Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Which flower is this? (22)

This week's flower is a gorgeous, small and dainty flower growing outside Mama Linda's house. It think it is an orchid, but I'm not sure, it doesn't seem to fit the descriptions (see the wikipedia article on orchids here).

I only took these photographs yesterday and as I took them I became more and more fascinated by these little flowers. They grow on a spike, as can be seen in this photo:

There are five petals. The petal at the base is modified so that it forms something like a basin or bowl. It has a small column at the front of this bowl, divided at the top. What is this bowl for? What is the column for? Something to do with pollination? Does it mimic the reproductive parts? The petals also seem to be fused, forming a hollow.

The stamen and style (the reproductive parts) are on the inside of this 'hollow', just at the top. I expect this means the pollen brushes off on insects that wander in and out of the hollow.

However, in the photo below, you can see the stamen (the anthers) but not the style. I think this is at a less mature stage than the previous photo. This would mean that the male reproductive parts (the stamen) mature first and the female part matures afterwards. This would prevent self-pollination. The insects might pick up pollen from these anthers but they couldn't leave it on this flower's stigma, because it isn't there yet. If you look again at the previous photo you will notice that the anthers look quite degraded.

Again, I am interested to know what this flower is. Any help much appreciated. Amy? Prue?

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Tim turned eight today! Happy Birthday Tim!

Our jungle cake was inspired by this amazing cake that Jean made.

We made the following modifications to accommodate gluten intolerance, a diet free from preservatives and artificial colours and flavours, and what we can get in Luganville (definitely not ready made icing).
  • our leaves are real leaves, not icing;

  • the only icing sugar available in town at the moment is ready-mix chocolate, so our jungle is more woody than leafy;

  • we used snickers bars not flakes (snickersseem to be basically gluten-free- they have glucose syrup derived from wheat, but it is so refined that there is practically no gluten- and they were on special);

  • we used lolly animals (natural flavours and colours);

  • and we made sponge cakes (egg, sugar, cornflour, baking powder and bicarb soda!).

Verdict: delicious! And much better than the snickers coated in icing sugar that the Dads suggested!

Monday, 29 September 2008


Bethany went outside to play this afternoon. Not long afterwards,
this is how I found her:


Manioc is one of the staple foods here in Vanuatu. Like yam, taro and
kumala, it is a root vegetable. Together, these four crops are the
staple diet for the ni-Vanuatu.

Over the last few days, I've been doing a little research on Manioc
because occasionally there is Manioc flour available for purchase in
town. I was curious to find out whether Manioc flour was gluten free,
as one of my nephews cannot eat gluten.

I found out not only that Manioc is gluten free, but that it is also
known as Cassava and it is the root from which both Tapioca and
Arrowroot are derived. Very interesting.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

blind chick

I mentioned in this post that the chick concerned died the next day.

The day after there was another dead chick by our verandah.

Today we found a third dead chick while we were gardening.

Starting to panic about bird flu?? I must admit it crossed my mind! The truth, however, is not so sensational. It is interesting though.

There is a wild yam growing this time of year, which, if the chicks eat it, sends them blind. And, being blind, they cannot eat. They basically starve to death. Having witnessed a few of the sick chicks, I suspect the yam may have other effects as well.

The chick we nursed back to health also died while we were away on this weekend. It's all a little bit sad.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

a truck with 8 wheels

If I said that my children were delighted to see their cousins, it would be an understatement. Here they are impersonating a truck with 8 wheels. (Can one impersonate a truck?)

a helping hand

We went for a walk to the River. Ben responded to Bethany's cries of "I'm having trouble" with a helping hand. Now, that's what big brothers and cousins are for!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Ben and Tim, my nephews, arrived with their Father for a visit today. Here they are with Sophie and Bethany at the airport in Luganville.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bethany at Kindy

At last, some photos of Bethany at Kindy.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Slugs, snails and puppy-dogs tails

This morning Matthew found a dying cockroach. He "cooked" it with a plastic spatula from Bethany's cooking set. On Friday, while we were gardening, he picked up a worm, studied it intently and then popped it in his mouth. Another time, I found him playing with a spider on the front Verandah. He chases butterflies and picks up lizards.

At this age, Sophie would run across the room screaming upon sight of an ant. Bethany was not so squeamish, but nor so fascinated.

What is it with boys and bugs?

P.S. There are no poisonous spiders in Vanuatu. Lucky.

Which flower is this? (21)

This week's flower is a strange, bottle-brush like flower. I have no idea what it is.

The coloured part, like the Australian bottle-brush flower, is made up of numerous bundles of stamen, each 'bundle' being an individual flower. The petals, such as they are, are difficult to see.

Large, red flowers like this are often pollinated by small birds or small mammals. I would be interested to know what pollinates this one.

I am also interested in a name, if anyone knows!

Friday, 19 September 2008

fowl attack

The experience of childhood for my children here is so different here to what it would have been had we remained in Sydney  (admittedly it wouldn't be so different if we hadn't lived in Newtown, so close to the city).  

I was reflecting on this the other day when I could see splashes of colour through the leaves in the Mango Tree.  Sophie spends a good hour or so in the Mango Tree with her friend Sarah every afternoon.  Bethany wandered by, aiming a slingshot at a passing fowl.  She also wields a stick proficiently.  Matthew reached out and picked up a small chick and put it on his lap.  Feathers were ruffled and it was returned to its mother.  That's strange I thought.  He can't usually do that.

Later that afternoon we were working in the garden.  Matthew reached down again and picked up the same small chick.  This time, the mother fowl did not just ruffle her feathers but jumped up and attacked the small boy.  Matthew screamed and dropped the chick.  The mother human went nuts.  The students laughed.

Matthew was scratched, but not badly.  No blood and the mark had disappeared by the end of the day.  The chick died the next day.  Not because of Matthew's crazy mother, but because of some sickness, which would explain why it was so easy for Matthew to pick up the chick in the first place.

How protective chooks are of their little chicks!  It reminded me of Luke 13:34 where Jesus compares himself to a hen protectively gathering her chicks under her wings, and made me consider the judgement coming on those who mistreat his little chicks (e.g. Luke 18:7).

P.S. The slingshot was confiscated and returned to its owner.  Sticks are also banned.  The other children frequently catch and cook small animals to eat, and my children watch and learn.  

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

In Memory of Rev. Dr. J. Graham Miller

Today has been declared a national day of mourning in memory of Rev. Dr. J. Graham Miller who passed away on Saturday 6th September.

Graham Miller and his wife, Flora arrived in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1941 as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. They worked on the island of Tongoa (in the Shepherd Island group) until 1947. From 1947-1952 Graham was the principal of the Teachers' Training Institute on Tangoa Island, Santo. This institute trained mission teachers for work in villages throughout Vanuatu.

During their time on Tongoa, they worked towards the independence of the local church. Upon its inauguration in 1948, the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides chose Graham Miller to be its first Moderator. Graham, a trained lawyer, had drafted the constitution of the church.

Graham and Flora returned to Vanuatu in 1971 to assist in establishing the Presbyterian Bible College at Tangoa on the site of the former Teacher's Training Institute. During this time he was heavily involved in the movement towards the independence of the nation. He helped produce the nation's constitution, and assisted in the meditations with Great Britain, France and the Untied Nations.

Upon leaving Vanuatu this second time in 1973, Graham Miller served as the Pastor of St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Hurstville, NSW. While there he wrote the Live books, a seven volume history of the church in Vanuatu. This account is told not just from the perspective of the Western missionaries, but from that of the many Polynesian and local missionaries who carried the gospel throughout Vanuatu. The people of Vanuatu "for many generations to come, will praise God for the privilege of looking back through Mr Miller's writing and learning of the firm foundation on which the Christian Church of the New Hebrides was built".

Graham Miller was deeply interested in the life and culture of man Vanuatu. He would engage many in conversation, listening with rapt attention. Our current Principal at Talua, Pastor Fiama Rakau, often refers to Graham Miller as a "man of prayer" who was "devoted to the word of God" and a "man to emulate". He is a beloved figure in Vanuatu, an elder both in the church and the state.

Olfala Nato, man Malekula, father of Pastor Masia (who lectures at Talua) and Mama Jenny (wife of another lecturer at Talua), was an old and dear friend of Rev. Dr. Graham Miller. Over the last few years, Graham Miller has never been far from his mind and he has asked again and again, has my friend Graham Miller died yet? No, he would be told. Not yet. On Saturday 6th September, however, the answer was yes. He has. He has gone to be with our Lord. On Friday, 12th September, Olfala Nato also went to be with our Lord; confident in His love and confident also in the company of his beloved friend.

Information drawn from foreword and afterword to the first volume of the Live Series; the book, 'they Served in Vanuatu' and personal communication with Ps. Andrew Williamson.  Quote is from Kami Shing who wrote the forward to the first volume of the Live Series and the photo is also from this volume.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Welcome Home, Dad!

Glen came home yesterday after a week in Australia for an intensive Masters course.

We made a welcome home cake...

and a floral welcome arch (made from a cocunut tree leaf and assorted flowers)...

... and we had four very happy chappies, one little boy particularly happy to have his Dad home. Someone to play ball with!

travelling with kids: flying

I promised in this post that it would be a series of three. Here is the long awaited second in series, travelling with kids: flying.

Let me say at the outset that our flying experience includes flights to a maximum of four hours. However, even if your planned flights are longer, you might find some of the ideas below useful for while you are at the airport. These ideas are not exhaustive. I am still learning and would appreciate your suggestions. These ideas are particularly focussed on managing children on flights, there are probably other things about flying I haven't mentioned.


Find out as much information as you can about the flight when booking it. Ask about what the airline provides. Will there an in-flight movie shown? Do you need to pay extra? Is it suitable for children? Is it for children? Are there individual consoles or is it one screen for everyone? Do they provide colouring-books and the like? Mention any dietary requirements you have and book children's meals for your children if you want them (they may not get them automatically). Ask about baby food. Ask about how the seats are set out (how many seats across before the aisle) so you can plan possible seating arrangements. For long flights, think seriously about booking a seat for your under-two year old, if you can afford it. Under twos are usually only a fraction of the cost of an adult fare but they ride on your lap, and this can be very difficult on long flights. If not (and we never have) think about how you might manage a small one on your lap for the duration of the flight.


Only one person needs to wait in the queue for check-in. If you have two adults traveling with children, this is usually OK. For an international flight, all people going on the flight will need to be present at the check-in desk, but there is no need for everyone to wait in the queue. If you are traveling on your own with children, it would be a good idea to ask a friend to come and stay with your children while you wait in the queue. The earlier you arrive for check-in, usually the less time you wait in this queue, but the longer you wait around afterwards. It is a good idea to bring something for your children to do at this time so you are not chasing them around the airport. If you have people seeing you off, they may be able to help, as long as they don't take a child for a long walk as they will need to be present at the check in desk. Don't give them too much to drink; you'll regret it on the flight. While doing check-in, confirm seating arrangements and any arrangements you have made for meals. Try to remember to pick up your departure cards at check-in and fill them in before you get to immigration.


You can end up doing lots of waiting at airports; it's good to have something for the children to do during these times. Think of some quiet talking games such as eye-spy, count how many or 20 questions that you can play. A book of games (including these sort of talking games) would be a useful purchase as preparation, or your local library would have some. Your children may like to watch the airplanes if you can see them. It's better not to have to get out things for drawing, colouring or playing as you may have to get up quickly and won't want to pack up (especially while everyone is waiting for you at boarding lounge when families are often boarded first). If you are waiting for a really long time, a DVD on the lap-top is a good back-up plan. If you are really worried about how your children will cope waiting quietly, you might like to 'train' them for waiting. Have 'quiet time' in their day where they need to sit quietly and play by themselves, or arrive extra early for your next doctor's appointment with them, and practice waiting together without playing with the toys. See how you go!


Immigration and the queue beforehand can be another tricky time with children. This is when you have to fill out your departure cards (which you present at immigration), if you haven't done so already. As I said before, try to pick up the departure card at check-in (if available) and fill it out before you do anything else. If you are the only adult with children and need to fill it out in the queue, just leave the queue and sit the children down quietly (maybe a snack would help here) and sit down with them while you fill out the cards. Join the queue when you are done. It's really difficult to fill in the cards while standing in a queue and looking after children. Don't panic about the time. If you are worried, contact one of the staff and let them know which flight you are on. Remember, once you have luggage checked in, the flight will not leave without finding you and immigration is a place they are likely to look. If your children get bored while in the queue, talk with them about what you can see (don't be rude about anyone wherever you are, as there is always likely to be someone around who can speak English) and play the sorts of games mentioned above. Again, if you are really worried about queues, you might like to give your children some practice; take them with you to the bank the next time you go, or to Centrelink, or to the Post Office.


This has been by far the most stressful part of flying for us. There are lots and lots of people in a small space. Everyone is worried and stressed out and the security personnel don't major in public relations. I have two recommendations. Firstly, explain in advance to your children what will happen and what you need them to do. If they know what to expect, they are less likely to panic. If you panic, they are also likely to panic. Secondly, be prepared for the security check before you get swept along with the tide and ordered around by the security personnel. My current plan for is to take an extra bag, one that doesn't take mush space and can fold or squash up into a pocket, and to sit down with the family before we get near the security check and remove everything that might possibly beep or cause trouble, put all of it into this bag so that all the bits and pieces go through the scanner in one lot rather than in lots of different lots. It's much easier to pick up one bag on the other side than scramble to collect things from four or five different trays. Then once through, we can sit down somewhere and put everything back on; shoes, hair-clips, watches etc etc etc. Even better would be not to wear or take any of these things.

Children need to come out of carriers, such as back-packs, slings and strollers. These carriers need to go through the security scan, so wear such that are easy to remove (not a wrap around sling, as I have discovered). If you have a child on a "leash" (as I have done when traveling on my own) it will also need to be removed if it has metal parts. Laptops need to come out of their bags and go in a scanning-tray and through the scanner separately. If the children are carrying toys (their favourite teddy, for instance) this will also be removed to go through the scanner. It's best if you can do this before a security officer does it for you. You also now need to have all carry-on liquids displayed in plastic zip-lock bags (provided at the airport, usually close to the security check) and may only take liquids in containers that have a volume of 100mL or less (exceptions are made for infants).


Until your children are old enough to be responsible for their own hand luggage, I would strongly recommend not packing bags for them to take as their own hand luggage. Otherwise, you end up worrying about whether they have their bag, whether they've taken things out OR whether someone else has put something in and you often end up carrying their bags anyway. Pack everything you and the children need in your bag. Try to manage without hats and other accessories that are likely to go astray in airport lounges and in queues and its not worth you worrying about them. I strongly recommend NOT packing 'things to do' for yourself as there's rarely a chance to finish that novel or do that sudoko; and the bag-space will be better used with extra activities for the children. Plan to enjoy spending time with the children and if you do get a quiet moment to yourself; sit back, relax and enjoy doing nothing.

ON THE FLIGHT for over 2s

A typical flight for us will include

  • time just talking and being excited about being on the airplane. This usually lasts until after take-off (don't forget a small drink -100mL or less- to sip for take off and landing).

  • Imaginative play with a small and familiar soft toy. We strap them into their seats, tell them the emergency procedures etc etc. We have found this particularly effective on the odd occasion when they want to sleep.

  • Colouring. This can fill in quite a lot of time, particularly if you have some well-chosen age-appropriate colouring/activity books. Sticker books are also a favourite. A friend once recommended 'paint-with-water' books which she had found terrific for her son. I found my girls loved them, and spent ages doing the but the hostesses didn't seem to thrilled about the water.

  • Being creative about meal-times. This can make the in-flight meal last a really long time.

  • A DVD. This can fill anywhere from half and hour to three hours, depending on battery life and the concentration of the children. We always take a lap-top for this purpose and have head-phones with a double adaptor so two children can plug in to the one lap-top. Many airlines have child-friendly in-flight entertainment, but not all.
Those things will fill our time with no trouble at all. We also take books for the children look at, stickers, and packs of cards in case they are needed.

ON THE FLIGHT for 6 months to 2 years
This is, I think, the most difficult age. From when they want to move around until they can sit quietly for long periods (roughly the ages 6 months to 2 years, depending a lot on the child) flying is very difficult. Usually, I look after the child in this age and my husband is responsible for the older ones. It is challenging and all-consuming but there is usually a break while they have a sleep. Here are some ideas that may help:
  • Observe your child for the weeks leading up to the flight. Take note of what they like to spend a lot of time doing. Work out a way to take it with you for the flight. For instance, one of our children would be amused for a LONG TIME pushing a train ticket in and out of a ticket slot in a purse, so we would make sure we took a little purse with cards.

  • toys Take a collection of small, quiet toys; some familiar, some new. It's worth spending some money on toys if you think it will help keep them happy for a long time (you have paid so much for the tickets, a little extra to make the time go better is worth it). Or put away some of their toys for a month before you fly so they seem new to them on the flight. Don't take noisy toys or toys that have 'flying' parts. Be considerate of your neighbours as you will probably need their consideration during the flight!

  • books Books with flaps and touchy-feely bits are great for keeping their attention.

  • snacks Pack some snacks like sultanas which are time-consuming to eat. Don't forget to get rid of them before you leave the aircraft!

ON THE FLIGHT for less than six months
In our experience, this has been an easy age because they spend most of the time sleeping. I usually take them in a pouch which they are used to sleeping in, and give them a feed as soon as take-off is complete. The motion of the plane seems to have the same effect as that of a car and the children have all slept well at this age. If your infant is used to sleeping in a pram or a cot you may have more difficulty with sleeps, as there may not be room for them to lie down. Most airlines try to give families extra seats if they are available, but they are not guaranteed.

Sleeps, also, are not guaranteed. Children do not always do what we expect. I always take some infant-panadol just in case we need it. Don't be afraid to stand up in the aisle to rock your child if you need to. And try not to miss sleeps before the flight as over-tired infants can be more difficult to settle. Don't be afraid to 'feed them to sleep' if you need to, even if it isn't your usual practice, it's not going to upset your normal routines.

Arrival is not nearly as tricky as far as children are concerned (but it can be complicated in itself). They are usually tired, yet excited and busy looking around them. There may be a long wait in the immigration queue, and again for customs and quarantine, but the comments above should help. Some airports provide strollers for children. I once used a courtesy wheelchair for the children when I was on my own. Not its intended use, but the staff graciously turned a blind eye.

Try to bring appropriate clothes and footwear for the climate at your destination; particularly if going from a warm to a cool climate. Airports can be freezing.

Well I hope some of these ideas and experiences will be of help to you as you plan and prepare your trip. Happy travelling!

And, if everything does go wrong and it is a complete disaster, remember: it is in the end, a short period of time. It may feel long at the time, but it will pass, for you and for everyone else in the plane. It will become another story to tell and to laugh about.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Which flower is this? (20)

This week's flower is another whose true flower is often unnoticed, the colourful parts actually being coloured leaves (called bracts). It is variety of Bougainvillea glabra with white bracts.

If you look closely, you can see a cluster of three true flowers in the middle of a group of three bracts. The flower is white and trumpet shaped. Different varieties have different coloured bracts; magenta, purple, pink, red and yellow. The flower is always white.

You can the flowers up really close here.

I took the two photos on this post at Beachfront Resort, just outside Luganville. We have lovely pink and magenta Bougainvillea all around the house but I have never seen a white one before.

Wikipdedia notes here and here.  Apparently they are great to bonsai.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

growing up island

Have a look at Erin's post about growing up at Talua. Things haven't changed much since then. Bethany's day at the moment is much like Erin's was then.

Here are some more recent photos inside and outside the Kindy:

TO CLARIFY:  these photos are more recent than the ones Erin posted.  They are not recent.  They were taken in 2006 and include Sophie, not Bethany.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

strength and weakness again

So now I’ve slept on it I think I ought to be rebuked for making such idle speculations in the public arena. Possibly I have given totally the wrong impression about the work of the early missionaries. So let me say something in correction.

Firstly, the Bristish Navy didn’t patrol the waters coming by to check up that the ‘natives’ were treating the missionaries well. It came by only occasionally.

Secondly, it would have been unfair to give the impression that the early converts were ‘false’ converts having joined the ‘side’ of the missionaries because of their superior strength or possessions.

[For accurate history of the coming of the gospel to Vanuatu, read John Paton’s autobiography (Missionary to the New Hebrides) or the Live Series by Graham Miller.]

Many of the early missionaries were actually Pacific Islanders coming across from Polynesia, particularly Samoa. They worked under the leadership of ‘Western’ missionaries, taking the gospel into the bush, living in villages with the people of Vanuatu, learning their languages and speaking the gospel to them. Many of them were killed and many died of illness. As such, these workers came without the ‘strength’ to which I was referred. They came in ‘weakness’ and held out only the word of God.

Secondly, it was the changed life that comes from the gospel that attracted others to the word of God. As one village repented in faith, it was totally changed. Other villages saw this, liked it and wanted to know what had changed them. It was the attractiveness of which the word of God itself speaks (e.g. Matt 5:16; Titus 2:5, 8, 10). Its ‘strength’ was exactly what it should be.

Perhaps there were some ‘false converts’ among these, but we cannot know. It is always difficult to know when whole villages convert. Perhaps as momentum grew some converted because they wanted the power or influence being in the church gave. If they did, they would not be the first people to have done so.

Perhaps the weakness we see in the church now has less to do with ‘other words’ speaking in strength and more to do with the word of God not being spoken.

Having said all that, I do think that as western missionaries in developing countries we need to be careful about ‘which words’ we are speaking, and about what we do to make our message attractive. We may be in danger of drowning out our message and in so doing, empyting the cross of its power.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

strength and weakness

Following on from a question from the Mark Driscoll interview as reported here and some other thoughts here, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been thinking about strength, weakness and emptying the cross of its power.

As Glen says here, over our time in Vanuatu we have come to see how weak Christianity is here. When I consider how powerfully the gospel spread when it was first brought here in the nineteeth century it makes me wonder what went wrong.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons why things can go wrong over 150 years, so my thoughts here are pure speculation. I have not done any reading about it and have not even spoken with others about these ideas. So, please, no referring to this post as expert opinion in your next discourse on mission strategy.

I wonder to what extent we empty the cross of its power when our gospel message is accompanied with 'strength'. When the first missionaries came here, they left everything to travel across the seas to bring the gospel to the lost. To their own countrymen, the went, humanly speaking, in weakness, trusting only in the Holy Spirit, only in God. However, to those to whom they came, things could be viewed differently. They came to people who still lived in the stone age. People without iron tools, without gunpowder, without iron cooking pots, people to whom even a fishing-hook was a prized possession. Did these missionaries not come in human strength when viewed like this?

These missionaries were protected by the mighty British Navy, so even when it was against their will, and though they pleaded in tears for it not to be done, villages were sometimes bombarded by canon-fire as punishment for acts of violence against British subjects. While this would be ample reason for the villages NOT to convert... is not strength on the side of these people?

And once the church was established and supported by partner churches in wealthy countries, is not strength, power and wealth on the side of these people? Surely the mighty God is looking on these people with favour?

It just makes me wonder if many 'conversions' were not because the word of God was powerful but because the word of iron or the word of the musket or the word of the vatu was powerful. This is not because the word of God is not powerful but because so many other words were speaking.

Now that the country is developing and there are many other ways of gaining wealth, people seem to be leaving the presbyterian church, once so strong, in droves. The presbyterian church is locally funded and is not wealthy. Other sects and religions, funded from overseas, can offer education and services local churches can't hope to match. So much strength. So attractive.

When we came here, people came to our house not because we offered the word of God, but because we owned a fridge and could sell meat; because we owned a printer and could print photographs; because I have a sewing machine and can sew; because I have the secret of making cakes. You thought we were going in weakness. We came in strength. We have everything they want. But do they want the gospel? Do all these other words speak louder than the gospel? Are these things also emptying the cross of its power? If we came with nothing but the cross, would anyone be listening?

What if the cross was our only strength? What would life look like for us if it were?

If you've read this post, please also read this one, which clarifies a few things.

This week's flower is...

This week's flower Alpinia purpurata; the Red Ginger Flower; of the family ZINGIBERACEACE.

Thanks Amy for the identification.

Look here for pictures & rather interesting information; the wikipedia notes here; and here, here and here for some Australian species (that last one is really weird).

Monday, 8 September 2008

Which flower is this? (19)

This week's flower is a big, bright, bold tropical flower found all throughout the bush here in South Santo. It is grown around homes and is used for decoration at feasts and on other special occasions. Here is one growing outside Mama Mercy's house;

Here is a close up of a flower. The red petals are often used to make 'salu-salu's; the garland of flowers hung around someone's neck in welcome.

Now I want you to look even more closely:

Now here's the question. What actually is the flower? Is it the red bit or the white bit? The red bits seem like petals, but I'm wondering if they are actually modified leaves and the flower is the white bud growing out between these modified leaves. It is definitely flower shaped and has all the right parts (stigma, style etc., which you can't see in this photo). If that is so, the red part would be like a spike with lots of flowers growing on it, each with a red leaf at its base.

I'm interested in a name, if anyone knows...

When I was six...

I have been reminiscing this past week about when I was six.

I remember long plaits and blue ribbons. I remember learning the recorder and singing in the infants choir. I remember a windy day, a very windy day. I remember holding up my arms to protect myself from the biting dust and leaves blowing in through the door as I left class that day. But seared on my conscience is the memory of when I told my Mother I hated her and ran away from home.

With all the fury of a six-year-old, I yelled, I slammed doors, I packed my bag and I left.

Now, my Mother, having a stronger basis for self-esteem than the affections of her children, though no doubt cut by my words, was soon in command of the situation. She came to me, floundering as I was at the end of the driveway, not sure whether to turn left or right let alone of my destination.

Said she, “Have you packed your toothbrush?”

Said I, “No.”

“Have you packed your hairbrush?”


“Have you packed clean undies?”

“No.” [at which point you may be wondering what indeed I did pack!!]

“Well, then. Come home and have some lunch and after lunch we’ll pack your bag properly and then you can run away.”

And so I went home and ate lunch and promptly forgot all about that bag.

I wonder if you have memories of being six you’d like to share?

Friday, 5 September 2008

clever as clever

On Sophie’s birthday last Sunday and in keeping with family tradition, I recited this poem by A. A. Milne;

When I was one,

I had just begun.

When I was two,

I was nearly new.

When I was three,

I was hardly me.

When I was four,

I was not much more.

When I was five,

I was barely alive.

But now I am six I’m as clever as clever.

I think I’ll stay six now forever and ever.

I already regret it. There’s only so much “I can do it Mum, have you forgotten I’m as clever as clever” that one Mother can bear.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Cleaning Lady

We baked biscuits this afternoon. After all the mayhem (involving four, including a friend, pairs of hands trying to mix, roll and cut; a one year-old's delight at discovering hundreds and thousands for the first time; and scrabbling to eat the little bits at the end) I enlisted Sophie and Bethany at separate times to help clean up in the kitchen.

Say I to Sophie, attempting to instill good 'clean-up-as-you-go' habits,
"The cooking's not done until the cleaning up is finished."

Says Sophie, "We're not still cooking, Mum" (as if I hadn't noticed).

Me, "I know. That's a way of helping us remember that it's really important to do the cleaning up and not leave the kitchen in a big mess.'

Sophie, "But Mum, you just do the cleaning up."

Reflections on the Weekend at Ban Ban

It is almost a month since we were in Ban Ban and we are preparing for another weekend there this weekend. I thought I’d share with you some of my feelings after the last weekend. It was a real mixed bag.

For me it was a very relaxing weekend. We were unable to stay in the village (they politely explained there was nowhere suitable for a white woman and her children) and were accommodated at the house of the director of health (also an elder in the church) in town. This limited the amount of time I could be in Ban Ban but meant the children and I had a refreshing break! I also really enjoyed sitting around chatting with the women on Saturday morning and afternoon at Ban-Ban. The children had a marvellous time playing with the village children and fossicking around on the beach, picking up all the broken coca-cola bottles that have washed up on the shore over the years at Million Dollar Point.

I came away disappointed with how the women’s bible study had gone. It was a study on Mark 15:33-39 that I had run a few weeks before at Talua and many of the women had found it helpful and encouraging. As Susan and Lignes had both been there, we thought we’d run this study, leading a part each. It drew heavily from many areas of the Old Testament in order to understand the meaning of the darkness, the forsaken Messiah and the torn curtain. While this had been quite powerful in one context, it (humanly speaking) was a disaster in another context. And this was the first reason the study didn’t go well; it was unsuitable. It went to so many different parts of the Old Testament when we were doing a study on the New Testament that the women were left confused, rather than enlightened! I had completely missed the target. The second reason, which is related to the first, was that the level of bible knowledge was extremely poor. When it became apparent that they didn’t know who David was, I realised that we were in trouble! These were not the un-evangelised, or the newly converted, but those who have been to church all their lives, the core of the women’s group, the ‘old faithfuls’. Thirdly, it was because as Susan and Lignes began to teach, they discovered they hadn’t understood it as well as they thought they had. They have since realised that to get better at teaching God’s word the first thing they need to do is know it better. A lesson we all need to learn.

I was encouraged by how hard Joel (Diploma One student) worked at his sermon. He had had exams right up until the Thursday but on the Friday and Saturday he worked solidly at understanding the passage and working out how to teach it well in the Vanuatu context and he did a good job.

I wept over the congregation that is like sheep without a shepherd. There is one pastor in Luganville who has oversight of over twelve geographically disparate congregations. This little church in BanBan would be lucky to see its pastor three times a year. It suffers greatly for this; divisions, immorality, complacency and dwindling numbers. I know that a pastor wouldn’t necessarily change all this but I think that there is a great need for godly, wise leaders who love God and know his word, whether they be pastors or elders or laymen.

God promises that as his word goes out it does not come back to him empty. Pray for us and the students that we would keep teaching God’s word and trust Him to work in His time. Pray that we would work for His glory and not ours. Pray that we would not compare our ‘results’ with those we hear form other students in other villages. Pray that we would work hard, and trust God. Pray that we would pray hard, and trust God.

We will be doing a short study this time; Romans 5:1-2.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

random facts meme

I've been tagged by Nicole to do this meme: to write six random facts about myself. Rules, which I haven't kept faithfully, at the bottom.

1. I used to play the 'fiddle' in a bush-band called "Rachael and the Sheep-dags"

2. I once ate a whole raw sausage. I was about thirteen and it was at youth group. No, it wasn't even a dare. It was a BBQ night and things were taking so long to get organised and I was so hungry that I ate it. It was BYO meat, so all I had with me to eat was the sausage. I can't believe it now, but when you are thirteen and ravenously hungry...

3. I don't wear an engagement ring. I don't even have one. In fact, Glen never even 'proposed'.

4. I am the only person I know ever to have failed a music exam; fourth grade piano.

5. My favourite cartoon show as a child was "G-force" which we used to play during recess at school and I was scared of "the Thunderbirds".

6. Something that really irks me is the way that the word 'random' has come to be used. It seems to be used when we mean unconnected or undirected or something like that. These facts that I have chosen are not random. In fact, they are the opposite. I have carefully selected things that I think you might find interesting, that might make you laugh, that you probably don't already know. The are definitely not random; they may be undirected and unconnected but they are not random.

I tag Bron, T, Hannah and Jess.

1. Link to the person who ‘tagged’ you!
2. Post the rules on your blog!
3. List 6 random facts about yourself!
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post!
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by commenting on their blog!
6. Let the tagger know the entry is posted on your blog!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Sophie writes

Here's Sophie writing about the wedding we went to last Friday.

Note the "bislama-isms" in the way she puts her sentences (actually, her one sentence) together. When native Bislama-speakers speak, there is a lot of what an English-speaker thinks of as repetition. Hence, she says, "now I am going to tell you who the bride is" and then "the bride's name is Astelle". Bislama speakers will also often say one thing and then say the opposite is not true. For example, "There were just a few people there; there weren't a lot of people there".

which flower is this? (18)

This week's flower is another interesting hibiscus. Can you see how there are still five petals as a more typical hibiscus, but each is quite 'feathered'. Isn't it pretty?

You can see in this close-up, the shape of the stigma, style and stamen, which is just the same as this one. It's definitely a hibiscus.

We found this one at the place we stayed for our holiday a few weeks ago.


Here's a cake I made for McIntyre, Joshua's big brother, on his thirteenth birthday.

And here's one I made for Elizabeth's daughter's wedding.

As you can see, wedding cakes are quite big. It is cut and served straight after the service. Everyone is to eat of the one cake as a symbol of our joining together is support of their marriage. There are many people and so the cake needs to be big.

long time no see

It's been a whole week since I last posted, and this time it was not because the internet connection was bad. In fact it was fantastic all week. However, it was a very busy week for us and blogging was sacrificed to ensure everything else was done. You see, I have the amazing privilege of having someone come every day to help with the housework!! Elizabeth walks here each morning from Nakere, a nearby village, to hang washing, sweep, mop, clean and help in the garden. A general all round hero. But last week she had the week off to prepare for her daughter's wedding last Friday. More about that soon. So last week it was my turn to feel the weight of doing the housework. I'm glad to say that the house is still all in one piece, however the lino tiles are definitely worse for wear after spilling a bucket of water all over them which seems to have dissolved the glue, curling the tiles up at the edges. Oh well.