Thursday, 22 December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

more on fungi

This gets more interesting every year.

In 2009, it looked like this.

Last year, 2010, it looked like this.

And now, 2011, it looks like this (thanks Mum for sending the photographs):

Friday, 9 December 2011

how do I find Australia

I've recently returned from a short trip to Australia. People often ask me how I find being in Australia after so many years in Vanuatu. It's a good question and one I find difficult to answer. Here are some comments.

I have so much more energy in Australia and feel, physically, so much better.

I see so much more skin that I don't know where to look. Faces and hair are so "done" I wonder where the real people have gone.

I am bewildered by choice. This is a problem not just when shopping but also when paying bills. Under the guise of "helping you better", I suspect I am just being ripped off more.

I used to really love singing in English when I went to church in Australia. Now I don't know the songs. And when I think I do know the song, it has a new tune and I don't know how it goes.

Sometimes I feel like I don't know how anything goes. It wasn't relevant this time, but on previous visits we have enrolled our children in school. My children are not in kindergarten, and it's the end of the year, but I am like a first-time kindergarten Mum in her first week of school. I don't know anything. I don't know where not to park or where to turn the car around. I don't know about canteen, about the end-of-year festivities, when the traditional (but unofficial) mufti-day is, or isn't, how to pay for anything, where to stand, where not to stand, what to give the teacher for a present... all I am thinking about is reminding the girls to keep their shoes and their T-shirts on even when they get hot.

I enjoy seeing my old friends again and to talk without fear of misunderstanding (at least, not too much). I enjoy visiting churches that support and help and care for us. I am very thankful to be able to visit my doctor for sound medical advice.

I love to see my Mum and Dad, my brother and my sister and her family. I miss my other brother who is in Africa. I enjoyed catching up with extended family and especially all my nowallgrownup cousins.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

on breast-feeding

Here's a post I wrote a few weeks after Lachlan was born.  Breastfeeding him continued to be painful (though not as intense as first and not for the same reasons) for about nine months.  It's been better since then.

Best for mother, best for baby. Breast-feeding is a wonderful bonding experience between a mother and her newborn, cultivating a close, loving, harmonious relationship. There are numerous benefits to the health of baby and mother, not to mention the health of the planet and the hip-pocket. In fact these days, to bottle-feed is to be a social pariah.

If I could go through labour again not to have to breast-feed for the first week, I would.

Breast-feeding my fourth child in his first week, especially his first day, was the most painful experience I have ever had, and that includes labour, without drugs. If there were 50 good reasons to have a fifth child, the memory of this week alone would be sufficient to stop me.

After-birth pains. After my second child (when they were a surprise to me) someone told be they got worse with every child. I didn't believe them. At that time every feed would leave me in tears... it couldn't get worse. But it did.

And why did no-one prepare me for this? Why does no one in the post-natal wards seem to take it seriously or offer helpful suggestions in terms of pain relief? Pandeine Fort? Are you kidding?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

ministry workers boost knowledge

Published in the Daily Post, 5th November, 2011, here is the edited (and translated) version of the article I sent to the Daily Post. You can find the original version, in Bislama, here.

Selling uranium to India

Should we do this?

What do you think?

a world newspaper for children

If you are keen for your children to learn and understand what is happening around the world today, here is a great resource:


If you subscribe, they send a printable newspaper called "newsademic". It is easy to read and provides enough background information to understand the issues surrounding current events.

We enjoy reading it ourselves and our nine year old enjoys it. It has also led to us doing research together on the internet to find out more.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I love this photo

Though you might have to crook your neck to see it. It's not like that on my computer so I don't know why it's gone sideways.

My brother took it. Can you guess where he was when he did so?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

30 pipol oli graduet long sot kos long Talua

Here's an article I wrote and sent to the Vanuatu Daily Post a few weeks ago. I didn't hear back from them so thought they weren't interested. However, on a recent visit to a friend's house I found the article in the November 5 edition of the Daily Post, in the Santo News section, only it had been translated into English. Mostly a good translation only some of the nuances were different. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be on their online archives so I can't link to the English version. So, see how you go with this one....

30 man oli stap gobak long ol aelan blong olgeta afta long fo wikis “in-sevis” trening long Talua Ministry Training Centre.

Long Fraedei 28 Oktoba, 30 pipol oli bin graduet long wan sot kos long Talua Ministry Training Centre long Saot Santo. Olgeta ya oli kamaot long ol difren jyos mo oli kamaot long ol difren aelan long Vanuatu mo oli kam wanples blong karem ‘in-sevis-trening’ long wan sot kos.

Sot kos ya i stat long 3 Oktoba mo i gat fo wikis evriwan. Oli tekem trening long komuniti bes edukesen, prijing, misen, jyos disaplen, pasifik histori mo lidasip & develpmen. Ol lekura we oli tijim olgeta, oli tijim olgeta long ol spesel eria blong olgeta.

‘In-sevis-trening’ hemi blong givhan long olgeta we oli karem wok finis insaed long jyos. Long olgeta ya we oli bin graduet, i gat ol pasta, ol pris, ol dikon, ol sandei skul tija, ol yut, wan we i wok long PWMU mo narafala we oli no karem wok yet. Principal Ps. Fiama Rakau hem i talem se in-sevis-trening hemi impoten tumas. Hemi talem se, “Jenis i kam oltaem mo trening we samfala oli karem bifo i aot-of-deit. Yumi ol man mo woman we yumi folem Jisas Kraes, oltaem yumi stap lan mo yumi mas kam ap-to-deit.” Mo, “Hem i veri veri importen blong lei pipol blong i siftem olgeta long save long wok we oli mekem”.

Ps. George Manses we hemi wok longtaem finis i talem se, “Sot kos ya i olsem wan niufala journey. Mi mi wokbaot i go, gogo mi nomoa save go, be kos ya i helpem mi blong mi lukluk moa i go. Hem i helpem mi bigwan, i bildemap mi, i leftemap tingting blong mi long kristin laef mo long prea.” Mr. Brian Vanuaroro, wan yangfala man, hem i talem se, “Kos ya i stret long ol yangfala tu. Hem i givhan plante long mi blong luksave plante samting blong givhan long komuniti, long jyos, long gavman mo long kantri.”

Talua Ministry Training centre hem i wan institusen blong Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) be long sot kos ya i gat 17 man we oli kam long Church of Melanesia (COM) oli kam. Principal Rakau i talem se, “Mi mi glad tumas long kos ya from we i gat fulap COM oli kam mo i balans wetem olgeta blong PCV”. Mo hem i talem se doa i open long pipol blong eni jyos we i joen long VCC oli kam.

I gat tri sot kos long evri yia, long Januari, Septemba mo Oktoba. Samfala sot kos we i go finis oli bin fokas long yut o sandae skul o eldasip. Mo samtaem ol lektura oli goaot long narafala ples blong mekem ol sot kos ya, olsem long Efate (Januari 2011), Tanna (Mei 2011) mo Malekula (Mei 2010).

Back Row (from left): Lesley Rongo, Ps. George Manse, Joseph Vagaha, Sam Yonah, Morris Tari, Stephen Sigi, Fr. Seth Karae, Brian Vanuaroro, Jimmy Olo Middle (from left): Ps. Valu Toukone, Wilkins Tari, Godringdon Tari, Fox Mele, Fr Pedro Tamsel, Moli Luke, Fr. Christopher Tavoa, Dikon Stanley Aru, Dikon Daniel Tini, Fr. Eddison Mala, Jairo Iatipu. Seated (from left): Johnny Roy, Ps. Willie Yanick, Rodney Lulu, Daniel Soul, Fr. Robertson Aru, Fr. Arthur Segere, Votangi Aru, Alexine Moses. Front: Fr. Namson Pattison Absent: Ernest Naual

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


And then on Sunday, there was carols night. It was a lovely, Christ-honouring night. Dramas were well performed and the birth of Jesus was linked both with promise in the OT and fulfilment in his work of salvation on the cross.

Carols are a little different here. It is more performance than participation. And candles are saved for the end and then swapped as you greet one another. I hold my breath every time waiting for someone's hair to catch on fire!

On Monday and Tuesday exams were held, though most were on Monday. Since exams students have been working on preparing for graduation. Graduation students are away today for their "retreat". Tomorrow, more preparation, and graduation on Friday.

closing (4)

Then on Saturday it was our presbytery group closing. This year we decided something informal would be in order. So we went down to the river, made a fire and roasted freshly caught fish and chicken wings (not so freshly caught but marinated in soy sauce, honey and ginger). We also ate cinnamon bread (which Sophie made), rice, sausages, paw-paw, cucumber and simboro.

I have chosen this photo because it say something about the unity we share in Christ. Our "presbytery" group is connected to the "Ambrym" presbytery. Ambrym is one of the islands of Vanuatu. Two of the students in the background are from Ambrym. Another is from Tanna and another from Epi (but who worked on Ambrym as a Pastor for years before returning to Talua to do his degree). That won't mean much to many of you but to ni-Vanuatu it means a lot.

Tanna, Ambrym and Epi are the places were "kastom" or traditional beliefs and practises, especially black magic, are strongest. Furthermore, there is strong rivalry and tension between these places, especially Tanna and Ambrym. A few years ago there was a riot involving the Tannese and Ambrym communities in Port Vila in which people were killed.

But here, the dividing wall of hostility has broken down, and these men have a deep and lasting fellowship.
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility..." Ephesians 2:13-14

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

closing (3)

Then on Friday night, it was the community closing feast. This is a big chance to say farewell to graduating students and for them to thank the staff. Here's the graduating student string band:

closing (2)

Last Thursday was the closing feast for our mentoring groups. Sophie, Bethany and I did a little puppet show to farewell the student among them who was graduating. The girls did a great job!

My mentoring group this year.

Monday, 7 November 2011

closing (1)

Here are some photos of the closing celebration of the PWMU (sort of a women's fellowship) last Wednesday.



Presenting presents to those who are leaving us this year.

A lap-lap is carried in. This is a "sue-sue" style lap-lap. Very special.

Lots of food. Here coconut milk is being poured over the "sue-sue" lap-lap.


There was also what we call "secret friend" which includes lots of gifts and dancing. Loads of fun and laughter. But not my thing ... I was shaking!

closing season

It's 'closing' season at the moment at Talua. Think "christmas party". There's a closing for every group you belong to. Class, presbytery, mentoring, women's fellowship, community.... So I'll post some photos over the next few days of some of these events. There's lots of food and it's lots of fun. I just don't know when anyone does any study! Exams still to come.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Glen picked up a few extra students in his mentoring group towards the end of the year. It got a little squashy in his office!

family snaps

Saturday, 5 November 2011

more puppets

Here's one of the projects we've been working on this term.

We downloaded the "glorified sock puppet" pattern from here which we followed closely for the frog, but modified it for the other. If anyone is interested, let me know and I'll tell you how we did the mouth and the eyes, which we copied from these ones.

Monday, 31 October 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

the three trees (2)

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

I wonder what you think?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

the real Valiants

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

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

Here are some we thought particularly interesting:

Mary of Exeter
Royal Blue
William of Orange

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

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

Lemtap newe!

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

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

"Rani karia!" From Ambae.

"Pul pong wi!" From South Efate.

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

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

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

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

Monday, 10 October 2011

What does the story of the three trees mean?

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

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

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

Is that it? What do you think?

Friday, 7 October 2011

circles in squares

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 October 2011

building a bush kitchen

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

Here are some photos that show its progress.

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

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

The walls are made with more split bamboo.

Photos of the finished building soon.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

which flower is this? (36)

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

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

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

...and then produce this:

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


I have no idea what sort of tree it is.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the best party ever

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

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

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