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Some Time Away- Not So Relaxing…

We snuck away just the two of us. It had been 7 months since we last got a moment to ourselves. Not only were we surrounded everyday by our darling crew of 7 but we also had house girls, gardeners and workers that shared our space each day bustling about doing their work. There is something almost sacred about a home and it had been way too long since we were actually alone in ours together..,
It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Fiji, and now that we were so close, the adventure couldn’t wait. Did I have hesitations, leaving my 7 kids alone while we were away? Oh yes! Especially with the all the tropical bugs, and the cyclone season which was now upon us. Also the fact that my oldest, and very responsible 17 year old was away, made making the decision even harder. I was worried of course, about the great number of boys who liked to visit my sweet daughters. And I was hopeful that none of them would use this opportunities to lure them out of the house on some private island adventure of their own.
Tom, our 22 year old adopted island son had been living with us ever since my oldest left to Canada. He had a great relationship with the kids, could drive, and knew all the cute boys who might want to sneak in for a visit. I had given everyone a list of rules and a stern talk with the kids friends making it clear that nobody would be alive if any of them came to visit while we were gone. Of course there were the house girls who would also help out and I hired an extra one just to take care of the babies while I was gone. My kids were going to be just fine I told myself again.
We booked a little cottage in the rain forest online called Colo-I-Suva Rainforest Eco Resort. It sounded so romantic and what married couple isn’t eager to escape the world and trade it for a little romance?…sigh. It was very affordable and still available for our last minute dates, that should have been my first clue. Also it included breakfast, was located in the heart of rainforest and situated on a lake with a pool. It sounded perfect.
When we arrived they checked us in and directed us to our cottage. The rainforest was lovely, birds and frogs, and parrots of all varieties were singing their hearts out, but the rainforest was located on a highway, so the orchestra of animals was also frequented by shouting people and vehicles whizzing by.
There was a lake, well it’s more of a pond, like a great big BROWN pond. There was a pool, a GREEN pool- it had a sign that said ‘closed for a special event’, but I’m certain there was no special event going on, they were just trying to cover for the fact that their pool was the wrong color.
The cottage was cute but it was so musty I could hardly breathe. The tap water came out rust red, and the hot water was luke warm at best. Don’t worry, there was a sign which indicated that you could turn up the temperature of the water if you so desired simply by turning the knob at the top of the water heater.
The knob, however, was so high that no human could possibly reach it. I was not going to be deterred. This was my retreat. I had no kids, and the one thing I knew I could count on was an uninterrupted HOT shower. I was desperate for that hot shower, so I crept out of the bathroom naked and shivering and looked around for a chair to stand on. There were none, instead I settled for a little table.
I carefully balanced the table into the bathroom and climbed onto of it. I was determined to turn that knob. I turned it, all the way to its highest setting. And then tried again. The water was still the same tepid temperature. Oh well I thought I guess no hot water for me today. After drying off with the towels provided, I grabbed the soggy bar of soap and bit of one ply tissue paper- now I knew what the ‘eco’ part of their name meant…
I was excited for the breakfast but the breakfast voucher which was for a ‘free breakfast’ was really only a voucher for $5.50USD and didn’t cover the cost of any of the breakfast options on the menu. When I ordered fruit, yogurt and toast, (knowing I would have to pay extra) I got whole wheat bread. This was a score, because in Vanuatu they don’t sell whole wheat bread! I normally don’t eat wheat but just knowing that I could indulge this once I spread the toast with butter and took a bite. It was mouldy. I’m not sure why this surprised me. I briefly contemplated telling the waitress, but considering the state of everything else we had experienced since arriving I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be too alarmed.
I left the breakfast table hungry, and returned to my room where I picked up the beautifully coloured brochure. It included an interested array of subjects including these paragraphs…
SAFETY “Regarding the security, there have been some distressing violent attacks over the past years but at the time of writing there has been no reported acts of violence..” okay, well that’s nice to know! I looked towards the front door of our cottage and noticed the chain lock which had been installed for our added security. Something didn’t seem right about the way it was installed. I went outside the door and asked Eric to lock it. Then I opened the door, reached my hand in and easily detached it from it’s ‘security’ lock. Well, hopefully we wouldn’t need that lock for our safety!
EARTHQUAKES “You should be aware that we are located in an area at risk to earthquakes. In the even of such an incident, it is important you follow the instructions below.”
CYCLONES “We take the safety of our guests and staff very seriously and therefore we must ask you abide our instructions without question and DO NOT PANIC!”
MEDICAL CARE “Health care in Fiji is not as good as health care in developed countries…” thanks I’ll keep that in mind in case I have an emergency.
FIRES “Please note that when batteries run out in smoke detectors the alarm will sound- DO NOT PANIC!- notify reception and we will replace the battery.” Okay, I’ll try to keep that in mind at midnight..
ROOM SERVICE “Given the distance form the restaurant and bar to your accommodations we do not encourage room service…”
I could have cursed, or cried. But instead we just sat there and laughed. Laughed because life rarely turns out how you are expecting it to, and laughed because it was just too much to hope for that we could be totally spoiled on our vacation away from home. And most of all we laughed because this was our life. Our life which is full of palm trees, and tropical fruits and which looks so desirable has it’s mould and cold water and it’s bugs. And the best part is, it’s okay. It keeps it real.
I opened my scriptures and read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I think I’ll sit down and write a nice letter to the owners of the resort, because maybe the next guests won’t appreciate such an authentic experience- and then I plan to book a different hotel because two nights is all I can possibly stand in this lovely place!
And after that I‘ll write a list of things I’m grateful for…just so I don’t get too distracted by my surroundings! Rebecca Proffitt P.S. I wrote a nice letter to the owners to which they responded “I have to dispute your experience the toast could not have been mouldy because we pick up our bread fresh each morning” I think the majority of the letter was lost on them…but here is the new hotel we went to

Camping in Paradise

‘It’s okay, just breath deeply and go to sleep.’ I felt a giant spider scamper across my arm and a cockroach tickle my forehead as it made it’s way over my face. This was going to be a loooong week. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of bugs here.

Seriously why are there even spiders this size?

We had decided to take the family camping because well we didn’t have anywhere to live so that made it an easy decision. When we originally were planning to come to Vanuatu we thought we would just stay for 4 months. But the time came and went so quickly and everyone was enjoying our trip so thoroughly that nobody wanted to go home. We spent a few thousand dollars, changed our plane tickets, bought more travel insurance and extended our visa. It seemed expensive, but truthfully the price was so small in comparison to the gigantic return on investment.  For once in a long time our family was really content and everybody felt it and nobody wanted to let it go.

When we changed our tickets from 4 months to 12 months we needed to find a new place to stay and went camping between rentals.  It’s not like I had any camping equipment so we chose a place that had tents and beds already in them.  It was magical. Beach tents on the ocean, the breeze and the ocean and the birds.

We spent endless hours walking, swimming, playing with birds, roasting hotdogs, laughing and chatting around the fire. Everything was really fantastic. But there was more in store for our family.

The kids and Eric were walking down the beach when they found a path that led to a village through the bush. They ended up buying some island potatoes from them but when it was time to go home the entire village full of children followed them. For the next few hours they played soccer in the field.

At dinner time I called my kids for dinner and my kids as well as at least another 10 kids showed up. For the next four days and nights these beautiful village kids showed up at our tents at 6am, stayed around the fire laughing and singing with us and sharing our meals. Pretty soon I wasn’t cooking for 10 I was cooking for 20. I was running out of food, and you’ll see in the video the creative ways that we found to keep eating as there wasn’t a store in a million miles from us. We gathered coconuts, ate island potatoes and even collected sea urchins when the tide was low and roasted them over the fire! #gross

This group of sparkly eyed, brown skinned, big smiled children joined us for movie night cramming everyone into one small tent to gather around the little computer screen and watch Moana and home videos with us.

They followed us to the waterfalls when we went hiking and were waiting for us till well past dark every night if we ever ventured out anywhere.  At the end of every night Eric would load up the truck with everyone and drive them home. It was sometimes 10 or 11 o’clock at night when kids were sprawled out all over each other exhausted from hours of playing. Some nights they just walked themselves home dissappearing into the blackness without a sound.

The BEST most beautiful part of the entire camping trip was the morning that we were to leave. At 6am we heard noises outside. The mommas, the dads and the children from the village were all there.

They came up and showered us with shell leis, necklaces, fruit, potatoes and a woven mat. The momma’s said to me “you fed our pikininis everyday and now that makes you their momma too, so we bring you presents” Everyone cried as we left this magical bit of paradise and said goodbye to our new friends. It was truly an amazing, fantastic, unforgettable experience and I now have ALOT of new children!

Watch the videos to join in the magic and it truly was magical!

Rebecca

 

One Day in Paradise

Today we packed up all the kids, grabbed some fruit, towels and swim gear and visited a beach. It’s the same thing we’ve done a hundred times since we’ve been here. But I saw something different that really spoke to my heart.

Once we arrived at a beach hidden down some random jungle road and the as the minutes turned into hours I pinpointed what I love about living somewhere warm. There are simply so many things to do OUTSIDE! I MISS BEING OUTSIDE! I really think God created a beautiful earth for us to enjoy, but when i’m stuck inside for 8 months of the year it’s depressing!

Being on the beach today everyone just played together. It didn’t matter their age differences or interests. There wasn’t this impending feeling like winter is coming and all the fun is going to soon be over. In fact we are right in the middle of winter and we just barely graduated from sheets to thin blankets at night, everyone still jumping in the ocean for night time swims and walking around in their swimsuits. Ahhh 🙂

Oh, I also have to confess how much I love the endless CREATIVITY of kids that are home-schooled. A pile of rocks and sea glass quickly turns into an ocean and landing pad for a new game and kids of all ages laugh and play together. I know that lots of kids that aren’t home-schooled are awesomely creative, but I am a bit biased towards all these fantastic peeps who joined me for One Day in Paradise today and they all happened to be home-schooled so sorry for the brag 🙂

 

Visiting the Healing Springs of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Well, the day was perfectly hot and we needed somewhere to cool off. I had heard all about the powerful healing waters of Santo, Vanuatu and thought that this would be a good time to try them out. After all, I was struggling with numerous health condition that were getting worse and worse. “What could it hurt?” I thought to myself as I persuaded the others to join me.  I personally had already heard dozens of stories from neighbours and friends that testified to the miraculous power of the healing springs. I thought you guys would like to join me so I inconspicuously made a little video 🙂

A Boring Day in Paradise….

“I’m soooo bored, we did nothing fun today at all…” That’s what my kids told me in the kitchen tonight. I nearly choked on my food. Approximately three months ago we left Canada to live in Vanuatu and everyday since then has been like a chapter out of an adventure novel. Clearly my kids are getting slightly spoiled in the most tropical of ways. Would you like to know what nothing fun looks like in my homeschooling, God loving, crazy family of 9? 
First we spent a couple hours on the beach. We chased waves, buried each other in the sand, laid in the sun and played with the little boys until I knew I had to bring them in or they would get too much sun.
playing in the sand
Next we walked up and down and collected handfuls of sea glass and almost caught the most adorable bright purple coconut crab I’ve ever seen. We did a bit of watercolor painting and made a little whale out of sea glass on the art paper we brought with us.
Handfuls of seaglass

The little girls came home and picked and sold papaya to all their neighbours while Dad took Eliza for a trip into town on the quad to the private hospital and out for lunch (she dislocated her arm doing somersaults on the beach). 

After that we picked up Mireyah who had spent the entire day with a family in the bush at the top of Snake Hill (hill isdefinitely subjective…more like mountain) eating, swimming and playing volleyball.
 
Next three of kids got dropped off at the village basketball park where they met their local friends and played a game of ball for two hours.
 
We had a good looking Ni-Van boy over for dinner (homemade pizzas), after Bislama lessons with a local lady from church.

 

footsteps in the beach
And once all that was done the younger kids went with Aunty Shi into town to watch the community outdoor movie and Dad took a couple of the girls night swimming. All wrapped up in one booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing day. #poorkids #feelsobadforthem #whatasuckylife

 

 

Silencing our Fears

There are not even words to describe the perfect day we had today.

As we flew down the road yesterday bumping along in the back of the truck we saw beautiful canoes all carved in the custom style lining the road. The sign said blue hole and our driver told us that if we paid 1000vt ($10USD) then we could have a ride up the river. It sounded pretty fun and so today when we passed the canoes again we stopped to take a ride.

A rusty chain hung around the gates and nobody was to be seen. Not to be discouraged our driver said he knew where the owners would be. So we went on a bit of drive checking in and out of different village houses until we finally found someone who knew where the owners were. I guess they were napping in the grass. After explaining that we would like to canoe up the river on one of the boats and paying him the advertised fee we all climbed in. It was simply amazing!

Once we got settled and the chatting and laughing subsided, (with our group that rarely happens) Ben (our guide) paddled us up the river. It was like magic. The birds were singing in the trees and the only sound was the paddle hitting the water. The words running through my subconscious brain spilled into my consciousness.  Peaceful. Tranquil. Magical. Sacred. If nature could pray it was like witnessing the prayer of the earth to Papa God. It really was a extraordinary.

We got further and further into the jungle and now vines were dangling in seemingly mid air with oversized pods and spiders and other creatures living with them. The white sand of the river bottom was visible the entire time and schools of tiny  fish made appearances here and there, dancing around the boat and going on ahead without us.

After probably 20 minutes of paddling, and much sooner that we wanted we turned the corner and there was the blue hole.  A glistening pool of deep turquoise blue in the middle of the jungle.

So out of place amongst all the greens and browns that we had been seeing, the blue hole looked like a secret hiding in the forest.

After playing, rope jumping, feeding fish and exploring the surrounding gardens and paths we persuaded Ben to take us all the way down the river and to the open ocean. It was nearly just as beautiful  as our trip up the ocean and a few times during the trip Dan or Eric or Lindy burst out in song unable to express the reverence for the surroundings in any other way.  Sometimes I wonder what it would do for the soul to be constantly surrounded by so much beauty. It certainly agrees with my soul!

I also considered how lovely we thought the river was and not knowing what was at the end of it, all of us could have happily stayed and played in the shallow pools all day. However, just like God’s plan for us, He knows what is ahead, and He has much greater, and grander plans for us than we could ever imagine.

How could my life be transformed if I would quiet down for while and trust in the Almighty?

#Ifoundparadise!

Well the jury is no longer out if this was the right place to come.

The day was spent in water so turquoise and white sand beaches that were so soft and beautiful that you truly didn’t believe your eyes.  #nofiltersneeded

Massages on the beach, swinging in hammocks, exploring sunken ships, and eating delicious food at stunning restaurants is what we did all day. It was perfect and truly the most relaxing, fun, day I could have imagined. #mustbeparadise