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May 2017

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Holy Healing Mud Baths!

The smell of rotten eggs filled my body and I thought I was going to throw up right there.

The good news was that nobody would have noticed because the thick mud surrounding our bodies was much too dark to see anything through. Plus the throw up would had just joined the dead floating crab and other little things mixed in with our hot mud bath. Happily I managed to keep my lunch inside.

We were all rolling around like pigs in the sulfur filled mud baths at the “holy healing waters” that we found on the side of the road.

 

Since the local medicine man was so helpful 😂
I decided to try another island treatment for ailments.

I had Heard that Vanuatu had some natural Hot Springs and mud baths. I’ve been to Hot Springs before and I definitely felt positive health benefits after soaking in them, so I was excited to discover that this island we were staying on had them as well.

When I went on trip advisor the reviews were kind of sketchy, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew I didn’t want to go alone, and was delighted when my husband and sister and a few of our kids agreed to make the journey with me.

After driving for an hour halfway around the island and up and down windy mountain roads we finally spotted the hand painted sign indicating that we had arrived at our destination.

Eagerly we pulled in but nobody seemed to be around except a couple village pikininis (children) playing in the grass.

We finally were able to track down someone who was happy to take our Vatu (money) and show us around.

She told us stories of how she was once very large and when she went in the waters she became skinny, and how her dad was crippled and when he went in the waters he started to walk. The truth seemed to be mixed generously with some things that seemed quite unbelievable, but I was happy to be there anyways and was definitely not expecting a miracle 🙂

“You must sit in this pool for 10 minutes. Then you must cover yourself in mud in that pool. Then we wash you off and you sit in that pool.” She pointed up ahead as she spoke to us in her broken English.

The instructions she gave us were quite clear and we obediently took off our clothes and hopped with our swimsuits into the first pool.

It was hot but felt amazing. The water was bubbling up from a spring deep in the earth and you could taste the salty minerals.It felt like heaven sitting in the homemade cement pools bathing in the hot spring.

My 15 year old who usually hates getting dirty and my sister were the first to leave the clean hot spring and take a dip in the mud bath. At first the mud pool was gross. It was smelly, and well…muddy.

Mary, the daughter of the owner of the place, got right to work covering our faces and backs with the mud as we tried not to laugh and throw up at the same time. The smell was pretty overwhelming.

Nate just kept saying “this is so gross, get me outta here” but his mom made him stay anyways.

We all got really into it and soon we forgot the rotting eggs smell and we were floating blissfully into the oozing, stinky mud.

It felt like we stayed forever but it was only an hour in the mud. When we felt ready we got out and Mary washed us off by dumping buckets of warm salty water over our heads and body. It actually felt AMAZING!

As I watched her humble, seemingly boring job serving  us, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for this young lady. She spent the whole time we were there watching us, telling us which baths to go in and which were too hot (there were some places that the water reaches 90 Celsius / 104 Fahrenheit ). She helped us when we got mud in our eyes and and washed away the mud from our adventure so we could be clean again.

I also couldn’t help but feel gratitude for One who is greater than us all who chose to humble himself and be the servant of all. I am grateful for His guidance in which paths to take and which places to avoid and most of all his loving sacrifice that washes us clean when we are covered in the dirt and filth of the world.

We truly are blessed to have this special time to draw closer together as a family as well as to draw closer to the Savior and see His hand at work in our lives.

 

 

Chocolate Covered Wisdom

The open market had a strange looking bumpy oblong shaped fruit and when we asked the lady sitting cross legged on the mat on the ground behind the table she said “it’s cacao fruit”.

We bought the four biggest ones for 50 Vatu each (equivalent to .50USD) and put them in our bulging market bag.

When we got home Monday night Eric had prepared a beautiful scripture lesson on the Lords timing. He invited everyone into the kitchen where we learned how cacao plants are planted, harvested and turned into chocolate.Image may contain: food

Without the proper timing and process, the cacao fruit which is a sweet fruit with bitter seeds inside, can never be transformed into the yummy chocolate we see at the grocery store.

The girls all gathered together, took apart the cocoa fruit, cut down banana leaves from the back yard and started the process of fermenting and drying the cocao beans.

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After separating the seed from its fruit you must ferment it for three days and then lay it to dry in the sun for three days. After all that you crush it and cook it and turn it into chocolate adding milk and sugar.

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I started thinking about it. Hmmmm.

I wondered to myself How many times do I judge other people or myself , thinking I ought to, or they ought to already be the finished product?

With faith in Gods purpose, plan and timing We can trust the process of growing and maturing and love people around us just as they are.

That’s my thought for today, enjoy your chocolate-we did!!

Jesus Saves!

Late last night my 15-year-old came into my bedroom to sit down and chat.

There was rarely time for this back at home, however, with no TVs or computers, iPods or radios, Island living somehow makes space for beautiful things to grow.

Vanuatu is a tiny group of islands off the coast of Australia classified as a Third World country.
The cost of fuel, food, rent, internet, electricity, gas and a vehicle are all either the same as or higher here in Vanuatu than at home in Canada.

I looked over at my daughter sprawled across the bed, her island braids falling at her side.

“mom, it’s so weird, the people here have nothing. Their clothes are worn out and ripped, they have to walk hours to get anywhere, grown adults work all day for $1.75 an hour, their family members die all the time, and yet for some reason they are still so happy”Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and closeup

I Lay in bed pondering her comments. What does make us in North America so unsatisfied with our lives? So full of independence, and fear, and anger and hatred? So quick to bully, to be a victim, to point fingers, so eager to complain, so insistent that ‘fairness and justice’ be served. There is nothing fair about this life here, but I have rarely seen even one person show signs of dissatisfaction due to the inequality of their situation.

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Every day children are separated from their mother and father and are given to relatives to satisfy a debt or a custom ceremony.

Cyclones, tsunami’s, & earthquakes flatten their little tin shacks and destroy the precious food growing in their gardens.

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People die often because of infections, lack of medical care, and preventable diseases.

But the people here are not sad, the opposite is true actually. Friends and strangers alike kiss each other on the cheeks, touch each other as they pass by, and yell out greetings as they bump along the dirt roads in the trucks and buses.

I have not met a single person that does not have a deep faith in God. Their faith is not something to be ashamed of. On Sunday, every store shuts down and every person returns to their family and their separate churches to worship. If a cyclone is approaching the community prays together and on the radio, and at the local market it is announced for people to repent, and remember God.

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Here where the dogs and chickens wander into church and the graffiti on the wall says “Jesus Saves”, Gods masterpieces, and His miracles are all around us and nobody is ashamed to point them out or to praise them.

NiVan Grafitti

In some ways our fancy, fast, first world country is ahead of these simple island people, but in many ways we are so far behind.

The Colour of Happy Birthday

He goes on unknown hikes, climbs tall coconut trees, catches snakes, makes friends wherever he goes, speaks two languages, is literally brilliant, doesn’t care how old you are, isn’t afraid of anything, loves his family and serves God. Joshua is the most friendly, adventuresome young man I have ever met!

We really wanted to do something special for Joshua Leavitts 17th birthday so we decided to have a colour festival with colours I had brought in my suitcase from Canada. That was a bit harder than it sounds because at EVERY. SINGLE. SECURITY. Check our bags were searched and little chemical samples were taken from the colored powder to make sure they weren’t explosive or dangerous. As if travelling with 9 kids, 24 bags, one stroller and one baby carrier wasn’t hard enough right?! The only reason I even put the colors in my carry on bag in the first place was because we were overweight on all our big bags so I thought I’d be clever and just bring them in our carry ons.

I’m so glad we went to all the trouble because honestly, we had so much fun, it was amazing!!

The only person who couldn’t join us for all the fun was the “recovering from a dog attack” girl.

Even the workers and neighbors that we invited joined us and all the locals on the beach watched in total curiosity and colored powder flew out of our hands and onto each other and the white sand beach. Zaby loved it. He was a wild man running around catching people with his powder. 

Today the color of Happy Birthday was bright and magical!

100 ways to die

We have discovered since moving to Vanuatu that in some places there are 10 ways to die, and in other places there are 100 ways to die. Vanuatu must be one of the places that has a hundred ways to die!

So far we’ve discovered a few possibilities as follows:

Cyclone

Earthquake

Tsunami

Machete Man

Coconut Falling on your head

Falling out of a tree

Drowning

Getting stabbed by a crazy drunk man

Getting bit by a centipede

Dying from Infection

Stabbing yourself while husking a coconut

Getting attacked by wild dogs

Sadly we are becoming acquainted with quite a few of these ways, and I’m quite sure as time goes on I’ll find many more to add to my list!

 

 

 

Tonight our poor 17 year old daughter got attacked by wild dogs while riding the quad through a nearby village. She received 2 puncture wounds and a big scrape. The dog actually bit her leg while they were driving and hung on as they kept going. It’s gross. She is still trying to decide if she’d rather be stitched up with no freezing or go to the sketchy hospital.

#notears #sothisisislandliving #shestough #100waystodie #islandliving #livinginVanuatu #dontworrynorabieshere

The Medicine Man

“It’s cancer of the blood”…

Image may contain: plant, drink and flowerMy house girl translated into English as I waved money counter clockwise around my head and handed it over to the man  – the Medicine Man – sitting cross legged on a chair in my kitchen.

The words I had spoken only a few hours earlier still hadn’t left my mind. “Whatever you do don’t make me talk to him”, I had emphatically reminded my husband as he went out the door.

Eric had the girls and our Gardner and was going to find an island medicine man to see if he might be able to help me solve some growing health concerns. But being the skeptic that I am the LAST thing I wanted was to actually have to talk to the guy myself.

Somehow that message must have gotten lost in translation (although I thought Eric spoke English ), because before I knew it, Eric was driving a car full of people and pulling into our yard.

Before I could understand what was happening I was lying down on a bed and being asked questions in front of everyone such as “when your woman comes out is it small or big” and “when you go to the bathroom is it hot or cold”, and “are you on family planning?”. Really? How do they even know the word ” family planning here?”sigh… Thankfully Judy translated for me and was discreet in taking me aside to another room to ask me in English.

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 Finally he pulled out these used bottles re-purposed to hold his herbal “potion” which had been picked that morning and specially brewed just for me. Of course when he told me to “drink”, he hadn’t yet explained what the terms were for our little “health consultation” In this land where visits to the hospital often cost our equivalent of $5.00, I was being charged $30.00 for his services.

But wait there’s more!

Apparently giving him money wasn’t good enough because I also had to do a ritual with the money. When this was translated into English I burst out laughing and shook my head” no”.

I explained that I was happy to pay money, and if the medicine was going to work then it was going to work with or without me waving it around my head. When this was translated into Bislama, I was met by the company of local men and women with blank stares and surprised silence. I guess “no” was not the answer everybody was looking for.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, indoor

I desperately looked towards my husband for some validation, however with a half smile on his face he said “what could it hurt?”

Maybe he said that because he didn’t want to risk offending our guests or perhaps it was just so he could get the pleasure of laughing at me. Either way this was war.

After all the questions, and finally getting 3,000 vt around my head in the correct direction for the right amount of times and then wrapping it up in a piece of white paper and writing my name on it, I was very delighted when the medicine man insisted that my 15-year-old daughter must do the same thing.

Eliza had been sitting beside me watching with wide eyes and a grin the whole time looking quite entertained. Suddenly she was less impressed and it was my turn to laugh! After she obediently also waved the money around her head the medicine man surprised us both as he gave her a bottle of the medicine and told her to “drink”. Her grin had certainly disappeared by now! And to tell you the truth, I was quite happy to know I wasn’t the only one being experimented on. Turns out that Analaea was next on his list of culprits.

“Now, you drink three more of these bottles and you will be healed”, the gardener translated.
“But whatever you do, don’t eat coconuts or go into saltwater for at least 24 hours….”

Uh huh. What????

I was still sitting in shock that I had fallen for the whole waving the money around my head thing.

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Vanuatu Living-Local Medicine Man

After the medicine man left the house girl explained that on her island the traditional medicine won’t work if you receive money in return for it.

Hmmm, so I may not be healed after all. I am quite certain that if my dad was here he would’ve been delighted in the entire experience, however, because he wasn’t here I just feel like that was a very stressful way to lose 30 bucks.

So my friends the moral of the story is be careful what you drink, it could cost you…oh and if you are Eric reading this, I’m sorry you’re still in the doghouse

“One Small Service Project”

“One small service project”

Those are the last words that I heard on Sunday before I left church.

Since coming to Vanuatu we’ve had lots of adventure and fun but not many opportunities for service. “One small service project” certainly sounded easy enough. At least that’s what I told my sisters and sister in laws when I woke them up at 7:00am Friday morning.

we were supposed to be there at 8:00am and I thought we would have plenty of time to find it. We decided at the last minute to invite Judy the house girl to come with us. It’s a good thing we did because without her we never would have found the house hidden deep in the village. As it was we were quite late already when we arrived. There were several very sketchy roads that we weren’t sure we would make it over safely but we did.

The group of 8 Niven women were so surprised to see us. First off we are the only white members of our church on the island besides missionaries and secondly I’m pretty sure they think white people cant work.

They pretty much stood there and most of them stopped working as we came in. They just watched us curiously. The “one small service project” was to weed about 10 feet in front of and on the sides of a house. It looked like the jungle and I wasn’t even certain why we were pulling out all the weeds. But as the minutes passed a lovely tropical garden began to materialize. There really were beautiful tropical plants hidden amongst that jungle.

The way those island women could swing a machete put us white people of shame! We worked together for another hour after we had arrived.

Besides being hot, the work was a little scary for me. I am always afraid that a centipede will bite me, and last I read on the Internet the gardeners and Vanuatu are most likely to get bit by centipedes because they like to hide in the damp dirt that gardeners are working in.

Many of the women had rakes, shovels, and machetes, however us white girls got to pick up their piles and I never knew what was going to be underneath.

I did get attacked by fire ants. They feel like tiny little stings all over your leg, and then red bumps swell up that itch you for sometime. I also uncovered about eight millipedes, however thank goodness None of us ever came across a centipede.

We were all sweating by the time it was done, and quite happy that we had arrived late.

The most beautiful part of the service project was that in this very humble home made of cinderblocks, scrap tin and broken glass windows, somebody cared enough to plant the garden, and what was now an old grandma watched out the window as women from her granddaughters church came together to help her uncover it again. It was a lovely way to spend the morning!

The Bug of One Hundred Terrors!

I’m not a bug a girl, but they’ve never worried me too much either. Since coming to Vanuatu the house we are staying in has a lot, and I mean ALOT of 🐜 bugs. Giant spiders the size of my iPhone…

 

Cockroaches and of course the dreaded bug- THE CENTIPEDE…

…its bite is so venomous that even the locals are afraid. With 106 legs it can move fast and it’s thin body makes hiding a breeze. The locals say it’s possible for small children and babies to die from the bite but adults cannot. It just hurts terribly as I’ve been told.

I admit I’ve been paranoid about the centipede since first coming here. The fact that we have found seven inside our house hasn’t helped.

Every night before bed I lift up all the sheets and pillows and make sure there aren’t any centipedes in the bed. I also check the babies bed religiously before laying him down to sleep each night. The other girls- well they can fend for themselves…

I decided before I went to bed tonight to just ask God if He could just reassure me that I wouldn’t get bit by a centipede while I was here. That way I could stop worrying about it. Tonight when I was peacefully sleeping with all the members of the whole house who were also peacefully sleeping. I turned over and felt what felt like two needles being pressed without relief deep into my skin. I startled awake, opened my eyes up wide and threw back the thin sheet we sleep with, just in time to see that dreaded bug slither across the bed covers between the sheets. After successfully biting me it was afraid I’m sure because it quickly disappeared under the mattress.

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Centipedes don’t die easily or gracefully, if you cut them up the various pieces go on living and grow back bodies. Once killed they can still sting you. You have to cut them and then burn them, or cut and smash and bury them.

Now it’s midnight and I have been sitting here holding a scalding hot cloth on my arm as the sharp red pain sporting fang marks ( I have no idea if they even have fangs ) spreads slowly down the back of my arm.

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I’m a wimp- this centipede was only half the full grown size but It hurts- and I now HATE bugs, and I will probably never fall asleep again without imaging centipedes attacking me. And the sound of the ocean outside and the palm trees and warm tropical air are not quite as persuasive as they were yesterday.

And by the way/ we found out that centipede and gave it death by spray, smashing and flushing. I think it did the trick. I really, REALLY hope nobody else gets bit by one of those slithery, creepy crawlers again.

As for my prayer last night- I figure that God heard me and then said to himself, “I’ll just let her get bit by the centipede tonight so it’s all over with and then she will see that she is strong and there is no need to worry.” God is pretty smart- and I think the ways He answers our prayers sometimes are funny, but He does answer them and thats nice!

Iririki Island

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Our hands dangled down making trails in the water as the group of us were transported by boat from our island of Efate to a tiny island just off the coastline.

Iririki Island is a tiny island accessible only by boat. It is a tourist destination for people visiting Vanuatu owned by two Australian investors who originally set it up just over 15 years ago. The island is absolutely adorable, and has a range of accomodations from the luxury cabanas on the beach front to little apartments a few hundred yards from the beach. All together it has 132 different sleeping places.

If you aren’t staying on the island but still want to enjoy some of the fun things there for only $15 a person you can get a ride in the boat to the island, and spend the day playing tennis, using the pools, going snorkeling with their equipment, getting free childcare, using the kayaks and getting food.

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I’d seen the island as we drove by through the window of our car, and it’s adorable beach cabanas instantly had me sold. We gathered our family and a few friends nearby and spent the day together. It was actually so beautiful. It’s like we forgot entirely that we were living in a third world country.

The beautiful crystal clear pools, fancy restaurants and darling signs made us all feel like we were being spoiled in some expensive resort on a tropical vacation far away.

Of course there were a few times when the cultural ‘lost in translation’ moments occurred (like when we ordered pizza- but that’s a separate story) and when Dustin went to the bathroom and saw this sign…

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But overall the hours passed by with happy memories of exploring shipwrecks, climbing sunken masts, cramming into golf carts, kayaking, snorkeling and swimming in lovely blue pools.

Besides one scare when the baby took off his life jacket and jumped into the deep end of the pool before we could stop him (he was promptly rescued by my amazing, husband) it was a perfect day.

 

Ordering Pizza

Mmmm, the aroma of the freshly grilled pizza as it got laid in front of us was amazing. I was pretty excited because pizza costs a lot of money here and cheese is super expensive so making your own isn’t really financially sustainable either.

We had splurged a little today because we were out visiting a nearby resort and we had to take a boat to get there. They implemented a strict “no food on the island” rule to get people to spend their money buying from the expensive restaurants. The kids were quite hungry and we really couldn’t avoid feeding them and since pizza at $18 USD a pizza was the cheapest thing on the menu we ordered that.

After we prayed over our food we all dug in and grabbed a slice. This particular one was Mediterranean pizza. The description under the name on the menu said “an assortment of Mediterranean vegetables.” I started to look at the pizza a little closer after taking one bite. Something was off. There were giant carrot sticks, squash cubes and pickles on my pizza. No joke- the ‘Mediterranean Vegetables’ were definitely more unique than expecting 🙂

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I have honestly never tasted anything quite like it. When my sister ordered the same pizza a few minutes later hers had little cubes of peas and carrots all over it. Not sure what Mediterranean vegetable really are but I’m quite sure that I chose the healthiest pizza in the world to eat today 🙂