Friday, July 27, 2012

The work begins...

We are now two weeks into our time in Tautu Village. We have settled in quite fine and so have our stomachs! Apparently it takes some time to get used to the island food – and we adjusted pretty well.
 A few significant events have occurred since the last time we blogged.. We also went to church for the first time in the village. Church services here can be quite different, and all of it in Bislama except the bible readings. Vanuatu’s people apparently prefer the English version over the Bislama version. We gave our ‘Jesus lives’ banner to the church (photos to follow in a future blog) and they received it and are praying for Hervey Bay Uniting Church and were very thankful. It wasn’t until the day after that we got to meet with Pastor Collen. He had just come back from a conference in south Malekula and was straight into the work – seeing people and preaching on Norsup Island.
We went and looked at the school for the first time in the first week and relaxed for some of the week because of being sick and an interschool sports carnival (in neighbouring town Lakatoro). After another church service, the next week started off slowly with a public holiday (children’s day). Our impression was that they taught very little English when in fact they teach quite a bit, but the headmaster does not think that it is effective and needs more of a grammar focus. Speaking to the headmaster, he said that he was going to give us a classroom that we could use, and so we cleaned it all out this week. However, things do take a lot longer to get sorted here and so Alicja has started assessing the children this week and Gareth has been creating literacy activities that he can use. The school here is very different. Classes often start late and breaks go later than scheduled – it’s all very casual. This means scheduling classes can be difficult but we are learning to adapt to the island style!
We have become involved in the youth group (by youth I mean young adults) and have joined them singing in a Sunday service so far. They have asked us to provide a Sunday afternoon activity for this week. So we will be teaching them some songs that we sing at Uniting Church in the mornings. We enjoyed snorkelling at the nearest beach opposite Norsup airport. The reefs were shallow and we could see many different types of fish and coral. Last Friday, we were treated to the traditional laplap meal – also known as ‘The Cake of Vanuatu’. It is cooked on hot stones and you can use banana or yam (root vegetable). We tried some octopus with ours, not as nice as the beef (according to Gareth). Laplap is eaten with your hands sitting on the floor around the food. Very delicious!
Next week begins with another public holiday (Independence Day) and the village is having a big feast. The rest of the week we intend to do some hard work but we will see what the ‘island time factor’ throws our way J. That is all for now. Hope everyone is doing well!
P.s. We would love to show you some pictures, but Gareth's laptop has decided to give him problems.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Taking the plunge...

So we come up to our last day in Port Vila. We had booked a round island safari but was cancelled due to 2 other people pulling out. We got a call from the Tour Shop and he said that we should collect our money from him. We got up and decided to walk to the shop and dropped in on Pastor Alan to say thank you very much for his help (tang kiu tumas long help blong yu). He encouraged us and asked us to pass on his regards to Elder Daniel Nato and Pastor Collen.

At the tour shop, we eyed out another tour: a Snorkelling and Glass Bottom Boat that was to start in five minutes time. The lady at reception phoned the skipper and said that we were right to go. We took a walk to where the tour started and we were the only two people going on the tour. It was good to see the coral and some of the fish – we used our cheaply bought snorkel gear from a local Chinese shop...they worked. We also practiced our Bislama with the tour guide and had a good conversation. He was from Pentecost Island and we asked if he land dived (bungee jumping with vines attached to their legs). He said: Mi no wantem die, crazy tumas (I don’t want to die, it’s too crazy). After we had finished our tour we had lunch and then went parasailing. That was a lot of fun! Some great views up there!

Friday we woke up early and caught a bus to the airport to fly to Norsup on Malekula, it was a small plane and as a result, got thrown around a lot in the air. It has been quite windy in Vanuatu the past few days. We landed among a coconut plantation and got a view of the village from the air. We were met by a couple of church members and a smiling Daniel who wore his cap from Hervey Bay.

Gareth and Daniel at Norsup Airport

We were then driven to the village where we put our bags in the rooms where we are staying (very basic, a mattress on a floor with no furniture) and then headed down to the dining house that our host family uses. We were welcomed with a small ceremony by the elders and were each given a handmade necklace made out of leaves that they put around our necks. 

We were then treated to lunch with the elders, rice with a stew of meat and root vegetables and after lunch and chats we went back to our rooms to relax. After a while, Daniel gave us a tour of the village, quite different to what we were expecting – Google maps can be deceiving! After a small rest after our village tour (we were quite exhausted) we were shown to our newly constructed toilet and washroom. The village does not have running water and so a ‘shower’ is a large bowl of water with a small bowl to pour water over your body. Our toilet is a concrete bowl which you flush by pouring water into it. So we tried our new bathing system and found it to be quite effective and felt refreshed after it. We had dinner with the family who are hosting us (Hansen and Judy). Hansen is the headmaster of the primary school - they are very nice people and we can understand a bit more Bislama now!
Here are some photos of where we are staying.
Alicja's room



After the initial culture shock, we are feeling a bit more settled and are looking forward to starting our volunteer work. We had to walk down to Lakatoro to use the internet – halfway there we caught a 4WD who gave us a lift.
So we are now in an internet cafe in Lakatoro posting this up and have to head back to the village soon to see Pastor Collen who has been away so far at a meeting in south Malekula.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The saying goes: "It's not what you know but who you know"

Well that saying is very true as we experienced in a very real way yesterday! (we have arrived safely with no problems by the way).

The story goes that we were trying to get our visa extended and we picked up papers from the immigration department the day before only to be told that we should come back the next day (yesterday). The forms required evidence of the reason why we were planning to extend our visa beyond the standard 30 days that you are allowed in the country. However, we could not think of any way to provide evidence. Whilst we are thinking "what are we going to do now?" we get a knock at the door. It is Donald the caretaker for our accommodation who welcomed us and suggested that we speak to a friend (James) of his in immigration to help us obtain approval for our extended visas. We then also called Daniel Nato. Visas can take up to 2 weeks to be processed and by this time, we would be well into our volunteer work in Tautu Village. We informed him that we have arrived and he gave us another contact: Pastor Alan from the main church office in Port Vila.

So anyway, back to yesterday! We started by calling Pastor Alan  who agreed to write a letter for us as evidence for our stay and we took a walk and picked up the letter. We walked into town from the office and dropped by the immigration department who said that we should come back at 2/2:30 to see James. So we did a heap of shopping and lots of walking around, looking at tours, and lunch on the waterfront. We also ran into friends from Hervey Bay who were doing a cruise (we knew they were coming anyway and we knew we might run into them). Walking back into the office, a bit earlier than 2, James had come back and we were able to talk to him about our visa extension. He took us through to the visa office where he talked to another officer. When he had finished looking through our application forms, and our passports, we asked how long we will have to wait. We opened our passports to find a newly stamped visa valid until the 3rd of November!!! 

To get around Port Vila, there are plenty of buses that can take you anywhere you want to go for a few hundred Vatu (a few AU$).

Yesterday was one blessing after another and it is amazing to see how God has paved the way for us! We have also booked our flights to Norsup airport on Malekula for Friday where we will be met by Daniel's daughter.

We celebrated last night with a Melanesian Feast held at one of the resorts. It was the nambawan (great!) cultural experience! We were treated to cultural dances, traditional food cooked with hot stones, kava tasting (tasted only not drank), fresh coconut juice, story telling and a huge buffet feast!

This morning we had an adventure, we abseiled 50m (split into two 25m sections) down a large waterfall. It was incredible, a lot of fun and it had the most beautiful scenery. Here are some photos.

At the bottom they told us to jump backwards and let go
This is the second half of the abseil

And finally, this is a picture from where we are right now! 

Hope to post again from Lakatoro soon! That's all from us now.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Down to Brisbane on Saturday and what a week it has been...running around trying to see people and do things at the last minute.

So leaving today - we fly at 10:30 to Port Vila flying Virgin.

Feelings: Mixed with an sensation of excitement and a "what on earth have we got ourselves into????" kind of feeling. One thing that we do know is that God has opened up every door for us and so he has prepared the way for us and we do not have to worry!