Saturday, 4 October 2014

so many mistakes

Here's a post that has been sitting in my draft box in various forms for, oh, about four years.   I wonder if you ever feel this way? What do you tell yourself when you do? Where do you find comfort?

So many

They stretch out behind me like the traffic on Parramatta Rd.

And still I don't learn.

Mistakes made in ignorance.

Mistakes made in thoughtless heed.

Mistakes made because of pride and arrogance.

Mistakes of wilful sinful desire.

Who needs enemies when you have mistakes?

They dart around my head in the lonesome black of night.  They are imps; pinching, taunting, mocking, dancing their wicked jig.  They pull my eyes open, their fingers like matchstick struts.  I cannot sleep but must watch their eternal replay.

Where is peace?  Where is the blessed, quiet sleep of the clean conscience?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

knitting: invisible cast on edge

The absolute best tip Granny ever taught me was how to do an invisible cast on edge for a rib pattern. It is fantastic. You can see it here on this beanie.  Or you can't see it, which is the point.
It is clearer on this one.

It is fantastic and I use it every time I start a single rib. It wasn't Granny's idea: she found it in a magazine, but which one, I don't know, unfortunately, as I would like to give credit where credit is due. But I suspect it's one of those things that has been passed down for ages and no-one knows whence it began. It is not difficult. You just need needles two sizes larger than you will use for the rib, and a small amount of a contrasting colour yarn. There is a trick, in step 7 below, but it is a trick, not tricky.  Here's how to do it.

invisible cast on edge

What you need (in addition to what is required by the pattern you are using)
  1. needles two sizes larger than those required for the rib
  2. yarn of a contrasting colour to the rib

What you do
  1. Work out the number of stitches to cast on: halve the number of stitches required by the pattern and go up to the next whole number (e.g. If the pattern requires 40, you'll need 21; if it requires 41, you'll also need 21).  
  2. Cast on that number of stitches using the larger needles and contrasting yarn.
  3. Change the yarn to the correct colour for the rib.
  4. Purl one row, still using the larger needles.
  5. Change to the correct needles for the rib.
  6. Knit one row, purl one row, knit one row.
  7. This row is the "trick" row or the "pick-up row".  Once you understand the trick, it is really easy.  You will alternate between purling a stitch from the needle and knitting a "pick-up" stitch.  The pick-up stitches are "picked-up" onto the left-hand needle from the first row made in the correct colour.  See the pictures below.  The stitches to be picked up are easy to see because of the contrasting colour of the cast-on row.  
  8. Remove the contrasting colour.
  9. Continue rib according to the pattern.
Note: You will always end up with an odd number of stitches and so it works best when an odd number is required.  When I need an even number of stitches, I will follow all these instructions and then knit or purl 2 together at the beginning or end of the next row (i.e. the first row in step 9).

Steps 1-6

This is what it looks like when steps 1-6 are complete and turned ready for the pick-up row.   The stitches to be picked up are the yellow loops you can see amid the green.

Step 7: pick up row

i. Purl the first stitch.  All stitches originally on the left-hand needle at the start of this row will be purled.

ii. Identify the stitch to be "picked-up". The blue needle is pointing to that stitch.

iii. Pick up that stitch onto the left-hand needle.

iv. Knit the picked-up stitch. All picked-up stitches are knitted.

v. Purl the next stitch.

vi. Pick-up the next stitch.

vii. Knit the picked-up stitch.

viii. Purl the next stitch.  Continue in this alternating manner until....

ix. ...the row is complete.

Step 8. Remove the contrasting colour.

Viola!  You have the best cast-on edge ever.  Go-on... try it!

I'm interested in learning how to do invisible cast-off. Does anyone know how?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Sonlight Core E with younger children

Here are a heap of books for younger readers (approx. 6-8 years) that help explore the people, places and cultures of the non-Western world.  We are using them in conjuction with the Sonlight Core E* which is aimed at 10-13 year olds because I didn't want to do a separate core with my younger child.

Whether or not you home-school, whether or not you use Sonlight, these books are a great introduction to the Eastern Hemisphere, though they barely scratch the surface.  Some are fiction, some non-fiction.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

Colours of China by Shannon Zemlicka, illustrated by Janice Lee Porta, from the Colours of the World series (Lerner Publishing).  This series uses colours as a prompt to explore aspects of life and culture in a particular country.  This one about China covers topics such as agriculture, government, crafts and different people groups.  It includes the Chinese character for each colour, together with an pronunciation guide.  There is also a basic but clear map on the first page.
Celebrating the Chinese New Year by Sanmu Tang (Better Link Press).  Little Mei learns about the traditions her family follows for Chinese new year.  Very simple.
The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ed Young (Paperstar).  As we'd been learning about the rise and fall of different dynasties in China, along came this story of an Emperor who would have been disposed but for the fidelity of his youngest child.  Also featuring a kite, a pagoda and a Buddhist monk, it dove-tailed well with what we'd been learning about dynastic China.

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee (Square Fish).  Xiao Ming learns to write ten Chinese characters while enjoying a day at the beach.  His mother is a great teacher and makes it look very easy!  The book includes a guide to the pronunciation of the words in Mandarin.
The Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Julie Downing (Sandpiper).  A beautifully illustrated tale set in Korea in the early 1800s.  Sang-hee's father, the fire-keeper, must light the fire each night to start the message that travels one mountain-top at a time all the way to the King's Palace.  One evening, Sang-hee's father falls and Sang-hee must take his place.
Colors of Japan by Holly Littlefield and illustrated by Helen Byers from the colours of the world series (Lerner Publishing).  Green Tea, ninjas, cherry blossoms, volcanoes and memorials to Hiroshima feature in this colours of the world book about Japan.  Again, a basic and clear map on the first page and the colours in Japanese characters.
Journey Home by Lawrence McKay, Jr., illustrated by Dom and Keunhee Lee (Lee and Low Books).  Mai's mother was left at an orphanage during the Vietnam war.  She was adopted by an American family and has lived there ever since.  Now, Mai and her mother are going back to Vietnam to see what they can find out about their  family.  A moving story which touches on themes of war and belonging.
Children of the Dragon: selected tales from Vietnam by Sherry Garland and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.  It contains a brief introduction to (modern) Vietnamese history and culture and each folktale is followed by interesting information about the animals or customs featured in the tale.
Elephant Dance: A Journey to India by Theresa Heine and illustrated by Sheila Moxley (Barefoot Books).  Ravi and Angali ask their Grandfather about India and he captivates them with his stories.  Also included at the back is the score for the Elephant dance and easy to read information about geography, religion and culture, animals, food and spices.  (Also published as Memories of India, as in the picture.)
We all went on Safari: A counting journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Julia Cairns (Barefoot Books).  Follow a group of Maasai as they watch and count the animals they see on safari.  Numbers in the text are in English, but are given on the page in Swahili as well.  Also included is easy to read information about the Maasai people, the Swahili names used in the book, the animals seen on safari and facts about Tanzania itself (with a map).
Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Cairns (Barefoot Books).  Adika and his mother go to the market to buy flour.  Along the way, he invites their friends over for a meal of pancakes.  He is confident Mama Panya can stretch that little bit to a little bit more.  She is not so sure.  What happens when all the friends arrive is just lovely.  We loved the depiction of village life, which is not so very different from Vanuatu.
South Africa by Michael Dahl from the Countries of the World series (Capstone Press).  This book has simples to read and understand information about the land, people, food, animals, sports, holidays and cities of South Africa. It features colourful photographs and a (small) guide to speaking Afrikaans.
Nigeria by Kristin Thoennes from the Countries of the World series (Capstone Press).   Again, this book has simple to read and understand information about the land, people, food, animals, clothing, games and celebrations of Nigeria in West Africa. It features colourful photographs and a (small) guide to speaking Yoruban.

* Note that these books are ones I have found and bought myself; they are not on the Sonlight curriculum nor are they recommended by Sonlight in any way.

In choosing these books, I was keen to have stories told not just from a Western perspective but from the perspective of the people themselves. This is not always easy as we needed them to be in English! I was also keen for samples of different languages and to obtain them from a wide variety of countries but (of course) was limited by funds. Most of these books were around $10 and were available in paperback from Book Depository.  There are a couple that we have ordered but have not arrived yet which I will include at a late date.

If you are interested in finding more books from around the world, do a search for any of these books at goodreads and then look down the page to "Lists with this book in it" and usually one of the lists will be books from that region of the world. Or just ask at your local library!

Monday, 15 September 2014

2015: back to the future

2015 was the ‘future’ to which Marty McFly went in the movie series, ‘Back to the Future’.

There were hover-boards, self-drying and self-adjusting jackets and flying cars with fly-ways lit by hovering lights. And of course, there were video-phones. In fact, this seems to be the only 'prediction' to have actually come to pass.

What do you think have been the biggest changes in society and culture since 1985?

I’m interested because in many ways, as we return to Australia next year, we will be going ‘back to the future’. It’s only been ten years, not thirty, but in many ways life in Australia has changed, and those changes have passed us by.

And so, what do you think have been big changes in Australian society and culture (for better or for worse) in the last ten years, since 2005?

I would be really interested to hear your ideas!

Sunday, 14 September 2014


My mother taught me to knit.  My grandmother encouraged me: pressing me to try more challenging projects; passing on tips and skills; purchasing wool, huge skeins of beautiful colours I have never seen the like of since.

I left it all behind when we came to Vanuatu.  Who would possibly want to torture themselves by sitting and knitting in this heat?

But after ten years I eventually noticed that beanies are very popular in our cooler month.  Then, remembering that one of my daughters had been given a pattern for a beanie, and having been asked for a donation for this year's Fund Raiser, I pulled out the needles, purchased the wool, and began knitting again.

I love it.  I love the process of creating something from nothing (in a manner of speaking).  I love being able to sit still and talk and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  I am doing something.  I love busy, working  fingers.

And, I feel like I'm doing something about getting ready for living in a cooler climate again.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the beanies I made for the Fund Raiser, but here's something else I made.

The pattern on this hat and scarf is called "shark-tooth" although it, together with the gentle wave on the sides of the scarf, reminded me more of waves in the sea.  The yarn was 100% Australian Merino wool and was beautifully soft and even smelt of lanolin still.  So, for me this was a lovely blend of cultures.  

I obtained the pattern for the scarf here and modified the beanie pattern from here.  I was really pleased with the way they looked.  The only downside of the scarf pattern is that it  has a "wrong side", whereas I think scarves are better when both sides are the same and you don't need to worry about how you wear them.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

we'll be leaving Talua at the end of this year

a big thank-you from the bottom of my heart... 

Dear friends in the blogosphere,

It is with a strange mix of emotions that we write this letter to let you know we will be leaving Talua at the end of this year. We have great sorrow at leaving the people and place we have come to love deeply, but also overflowing joy at God’s goodness and faithfulness and at the thought of returning to our friends and family in Australia.

I especially want to thank you for your help and support while we've been here. Your messages and your comments, either online or via email have been a great source of encouragement and friendship to me. You have helped lift my spirits when times have been hard and responded to requests for help, however small, generously and immediately.

Many of you have also helped us by faithfully praying for us. In his retirement years J. Graham Miller, an important missionary to Vanuatu, said that when we are in life everlasting we may then look back and see that of all the ministry we have done, our ministry of prayer was, “incomparably the richest, the least tainted with self, the most productive, the most enduring.” We are still learning this, but each day we see more and more clearly that any fruit in our work here is the result of our brothers and sisters upholding us in prayer.

We will return to Australia at the end of this year and spend six months on deputation, home leave and long-service leave. Then we will begin whatever new adventure God has in store for us! We are open to working overseas again in the future. But more immediately we are considering whether to settle close to our families after being away for so long.

With love,
Rachael (and Glen, and the children)

(modified from a letter sent out to supporters)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Father's Day

What did you do for Father's Day yesterday?

Did you think about what you gave your Father?  What your child made for his father for breakfast this morning?  Did you think about the phone calls your children haven't made yet?

You.  Your.  His.  My.  Mine.

Do you hear the singular pronouns?  Did you use them?

Possibly the biggest difference I have found in living in Vanuatu is the community focus of celebrations.  Father's Day may or may not have been celebrated in each house.  I don't really know.  It wasn't much celebrated in ours, that's for certain.

But the community celebration has been planned for months.  It was both meaningful and beautiful.

When we first came to Vanuatu, I felt this sort of community thing was a bit, well, superficial and that if I didn't actually say it, it wasn't true for me; that words and actions done on my behalf were not really mine.  But I have changed, and now I think I understand more that even if things are said done as a community, they are still meaningful for the individual.

Together we celebrated our fathers.  We prayed for our fathers and we encouraged them to keep going in their responsibilities under God to care for, teach and love their families.  We even apologised for the times we make that difficult!

Community celebrations are more likely to be inclusive, and yesterday, that was a great strength.  Fathers who are away from their families were involved (even including three visitors), as well as those who don't have their own children but share the responsibility of caring for the children around them.  None of these men, though their day may have been tinged with sadness, were left staring at empty chairs.

Staff and student fathers at Talua on Father's Day 2014.

All the shirts were made especially for the occasion.   Salu-salus were hung.  Poems were recited.  Songs were sung.  Speeches were made.  Dances were danced.  Prayers were prayed.  And much food was eaten.  Much to my satisfaction, there was no cake to be cut, but instead two enormous lap-laps following the local tradition and significance of shared fellowship.

Was it just a reason to get together for a good meal?  Well, yes, of course it was a reason to get together and celebrate.  But it wasn't just that.  Not at all. 

And I wish my Dad had been there. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

the joy of tracking parcels (2)

You all heard about our parcel that went all over the world.

You also heard that it had (finally) arrived in Vanuatu.

But I never told you what happened after that and I have been asked for an update.

Well the short story is that it was delayed another few weeks (chasing up paperwork, sitting around at the wharf, coming on a ship) before we were able to pick it up at the wharf in Luganville, a 40 minute drive from where we live.

All in all, it was roughly 60 days, which given the places it went to on its way, sure would've given Phileas Fogg a run for his money.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The President's Hat

Antione Laurain's The President's Hat is for France what Mr Rosenblum's List is for England: a different place, a different time; the same gentle, warm reflections on life.

Monsieur Mercier, quite remarkably, finds himself in possession of the President's hat.  Really and truly.  And really and truly, his life is quite remarkably changed.  But then the hat passes to someone else whose life also changes remarkably.  And so on, until eventually... (but let's not spoil the ending).

An entertaining journey through 1980's France.

This book was another delightful surprise in our post-box.  Again, 've had no success finding out who sent it... if it was you... thank-you.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

and the winner is: spaghetti

The winning limerick was:

There once was a young girl named Betty
Who befriended a hairy old yeti.
They married that night,
Then had a big fight,
On his head she dumped her spaghetti.

According to voters (!!), this version of the limerick was
  • funnier,
  • more in keeping with the limerick tradition, and
  • had a neater construction (the last line of the "confetti" version was a bit clumsy).

Thursday, 26 June 2014

confetti or spaghetti?

We are having fun with our poetry unit.  This week we looked at limericks (I admit, not the most sublime of all poetry, but loads of fun nonetheless).

Here's one we all contributed to; but we can't decide on the ending.

There's the happy ending:
There once was a young girl named Betty
Who befriended a hairy old yeti.
They married that night,
What a beautiful sight!
The snow - it danced like confetti.

Or not:
There once was a young girl named Betty
Who befriended a hairy old yeti.
They married that night,
Then had a big fight,
On his head she dumped her spaghetti.

What do you think: confetti or spaghetti?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

your sins are forgiven

"Your sins are forgiven."

Do these words bring you relief, joy and comfort?

Or do you shrug your shoulders, yawn, and reach for the remote?

I was listening recently to a sermon on Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus heals the paralytic. But before he heals him, Jesus says to the man,
'Son, your sins are forgiven.' (Mark 2:5)
At this point in the sermon, the preacher described the man's thoughts; (in an anguished cry)
'but what about my LEGS, Lord?'.
And then, by extension; but what about my MS, Lord? daughter's tumor? husband's schizophrenia? What will you do about that, Lord? These are truly cries from our hearts and it is right and good to cry out to Jesus like this.

But I want to humbly suggest that it probably wasn't how that man responded to those words.

Do you remember what Jesus disciples asked when they saw a blind man,
'Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' (John 9:2)
Or the assumption that the Galileans had suffered at Pilate's hands because they were worse sinners than others? (Luke 13:1-2)

In both instances, Jesus corrects this way of thinking.  There are many reasons (or none we can fathom) that people suffer, sicken and die.  And yet all of us are sinners.  Just as we should not understand suffering as resulting from sin, we should not equate success (or blessing) to righteousness.  However, it probably was the way most people thought at that time and in that place.

Bad things happened to you because you did something wrong or because you were a bad person.  It was God's judgement.  It demonstrated to all what God thought of you.  This was the air the paralysed man breathed. There was no room for doubt; the evidence was there. His sin must be great because his punishment was great.  So was his shame.

Nothing can be done for this man.  His sin is great. This punishment is just.  There is no hope.  Not in this world.  Not in the next.

And he lay before Jesus.  Imagine his anxiety.  Would Jesus, also, condemn him?

Jesus says,
'Son, your sins are forgiven.'
Can you see him?  Do you see the furrows on his brow scatter and dance at the corners of his eyes? Do you see the smile wash over him like the evening tide?  Do you feel his relief, his joy, his hope?  Even before he has been healed.

Do you understand, now, why Jesus said those words?

And do you understand, now, why it is that Jesus heals him;
'so that you may know that the Son on Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins?' (Mark 2:10)
I had always thought that the Jesus did what could be seen (the healing) to prove his authority to do that which could not be seen (the forgiving).  This works, but it is not all.  There is a closer connection.

In order to demonstrate that he has authority to forgive sin, Jesus deals with the consequences of sin.  Sin and its consequences have been completely and utterly removed from the man's life; as far as east is from the west.

Can Jesus forgive sin?

Yes he can!

in the country

The parcel has arrived in Vanuatu.  After leaving Melbourne, it went via Sydney to Port Vila.  Hooray!

We find the regular postal service more reliable that couriers.  In Vanuatu, couriers don't deliver to the door.  The parcels are signed off upon arriving at the courier's office and then they contact you to let you know there is a parcel for you.  This may take some time, and often we hear via word of mouth that there is a parcel somewhere for someone (at least the internet makes it easier to track them).  Some companies only have offices in the capital and they send it via regular services to the destination island anyway.

Unfortunately, most businesses won't take our word for it and continue to send things via courier.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

the journey continues...

The parcel has now been in Melbourne for a few days where the Lithium ion batteries contained within are being assessed for suitability to fly.

Too bad if they fail.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

the joy of tracking parcels

Over the years, some of our parcels have come to us via exotic destinations such as Vietnam and Venezuela.  But this last one, which has been sent by courier, has to be the most well-travelled parcel ever.
It was sent from Nevada, USA on Monday 9 June and 
left California, USA the next day. 
Then it went to Leipzig, Germany and

on to London, UK on June 11. 
Then it was sent to Nairobi, Kenya arriving the following day. 
Then it was sent to Sydney, Australia,
(arriving at last in the right area of the world)
only to be sent again to London, UK, where it arrived Friday 13 June.

Stay tuned to find out where it will get sent next!

Monday, 9 June 2014

an acrostic poem

Here's a poem one of my children wrote today.  It made me laugh.

Marvellous at

Hope it brings a smile to your face too!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

so here's a question or two or more

We're doing a music unit on vocal devices in song.  I have some questions.

When speaking of "growl" do we mean someone has a growly voice, or that there is a particular sound, apart from the words, that is a growl?

What is the best example of growl in Tina Turner's songs?

What is a good example of the use of falsetto in pop music?

Thanks for any help you can give!

(Keep in mind the age of our children!)

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Yumi stadi long buk ya Mak - 9

Blong dowlaodem stadi ya (ten pej evriwan):

  • Klik long raet saed blong maos long pej ya antap. Nao klik long toktok ya "download linked file" mo bae stadi ya i download i go long komputa blong yu.
  • Narafala rod: yu prestem "command" mo klik long pej ya antap mo bae stadi ya i open long wan niufala pej long internet browser blong yu, mo afta yu save "save" o "print".

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ten things I've learned while doing school with my kids. no particular order...
  1. Our biggest enemy is tiredness, mine particularly. 
  2. Hunger is the next. 
  3. "Do it later" is a better option than pushing them to continue when they've reached their limit. It's not giving in. 
  4. Children really can learn to sing (thanks Simone for this tip, though can't remember where), even in tune with others. There is hope. 
  5. Blocks of twenty minutes or so is a good length for a subject, maybe up to thirty minutes if there's interesting things to do. Then you need to do something else. 
  6. Lots of breaks are helpful, not lazy. 
  7. Children bloom with praise and encouragement. 
  8. They can't do their best work all the time
  9. When there are things to work on, work on one at a time. For example, if handwriting needs work, forget about spelling for a while. And when the handwriting needs *lots* of work; focus on one thing at a time, like no capitals in the middle of words. When that's mastered, then move on to letters being a consistent size. 
  10. Some kids can write forever; some tire after a few sentences. Some think of wonderfully creative expressions at the drop of a hat; some can't come up with a new idea to save their lives. This is a challenge.
...all probably part of the training for real teachers...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Saturday, 1 February 2014

a great post from Desiring God on sleep

Three reasons to get some sleep


This has been a long and painful lesson for me, and is ongoing. Because to get enough sleep you have to stop doing other things. Even good things. And it is difficult to let go of good things for something as ordinary as sleep.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Mr Rosenblum's List

 Mr Rosenblum's List Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman by Natasha Solomons was a wonderful read.

Mr Rosenblum arrives in England with his wife and small daughter in the years leading up to the second world war.  He is German.  Jewish.  And desperate to be English.  With a capital E.  And so when he is handed, on arrival, a pamphlet entitled, While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee, he grasps it, studies it, annotates it and follows it religiously.

He does well in London; his carpet business flourishes.  He wears Saville Row suits (on the list) and drives a Jaguar (on the list).  But membership to an English Golf Club (on the list) is elusive.  He doesn't understand why (they won't let you in with that schnoz says his friend Saul Tankel the jeweller) and is confused by an English friend who doesn't understand what the fuss about golf is anyway.  His wife doesn't understand the fuss about being English and steadfastly refuses to have a purple rinse (yes, on the list) or to forget to grieve her loss.

So he takes his wife and follows his dream into the English countryside.  Follow them... it's a beautiful journey of friendship and belonging.

This story speaks volumes about the meeting of cultures and friendship across cultures.  No matter how hard he tries to act like an Englishman, dress like a Englishman and speak like an Englishman, everybody always knows that he isn't.  Just like no matter how hard I try to act, dress and speak like a ni-Vanuatu, it's always perfectly obvious to everyone that I'm not.   In the end, you can't become what you're not but true friendship reaches across the divide, takes hold of your hand and squeezes your heart.

This book was a delightful surprise in our post-box.  I've had no success finding out who sent it... if it was you... thank-you... it is a treasure.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


My husband is currently racing around the house trying to catch a frog that jumped inside when he opened the door.

He doesn't like frogs.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

family holiday

We have enjoyed the slower pace of life at Talua over the summer break.  We've had a couple of short trips away with friends.  But there's nothing like some time away as a family.  Just us.

There are both advantages and disadvantages of holidays in off-season.  Even rain has its ups and downs.

Oh, you want to eat at this restaurant?  You've arranged to have a vehicle and driven all the way up the coast to visit this beautiful place in the glorious sunshine?  You're children are starving?  But the staff didn't come in today... big rain this morning.  Didn't think anyone would come.  Off-season.

Our Thursday night Buffet and Bonfire on the Beach?  And you want to kayak up the river first to the Blue Hole?  This is the family outing you've been looking forward to for months?  Ah, but our kayaks are ridiculously over-priced, and you need three as you're such a big family... and there's no bonfire tonight.  No... not the rain, it's off-season, you-know?

The children are screaming and bombing in the pool?  Relax... no-one's here to be bothered.  And it's raining anyway.  Besides, the building equipment drowns it all out anyway.

You, a mere day visitor, want to use the kayaks reserved for guests of the resort???  No worries... no charge... no-one else is going to use them.  As long as you don't mind the rain.

Despite the setbacks, we had loads of fun together.  And with some clever crafty purchases at the variety store the children could be occupied for hours while the two of us played network computer games.   Uninterrupted.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

hint #2: give them the microphone

Here is my second hint on "how to host a missionary at your church". Your questions and suggestions are welcome!

There is no point, absolutely none, in having a missionary come to your church if you don't let them speak.  If you can't trust them with the microphone, then you shouldn't have them come to your church, let alone be supporting them.  The sooner they speak to your church, the more beneficial and encouraging their visit will be for everyone.  So, give them the microphone.

A formal speaking event early on in the missionary's stay with your church is really helpful. It reminds people who the missionary is and what they do.  It gives them time to think and digest and then approach the missionary with informed questions about the things they have heard that interest them.  It avoids the same repetitive and awkward introductory conversations the missionary is obliged to have. There is nothing worse than sitting down to dinner with a group of people are too frightened to say anything because of said missionary's spiritual glow *cough* *splutter* or because they've forgotten exactly what it is they do and don't want to appear ignorant.

Informal chatting is more meaningful for everyone after having heard from the missionary in a more formal setting first.

Hints on what makes a "missionary event" run well to come.... (eventually).

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Friday, 17 January 2014

more on language

As I said earlier, Loki speaks a funny mixture of Bislama and English.

But none of the others have done this.

Sophie was two and a half when we arrived and speaking English already.  She picked up Bislama after a while and soon was speaking without an accent and never mixed up the languages.

Bethany was only six months old when we arrived.  She spoke Bislama as her first language.  Even though we always spoke to her in English, she would speak back in Bislama.  It wasn't until after a lengthy visit to Australia that she began to speak English.  Even when she was speaking English words, her sentences followed Bislama word order.

Matthew, who was born while we here (though not actually born here, if you know what I mean), learnt to speak in sentences.  'It's a ball'.  'Where's the car?'.  He learnt both languages at the same time but always kept them distinct.

Loki, like Matthew was born during our stay here.  He, as I said, speaks a mixture.

What would the experts make of all that?

in da lish

Loki speaks the funniest mixture of English and Bislama.  Occasionally I try to straighten some of it out into one language or the other.

This morning he said,
"Mummy, you put on shoes blong mi."

I said,
"In English, we say, my shoes.  Put on my shoes, Mummy."

He said,
"Not English, Mummy.  In-da-lish*!"

Well, now I know.  That's the language he speaks.

* This reflects the tendency in the pijin language to insert vowels between the consonants in English language blends. For instance, ants becomes anis, box becomes bokis and chance becomes janis.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

children and making decisions

My mother-in-law does a brilliant job of keeping reading material up to our children.  Every few years she scours the local primary school libraries and sends across loads of discards.  Most of these end up in the Talua library or in the library at the local school. The bonus for us is that they pass through our house first while they are sorted.

So we end up reading lots of books that were on the shelves in when I was at school.  One of the big issues in children's literature then seems to have been broken families.  I was reading one today, Better for Everyone, by Penny Hall that explores that very issue (otherwise I wouldn't've mentioned it).  In this book, Meg, about to start high school, is asked to go and live with her Father and his new wife and her teenage children.  She leaves behind her mother, her elder brother and twin sisters and begins a new life in the city.

She is asked to make the decision about whether to leave her mother and family by herself.  She is able to talk about it with different family members, but in the end it is up to her.   Later, when holidays come, she also has to make the decision about whether to go home or to stay during the holidays.  She struggles with the responsibility of these decisions, trying to do what is best for everyone.

The author, I think rightly, criticises the tendancy to leave such monumental decisions to those so young.  As difficult as they are for parents and step-parents to make such decisions, I think it is their responsibility to make them.

It's started me thinking about how we teach children to make decisions.  First, parents just make the decisions.  Then there's a period of leading and guiding and counselling.  Finally, they will be able to make the decision themselves.  For instance, when my eldest was a baby, we dressed her.  She had no part in the decision making process what-so-ever.  Now, she dresses herself, although she follows rules we have set.  One day she'll have left home and be dressing herself with complete freedom.  We hope she'll follow certain principles... but she'll make those decisions herself.

But the significance of the decision will greatly affect when they move through those stages.  For example, deciding what one has on a sandwich at lunch-time is of much less significance than whether one joins the family for holidays.

There are so many sorts of decisions we are preparing our children to make.

I wonder at what ages children are old enough to make them?  What do you think?

How do we know when they're ready?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

5 family traditions I really miss

I'm not a very self-aware person. I takes me a long time to work out what I don't like or what I do like or what I am missing or that I really am bored with counting fruit flies (it took 2 whole months to work this out... I'm sure most of you would've got it sussed in... maybe... 2 minutes).

It is now almost twenty years since I first moved out of home.  I have put my finger on five traditions I really miss.  We didn't have many; we weren't a very organised family.  But here they are:
  1. Sunday morning tea at Grandma's after church.
  2. Beginning each birthday by clambering into bed for cuddles with Mum; squeezing between brother or sister; fidgeting around until there was room. Somehow beginning like this made birthdays so special. I even miss the grumbly rumblings from Dad who generally slid out the other side and disappeared.
  3. Saturday pizza nights.
  4. Charades on Christmas eve (and even the inevitable Christmas shopping row).
  5. Arriving ten minutes late for church every week.  I don't know how we did it.  It involved lost keys, lost glasses, lost handbags, lost shoes, lost sleep, lost sheep (that was us)...  The first time Dad lead a service he had no idea how to begin!
They're not very profound, I know.  And 'traditions' is a bit of a glorified word for it...   But they've been heavy on my heart and are part of many great and treasured memories.

Monday, 13 January 2014

scenes from yesterday: December 2013, mata-mata

Video now attached! *Whoops*

Not so very long ago we visited Malo to see some friends. We enjoyed a very special Malo custom: Mata-mata. Mata is the Malo-language word for snake. We didn't eat snake, we ate snake-shaped laplap. Here's how ordinary grated wild yam is turned into snake-laplap:

The leaf being used to hold the wild yam inside the bamboo is from the Natangora Palm, the same leaf used for thatch.

Then the bamboo packages are roasted on a fire. The open end must be roasted first. The wild yam swells and forms a plug. If roasting began at the closed end, the wild yam would be pushed out the opening as it cooked and swelled.

After roasting, the bamboo is split open, the natangora leaf peeled off and the "snake" served on a platter with coconut milk.


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Songs from the Women's Program

I've mentioned before how important song is to life in Vanuatu.  So last year, I tried (in a small way) to incorporate song into our lessons (introduction to the bible) in the women's program and gave them an assignment to write and perform a song. This is what they came up with:

Books of the Old Testament (in English):

Books of the New Testament (in Bislama):

We had loads of fun practising and recording (really sophisticated... single iPhone held aloft in classroom) and I was really proud of the effort they had put into their songs.

It had a curious and unexpected (for me) effect when we broadcast these songs on the Talua radio. My intention was pedagogical; to help the women (and others) remember these songs so as to learn the books of the bible. I was afraid our little effort would be mocked for its poor sound quality, its amateurism, its DAG chords. But then again, I was thinking like an *Australian*.

Instead, I discovered we had (accidentally) done something much more profound. It didn't matter about the tinny sound.  It didn't matter that most of us didn't join in until half way through the fist line of each verse. Even the DAG chords weren't important. It didn't even matter that the words weren't exactly original.

What we had done had something to do with honour, with respect and with having a voice. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what it was, and I definitely can't articulate it.  In God's providence (for it was accidentally done) and by his grace, it was right and brings me joy.

Friday, 10 January 2014

N-O No!

Here's a little poem my nine-year old wrote a while back. Interesting, don't you think?

N-O no; there's no way I'll chose a boy.
N-O no; you're treating me like a toy.
N-O no; why can't I have my way?
N-O no; I want to shout hey!
N-O no; I want to hang out with my friends.
N-O no; whats the rush, I'm only ten?

She says it doesn't have any particular meaning; that she was just making up rhymes whilst playing with Barbie.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

holiday fun

... simple platform games on a local network...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

burnt and fallen

On the road to the farm there is a Nambangga (Num-bung-ga).

There was a Nambangga.

Towering and spreading, Nambangga dominate their landscape. Creatures shelter in them. People navigate by them and gather around them. People have lived in them. John Paton hid in one when he fled for his life.

They begin life as parasites. A bright orange, acorn sized seed falls into a crevice on another tree. Roots and shoots spread downwards, upwards and around, enclosing the host. Slowly, surely, steadily, the Nambangga grows and slowly, surely, steadily, the host suffocates, dies, rots and the central hollow is filled. By the time the host dies the Nambangga is strong enough to stand on its own.

These photos were taken at the beginning of 2010.

The Nambangga has grown around a Nandao ("Nun-dow"). You can see the leaves at the top are different, slightly darker.  The Nandao is still alive and well.  As far as Nambangga go, it's not a very big or old one.  But aren't the roots just fantastic?

Now, Nandao is excellent firewood. On New Year's Day, our Nambangga was found sprawled across the road. The centre had been burnt out. It had fallen.

We walked down this morning to have look.  It was still smoking.

I know that it's just a tree.  But there's something moving about their greatness and majesty that makes their falling like this unsettling and upsetting.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

climbing for mangoes

Sophie and a friend climb for the last of the season's mangoes. It's been a good season.

scenes from yesterday: Christmas 2012, cousins

Christmas, 2012. We were in Australia. Our Taylor cousins were home from Tanzania. It was a precious time for us. Our attempt to capture our joy at being together didn't produce an awarding winning photograph, but makes for cute footage.

Not long afterwards, two more cousins were born. In February 2013, Isabella, sister to Harry, Miri and Sammy; and then in March, Benjamin, brother to Jack.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Yumi stadi long buk ya Mak - 8

Blong dowlaodem stadi ya (seven pej evriwan):

  • Klik long raet saed blong maos long pej ya antap. Nao klik long toktok ya "download linked file" mo bae stadi ya i download i go long komputa blong yu.
  • Narafala rod: yu prestem "command" mo klik long pej ya antap mo bae stadi ya i open long wan niufala pej long internet browser blong yu, mo afta yu save "save" o "print".

Sunday, 5 January 2014

tastes of home

There's nothing that reminds me of home quite like damper...

... and roasted marshmallows.

But this scene was distinctly ni-Vanuatu in flavour...