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April 2017

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Open Air Market

Everybody was starving and the baskets that are normally spilling over with fruit on the counter were empty. This could only mean one thing- It was Market Time!!! I absolutely love the fruit markets here- they are simply too wonderful to resist.

Lindy and I hopped in the truck and we took a few kids with us. We decided to run to the smaller market that was just down the road.

Villagers gathered together laughing and chatting under the shade of a giant mango tree displaying their fruits and vegetables on the ground and on their makeshift tables. Cars passed by, and people shouted greetings to each other as they went on their ways.
The day was scorching hot but none of them even seemed to notice or be distressed by the temperature.
We hopped out of our icy cold air conditioned truck and left it running while we went to pick out the things that we wanted nearby.
At the markets people gather the food that they have grown from their villages and sell them to each other.
At the big market they spend the night all night long on mats on the floor and stay there throughout the week until they go home Saturday night.
The big market is open from early in the morning till 10 o’clock at night. On Sunday it is closed and everyone returns to be with their family, until they begin again on Monday morning.

Because this was just a small market people only were there during the day. Each woman bringing food from her garden to trade, sell and share with the rest of the community. There was piles of beautifully colored pineapple stacked high, baskets of pamplamouse, bunches of coconuts hung together.
After surveying the mismatch collection of fresh fish, squawking chickens, and fruits and vegetables, I saw a lovely bouquet of tropical flowers calling my name and could not resist getting them for the table.
It cost 200 Vatu or $2 US dollars for the Bouquet. But when I went to get the Vatu and come back to pay the lady she had added two additional bouquets to the one that I chose for free. I tried to pay her for all three but she insisted with her toothless smile that they were a gift. I was pretty excited to have such a lovely display of beautifullness that I accepted the gift with the traditional ‘tank yu, tumas’.
Just before leaving I thought I’d ask if we could take her picture. The mere request delighted her immensely and after posing for the picture and then inspecting it to make sure it was good she kissed me goodbye as though we were old friends.  By this time Lindy and the girls had gathered their arms full of fruits and none of us had any room left in our

Everyone here seems so  kind, friendly, generous, and happy.

“Aelan Style” Shopping

Maybe living in Samoa as a young girl prepared me for this, but for sure the rest of the family wasn’t quite expecting some of the changes in every day living they would find here in Vanuatu.

Take for instance … shopping.

As a little girl I always saw the signs on the front of stores that said “No shirt, No shoes, No service.” but here on the island it’s more like “No shirt, No shoes, No problem!”As long as you have Vatu (Vanuatu money) you can shop for whatever you need….not that you’ll find whatever you need, but for sure you’re welcome to try. You never know what you might find instead.

Groceries range from local things at the market that are super cheap, to things that are imported from New Zealand and Australia that are often super expensive.

Besides the local grocery store chain “Au Bon Marche” and some smaller locally owned grocery stores,  the island is teeming with cheap Chinese stores. I don’t say chinese grocery stores because they are more like Chinese “everything stores”. They carry the oddest assortment of things and you never know which store will have that amazing gem.

Sometimes the things they sell are used or broken but that doesn’t seem to faze them. Like this basket of shoes for $1 a pair.

The brands range from Chinese knock-offs, to authentic brands that we would recognize, to Island brands that we have never seen before.

 

 

 

Of course sometimes the product names or advertisements are made more interesting by the crossover from english to Bislama or when the sign is attempted with Bislama spellings of the English words. (FYI: as I’ve been told there is no standardization of spelling in Bislama. You just spell the words for however you think they are said phonetically.)

 

 

I know at first this next photo can trick your brain, but what it is actually advertising is beach slippers for kids.

If you happen to spot a pair of Nike shoes for five dollars you know they probably are not the real deal! In fact Vanuatu has no reverse engineering, or patenting laws that prevent copying other brands and selling them here….like the $120 brand new Iphone 6S that looked on the outside EXACTLY like the real deal…all the way until you turn it on 😉

Well at the end of the day when you empty your bags you’re never quite sure if what you got will work for the job- take these dolls for example. When I showed them to Micah he started screaming instead of laughing. Oh well, shopping certainly is entertaining and a fun way to spend a few hours 🙂

Our First Sunday in Vanuatu

Birds chirped, the rooster crowed and the soft whispers of the children all wafted into the bedroom reminding me it was time to wake up. Today was Sunday, it was our first day at church in this new country.
We had plenty of time to get ready for the 9:30 meeting. After a breakfast of homemade pancakes with lime/passionfruit syrup we all began getting dressed. At home this usually signals curling irons, hair dryers and perfumes galore, but here it was evident that all of that was unnecessary. I should have known that something was wrong when I heard the girls going back and forth, clothes on, clothes off. It turns out that the dressed we brought which required (as most dresses do nowadays) bras, slips, slip extenders and undershirts. The problem was the weather was hot that nobody really wanted extra layers of clothes to go to church. After much debate in the end we voted that the sheer, thin, short look was going to be our new style. With many Nivans going nearly naked or half naked I’m sure we weren’t scandalizing anyone and we were all much more comfortable.
I had already brought all the girls clothes with us, but since Eric’s suitcase had got lost he was without a Sunday outfit. Luckily on Saturday we had visited a local store and found a dollar bin where all the clothes were a dollar. It was certainly an interesting assortment of clothes and one shirt I picked up was covered in mould, another bleached in various patterns. After a few minutes we actually found a pair of Sunday pants and a nice short sleeve blue Sunday shirt. The outfit cost $2, which in Vanuatu money is approximately 200 Vatu.
We found the church building down the road. A simple structure that was run completely on solar power. With windows for walls and the doors wide open the building began filling up with locals and a few visitors. We found our seats at the back after some friendly faces greeted us. With flies buzzings and a few dogs wandering around it became apparent that I would not be able to enjoy the meeting inside the building. The heat was growing with each new person that entered and the whole place smelled like a mixing pot of body odor that wasn’t very pleasant.
I opted to take one of the chairs that was being set up outside because there wasn’t enough space inside for everyone. With the breeze off the ocean it was much more pleasant outside.
The entire meeting was in Bishlama which is a pigeon language that has many similar words to English but not enough that I understood anything.
Everyone assures me that given a few weeks I’ll get the hang of it and maybe understand something. I admit now that I think I was weary about going to church for three hours in scorching heat without being able to understand the language. I looked over at a wrinkled man in front of me and watched as the first notes of the piano drited outside, he carefully reached into his bag and brought out a crumpled, mouldy hymnbook with his name scratched boldly across the front of it. I was struck by the love this man obviously had for this hymnbook that was so special to him. As the prelude music finished and the hymn began he sang with total devotion and reverence.
By the time the opening hymn began I was totally overcome with the beauty of worshipping. The sea of brown and white faces all mixed together singing struck me with wonder. All feelings of discontent were washed away and I was perfectly satisfied exactly where I was.
Throughout the meeting the babies and dogs wandered in and out. I had to use the bathroom but found out that it neither had toilet paper or water to flush. That was interesting, but all in all the day was perfect.

First Impressions by Laea

Hey guys, this is Laea here. I’m 17, just graduated from high school and looking forward to going to university. I love to sing, play the piano, play rugby, write and read. My mom pretty much forced my sisters and I to join her on this crazy trip and I have to confess that I wasn’t too eager to come. But now that I’m here I have to admit, I’ll miss home, but this is paradise! Our first hours in Vanuatu:

Friday, April 21, 2017. 12:08pm

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Well, we’ve only been here a short time, but I already know I’m going to love it! Vanuatu, as far as I can see has very few rules regarding driving/road safety. On our way from the airport to uncle Dustin’s house 11 of us were crammed in the cab of a truck we were told that we were being “ultra safe” because we were inside the truck rather then outside of it! Needless to say, for the rest of the day everyone rode in the back of truck-that is the norm. Also, we saw no stop signs…I guess they don’t use them much. Same with speed limits. There aren’t any-or maybe there are, but none are posted 🙂 Oh yeah, we stopped at the store to buy bread on the way home but they didn’t have any. It wasn’t tragic though cause uncle Dustin says it’s all mouldy. Like all of it, all the time. We drove by the water bottle factory too (well that’s what I was told it is). it looks like it would be better suited manufacturing toilets. Yup, it’s safe to say this will be the adventure of a lifetime! Everything is unique, but beautifuly charming. By the way, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever even heard of!
Well, I’m tired and better go! Night
-laea

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Saturday, April 22, 2017
This morning I decided to take a bath. I didn’t realize the tub would take half an hour to full up about three inches. I also got to bathe with some bugs. I’m sure they just wanted to be clean like me 😀 I was told that cockroaches can be a frequent addition to my showers. Actually, they can be a visitor at any time-one even visited my mom last night while she was in bed…. yeah, I slept with most my face covered by my sheet. All you could see of me was my eyes and nose. I’m pretty sure I looked like a nun.

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I can tell meals will be fun here. Breakfast was kind of like those places in movies where everyone lined up with their plate to receive one scoop of food. We had eight loaves of bread, but the babies got to them first and the eight turned into one. The food tasted great though because uncle Dustin picked some fresh passion fruit before breakfast to make syrup with.

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Thank you uncle Dustin! I couldn’t ask for anything better- especially with all 16 of us living in the house.
-laea

First Morning Awake

Because the house we rented is not yet available my kind brother and sister-in-law have opened their home to us for the next two weeks. We’d never share something this small in Canada, but compared to standard of the locals (which are just tin shacks), it’s a mansion.

We spent the night all stacked up 3 and 5 to a small bedroom all sharing the same hot sticky air. Eric and I had a little bedroom all to ourselves which was a bonus, although it had no window and the air was so thick I wondered if I’d ever be able to fall asleep. Eventually quiet and sleep did overtake us all and it felt so good to be rested. I was also happy to only have been attacked by a flying cockroach once during the night, which is a huge bonus because I hate those things!

My internal clock was all jumbled around and I was the first to wake up. It actually ended up being a blessing,  I realized as I quietly slipped out the front screen door and got to sit down to enjoy the sounds and smells of this new world alone.

I’m going to give you a peak into my head…

Fat Drops of rain are softly spattering on the tin roof and you can hear a rooster crowing amongst an orchestra of tropical birds signing loudly above us.


The ocean is just through the yard and across the corral/dirt road, so the ocean waves join in the chorus as a soft steady instrument.
It’s only 6:00am but who wants to stay in bed when the rest of the world is waking up??


Certainly not these kids! Isaiah, Sariah have woken up and are now exploring the giant Nabunga tree figuring out the best way to get up and down, and swinging from it’s sprawling branches.

Micah wakes up next and is busy squealing as he runs away from the neighbourhood dog.

His little feet squish through the wet grass, no shoes of course.


Maxwell and Mireyah wake up next and then Maxwell who has already been living here for 3 weeks and is now an expert on island living. As he explains the best way to crack a cocunut,  Mireyah seems quite satisfied as she digs out her breakfast from the newly picked fruit.


It’s not yet 8:00am and I feel like I’ve lived a full day already!
The older girls were awakened by all the noise of the younger children.
They can’t be kept from that enticing call of the ocean for long and after my brother gathers his arms full of passion fruit for breakfast and cooks us something masterful on the small gas stove everyone plays at the beach.


The water is so warm that nobody wants to leave even though they have been there for hours. I finally coax my little adventurer home to play in the shade of the Guava, Palm, Po Po (another name for Papaya), Pua, & Nabunga trees. Because it’s just our first days here I’m anxious to keep them from getting too much sun all at once.

I’m convinced this must be heaven.

We Actually Arrived!

After 40 hours of traveling we have arrived in Vanuatu!!!! #wedidit #nobodycanrunawaynow #pinchingmyself

I pretty much feel like crying rivers of tears simply because after all that saving, and stressing and working and planning we actually arrived on this tiny island. All 9 of us, the parents, the teenagers, the children and the babies. It’s surely a miracle. Nobody but God and I will know how much work and how many tears and prayers we went through to actually make it here. This has been a dream of mine ever since my own parents took our family of 10 sailing around the world. I always hoped I could do something similar but never really believed it could be possible.

Everything feels entirely surreal. The palm trees, the warm thick air, the sounds, the colors. Is it real?


After being met at the airport with leis and love 11 of us crammed into a pickup truck with all our luggage. Apparently this isn’t at all abnormal and the kids were delighted with the fact that nobody had to buckle or even have their own seat for that matter.  For us rule bound Canadians, however, this was quite an exciting ride!


As soon as we dropped off our luggage Dustin and Lindy (my brother and sister- in- law who we were meeting up with on this little island) took us to eat handmade fire grilled pizza and watch an incredible Polynesian fire dancing show.

We were all so tired, but the beauty of the dance mesmerized us and the boys couldn’t keep their little toes out of the soft sand. The mosquitoes buzzed around us which pretty much the only thing that kept reminding me that this wasn’t a dream but indeed our new reality!

Our Adventure Begins

Today is the day that we leave for Vanuatu!!! I feel like it’s a dream. We were up until 2:00am working to get everything done. You would think that with all the help I had and with working non- stop for the last two months that there wouldn’t be much left to do. Wrong. The passports only came in yesterday, and we had so many last minute things to take care of.

7:00am we just left home and are on our way. We are driving in the Peavoys van with the Tillacks driving us to Calgary. The kids are all happy and quiet. So far so good:)

hey becky boo
On our way to Vanuatu

10:30 am- made it to calgary airport.
The car was making some strange noises and I was nervous that we might break down. It seems like I’ve been having that kind of luck lately but thankfully but I was wrong and we made it in plenty of time to check in.

I guess I forget that to most the world my family is pretty big. People couldn’t help staring at us as all 9 of us tumbled out the door and started unpacking bags onto carts. We had 28 bags in total which adds up quickly when you are trying to transport them all! We formed a line with bags and babies and purses. We got lots of fascinated stares and encouraging smiles, it actually helped me to feel better. I’m still pretty nervous about doing this and not totally sure that it will all work out the way I hope. It cost us so much money and the teenagers are so resistant to the whole plan. I guess I’m just glad that at this point people are being nice- those smiles are going a long way in my unsettled heart 🙂

3:00pm-  We made it to Seattle safely.  I actually can’t believe that our first flight is over and we have just three left to go! #itstoolatetoturnbacknow

Isaiah was so so excited to be flying! He couldn’t believe how fast and noisy it was. How fun to be able to take these boys on a plane. This is a first for  both them. I am reminded again just how fun it is to have young children, they make even the most mundane things exciting and get everyone laughing and happy. What a blessing it is to have these two boys after our family of girls. AS for the plane ride, Micah wasn’t sure what to make of the whole thing. He kept saying “whoa” and looking out the window in amazement. It was priceless!

Eric and finally got the kids settled in their seats and all the bags stowed away when we realized that we are actually short one bag. After some figuring we discovered it’s Eric’s bag. It has his only clothes, shoes, underwear and worst of all the family medicine. The crazy thing is that at the last airport I took all his medicine out of his computer bag and thought “I’ll lighten his load a bit.” I kindly tucked it into his carryon- which is gone. We to pay oodles of money to have on flight calling and after calling the airport its unlikely that they will be able to help us.  I guess we are traveling too far away and a missing bag can’t be sent to us. This could actually be quite bad.

7:58pm we just landed in Los Angeles. Zaby slept the whole flight and Micah screamed. But he seems to be happier now.

4 hour layover…

We got lost in the LA airport and walked for over an hour. It was nearly midnight and we literally were about to drop (some of us did drop) by the time our flight took off at midnight.

11:00am We flew all night. Isaiah and the girls slept, Micah screamed and Eric and I got two hours of sleep each. I can’t even see straight, I think I’m going to pass out…

12:00pm arrived at the Fiji airport. It was too dark to see anything and we missed the sunrise by just a few minutes because we were busy going through security. There was lively live Fijian music as we came through and I was reminded again how lovely it is to see lots of beautiful Polynesian smiles.

Horray only one flight left and we will be there!

8 hour layover in Fiji. everyone is beat but the boys. Why does it always work like that? We are hot and sweaty and frankly quite stinky. I might be the first to strip down and go Vanuatu style. I see now why they go naked. #notjoking
We pretty much spent the entire layover taking turns sleeping and hanging out in the bathroom where it was cooler. Good thing there was a nice airport lounge because we totally took it over and sprawled out to catch up on all that lost rest. Everything seems unbelievable. The palm trees outside, the fact that we are just hours away from our final destination, I really can’t believe it!

The plane got delayed an hour. Sigh…#9hoursinonespotistoolong I can barely keep my sanity and keep track of the boys at the same time.

The food is expensive in the airport! It cost us $100 just to get the girls each a burger and fries. Eek! There are some expenses that I hadn’t quite calculated into our trip. I kinda forgot that kids need to eat on 40 hour trips half away around the world.

8:00pm Thursday We are finally leaving Fiji for our final destination!!!! The times are quite different here. Its 3:00 pm Friday Fijian time. It kinda doesn’t feel real, like the fact that we are only 1 island away from our new home for the next four months is overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

We are in a small plane and that is always so exciting because you feel sure you will be tipping over and diving towards the ocean before long.

I can’t believe that we are only a few hours away from our FINAL DESTINATION!!