Thursday, April 16, 2009

News from Malua Bay


Dearest friends,

Here I am, in the middle of the jungle with limited access to electricity but happy beyond measure and content with what I have got. I’ve been in the deep jungle of Malekula Island (Malua Bay) for about a week after spending 3 weeks in Port Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu.

After spending a week here I understand now why Sebastian fell in love with the people of Vanuatu. I felt at home right away. The friendliness and care of ni-Vanuatu people is beyond imagination. They have taken care of me as of their own child.

Life is just like I have imagined it will be: simple and beautiful, no stress, no reason to hurry. Life is just following its own way.

Right now I am living with the minister’s family since my house is not ready. They have built it in two days but they made no windows and partitions and it has no door. My house is just as I have wanted it to be: made out of bamboo with grass roof. I still need a kitchen but I understood they can build it in a day from the same materials: bamboo and grass. So it can be built pretty fast if only these people knew what means to work a little bit faster. They have just two gears: the rear gear and the first one. Believe me, they are just taking their time and know not what means to hurry a little bit. So I have to adjust to their style…  I do not find it too difficult because people in Guyana were almost the same. I know accepting them will be a real challenge for some people who are used to work fast. 

The first bath I took here was a real challenge. I laugh now when I remember it. My host has pointed a pipe with no walls around that was in front of the house and said I can take a shower. How???? was my question since I have no privacy and everybody can see me? So I had to try to take a shower just so… Next time I wanted to bath I told my host I want to go to the river and that is where I have gone to take a bath ever since. So, thank you, God, for rivers. Not all the villages are blessed by the presence of a river but we are and I am more than happy about it.

I have already started to teach. I am teaching English and Religious Education for grade 7 and 8 (17 hours a week). I took over the classes of the school principal. The school is a SDA private school and has 82 kids from grade 1 to 8 and 8 teachers including myself. For English I have the books and the syllabus from the government but for the Religious Education I have only the notebooks from 2 students from last year. So I have to guess what I need to teach. The problem is that they have an exam at the end of the grade 8 and he students need to know what the government is asking them to know. I wish you could see how they teach here. It’s pathetic. They are just copying on the blackboard what is in the teacher’s text book, even the requirements that are addressed to the teachers and tell what to do in class. I wish we had our own school and I hope we will, soon. A big problem here is that the students do not really know English because they speak Bishlama and dialect at home and because the teachers have also taught in Bishlama so far even though they were supposed to teach in English. So that makes the process of teaching slow but at least they understand something so I am happy about that.

When I am not teaching, I am helping Cloudine, my host, in the kitchen. They have treated me as a queen and if it was for them I didn’t have to do anything. But I insisted that I help her cook and wash dishes and clean and wash my own cloths. If it was for her she would have done all these things by herself. This past week she taught me how to do simboro, a local food that is like the cabbage rolls but has cassava or yam or taro or banana inside and that is boiled in coconut milk. While we were cooking some ladies came and were so surprised to see the “white man” (that’s how the kids and even the adults are calling me here) cooking local food. They said they have never seen a white lady making local food and they have never thought a white lady can cook their food. This past week the church had a family revival series so we have attended church every evening. While the pastor was preaching I usually took a child in my lap and at the end I would play with some children. When the people saw this they told him that I must be a good lady since I am playing with the children.

Baking has been a real challenge for me since we do not have any oven. My host knows how to make bread so we bought some flour and have baked bread in a pot over the fire. I have also decided to teach them to make some cakes with the local stuff since they do not know to make any kind of cake. So I made some cassava pond and pumpkin and coconut pie. As I have told you baking was a real challenge but we did it… You should see how surprised they were especially about the cake with cassava (or manioc how they call it here) and coconut when we shared with the villagers at Sabbath fellowship launch the cakes we made. Some of them told my host they want me to teach them how to bake. I have just bought a drum on Friday in order to make an oven (I will just suspend it on some stones and I will make fire on top and at the bottom). Oh, how I thank the Lord for the experience from Guyana. I have learned there so many useful things about cooking and baking in the jungle with the local stuff that they are growing here. I have no words to describe my thankfulness for everything that I have learned there. I am also thankful that they have almost the same greens and vegetables and roots.

The English they are using here is funny at times. For instance they will say they are going to swim when they want to say they are going to take a bath. Or when somebody wants to talk to me they will say they want to tell me stories. They also sometimes say that they drink instead of eat. For instance they will say they want to drink pomelo or pawpaw. It is also funny how they use good night instead of good-bye. So, even if it is noon or morning they will say good night. The way they say how they are related is very strange for me. For instance they call their uncles and aunties dad and mom, they will call auntie their cousin. When a lady is talking about her husband she will say “dad for Jerry” (with Jerry being her son). And I can go on like that.

People are not really using the time here. If you ask them what time is church or any other meeting they will just tell you to listen to the bell. The school and the church have a bell (you can see it in my pictures) and they ring it 60 times, then 30, 15, 5 and 2.