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Beach

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A lesson I learned from a seashell

The wave crashed up washing black sand and frothy sea foam onto my bare feet and with it came a little white shell. I bent down and picked  it up. Inspecting it carefully, I turned it around and around and then tried to return it into the ocean where it belonged. Rather than throwing it back I found myself whispering ‘just one more’ and guiltily stuffing it into my pockets.

I laughed aloud at myself. Every. Single. Time. I saw a shell or a sparkly bit of sea-glass I felt compelled to pick it up. IT’s like I was remembering my childhood and hadn’t yet grown out of the habit of trying to keep pretty things. In fact my own collection of seashells which sat neglected on the countertop at home, was bigger than both my other sea collecting daughters pile. This  obsession was becoming a problem and I’d have to stop soon!

My kids who were ahead me on our walk came running back with their hands full of large dirty and broken seashells that they had found at a burnt out fire-pit. They were the huge snail shells that the locals would catch when the tide was out and roast over the fire for dinner. I remembered clearly not too many nights ago when Eric and I had heard noises outside and gone with our flashlights and machetes to investigate.

We found a group of grown men squatted around a fire, laughing and joking. Eric and I were so entranced by their meal and methods had ended up staying and swapping stories until late into the night. When their rice was finally cooked in the heavy pot they had positioned overtop the fire, more men startled us both by seemingly appearing out of nowhere and throwing down their evenings haul. They had been out night diving and they had collected  one small fish and 5 large snails. This would make the perfect meal they told us with a grin.

We sat for hours visiting and watching as they taught us all the best ways to prepare snails and fish and rice. And then sometime after 10pm when their meal was finally cooked they divided it all up equally amongst themselves and dug in with their hands. Juicy snail water dripping off their fingers and contented smiles on their messy faces they offered us some of the food, but we declined.

My mind jolted back to the present and I looked at the shells in the kids hands. They were ugly, brown, and burnt from the fire. But as I turned one around I saw a hint of mother of pearl. I Remembered back to my old childhood days on the islands when I would bring shells to my father and as if by some kind of voodoo he would transform them into something so breathtaking I was sure it had been made by magic or mermaids. There was mother of pearl in these shells, I was sure of it.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and was sure it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and hoped it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I grabbed my scriptures and started flipping the pages. I remembered reading about this somewhere. The book fell open to Joshua 3: 5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you. 

I read another scripture:

The Savior said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. “Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;“Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The mother of pearl had always been inside that shell. It took a process that I am sure would have been painful to that shell if it had feelings to feel. But it was worth it! It’s light was shining. I want to be like that shell, broken and covered in sin and sorrow but humble enough to turn my life over to He who can heal. He who can make whole. He who can erase my sins and make me new again, even Jesus Christ.

After School Vistors

The smell of cinnamon buns was wafting through the house and making everyone hungry. None of the girls that were bouncing around my kitchen had ever had a cinnamon bun before, so we were excited to share them. Early this morning, when my little girls went off to school, they asked me if it was okay if they brought some friends home to play. Being the awesome mom that I am and never wanted to miss a chance to win points with my kids I enthusiastically said “you bet”!

A few hours later piles of kids poured through my front door. This was not a few after school friends! I was pretty sure they had brought the entire school home with them! The girls were giggling as they took off their blue and yellow uniforms and folded them neatly across tables and chairs. It was too hot to keep the uniforms on and most the girls had a change of clothes with them. After quickly stripping their skirts they ran down to the ocean with both my daughters in tow and splashed and swam. The radio had sent out an extra large wave warning, so the girls thought that was the perfect invitation to go and play.

Squealing, and screaming and laughing could be heard over the crash of the giant, frothy waves. I went down to watch them and make sure everyone stayed safe, but who was I kidding? These kids could swim better and further and than I ever would be able to. Swimming was like breathing, and they had been doing it since they were tiny.

I headed home and a few minutes later, the group of girls came back too. They were all shivering and cold. My girls quickly offered them a hot shower (most of which none had ever had a hot shower before) and sometime before my gas tank had been completely emptied of it’s expensive liquid, the girls all tumbled out. They wrapped themselves up in every dry towel I had and began to play basketball outside.

I was fascinated by the large group, and sat staring  out the window at them, not quite sure what to do. I had been expecting a few little girls to come home with mine and had made a little snack of cut up pineapple and watermelon for them to share but that was not going to do it!

I quickly thought up a plan, I’d do a cooking class. I told them all that today we were going to make cinnamon buns. They were delighted and threw the basketball through the hoop one last time before running inside. I tried to ignore the puddle of water all over the floor and the messy kitchen, telling myself that they wouldn’t notice either- so neither should I. I divided them into groups of 4 and  taught them how to make the tasty, sticky treat. I don’t speak Bislama very well, and they don’t speak English very well, but we did alright as I mimed and acted out exactly what steps happened next.

They stirred, and kneaded and rolled and sprinkled and cut until every pan I had was covered in cinnamon buns waiting to be cooked. Every girl there cooks on a fire in her village. None of them had stoves or ovens, so they were mesmerised by everything in the kitchen. Giggling each time I gave them an instruction or pulled out a new dish.

As the cinnamon buns cooked I told the girls it was time to clean up the messy kitchen. It had already been a disaster with dishes piled high in both sinks, before we had started and now it was even worse. Those girls only needed to be told once and they took their job very seriously. The counter was wiped about a hundred times, and each dish was washed, dried and within 20 minutes the kitchen was immaculate.

Little girls with frizzy black hair, and dark brown skin, sparkling white teeth and beautiful smiles were all being dropped off now that it was pitch black and drizzling with rain. I wondered if their parents even knew where they were today, or wondered what took them so long to come home from school, and I wonder what magic will happen in my house tomorrow!

One Year in Vanuatu

I can’t believe it’s already been one year. In some ways it feels like a lifetime and in other ways it seems as though we just arrived. The experiences that we’ve had have been irreplaceable. I made a video to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, on the adventure of a lifetime! If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging as regularly, it’s because I was crazy sick and had to be flown to Australia for medical help, and then because I started writing a book! Stay tuned, I’ll let you know when it’s ready to read 🙂

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 🙂