Well it was a really hard decision but in the end we all decided to leave our kids and take a three day trip to the most coveted neighboring island- Santo!!!
Santo is the largest island in the Vanuatu chain (and the most beautiful too I’m told). Ever since I first heard about it and saw pictures of endless white sand beaches I knew I had to visit while we were here and now was as good a time as any 🙂
Finding proper supervision for our kids at home was stressful (especially with the sudden influx of boys that have started frequenting our beach since we moved in). But we finally settled on leaving the under the care of the house girl (whose older than I am) and my very, very responsible 17.5 year old daughter. At first I thought that I for sure couldn’t go because it’s always so hard as a mother to leave your kids but But THREE days with my husband all to myself was too difficult to resist so I gave them very strict instructions, and left them with two machetes and a dog. Hopefully they won’t be needing to use them but around here you never know. And now here we are on a spur of the moment last minute trip to Santo!
Well here we are. We arrived after nightfall and have already had a bit of an adventure. I made a little video:
We walked back to the hotel after eating dinner for $5 at the market stalls and happily they had sorted out our room problems. So I am now off to bed and will make more videos and pictures tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to explore!
We wanted to see the turtles and the local man told us that little tiny island off the coast of Efate was the place to go. After parking your car you were supposed to walk to the dock or wait until someone in a boat offers to drive you. Once they arrive you pay them 1$ for each person in the boat and get dropped off at your choice of spots on the little island.
It worked! We waited on the dock and within a few minutes a boat showed up and offered to drive us. In went the Women, in went the children, and in went the men, then when you thought we couldn’t possibly fit another person, in went the jugs of water, the bundles of coconuts, and the bags of groceries. It was epic, and kinda stressful-I was so glad the boys had their floaty suits on!
Apparently they have no safety regulations for exactly how many people can fit in a boat. And in order to make the most money in each trip they really piled us in!!!
At first I thought maybe the island was so close that it didn’t matter if we sunk or not, but it took a good half an hour at least on the ocean to get there.
The day was bright and sunny, and the water was so crystal clear and turquoise blue that you could see right to the bottom. Isaiah could not resist dragging his hand through the water as the boat moved forward and I couldn’t blame him.
Because the tide was out when the boat driver was dropping people off there were places where he had to pull up the engine, hop into the water and push the boat over the coral growing in the white sand beneath us just to get people close enough to the shore. They still had to carry their bags and bundles through the ocean just to get home.
When we finally got to the white sand beach with clear turquoise water the boat driver asked when we would like him to return and after I told him he sped away.
It was magic! The beach was covered in sand dollars and starfish. The kids spent hours picking them up, finding out they were still alive, letting them go, and discovering all kinds of interesting facts about them in between!
The tide was out and there were so many truly fascinating things to discover on the reefs, in the ocean, and in the tidepools.
The sea urchins were plentiful today so the barefooted beauties had to be careful not to step on them. The last time someone got stung by a sea urchin it was disastrously painful, so we were very happy that situation was avoided today:)
Locals were like little ants in the distance collecting shells and trapped fish for dinner, filling their buckets and bags as they laughed and chatted.
We never actually saw a sea turtle, however, we saw so many other amazing things it didn’t even bother us in at least. The only thing we were missing on this perfect day was my second oldest daughter who had decided to stay home on the adventure.
What do you think, could you handle a day in paradise?
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!
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.
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…
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
The night was late and we had just crawled into bed when I heard a man yelling- well screaming really, outside.
I was afraid to look out the window and see who was being murdered, but when I finally mustered up the courage all that came into view was a fire burning in my neighbors yard- nothing unusual.
I guess Eric and I must have been feeling adverterous because just in case we both grabbed a machetes and ventured outside to see what all the commotion was about.
Happily we discovered that there were no drunk crazy men running around, it was just my brother. He is sometimes crazy but rarely drunk 😉 He and some locals were now just standing around the fire laughing.
When I inquired after the loud yells he told me a wandering dog had taken hold of the pig he was preparing to roast and he had to scream loudly -very loudly, to chase it away.
I had forgotten that Dustin was doing a pig roast to celebrate his son’s baptism the next day. He had two Nevans there helping him prepare the whole thing.
Even though my bed was calling the process was too fascinating not to stay and watch. So I took A whole bunch of pictures so I can share them with you guys.
The men had started the fire at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon. They were then back around 10:00pm to prepare the pig and put it in the pit for toasting overnight. After brining and cutting, chopping and stuffing, digging and covering, They finally got finished at nearly 1:00 am. We were all so tired that when they told us that they would need to comeback at 4:00am to check on it we insisted that it would be fine if they waited until morning.
Sure enough they were back first thing in the morning. After digging up the pit, removing the tarp and hot stones they uncovered the pig which was roasted to perfection!
Ezra cut it up for everyone as the mouth watering aroma spread throughout the neighbourhood.
There certainly were no disappointed taste buds after that meal, and there was so much food left over that Dustin had to send everyone home with some. Everyone was impressed that he’d be willing to share such a fantastic beast, and were all so grateful for his gift. It was like the pig that just kept giving 🙂
I have a million things everyday that I could post about. Lucky for you guys my internet is so slow that I only can post about a few.
Today I’m going to tell you about an amazing beach that we found after driving up and down a scary jungle road. It was beautiful white sand and corral with sea glass spread all over it, more seaglass then I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Too much Seaglass to even pick up!!
We were having such a wonderful time in the warm shallow water until the local man came up and said the reason there was nobody was there was because the cyclone was coming our way.
The last I had heard it wasn’t going to hit us so that’s why we went out adventuring. We evacuated quickly And came home!
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 🙂
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
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
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.
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.
Thank you uncle Dustin! I couldn’t ask for anything better- especially with all 16 of us living in the house.