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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!

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 🙂

Our Midnight Adventure Roasting a Pig

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.

Image may contain: fire and nightI 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.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor and foodWhen 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.

No automatic alt text available.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.

Image may contain: foodThe 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.Image may contain: fire and food

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!

Image may contain: one or more peopleEzra cut it up for everyone as the mouth watering aroma spread throughout the neighbourhood.

Image may contain: one or more people, food and outdoorThere 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 🙂Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, food and indoor

Laundry Day in the Tropics

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The house girls makes it look so easy. When I was living at my brothers house his house girl Matilda did all the laundry, but now that we’ve moved into our own house (right next door) I get to do it 🙂 No problem, this mom of 7 has done laundry aplenty- well at least I thought I had. I realized today that laundry day in the tropics is quite different than laundry day at home. Are you interested in finding out how we do it?No automatic alt text available.

I’ll give you little tutorial…

1. Remove the cockroach protection cloth from the washing machine.

2. Open the lid and fill it with clothes and soap.Image may contain: one or more people

3. Hook up the outdoor cable to electricity.

4. Hook up water to the machine.

5. Press start and wait for the water to fill up the laundry machine.

6. Wait 15 minutes while it agitates and then turn it to the next stage- drain.

7. Wait 15 minutes and then turn it to its next stage- spin.

8. Wait 15 minutes and turn it to rinse.

9. Wait 15 minutes and turn it to drain and final spin.

10. Remove clothes from washing machine and hang on outdoor laundry line.

11. Leave until Dry. This can take several days as tropical rain storms come quickly and with a vengeance. (My load from 5 days ago is still on the line).

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, child, pool and outdoorThere you have it. 11 easy steps and a few hours of sunshine and one load of your laundry is clean! I’m sure there is some sort of lesson I could learn from doing laundry the hard/long way but I haven’t figured out what it could be yet. Maybe next laundry day something will come to me!

Waiting for a Cyclone

Last night the Shefa Province of Vanuatu where we are officially got put on Red Alert (alerts are as follows: blue, yellow, red).

Regardless of what ‘alert’ level we have been on, everyone has been on ‘high’ alert for days as we’ve waited for Cyclone Donna. She’s now a category 5 and quite destructive. Category 5 is the highest category a cyclone can become with winds up to 260kmh, heavy rainfall, coastal flooding and massive waves. The islands are well aware of the possibilities of the kinds of destruction a category 5 storm can do; the memories of Cyclone pam two years ago are still very fresh.

Damage from Cyclone Pam

Normally after receiving a cyclone warning you have 12-24 hours to prepare. We received our first warning over a week ago and the cyclone still has not arrived.

Cyclone Donna has gone towards us and away from us on so many occasions that it’s getting tiring to discuss whether she will come or not at all.

It’s no fun living in a dark, damp house with all windows and door boarded up so securely, and yet it’s still to early to take everything down.

This morning the cyclone moved down to a position that is right beside us but not on top of is. It’s looking doubtful that we will be hit with anything other than ‘destructive, gale force winds, and heavy flooding’, and the bright cool weather outside has me doubting that we will be hit with even that.

Already parts of our little island have lost power and been evacuated due to extreme flooding.

Dustin bought all of his workers wood and tin to reinforce their houses before cyclone Donna comes. The schools, stores, and markets all remain closed today.

Apparently Cyclone Donna World set a record for being the worst cyclone in recorded historical history in the southern hemisphere in the month of May!

At least 90% of the island believes that the reason we are getting a cyclone is because they’re dressing immodestly and drinking Kava. (Kava Is a traditional drink much like alcohol). Apparently before and after a cyclone hit there is a huge influx of people to join churches, or start attending churches.

When I was last in the market there was a preacher telling everyone to get down on their knees and pray and repent of their sins so that the cyclone would leave us unharmed.

The house girl, Matilda said the locals do not think the cyclone will hit us because they have told God that already they have suffered so much and lost so much this year with other natural disasters that He will turn the cyclone around and send it to a different place.

Members of our family are already being deployed today to leave this island and go to some of the outer Northern Islands where the cyclone has already hit. They are working with the Red Cross to deliver aid food, and water to the people on those islands. We are going to put our names on the list today as volunteers so that if our help is needed we can go as well.

Well here’s to waiting…not sure if it will come or not but it currently sits level with us and is calculated to land in New Caledonia.

 

A Super Soggy Sunday

Rain water was still drizzling down when it was time to leave for church but there was still no other way to get there than the back of the truck. So the kids crammed in, 9 in front and 7 in the back, water splashing on their dresses and wind blowing their hair. We arrived island style 😉
Church wasn’t inside because they were doing construction on the regular chapel. So an outdoor structure had been turned into our Sunday worship hall. It was actually bigger than the regular chapel and quite a bit cooler so I enjoyed it. The ground was made of corral and there was tarps all around and one at the front to keep out the rain. To make the tarp look prettier there was a lace tablecloth strung over top. It didn’t really do the trick but you could tell the intention was nice.
It was still quite a hot day even with the rain, but it was made perfect because of the people I got to share it with.
Honestly, who can resist the beautiful smiles of his precious girls? And their adorable baby brothers? Can you see how hot everybody looks? The funny thing is that while I am busy fanning myself the locals have socks on their babies and fur hats on their kids. No joke- it’s the cold season here!
They didn’t have anyone to play the piano again this week, and so Analaea was asked to do it. She’s quite a good piano player, however feels self-conscious because half the keys don’t work and it makes the song sound bad when she plays it. I was so happy that she willingly accepted their invitation. They have a little electric keyboard and usually a girl named Sarah plays for church, but apparently she’s stopped going to church and for the last month there hasn’t been anyone else to play.
The Sunday gathering was lovely, even though we still don’t understand anything they are saying its amazing to me how feelings can just come across through the language barrier. I really enjoyed being there today.
As soon as we got home the boys found a tarp that had collected water through the night and decided to take baths in their Sunday clothes… those stinkers.

Preparing for Cyclone Donna

Well we went shopping to stock up on food and water in preparation for the cyclone. This is what we got. Sound yummy?
92 bananas 10 pamplemouse 20 tangerines 4 bags of homegrown freshly picked peanuts 21 passion fruit 15 giant avocados 12 french baguettes 10 papayas 2 bunches fresh basil 1 bunch fresh mint 1 freshly grown ginger root 1 pomegrantic 6 bags dried banana and manioc chips 12 nouse 30 sweet potatoes
Of course we bought it all from the market, fresh, island grown organic produce. YUM! We could have bought a frozen McCains pizza for $22USD, a box of Cocoa Puffs for $15.00USD or a container of yogurt for $14.00USD, but I couldn’t afford those things 🙂
We did splurge and buy a battery operated radio, two water storage containers and a bunch of flashlights, oh I almost forgot and a bouquet of fresh flowers. I got the flowers because if I’m stuck inside for two days I wanted it to be pretty:)
I’ll let you know how long this lasts.
By the way, I just found out the the locals have a special name for the house we live in, Cyclone Kaikai. This directly relates to rest of this post because the name translates to cyclone food…yikes!

Gideon’s Landing – My newest found treasure

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.

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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!!

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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.

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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!

 

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.