Saturday, 26 June 2010

birthday images

Here are some photos from my birthday last week. The children made (and decorated) the cake themselves.

Friday, 25 June 2010

lap-lap fowl

Lap-lap is the national food in Vanuatu. Visitors usually struggle to eat more than a few mouthfuls but after you've been here a while you find you love it. Tonight's was really good.

I'm often asked how lap-lap is made. So this time, I took lots of photos so that you can all see. I didn't make it on my own... I needed lots of help, not least because we don't even have a bush kitchen with a fire. But, lap-lap making and eating are both fellowship events. No-one (usually) does it on their own.

This is what we started with: yam, coconuts and a fowl. Two students caught the fowl for us early this morning and my house-girl killed, plucked and gutted it later in the morning. It spent some time in our fridge. The coconuts were gathered just before lunch and another friend removed the husks for me. This is a skill I definitely have not mastered!

At 2:00 pm I trotted off to Mama Mercy's bush kitchen. She had agreed not just to let me use her kitchen but to help me make the whole thing as I have never made lap-lap with meat before.

First we washed the yam. They are grown in the ground and usually remain fairly caked in soil until required. Then we cut off their skins and grated them ("rus-rusem", love the onomatapea).

To get the mixture just right, we also mixed in juice from the coconuts. This makes it lovely and sweet.

During this whole process we had also been working on the coconuts. They are opened with the blunt side of a bush knife. The juice (which is not white like milk but clear like water, and delicious) is kept; some to sweeten and soften the yam (as described above) and some to make it easier to squeeze out the milk (see below).

Then the coconut is scraped, grated or scratched off the shell. The "scratcher" is quite an instrument! It is a little stool with a metal attachment like a flat spoon sticking out, but the spoon has small, sharp teeth all round it. The coconut shell is moved over this attachment, grating the coconut which falls into a bowl. It requires a fair amount of muscle and, while all the women can do it, if there are men around, it's their job. Here, Mama Mercy's son is learning. Then the milk is squeezed out of the coconut through cloth. The extra liquid from the juice makes this easier. You can see Sophie helping here (also learning).

Now all the ingredients are ready and we need to put the lap-lap together. I go outside to find lap-lap leaves. These look like banana leaves but are stronger and don't split as much as banana leaves. They are used a lot in cooking. Mama Mercy builds up the fire, which has been quietly smoldering away in the corner. The stones need to be quite hot.

The under side of the mid-vein of the leaves is removed. This makes the leaves easier to bend, and the off cuts are used to make a "rope".

Four or so ropes are laid out in a criss-cross fashion. Then the leaves are arranged over the rope, laid out on one another. Coconut milk is rubbed over the leaves, its oil working in the same way margarine does to grease a cake-tin. Then the yam is put on the leaves. Hot stones are carefully placed in the middle, on top of a folded-up lap-lap leaf. Then the chicken pieces are placed over the stones. This ensures that the chicken will be cooked properly. Onion, shallots and salt are sprinkled over the chicken. Finally, the whole thing is covered in coconut milk.

Then we fold over the leaves to wrap it up like a parcel and fasten it with the rope.

Stones are removed from the fire (now with no flame), the lap-lap placed carefully on the coals/ashes and covered with hot stones. Then the stones are covered first with more lap-lap and banana leaves, and then with old fabric. This all keeps in the heat.

Then we leave it for a few hours. We return, remove all the coverings and carry the lap-lap to the house. We open up our parcel and, voila!

It mightn't look much but it was delicious. The students who came for dinner loved it and so did Mama Mercy's family (at least everyone was polite enough to say so).

Thanks everyone for your help, especially Mama Mercy for your help and the use of your kitchen, and our friends in Weilapa for the fowl and yam!

a lovely evening

We've just had a lovely time with our field experience group. We ate rice and stew, but the centre-piece was lap-lap fowl (which tasted great) and enjoyed good fellowship. Then the children were bundled off to bed and Glen and the students discussed last weekend's field experience trip and prayed together about God's work in the village.

fowl for dinner

Well this morning I witnessed my first killing, plucking and gut-
removing of a fowl. It was neither as messy not as smelly as I had
expected, though I didn't offer to help.

Matthew chatted happily through the whole experience, contrary to my
expectations, and kept telling me how much he likes to eat chicken
because it tastes so good.

The poor chook was actually a rooster given to Glen by a friend last
weekend when we were out on field experience. It came with some yam
and so tonight we plan to have yam lap-lap, with fowl, together with
the students in the field experience group. It was they who caught
the hapless beast for us this morning, it having escaped its rope
earlier in the week.

Let's hope it tastes good.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

more photos

Here are some more photos of our time with the Dubbo Connors.

Here are Sophie and Madeline.

There were some rather wonderful offcuts from the skylights that were installed which made really cool robots, tunnels and donuts. Lots of fun.

We enjoyed some time down at the reef together. Here is Wayne with his boys, Ben and Tim.

And here is everyone else playing in the rock-pools.

Some days we spent some time doing school work together. Here they are more happily (my children would say) employed, painting.

Here we are under the mango tree outside our house. A lovely space to sit and chat, especially when it isn't raining.

Here are the children in their good island clothes ready for church. This was a perfectly hideous photo shoot... this photo captures only a little of the angst!

Here's the lovely Emily.

Here are Ben and Tim enjoying the beautiful Champagne Beach.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Matthew and Laura

I commented earlier that Matthew (3) and Laura (4) were practically inseparable during the visit from the Dubbo cousins. They just seemed to get along so well; enjoying the same things, looking out for each other and talking non-stop.

I often hear people saying that children don't need to speak the same language to play together. I have decided, after watching these two, that while this is true, it has its limitations. Matthew often plays with children with whom he shares no common language. But being able to talk with Laura, to communicate in words, easily, opened a whole other world of play and friendship that I don't think he's experienced before. It was amazing.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Another series!

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while (if anyone is still there) will know that my great weakness is beginning series that never go anywhere.

Well I'd just like to announce that I've finished another series! Hooray!

Really? You ask... there's been no activity here for a while.

Have a look over on in-tandem. Here's a guide to the series.

praise God for antibiotics

I said in my last post that Matthew was very clingy the day his cousins left. He was also coming down with something. What it was we're not exactly sure, but it we think it was a serious chest infection, possibly pneumonia. He had a fever over 40 degrees, was breathing shallowly and very rapidly and had a racing pulse and a cough.

It was the second time in as many months that one of our children has developed a potentially fatal infection, yet the administration of antibiotics in both cases led to quick and complete recovery. It makes the serious seem relatively minor.

Since going to Africa in January, both my brother's wife and infant son have had malaria, but with treatment have also made full recoveries.

It makes one consider what life was like for those who lived a hundred years ago or more. There's an old mission station over on Malo, and standing on the coast looking out to sea are two small graves; the children of the missionaries who served there early last century. Missionary service was a different experience for such as these.

I can think of some grandparents who are mightily glad of antibiotics! Praise God.

a lovely visit

We've just had a lovely visit from Glen's brother and his family.

They came with a group from their church to do some work at Talua and run a children's mission at Tata School. The rest of the group returned to Dubbo after two weeks but Wayne, Jill and the children stayed for another two weeks.

We really enjoyed their stay. The children all got along remarkably well, given there were eight in one two-bedroom house... even when it rained (which, for visitors from dry old Australia, was most of the time). Matthew and Laura were practically inseparable.

My three responded very differently to each other when they left. Sophie went out and hand-washed all our clothes; a job she had done with Madeline (also 7) just prior to their departure. Bethany promptly went outside and reacquainted herself with old friends and showed no sign of sadness what-so-ever. Matthew was very clingy, jumping up with every vaguely engine-like noise to say, "They're coming back!". Now he just keeps saying, "Tomorrow, we're going to Laura's house". Eventually that will be true.

We weren't great on the photo-taking front (I'll try and dig out some over the next few days), but here's one of all the children:

From left to right: Matthew (3), Tim (9), Emily (1), Laura (4), Bethany (5), Madeline (7), Sophie (7) and Ben (11).