Monday, 31 October 2011

blackbirding... what the news won't tell you

Much to my shame "blackbirding" didn't mean much to me when I first arrived in Vanuatu. I had a hunch... but was ignorant.

It's been in the news a little recently. See here, here and here.

It's part of the national psyche here. One of the local football teams is called the "blackbirds". The Church of Christ in town has a boarding house called "suga-ken" (sugar cane).

We were at that Church of Christ a few years ago with a student. There is a large white monument on the lawn. I asked the student what it was for. He said it was to remember the blackbirds. Being ignorant, with a feeling it might be something about which I ought to be ashamed, I pressed for more information. Why was there a monument to the blackbirds on the church lawn?

Because, he said, as if everybody should know, they brought the gospel back with them.

There you are. It's not the only way, or the first way, that the gospel came to the New Hebrides, but it was a significant way. It reminds me of Joseph's words to his brothers about when they sold him into slavery;

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

the three trees (2)

Interestingly, the comments on this post came down one each side of the "unresolved discussion" Glen and I had about the book.

I wonder what you think?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

the real Valiants

We watched the movie, Valiant, yesterday (on DVD). It's the story of Valiant, the small pigeon with the big heart, who joins up (to the National Homing Pigeon Service) in WWII to do his duty for home and country. Before they have even finished their training, his rag-bag unit is called up for service in enemy territory. Despite all odds, they eventually make it home with the very important message.

Despite its fictional nature, and all the personification, I began wondering whether homing pigeons were actually used in the war. A few clicks later, we discovered the answer is yes! The National Pigeon Service was a vital unit during WWII and pigeons had been used in other wars. Furthermore, 32 have been awarded the Dickin Medal (the animal's Victoria Cross) for acts of duty or courage during war.

Here are some we thought particularly interesting:

Mary of Exeter
Royal Blue
William of Orange

Only about one in eight pigeons would make it home. German falcons were a real threat and patrolled the French coast.

This is probably old news for all of you; we're a little behind in our movie watching (not to mention our knowledge of the past); but we were fascinated.

Lemtap newe!

That's "Greetings" in the language of the people of Motolava, Vanuatu.

"Poko lu lang!" That's from Epi.

"Rani karia!" From Ambae.

"Pul pong wi!" From South Efate.

There are over 100 spoken languages in Vanuatu, with a population of just over 225 000. That's a lot of different languages.

This week, as part of their training, students at Talua are sitting a basic translation course run by SIL. There are 30 students in the course. There are about 20 indigenous languages represented!

The bible has been translated into only very few of the indigenous languages of Vanuatu. There is much work to be done. Interested?

You can follow translation progress in Vanuatu and the Pacific on Facebook here.

Monday, 10 October 2011

What does the story of the three trees mean?

Do you know the traditional story of the three trees? What do you think it means? We were discussing this question after the story was told in church on Sunday.

I love the story. I bought a copy of the retelling by Angela Elwell Hunt when Sophie was small and it moved me to tears when I read it. I was moved to tears on Sunday when it was told in Bislama, evidence that there is power in the story itself rather than in Hunt's particular combination of words (powerful as they may be).

But, when the story-teller on Sunday got to the end he struggled a little to tell the children what the meaning of the story was. He said something about God having a plan for our lives. Similar statements are made here (you can read the story there if you don't know it... it seems to be copied word for word from Angela Hunt's version, except for this little "moral" at the end);
The next time you feel down because you didn't get what you wanted, sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.
and here (you can read the story there, too);
The moral of this story is that when things do not seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, but not in the way they had imagined. We do not always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

Is that it? What do you think?

Friday, 7 October 2011

circles in squares

Inspired by (or totally plagarised from) Jean's; here's our version of Kandinsky's squares with concentric circles.

Ours took a number of months to complete, doing a few panels at a time. The panels are canvas (and yes, are rectangular, not square) and we used oil paints. Panels were painted by Sophie, Bethany, Matthew, myself, Polly, Irene, Emily, Grace, Glen and Grandma. It's still lying on the floor as we can't work out how to hang it. I think we need a trip to the hardware store.

Meanwhile, Loki loves it. He makes a beeline for it every time we put him down and loves to sit on it. He just loves the bright colours.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

building a bush kitchen

I've often thought about having a bush kitchen built for us. It's always seemed too extravagant. Too much to ask someone to go to all the effort of building one when I would only use it very occasionally. But now, with a baby to look after and two girls to school, and no more Emily, cooking is one thing I decided to delegate. My wonderful helper in the house, Elizabeth was happy to cook, but frightened of the gas stove. She and her husband have been busy building a kitchen so she can cook on the fire.

Here are some photos that show its progress.

Some students put in the posts first. Then Elizabeth and her husband did the rest. She has to make the thatch herself. Natagora Palm leaves are folded over a long piece of split bamboo and held into place with a small stick. The "stick" is actually the hardened mid-vein of the palm-leaf. The thatch doesn't stay green for long; it turns brown after a few days.

Then the thatch is nailed onto the roof-posts. OH&S would have a field day.

The walls are made with more split bamboo.

Photos of the finished building soon.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

which flower is this? (36)

Here's another one on Lonnoc Beach on the East Coast of Santo.

I saw a tree in the distance that looked like it had lost all its leaves. Closer up, this is what it looked like.

There seem to be leaves growing at the end of the branches. Not very unusual. But look. It's not one leaf, but bundles of leaves that unfurl...

...and then produce this:

so that portions of the tree looked like it was the middle of summer, and others just hinting at spring.


I have no idea what sort of tree it is.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the best party ever

How warming are such words to a mother's heart!

Now I don't know whether it was the best party ever. What appeals to my nine-year-old daughter might not appeal to me. Or to you. But here are some reasons why I really enjoyed our party last Saturday.

1. It was a combined party. For reasons of sickness, busy-ness, tiredness and other programs on at college, we didn't celebrate either Sophie's or Bethany's birthday at the time of their actual birthdays. So when it came to the time of the birthday of one of their friends, her mother and I decided to throw all three of them a combined party. So we celebrated Irene and Sophie's ninth, and Bethany's seventh birthday. I liked this. It took all the focus off one person in particular. Even though it was her party, Bethany was thinking about giving gifts to Irene and Sophie.
2. All the girls at Talua came. Be they two or 16 years old, they all came. It was a great chance for me to get to know some of the older girls (to find out some of their names!) and they were a great help in looking after the younger children - especially organising them for games. Felt a little bit sorry for the boys, some of whom were hanging around looking mournful. Only a little. Thirty girls was enough for one party!
3. We played games. It was lots of fun. We played balloon games, relay games; we had sack races and egg-and-spoon races; there was even pass-the-parcel. There was so much laughing I was glad we'd made the effort to have games.
4. Balloon joy. I've never seen children so delighted playing with balloons. The memories of their faces will be with me for a long time. While the older girls were outside following the clues for the treasure hunt, little girls congregated inside. They sat listlessly for a while until the balloons were produced. Well then. The photo speaks for itself.
5. Help from the children. When they were little, the children helped because it was good for them. Now (at least, on occasion) their help is good for me. Sophie and Irene's sister, Polly, were a great help. They decorated, they organised a treasure hunt and they helped serve dinner. Thanks Sophie and Polly!
6. Help from Mama Luna This party was a joint effort. I didn't do it on my own. Irene and Polly's Mum, Mama Luna, and I did this together. So much stress was eliminated by having someone by my side who knows the right words to say to do little things like divide the children into teams for a game. Here, she is running the game we call "scissors". Children are blindfolded and given a pair of open scissors. They walk slowly towards lollies hanging on a thread. If they close the scissors and cut the thread, they keep the lolly. Othersies, it's someone else's turn. More fun.
7. Help from Grandma. Grandma made the cake and washed up. She's wonderful.
8. Butterfly Theme. Butterfly cake, butterfly decorations, butterflies on the invitations. Loved them all. The butterfly decorations (so simple) look great and are still up.
9. New Life. We talked about how the caterpillar changes into a butterfly and has new life. We talked about the new life we have in Jesus. Loved being able to do that. Hated that I still struggle in a different language.
10. Prayer. Mama Luna prayed for the three birthday girls and then for all of us. What a great way to celebrate.
11. Easy Food. What I love most about birthday parties in Vanuatu is that you don't need to stress about party food. As long as you have dinner together, that's all that's required. We had spaghetti bolognaise, chicken stew with rice, and yam lap-lap. There was lots of popcorn, and of course, cake. There was enough cake for everyone to have a BIG piece and to take a piece home for their mothers (don't you love that?!).
12. Pinyata. I've made two pinyatas in my life. Neither have worked the way I think they should, but I've never seen a real one. The first was 20 years ago at Beach Mission and this one was the second. It was hilarious. We had so much fun. I have some ideas of how I'd improve it for next time.