Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Two more weeks hath passed...(from a 2 weeks ago now).

This blogger is not very good...this was posted 2 weeks ago, but due to technical difficulties we only found out today it hadn't been published :(

It has been another busy two weeks since we last blogged. The weekend of the 12th we made our way back to Southwest Bay with two wheelchairs, a pressure mattress, and a toilet frame. As we mentioned, we were going to carry two wheelchairs down there. Our police friend, Anson, organised the police truck to pick all of us up and happened to be going down to Southwest Bay too. So we took a ride in the police truck. After that we met the boat back at Lambumbu on the western side of Malekula and went down to Southwest Bay. There were two people that we needed to see. One was a 19 year old boy who we measured up last time we went to SWB and another an older woman. We rested for a short time and that afternoon we discovered that the one wheelchair’s tyres needed to be pumped up. So we decided to carry the pressure mattress and the toilet frame that afternoon and sort out pumping up the tyres the next day since we asked around that afternoon for a bicycle pump but no one had one. The next day, we sought out for another bicycle pump and then our host family told us that a New Zealand man who has a nice built-up house with a farm had a compressor. This place was over a small estuary to a lagoon. So we took the one wheelchair on a boat to this house and filled it up with a compressor. On the way back we took the luxury of an outrigger canoe. Eventually we set up the wheelchair for the woman which took about 2 hours. We also learned that this woman had been bed bound for 4 years and had only been outside to wash. A small crowd had gathered when we were fitting her into the wheelchair and some children were around. They were probably about 4 years old. The woman was asking “Who do these children belong to?” She had never seen them before because she had never left her house. It was a real blessing to give her some mobility back. After, we had lunch we set to work on fitting the other chair to the 19 year old (including taking the wheels off in order to reach some other adjustments). After a hot 3.5 hours - let’s just say we enjoyed the swim in the calm waters afterwards! We had to make a few adjustments and check with each family if they were comfortable over the next few days. After this, we came back on the boat on the Monday having spent some time relaxing as well.

Last Friday, there was another fundraising for the uniforms for their youth group. Some of the mums in the village had cooked some cake and bread that they were selling, and there was entertainment called Fancy hour. This form of entertainment is similar to busking where people get up and perform a dance or a song. People put money into a bucket and may choose to put something on the person performing as a way of making fun with them. You can also pay money in the bucket to get someone from the audience to dance with the people on the stage by pulling them up. Alicja, however, did not get pulled up but willingly volunteered to dance with the youth.

Last Saturday,we went with Pastor Collen, our host family, and some of our friends went to Tisman - the area where Pastor Collen grew up. It was a very long truck ride, taking 2 hours to travel 30 kms with 5 river crossings. The roads south of Lakatoro (where it is built up), are not in a very good condition and in some places, equivalent to 4wd’ing. We saw a child there with a disability in a neighbouring village who needed a pram and baby chair. So we set him up with the help of some of our travel companions. After we had fitted this pram, we went to Collen’s home village. We met his parents and ate lunch there. After lunch, we climbed back into the 4wd and swam in the river closest to his house. It was a very good temperature. It was a very good day, and when we came back that night, we were presented with a dinner on behalf of the young adults of the church. We were also presented with some gifts...they are starting to pile up nicely, so we have paid another bag on Virgin that we can put it all in and give to customs back in Australia to have a look at.

In the past two weeks, Alicja has run two workshops: one for parents and another for teachers of Kindergarten, class one and class 2. This was just explaining some methods in which parents and teachers can help students to learn their alphabet, numbers, and colours. We think that these workshops were very helpful as there was lots of positive feedback at the end. Gareth has run two sessions (one each for class 5 and 6) of how to research using a library. It was pretty much a treasure hunt with 4 groups making a rotation on dictionaries, encyclopaedias, the computer, and the non-fiction shelf. The students particularly love using the computer to look up things on ‘Encarta kids’. We had a group of about 8 boys looking up videos on bobsledding, skateboarding, and a frilled neck lizard. It was a blessing to hear their laughter and amazement at things that they have never heard of before.

On Monday we went to Lakatoro where some of the kids in the school were attending a march for Lakatoro Sports opening day funded by ‘Save the Children’, an organisation promoting children’s rights. There was a group from the Seventh Day Adventist church called “Pathfinders” (which is similar to scouts but with a Christian focus) who led the march. It was a whole day program with games such as tug of war, quizzes, and a big lunch.

On Thursday we went to Kid’s Prayer Warriors where we were presented with a couple of gifts. This is a great ministry of the church where it encourages children to pray for various things around the world and closer to their home. At the beginning, we made a couple of suggestions to help the kids pay attention and maintain the kids’ interest. We only went there two or three times at the most but they were still very appreciative.

It is coming close up to the presidential election here and there is plenty of political talk going on at the moment. They don’t have TV to advertise or radio that has coverage to broadcast, so the islander method of broadcasting ‘The Good News’ of their party is by truck where they have a megaphone on the back and yell out. Quite a few times, we have heard them drive past on the road yelling out with cheering, chanting and singing hymns.

Today was our last official day at school, and so we have got a photo below of that. One thing that everyone likes over here are photos. We know that you all back home like photos too, so here they are.

Louis in SW Bay

The still waters of SW bay provide ample opportunity for canoeing and swimming


Mother's Workshop

Pastor Collen with his parents

Swimming in the one river crossing

The travel crew minus Ansen, Ps Collen and Judy.

Youth dinner with gifts

Tautu Primary School participating in the march

School transport: Who did the risk assessment? Answer: "What is a risk assessment?"

The whole school with teachers and two white people.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Island Hopping

The past 3 weeks have been very busy and the next three are going to be the same, if not busier.
After we last blogged, we have started loaning out books in the library and the headmaster’s daughter was the first person to lend it out. For now, only fiction is allowed out of the library until the next peacecorp volunteer comes in December. Gareth has been running sessions in the library for the school. We take so much for granted back in Australia and in other countries. Many of these kids have never been in a library before and were very excited to loan out their first ever library book. One of the pet peeves is that many children don’t even know how to put a book back on a shelf and so would put the book back with the spine facing inwards. Anyway, enough about the library – it has just been a very exciting project to be a part of.

Another event that happened was that Gareth was asked to preach on the 30th. Gareth found it a big task because it was only a few days notice and it was also done in Bislama. The people were quite impressed and thought that it was a very meaningful message. Alicja thought that he did a wonderful job as well.

It is amazing what you can do over here if you are willing to do some volunteer work. Alicja met some volunteers shortly after the parents left at the airport, who were giving some wheelchairs to some people around the place. We visited a boy in Mae (a town about 10-15 mins drive away) and put him in a wheelchair. This was a few weeks ago now. Alicja’s contact details were then passed on to a few volunteers in Port Vila who help children with disabilities. They came up about a week ago and Alicja went with them to Mae to check on the same boy from a few weeks ago. The next day, they went to the hospital to run a workshop. But the real crunch is, they previously thought they had time to get to Southwest Bay to visit two people with disabilities, one of which we measured up for a wheelchair on our last visit (a long amazing story associated with this too). So this week on Friday, we are going back down to South West Bay, much to our delight, to give and fit two people into wheelchairs! It won’t be so much of a sightseeing trip but more like work since it takes a long time to fit people into wheelchairs ... plus they need observing over the next few days after.

Last Friday was World Teacher’s Day and they have a public holiday called ‘Constitution Day’ which aligns with it. Tautu Village was to be the host of 21 schools. It was a good and very long day with a whole program. Not all the schools turned up but the teacher’s all marched with a group of custom dancers at the front to lead the procession. There were quite a few speeches, a provided community lunch and some skits that a lot of the teachers did as well. Alicja and I played flute and piano for a welcome song and Michael Jackson’s ‘We are the World’.

Last weekend we visited Uripiv Island (pronounced Urbeef) and Norsup Island. Saturday we visited Uripiv, compliments of the Uripiv School headmaster, who picked us up in his boat. We had a tour of the island and visited a missionary's house that was being built by a whole lot of volunteers from Australia and the US. We had a swim then had lunch with the headmaster's family, including a taste of Palolo worms - a salt water worm that the locals catch at certain times of the year. Interesting…..
After lunch we crossed the island and walked around the southern end of the island, collecting shells and looking into caves. Sunday we visited Norsup Island with the Presbyterian Church for a service recognising a retiring elder. It was a bigger celebration than we expected. There were many speeches and prayers (unfortunately for us, the service went for about 3.5 hours on a hot day!), with a cake and a huge lunch. After lunch we walk around the island. We had been warned that the centre of the island was filled with custom villages that we shouldn’t enter so we stayed close to the water and enjoyed the view. We arrived back just in time for the boats back to the mainland. On arriving back on the mainland we were getting out of the boat and Alicja went to help a mum and baby out of the boat. Unfortunately, it was quite slippery and she fell over and got a few cuts and bruises but the baby was ok! After getting back to the house, we had a talking to from Ansen. It turns out we shouldn’t have walked around the island unaccompanied as there are custom spirits, even in the coastal areas. They believe we upset Spirits or not, causing my mishap. Spirits or not - we won’t be doing any more solo exploring!

Today is Malampa Day public holiday so we made the most of a day off to go visit the young boy in Mae and do a bit more work with his wheelchair. We added a head rest and made a few adjustments - he was very pleased!
We are coming close to the end of our stay now - there is so much we want to squeeze in the next few weeks. We are both feeling sorry to leave but are also looking forward to seeing everyone again (not to mention a washing machine!)

Gareth preaching

Judy with two babies. The white belongs to one of the volunteers

The volunteers from Port Vila

Dressing up in our uniforms for Teacher's Day

Us and Frima on Uripiv Island

Gareth on Norsup Island

The kids on the boat back from Norsup Island
Today in Mae with Jonathan

Friday, September 21, 2012

The last 4 weeks

An eventful 4 weeks it has been. So this will be quite a long blog.

We started the school holidays with a trip down to Southwest Bay, located (guess where) south-west of Malekula. On Sunday the 26th, we climbed aboard a truck with a Japanese friend (Sho) of ours and his friend (Nao). We travelled for a while then got to a wharf where we climbed on a police boat for a 1 and a ½ hour trip to Lembenwen, a village only accessible by boat. It was a beautiful spot. We went to the lagoon where the locals have spotted some bigfala pidgins (pelicans) and the following day we went snorkelling where we saw some amazing reefs, and then went to a waterfall. We stayed with a local family and were guided around by the police boat driver for nothing more than the cost of fuel. Amazing what you can do here for a cheap price with the right connections!
Us with our two Japanese friends

Alicja and I got dragged up to dance
by Judy's mum - pabu lectare
(oldfella woman in custom language)
A few days later we had the privilege of witnessing a double wedding (two brothers of our host mum). Was very interesting to watch since it is a different culture and they have different custom traditions that go back hundreds of years. A bunya was cooked which takes around 20 hours to cook on hot stones. It contains lots of root vegetables and meat. Very similar to laplap. Oh, and by the way, when they ate people, this is how they cooked humans before eating them (that is, IF they cooked them before eating them!)

Stamping all the books with help
One able helper for the library
The pig slaughtering tables in the
custom village.
Another event which happened is our parents with another couple from Hervey Bay Uniting Church came and visited us here in the village. We all had an enjoyable week full of laughs and new experiences for us and them. Our activities included: watching a traditional dance, cooking and crafts tour, visiting a custom village and cannibal site just up the hill from the modern Tautu village. We also put in a couple of days work in the library project stamping books and putting most of the books in the shelves. It was certainly an interesting experience especially for our visitors. It was also very good to see them again and catch up on the news in Australia – we’re pretty isolated from the outside world here. Thank you again for visiting and for your help in setting up the library. We're almost there! The library has officially been opened, but we discovered quite a few more books which needed stamping and cataloging.
The small nambas tour in Walarano
The mums in their new island dresses
After our walk into the custom village
with chief Edward.

Neil standing outside his library
The library was opened last Tuesday with a huge celebration with many speeches by special guests, as well as a devotion led by Elder Daniel Nato, cutting of the ribbon and cake and a big community lunch. Neil, a Peacecorp volunteer (a US volunteering program) was the man who funded the whole project. It is a very good looking library with all the books inside and the locals were certainly very happy about it. We were both very happy to see it complete but we still have some work to do in there - some fine tuning as I said. We have put forward a policy of borrowing books and they plan to apply to get a full-time librarian. Whether or not this happens, who knows? We heard of another Peacecorp volunteer coming in December, so we hope things hold until she comes for her 2 year long contract.

Shortly after the "yes" response
Alicja's surprise birthday and new
island dress
On more personal news – last Thursday was a very special day for both of us. Not only was it Alicja’s birthday, but we are now engaged! We spent the morning setting up a wheelchair for a young boy in a village called Mai (twenty minutes away). He was extremely happy with his new wheels too! After lunch we went down to the beach and that is where the big question was asked :-D. After coming back, we relaxed for a bit, then, as Judy said that she hadn’t started dinner yet, went to tell Elder Daniel the news. We walked in on preparations for a big dinner. We sat down and waited for him to finish making preparations, when Alicja spotted Judy and asked her what she was doing there. She told her to ask Gareth and he said “happy birthday” – it appears Alicja didn’t know that the preparations were actually for her. A full day of surprises for Alicja...evidently.

This week has just been the ordinary teaching for the first two days. We then found a stack of new books that needed to be catalogued and stamped. So that took us a while and we managed to finish that today. The library now is very close to being finished and be operational – Gareth will be the first unofficial librarian for the time being. We had a meeting with the teachers and present a policy for their new library which they seemed quite happy with.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Last Week of School

This week, as the title suggests was the last week of school. Monday and Tuesday, we still taught as usual. From Wednesday onward, the teachers were marking tests and writing reports, so the rest of the week wasn’t exactly classified as “school days”. 

Near our classroom, they are building a library – a project funded by an American organisation called ‘Peacecorp’. About 30 boxes of books have been donated with many different subjects that cover all areas of life. This library is not exclusively for the school, but for the whole community of Tautu. So us, it being near to school holidays with not much school work to do, have decided that we would categorise and catalogue all the books. Alicja has been working on cataloguing all the non-fiction book while Gareth has been cataloguing all the fiction books and sorting them into children, teen, adult categories. This requires both of us to type the name and author of each book. So far, we are up to about 650 and are only about halfway. We happened to find another stash of books in the previous library today which added a lot to our workload (IF ANYONE WANTS TO COME AND HELP US, PLEASE DO!). We are hoping to have all the books sorted by the end of the holidays because our classroom is inundated with piles of boxes, books and dust.

The work of the library - the American Volunteer on the roof

Santa's helpers
The children are very excited for their new library

We also helped with some of the painting yesterday

Getting our librarian on!

Anyway, enough about tedious library work. We are planning to go to Southwest Bay this Sunday with our Japanese friend, Sho and his other friend Nao. Down South there is a very nice waterfall and so we are going to stay a few days in a nearby village. We are travelling via police escort (the police have a regular boat to and from the village and we know a local policeman who gave us the opportunity). Next week we are looking forward to a double island wedding and are very excited for the visit from our parents and two others from Hervey Bay Uniting Church.

Not much more to add today, we’ll blog again in a few weeks when we get to Lakatoro again.