We even got an anatomy lesson as Katherine noticed the differences between the boy and girl crabs. Does anybody know which one is which or how you can tell the difference? It's really easy. Since I can't moderate comments from the village, if you have a guess as to which crab is which, shoot me an e-mail at joanna underscore choate at sil dot org.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
After a wonderful market this morning, Margaret asked me if I could bring some medicine to her baby grandson, Rodney. He was named after Margaret's son who died in June.
I brought over some infant ibuprofen and Benadryl to help this sweet one feel better from the cold that so many people are sharing in the village. Thankfully, our family is finally better! She asked me to come back tonight to give him another dose before he went to bed. He was such a good little boy, and I enjoyed the time visiting with the sweet family. With the village nurse still gone, I've had lots of extra opportunities to hand out medicine and band-aids and to pray for people.
Today is also St. Nicholas Day, so the kids found some little treats (like pencils - thanks, Mama!) in their shoes this morning. One of our colleagues brought our family a bag of Hershey's kisses before we left for the village, so we knew we had to save them to make St. Nicholas purse cookies today. We're so thankful for the people who are willing to bless our family with special treats!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
We left the house at 5:40 this morning to begin the two mile trek to Fly Harbour Primary School. The morning was beautiful, and it was plenty bright to see the path, even in the darker parts where the trees closed in overhead. We paused at the beach "facilities" where our friend, Walter, found us, so we chatted for a few minutes with him while we waited for the family to reassemble.
I found Maja. her family is from Marulaon, and she's one smart cookie. She and her brother remind me of the 8th graders I taught my very first year as an orchestra teacher. The combined GPA of my class was 3.98, and they were all so smart that I had a hard time keeping some of them out of trouble! I've got my eye on this beautiful little girl, I think God has some big things planned for her.
The church service finally got started around 8:00. The school's tiny chapel is made for holding only the students, so we were some of the few adults actually inside the building. The rest of the adults and visiting children sat outside and came inside only to take communion. After the service finished, our family was invited to the "big man" breakfast. This was another time I was thankful that God had prompted us to bring extra food. We brought almost four dozen banana muffins and a big container of sliced pineapple to add to their packages of crackers and a few rolls. It's so nice to be able to share! After breakfast, the kids found a good spot to spread out our mat to watch the graduation ceremony. Aaron and I were both going to be up near the stage in our official roles.
Annie's Aunt Daisy was holding her, and I have no idea why Annie was crying. But Annie was in good hands with so many people to love on her. And every time I saw Olivia running around, she had a baby in her arms. The "big men" met underneath an inkori tree, heavy with fruit, while we waited to file in and have our necks hung with beautiful flower garlands. We watched rain clouds build and move toward us as we waited. Finally, we officially processed in, and I got two necklaces because one of the big men didn't show up.
After we were seated, the graduates filed in and received their flower garlands from their family members. Of the nineteen students graduating from the 6th grade, almost half of them were from Marulaon. And most of the girls are right around Sarah's age. Rain began to fall, and the tarp under which we were sitting began to sag a little even as more and more people crowded underneath to stay dry. Most of the families were sitting underneath trees around the stage area. The speeches began, each of them in English, and most of them read from a piece of paper. As the "Guest of Honor," I was the last one to stand up, and with my heart pounding, I read my speech in Lavukaleve, interspersed with scriptures in Pijin. I tried to encourage the teachers, students, and families with verses from Galatians, I Timothy, and Hebrews.
Aaron said the crowd grew quiet and leaned in when I began speaking. I think they just couldn't understand me, but it was important to me to value their heart language and the way God made them. The Master of Ceremonies commented that my speech was very clear because it was in their own language. My prayer is that the speech will open doors in the future and help people's hearts to be soft to the Lord.
Once all of the official speeches were finished, then came the fun part. Everybody's demeanor changed from serious and stuffy to an attitude of celebration. Aaron got to hand out the prizes for 1st and 2nd grade, and I got to give the certificates to the graduates.
So many of my friends have been looking forward to this day. Kiko has been talking about graduation for more than a year! She is a single mom who adopted her sister's son, Jordan. Jordan and Benjamin are the same age and like to hang out together, and I like to spend time with Kiko, too!
After the ceremony finished, the graduates, their families, and the big men were invited to eat at a special table. Everybody else was supposed to bring their own food. We knew that we would be invited to the special table, but we went ahead and brought some food for our family, too. As we began to spoon out rice into our own bowls, fish and lelenga began showing up in our hands from our friends sitting next to us. We were happy to trade Spanish Rice for some yummy local food! Our friends sure take good care of us.
This little one has the prettiest eyes! She must have been family of a graduate because she got a coveted roll to eat. I remember meeting her in June in Karumulun for their feast day. One of my favorite things about living here is gathering with several villages to celebrate special days.
By the time we left to walk home, it was about 2:30. The rain was coming down, making the path slippery, so we slowed down from our early morning pace. Sometimes we walked through beautiful coconut groves, sometimes through our friends' gardens, and sometimes the close, lush, green growth brushed water all over us until we felt like we were walking through an automated car wash! We often heard friends walking home (they could hardly believe we were walking instead of riding in a motor canoe), so we stepped off the path so our quick friends could pass us.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Yesterday, I went over to teach Margaret how to lay out a pattern on top of material, but she wasn't there. She has a new grandbaby! So, she was over at the clinic helping her daughter-in-law with the new little one, another boy. This is the fifth baby born in Marulaon since June, and they've all been boys.
I am loving reading "As Soon As I Fell" by Kay Bruner! Even though Kay arrived in the Solomons more than twenty years ago, so many things are the same. If you have a chance, ask your library to order this book or buy it yourself (on paper or on Kindle). The book will give you a really good picture of life here in the Solomon Islands.
This morning, our friend, Hensy, came by. He is the Fly Harbour Primary School chairman. He gave me an invitation to attend the graduation tomorrow as the Guest of Honor. The man who was originally asked to be the Guest of Honor backed out at the last minute, so they asked me to fill in since I teach my own kids. I really didn't want to accept. I'm perfectly happy being "vava feo" - just a mama. I work hard to be just one of the girls, bringing food when asked, helping wherever my friends are helping, and hiding in the crowd whenever possible. I really DON'T like being up in front of people, no matter what language they speak. But I feel like I need to accept the offer. So after school this afternoon, I must go find some friends who can help me figure out what to say in Lavukaleve.
Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Margaret Rasol's house to finish up transcribing "Daughter of the King", but she had gone to the garden. I'm used to making appointments, only to find something else more important has come up, it's the Melanesian way and part of the culture here.
Sarah, my fabulous baker, made another batch of banana muffins today, so we began the second round of distributing the muffins to every house in the village. It's our little way of saying thank you to our Marulaon neighbors who allow our strange family to live in this lovely place.
Our village is made up of two lines of houses, one line on the beach and one line where the land plateaus about 30 feet above sea level. My friend Ofoaen's house is the third house on the upper level, so I dropped off banana muffins for her and her family. I found her making square parcels of lelenga for her daughter, Foamela, to take on the ship back to Honiara tomorrow. Sitting, visiting, and waving off flies while she worked gave me some sweet time with her. This family is so precious, all of Ofoaen's kids and grandkids are humble, kind, quick to help, and generous. Soima is the only one of the kids or grandkids in school right now. Doesn't she have beautiful eyes? Only one in school helps with school fees, since every child has to pay at least a little bit to attend school.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Just for today, Monday, December 1
Outside my window...calm seas. So thankful, since Aaron, Edi, and Brennen left a little bit after 5:00 this morning. Everybody got up early to say goodbye and hug necks, then those not getting into the motor canoe went back to bed.
From the learning rooms...Sarah and Benjamin are finishing up "Pride & Prejudice" and beginning "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde"; Olivia is reviewing percents; and Katherine is learning about attributions in language arts and insects in science.
A heart overflowing with thankfulness...for our time with Edi (and Brennen). Wow! Those two brought sweet, soft hearts, full of love for Jesus and full of willingness to be a blessing to our family. Today, a big, gaping hole is left. Edi left sweet notes for everybody to find. Here's an excerpt from mine:
Part of me expected to find glamour or a special shrine in the life of a village missionary family. But like you mentioned to me before, the village brings out the worst in you. And perhaps that is one of the reasons Jesus has you here, to "burn thy dross and refine thee." This is the greatest thing I can thank you for - for showing me the real, raw Choate family who needs Jesus.
Cooking in the kitchen...nothing. We are eating leftovers today. Two wonderfully full, late nights and a very early morning has left us moving around like slugs.
On my bookshelf...finishing up "Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World" by Tsh Oxenreider (from my friend, Gayly) and looking forward to beginning "As Soon as I Fell" by a former SITAG colleague, Kay Bruner, loaned to me by another SITAG colleague, Roxanne.
Pondering these words..."Both [the unwillingness to acknowledge their helpless dependence and the unwillingness to be obedient] are declarations of independence and, whether physical or moral, are essentially atheistic. In both, the answer to the call is no." ~Elisabeth Elliot
One of my favorite things...letters mailed in March and July that finally arrived after being mis-sent to Nauru.
A few plans for the rest of week...I'm headed down to Margaret Rasol's house this afternoon to try and finish up transcribing "Daughter of the King," Wednesday I'm supposed to head to the other Margaret's house to show her how to lay out a pattern on top of material, and Friday the whole family is walking over to Fly Harbour Primary School to attend their 6th grade graduation.
A peek into my corner of the world...December 1st means it's time for our family to de-worm with our yummy chocolate meds!
Saturday, December 6, 2014
The guys had a GREAT time fishing last night! God gave them some playful dolphins, a gorgeous sunset, and phosphorescence in the water as gifts during their fishing trip. Even though the three of them only caught four small fish among them, Chief Leonard and his son made up the difference. So our share of the catch was one big fish, and seven small (still good sized!) fish. We had enough to share some with Naris in addition to half of our small pan of lelenga (cassava pudding) this morning. Naris' husband, Dawa, was gone for a meeting in another village, so she wasn't going to make any lelenga. Plus, she has been sick with this nasty cold virus going around the village. It was fun to surprise her with the fish before church (so she could cook it the way she liked) and to follow the fish with lelenga after church.
We "milked" our fish. Aaron cut it into pieces, then I placed the pieces in water and brought them to a boil. After dumping the water, we deboned the fish and re-boiled it in coconut cream with salt and curry. Yummy!
After a rousing Phase 10 game, we finally completed the music recital that we began yesterday. Edi and Sarah sang a beautiful duet of "Infant Holy", and they they performed the world premiere of Benjamin's composition "Opus 1". He set various scripture verses to music in four different movements. We LOVED it!
Edi's home church has a great AWANA group that has adopted us for the year. They sent a paper Christmas tree with picture ornaments from each child in AWANA. Edi's mom was the impetus behind the tree - how thoughtful! On the back of each ornament is each child's name, and I think Olivia already has the names and faces memorized.
Eta and Edi really hit it off! We love Eta, she has a sweet heart and loves Jesus, just like Edi. Today was the day of goodbyes, and Eta was leaving this afternoon to stay at the elementary school for the week. I snapped a picture of these two lovely ladies before they went off to the church to pray together. I think that prayer is one of the biggest gifts Edi brought with her. It didn't matter if language was a barrier, Edi just "stopped, dropped, and prayed" with everyone God brought her way.
After church this morning, our friend, Hensy, made an announcement that there would be an engagement/farewell party for Edi and Brennen tonight. Under our house. In other words, the Choates were hosting the party! We've enjoyed several gatherings under our house, but never anything so sweet.
We anticipated lots of people bringing food for the potluck, but God prompted my heart to make a triple batch of the stuff I was making to go on top of rice (thanks, Lord, for a good market yesterday!) and to cut up the huge watermelon we requested when Brennen came to the village. Usually we devour watermelon immediately, but this time, we had so many different kinds of fruit at market that the watermelon still sat untouched. Again, I think this was God's provision.
So after church tonight, we began setting up the table and chairs underneath the house, strung some Christmas lights, brought down buckets to hold the flowers our friends brought, and carried our platters of food down to wait.
Our friends moved our two big chairs underneath the Christmas lights as the seats of honor. They began to bring root crops and rice and set them on the table. I kept looking for the other food, but by the time the party began around 8:00, I realized that there wasn't going to be any other food. So thankful that we had plenty to share! Chief Leonard explained that the Lavukal lead the new bride and groom by the hands to the seats of honor just after the wedding. So the party began with everyone singing and dancing as my friend, Margaret, held Edi's hand on one side and Brennen's hand on the other side and led them to the seats underneath the lights.
After more singing and dancing, the "big men" (Chief Leonard, Aaron, & Brennen) filled their plates, followed by our family. Then I helped a few women make plates for everybody else. Usually, everybody brings their own plate, but I realized that I didn't see anybody with a plate in hand, so I quickly asked a friend if we were supposed to provide the plates. She nodded yes, so I ran upstairs to grab every plastic plate and bowl I could find. As we loaded plates with rice, a little bit of the Pakistani Kima I had made, a piece of watermelon, and half of a potato or cassava, I noticed plates that were empty quickly returning for another person to use. We ladled food into the same dishes over and over again, but everybody got at least a little bit of food into their tummies using our nine plates and fourteen bowls.
After eating, it was time for the speeches. Chief Leonard spoke, as did Aaron and my friend, Hilda, on behalf of the Marulaon women. Aaron even led us in the fun action chorus, "God Made the Butterfly Fly". Then Brennen and Edi took their turns. What blessings they poured out on our neighbors and what sweet Christian fellowship we enjoyed tonight. God's spirit was certainly present. We closed with the traditional hand shaking as everybody lined up to dance and sing their way to shake hands with Edi and Brennen. Margaret (a grandmother of at least nine children) almost brought the house down as she danced away with Brennen at the end of the song. I think he made a special friend!
Work, work, work!
I never get bored here. When we first arrived in the Solomon Islands and were getting ready for our first trip out to the village, many of our colleagues told us that we would be bored and suggested we take plenty of books and games. However, I have a tall pile of books just waiting for me to have a spare moment to read. Saturday always begins with an early morning market just after morning prayer. I'm usually down by the shore buying food by 6:30 a.m.
Saturday also means making cassava pudding, a task which often takes our family most of the morning. But it is worth the time and effort to be a part of the community and to be able to share our "famous" pudding with our neighbors. Aaron has earned a great name as the squeezer of the best coconut cream this side of the Russell Islands!
Today, we decided to go all out and motu (cook with the hot stones in our outside kitchen) twice, once for lunch and once in the evening for cassava pudding. We had the great umalau that Isabella had given us yesterday and some pumpkin greens I bought this morning, so we fired up the outside kitchen to make one of my favorite meals: potatoes and greens baked in thick coconut cream. I also found some cooked fish at market this morning, and that completed our meal. We had enough potatoes and greens left over to take some as a thank you to Nancy who brought us the leaves we needed to motu again that evening.
In between cooking sessions, we began our annual Messiah sing-along. Really, it's only a few movements since our family is still young, but we enjoy every minute! The kids had also been working on some piano and voice pieces with Edi, and they performed those as well. We had to hustle a little bit because the guys were going fishing with Chief Leonard around 4:00.
Chief Leonard showed up on our porch a little before 4:00, so we cut the recital short. The guys headed out with a hand of bananas, some water, a container of local nuts, and lots of fishing "equipment". No fancy rod and reel, just a length of fishing line wound around a plastic bottle.
They started to leave, then realized that Aaron hadn't brought down any petrol for their trip. So, Aaron ran back up to the house to get the fuel while Edi and I played with one of the twins that was sitting on the shore with his mom.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
As I post this, it’s about 1:30 AM Friday SI time. In a few short hours, the Choates will leave for a 6th grade graduation ceremony. The guest of honor canceled at the last minute, and Joanna was asked to step in!
Here’s a summary of what their day will be like:
We will leave the house at 5:30 in the morning to walk two miles to the school. Then two hours of communion service followed by "breakfast" of crackers and super sweet tea. After breakfast, the graduation will be very, very long. Every student has their grades read out. There will be many speeches - the district priest, teachers, parent representative, and me. Then the official graduation of the 6th graders. (Many students never go past this point in their education.) Then lunch. Then the entertainment. One year, Aaron went without me and got home after dark.
While Aaron has filled guest of honor spots such as these before, this will be a first for Joanna, and she’s asked for prayer. She intends to present at least some of her speech in Lavukaleve and the rest in Pijin.
Please pray for stamina through this long day, for Joanna’s speech to be clear as she speaks in two languages that are far from natural to her, and for her to be able to honor both God and her neighbors in this.
Thanks for being prayer supporters of this precious family!
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
When Edi learned how to scrape a coconut, she was wearing a purple band-aid on her finger. This time she was wearing a beautiful gold band on her finger.
I love these two visitors! Sharing life with them seems so very normal and good, and I'm so thankful they are here. This morning, we took a much needed trip to the garden to chop firewood, weed, and harvest cassava. We hoped to burn the brush piles, too, but things were a little bit too wet. Advent starts on Sunday, which means our neighbors aren't allowed to work. They can harvest food but not dig new heaps to plant food. They can't work on building a new house. I'm not exactly sure what qualifies as "work", but I want to be sure and honor their ways.
After we worked for several hours in the garden, we came home, drank lots of water, and rested for a little while. Isabella gave me a big heap of umalau as I walked past her home. I think it was a thank you for the meds I gave her this morning. A huge portion of the village (including our family) has a nasty cold. Fever, aches, huge sinus headaches, coughing, lots of snot. Whole families have been laid low with this virus, and we've been asked for lots of meds. The clinic is closed right now because the nurse is in a different village.
When the guys had finished the southern side of the house, they headed straight to the ocean to rinse off. The girls were already there playing, and I was working with my friend, Margaret Rasol, on deciphering the handwritten translation of Daughter of the King. Margaret and I watched them all splashing around, Katherine hanging around Brennen's neck.
"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving." 2 Corinthians 9:10-11
God certainly blessed us generously today! We enjoyed an abundance of good food and sweet adopted family with whom to celebrate.
Edi's mom thoughtfully sent ingredients for a no bake, chilled pumpkin pie. Our director used the opportunity of the rendezvous with Brennen to add a frozen chicken and two cans of yams to our Thanksgiving stash. And another colleague gave us a box of dressing mix and a can of cranberry sauce since she was leaving to spend Thanksgiving in America.
Even our Thankful Turkey was sprouting an abundance of feathers!
We enjoyed finishing our fall puzzle with help from Brennen and Edi - both puzzle whizzes.
Aaron carved up the chicken with a lovely set given to us as a wedding present from his great-aunt. We read "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving" while some people chopped green beans and some people worked on the puzzle.
And after we filled our hearts with good fellowship and our bellies with good food, we felt just as if we were celebrating back in our passport culture. Except for the sweat dripping from our noses and the ubiquitous fan blowing! Don't all families finish their Thanksgiving celebrations by jumping from a big tree and going for a swim in the ocean?
And Jaham - isn't he just the cutest thing ever?!? He's always quick to give me a high five, too. I'm constantly reminded that these little children are the ones who will benefit most from having God's Word in their own language while they are growing up. My prayer is that reading the Bible in their heart language every day will be a normal part of their every day lives.