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 🙂
Nobody can say the bet the beetle wasn’t well loved. Indeed in it’s short life with my son it got a LOT of attention. It’s just too bad that all that loving ended in death. Join us as we find out about Zaby’s latest pet!
It started out as what we thought was going to be a lovely little date together. We snuck off and thought we’d grab some lunch from one of the little roadside markets. That was our mistake…in the end we didn’t eat anything.
Hang on tight if you want to join us for an island ride!
It’s really hard to get cars on the island because everything has be imported from somewhere else. When you find a car and it’s in your price range you snap it up- pretty much regardless of how it works. That’s how we all ended up with the island bus… 🙂 If you want a few bumps and jolts, join us for as Lindy takes out the island bus for the first time!
“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.
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.
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.
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
I am pretty sure that nothing in Vanuatu is like back home.. I guess I held onto that hope for too long. I was pretty happy that at least in Vanuatu we got toilet paper (in some places at least-my mom actually carries a roll around in her purse because not all the bathrooms supply it) I asked why it was pink at first, but no one really had an explanation. Maybe it’s so people can use it as streamers on the side 😉.
Anyway, uncle Dustin decided to tell my mom about the massive bag of toilet paper she could buy for only 200 vatu (approximately two dollars). It was even normal coloured. I guess I should have known nothing is normal here.
Now we are wiping ourselves with rolls of toilet paper about an inch wide. Really?! It’s okay though, my mom told us that she solved the problem by putting three on the holder at once and just carefully winding them to match up (and work as one)… let me tell you, it doesn’t work. Well at least we got a money saver there… I really just want normal toilet paper again 😫😂
My 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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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).
There 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!