  It was so sweet of her to think of us in this way.  The kids also enjoyed some chips at the airport!
And off we went to Santo on a new, big, clean, and COLD (we are NOT used to air conditioning) plane to the northern island of Santo.  We desired to visit Santo because the possibility is there that we may be based out of Santo instead of Port Vila.  It had been years since I had seen Luganville (the city in Santo), and Tania had not been there yet so it was  good chance to see if this city might be a possibility for us.  We also met some other missionaries there and got to have a bit of R&R at a resort one of the days before heading back to Port Vila.

Gwen was absolutely THRILLED to be going back home to Port Vila.  She could hardly contain herself!  And really, we all were SO ready to be home.  This pic was hilarious because as we were flying back she kept looking at me smiling this crazy smile saying how excited she was to be at our old house next to Fred and Timo again. :)

Well, that was our North Ambrym trip in a nut shell.  Any questions, shoot us a comment!  Be sure to check  Laura's Blog and Kenner's Blog


Laura Thulesen said...

WELL DONE! :) Thanks for writing all that up and fun picture picks too. :) So that pic of Paul and Si - they were playing the "double double ice cream" hand clapping game. Good times.

A family after God's own heart. said...

OH that makes a whole lot more sense! :)

Guinevere said...

Oh my, oh my!! Amazing! Phil and I just had a grand old time looking at all your pics. Some great stories which had us laughing and sighing and praising and exclaiming! Brought back lots of memories from when we visited a team in the bush on North Tanna. Such an amazing place. We must visit one you guys one day. Love the Swannies.