Monday, November 30, 2009


"Bibisav" (the "b" sound is a cross between a "b" and a "v", and the "v" on the end of the word indicates plural) abound here.  Everywhere we turn, we find flowers of some sort.  The beautiful orange one is in our backyard, one of the many planted by Pogo. 
The delicate red flowers were a real surprise to me.  We've been cultivating several of the plants whose broad leaves are used for the motu (cooking with hot stones).  When I took a walk around the island over the weekend, I discovered that they produce a lovely big red flower.  I'm looking forward to the time when our bushes get big enough to flower.
The white bushy flower (I think they look like exploding hot dogs) will become kino (cutnut in English or galip in Tok Pisin).  These blooms are abundant - fifteen or twenty on each tree - and they affect our sinuses like crazy!  Our kids really like to open and eat the nuts, and the trees produce nuts every few months here in Marulaon, yum.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...Monday, November 30, 2009

Outside my window...dark, still, birds beginning to chirp, the bell just rang extra early to call the faithful to celebrate St. Andrew's day

I am thinking...about one of our favorite children's authors, Jan Brett, who turns 60 today

From the learning rooms...Katherine continuing with "Slow and Steady..." and adding colors to her stone sorting, Olivia - comparing numbers, Benjamin - reviewing factors & multiples, Sarah - reviewing ratio, continuing our unit about Canada, having fun with "Marvelous Month-by-Month Writing Prompts" (published by Scholastic) to spice up our creative writing - the same prompt ends up totally different in the hands of my three totally different children :-)
I am thankful for...great memories of singing and playing and hearing Christmas concerts, especially in Elizabeth Hall

From the kitchen...muffins and yogurt pops this morning, curried lentils, rice, green beans, and papaya for supper (we have a limited choice of meals out here, good thing my crew isn't picky!)

I am wearing...a blue sleeveless jumper with white flowers that the dogs pulled off the clothes line.  The dress bears scars from the dogs, making it perfect for working outside today.

I am reading..."The Rest of God" by Mark Buchanan, an insightful look at observing Sabbath

I am hoping...and praying for rain.  The front rain tank is empty, and now we are sharing the back tank with neighbors.  We haven't had any rain for over a week, and our island is so small that we have no fresh water source other than rain.

Pondering these words..."But at the heart of worship is rest -- a stopping from all work, all worry, all scheming, all fleeing -- to stand amazed and thankful before God and his work.  There can be no real worship with out true rest."  Mark Buchanan
Around the house...Christmas decorations are up, a pile of Jan Brett books reside in the book basket
One of my favorite things...good books that arrive from far away friends, like an oasis to my hungry mind and soul

A few plans for the rest of the with Felta, attending the Fly Harbor School closing program all day on Friday, decluttering the piles that come from switching seasonal decorations

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
the view to which I wake up every morning, sorry about the screen lines

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sunday, November 29
This weekend, all four of our kids have played sooooo hard with the neighborhood kids!  It's been fun to watch them interact and try to use a mixture of Pijin and language.  They've picked mogea and molokita, harvested and opened kino (see the picture of Olivia cutting open the nuts), jumped rope, and run around playing tag with only a few breaks for meals or church.  I love the sound of 15-20 kids sitting underneath our house and singing "Jisas ngana laketei..." (Jesus, you give me life).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Needs in Honiara Housing

A BIG thanks to all of you who have sent white pillowcases for the new building and bandages embedded with antibiotic ointment for our neighbors out here in Maurlaon!  Almost every day, we find somebody at the door who has an oozing sore or a cut that needs attention.  I love being able to tell each one that people in America who pray for them sent those bandages.
Recently, we received an e-mail from the Accommodations Committee at SITAG expressing some more needs for furnishing housing in Honiara (We experienced the faulty stove first hand when it shot up a flame and burned my arm up to my elbow while Aaron was gone to Australia.):
"The Accommodations Committee has been working on a list of needs for the houses.  Some urgent needs include replacing a faulty stove, a broken washer and a few refrigerators that are nearing the end of their lives....If you think your church or supporters would be willing to donate towards the purchase of bigger items for the SITAG houses or  purchase and mail smaller items (such as kitchen towels or sheets), please let us know! "
The houses at SITAG are places of refreshing for our family when we come back from Marulaon having poured out ourselves completely.  Teams (support or literacy) based in Honiara can stay in these houses as well.  We are so thankful for facilities that are well maintained and lovely.  If you are interested in helping out, please e-mail me at joanna underscore choate at sil dot org.


Janet, one of Daisy's five daughters, helped us a couple of days this week.  I asked her to transplant some of the papaya trees that had grown voluntarily in my tomato patch while we were gone.  Lots of small boys have been running through our yard, and while I like the kids hanging around, I didn't want them stomping my newly planted pumpkins and melons.  So, I asked Janet to make a "vasa" (fence) with the papaya trees to show everyone where the boundary for my garden is.  She disappeared for a while, and I wondered where she had gone.  When she came back, she was carrying several freshly cut saplings.  Janet fashioned a fence to go around the outside of my garden, and then she planted the papaya trees.  I also learned how to tell the kids to get out of my garden:  "Soisava!  Nga meloni ome sikarin."  (Go away!  Don't spoil my melons.)  Janet has just finished Form 3, a big accomplishment.  Most students here don't go past this level of education.  The closest equivalent to American schools is 9th grade.  She told me that she and her family will go over to Yandina next Tuesday for graduation. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"Oh! favors old, yet ever new,
Oh! blessings with the sunshine sent.
The bounty overruns our due.
The fullness shames our discontent."
-John Greenleaf Whittier
from Harvest Hymn
-Benjamin who likes to climb and explore
-clean clothes
-Olivia frequently making us roll with laughter at her funny faces and expressions (and reminding me of one of my own sisters)

-the beauty of black pearls of papaya seeds against the sweet flesh
-watching Sarah make my mother's recipe for pumpkin pie, all by herself
-hot cocoa

-Katherine's excitement at a beautifully camouflaged inchworm crawling across our porch
-going to take the clothes off the line, only to discover that Aaron has already done it
"Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.  Psalm 111:2

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


On a walk with Benjamin and Olivia, we discovered this big beautiful spider web nestled in between ferns and the huge roots of a tree.  I love finding God's amazing creation - outside.  However, when Benjamin found one of the big brown spiders in the control panel of our fridge, I confess I was less than thrilled.  These arachnids abound in our house, especially in dark shadowy places like book baskets or dirty clothes baskets.  He thought it was cool, though, so I took a picture with his hand to show you how big the creepy-crawly was.

Going to Market Pictures


Going to Market

For at least the last two weeks, ladies from our village have taken different kinds of shellfish and crabs and loaded onto the Bikoi.  They ride all night on the boat, arrive early in the morning in Honiara, and take their wares to Central Market.  After selling all week, they return home on the Bikoi on Sunday.  This week, several ladies are going again so the last twenty four hours have been a big time of preparation.  Last night, many of them went "shell lighting" or hunting for shells by night.  Today, I found a family group finishing last minute preparations for the trip while eating some of their spoils.  They roasted crab on an open fire.  I watched as one of the ladies just picked up a small crab, plopped it on the coals, and held it there with a stick until it quit squirming.  They were working while they munched.  In the pictures, June (one of the ladies who participated in the hair-cutting ceremony last week to mourn her brother) is weaving a basket from coconut leaves to help carry some of the food to market.  Naomi (a little girl about Olivia's age) is standing by a boat full of "kalemeto".  To prepare the critter inside, you boil the whole thing in salt water, then extract the meat and boil it again in coconut milk. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...Monday, November 23
Outside my window...beautiful sunny afternoon, Benjamin and Olivia down at the beach, my sheets hanging on the line still because Katherine decided to use my bed instead of the toilet (that stinker has been potty trained since March!)

I am thinking...honestly, about how tired I am.  I've had to work really hard today to count my blessings and give thanks in all circumstances.

From the learning math books for Benjamin and Olivia, finishing up American History, a day off for Thanksgiving on Friday (so we can celebrate with our friends and family in the States)
I am thankful husband's homecoming!  We made it through five days and five nights (I know it's not very long), and I only forgot to switch the solar panels one time.

From the kitchen...gearing up to celebrate American Thanksgiving.  No turkey (chicken will have to do), but we have some cute paper goods, corn casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and grateful hearts.  God has truly given our family a plethora of things for which to thank Him.  Now if I could just figure out how to explain to the neighbors what pilgrims are and why I am giving my kids a day off of school.
Pondering these words..."And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  II Cor. 9:8

I am wearing...denim sleeveless jumper with buttons that catch on the washing machine when I lean over

I am reading..."Blue Like Playdough" by Tricia Goyer, laughing, crying, being convicted

I am outdoor kitchen gets built soon
 Around the paper turkeys, maps of Canada's provinces & territories going up as we get ready for a very short unit about Canada, mounds of cooking bananas that Margaret brought us yesterday

One of my favorite showers

A few plans for the rest of the week...enjoy our "Thanksliving Treasures" box each evening with the kids, try to find somebody who will take me over to the big island, Pavuvu, to find large round stones for my outdoor kitchen

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Benjamin waiting for the Bikoi to drop off his Daddy and some of the girls who came down to the shore to watch the Bikoi (it's the main event on a slow Sunday afternoon)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Whenever I learn a new phrase or word, I try to use it as often as I can.  This week, I learned how to ask someone if they will be "working" lelenga.  I was storying with Sarah Kiko outside her kitchen earlier this week.  Several other ladies hung around, too, each bringing her own personality to the conversation.  I saw a unfamiliar woman walking by with a big load of firewood on her back - this is a telltale sign that a woman is about to cook lelenga.  So I quickly asked who the woman was and then proceeded to ask her, "Lelenga ngo voloriria meo?".  Everyone around errupted into laughter!  I knew my pronunciation wasn't very good, but they quickly told me that this woman is from another area of the Solomon Islands and had no idea what I had just asked her.  The ladies from Marulaon told her to answer me "Irei" (yes), and we all had a good laugh.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



When we moved into this house in Marulaon, the family who lived here before us blessed us by the many things they left.  We found dishes and linens, toys and schoolbooks, and chalkboards.  Who knew that plain, unassuming chalkboards would be such a blessing!?!  We didn't paint them or decorate them, we just hung one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen/dining/living area. 


One of the lessons I learned last year during our village living stay in Papua New Guinea was the importance of surrounding ourselves with scripture.  I have written in my Bible beside Psalm 19, "If our home is to be a life-nurturing place, then it must be filled with scripture.  If we are to be life nurturing (for ourselves and others) then we must be filled with scripture."


The bathroom chalkboard displays our "to-do" list for the day, as well as a Bible verse or a poem.  Yesterday, my list looked like this (but I didn't finish it all, as usual):

-plant bell pepper seeds

-make yogurt

-wash throw rugs

-fix green bean poles

-wash front louvers

-sweep and mop

-make banana cake for market

-wash Olivia's sheets

-prepare Camper's oatmeal


I usually ask the kids to illustrate the scripture or poem.  Lately Olivia has been asking to choose the verse.  At first, she was choosing memory verses from school like the Golden Rule.  Then she chose a verse from Psalms that shocked me.  It talked about sinners and the wrath of God.  Last night, she chose Isaiah 1:28-29, "But rebels and siners (her spelling) will both be broken and those who forsake the Lord will perish.  You will be ashamed of your sacred oaks in which you are delighted..."  I asked her why she chose those verses and she said, "I picked it because we need to know not to do bad things."  My kids are my best teachers!


The front chalkboard displays the meal plan and verses about giving thanks.  Sarah chose to illustrate the verse that is on the board right now.  "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  Colossians 2:6  When I asked what the propping stick was in her picture (we see them all the time here, especially on the papaya trees), she said it represented Jesus since we are supposed to be "built up in him".  I'm continuing to learn the impact that surrounding ourselves with scriptures makes on my family and on myself, and I feel like I'm taking baby steps with God using chalkboards and my children as my instructors

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thankful again

-a two year old who has learned to love playing with rhinoceros beetles during church (many of the children tie a string around the "horn" of the beetle and swing it around as a toy, and the noise is quite distinct)
-creative and grateful children
-our new front porch rail
-observing the rain as it blows across the ocean toward Marulaon, obscures everything behind it, and brings life to our island
-puzzles (from Sarah)
-ice cream (from Benjamin)
-umalau (from Olivia)
-the way sunlight streams through my bedroom windows and dances on my blue walls every morning
-for the dehydrated and canned fruits and veggies we have in the pantry to nurture our bodies when Marulaon has no market

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

For Today...Monday, November 16, 2009

Outside my window...dark and quiet, only one close neighbor has their generator running, rain is coming, it's been a good day
I am thinking...that I am really going to miss Aaron this week

From the learning rooms...Sarah beginning a new math book with pre-algebra (aaaccckkk!), reading about Armstrong & Aldrin on their moonwalk, Katherine adding colors to her stone sorting with painted egg cartons, finishing up circuits with a fun kit left in the house by the previous family
I am thankful for...our newly finished porch rail-it looks great!

From the kitchen...we enjoyed lots of leftovers today, but just as we were cleaning up supper, Naris brought three small meo (tuna) so I'll cook them tomorrow in coconut milk

I am and white striped cotton pajamas, with the rain and the wind it's cool enough tonight to wear pants to sleep!

I am reading...just started "Little Women", I may be working on this one for a while, but's it's been so long since I read it that I wanted to read it again
 I am hoping...that I can get out more and visit with the neighbors.  I'm really finding it hard to get everything done with school and the house and still have any time to walk around.
Pondering these words..."...All praise was a sacrifice.  It cost me somthing to lay aside my grief and despair and to thank God.  To worship Him" -- Carol Jo Brazo  
Along with "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe."  Hebrews 12:28

I am hearing...the hum of the fan Aaron attached to the curtain rod, the heavy breathing of sleeping children, rain coming down outside

Around the house...bananas ripening to make banana bread tomorrow to sell at market, "Thankful" banners made by the kids this afternoon

One of my favorite things...hearing the little girls around here belting out praise songs, "Lod inu hobeam, hobeam..." (Lord, you are good, good)

A few plans for the rest of the week...getting Aaron off to Honiara for his meeting and to practice our emergency evacuation procedures

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Katherine in the "ila" (net), one of her favorite places to be

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Queen Katherine

Katherine loves to spend time with her aunties and the other kids her age here in Marulaon.  She didn't want her picture taken after the hair cutting ceremony, but she just looked so pretty after Skita made her a necklace!

Hair cutting

Saturday, November 14
What a busy day!  Market this morning began around 6:30, and Sarah and I went down a little before 7:00 with our banana muffins.  As usual, they sold quickly, and we were able to find some eggplant, tomatoes, pineapple, and papapya.  I'm so excited that pinapple are finally becoming ripe!  I'm going to plant each top in hopes that next December, we'll have a nice crop.  We also bought lots of obikola (cassava) to make lelenga.  Benjamin and Olivia went swimming while Katherine alternated between swimming and hanging out with Auntie Skita. 
Yesterday, on our family walk around the village, we came across Sarah Kiko and her sisters, Grace and Daisy.  They were making parcels of lelenga which is unusual for a Friday afternoon.  Usually, it's made on Saturday afternoon and cooked all night to be eaten after church on Sunday.  So I asked if there was a special occassion.  Evidently several people have been growing their hair out in mourning for the young man who died while we were here in Marulaon in August.  Saturday (today) was the hair-cutting ceremony for three of them, so Sarah Kiko's family was making lelenga for the celebration.
So during market, I asked around about our family attending the hair-cutting ceremony.  Everybody seemed to think it would fine for us to go.  We headed back to the house and began the morning chores and preparing the lelenga until it was time to go to the north end of the village for the ceremony.  Around ten, one of the relatives came and walked with us to thek ceremony.  Our kids hung on in a big hammock with lots of the other kids.  They had such a good time!  Katherine was quickly scooped up by Auntie Skita again, and we watched during the ceremony as she was given a garland of frangipanni flowers and doted upon.  She is the queen of the village!  Aaron and I sat on a bench by two woven mats.  
The district priest opened the ceremony with prayer.  Then, the three who were having their hair cut knelt down on a mat in front of us (I don't know if I will ever get used to being given the seat of honor).  The oldest sister of the man who died and one of the brothers had been selected by their father to grow their hair in mourning.  Grace (one of Sarah Kiko's sisters) chose to grow hers because her father (a former chief) had named the young man who died.  Three people with scissors came forward and cut the hair close to the head.  Then each person in mourning was given new, white clothes and white paint or paste was marked across their forehead and upper arms.  Each of the three were given a big bowl of gifts (including some local food and some "white man's food" according to the local chief) and a small bowl of gifts was additionally presented to Grace in honor of her father.  Tears flowed freely during the ceremony. 
When everything was finished, one of the chiefs spoke about the importance of passing customs down to younger generations and the symbolism of the ceremony.  The priest also spoke about how there was mourning after Jesus' death, and then a time of joy followed.  He encouraged the three to leave behind the mourning and enter the time of joy now.  We learned that this is only the first of several ceremonies in conjunction with the young man's death.  They will lay concrete over his grave soon, and in January another group of people with cut their hair.  The following August another ceremony will occur one year after the young man's death.  I hope we are in Marulaon for this one, too.
When we finally returned home, it was close to noon.  After a quick bite to eat, we tackled all of the scraping of the coconuts and obikola to prepare the lelenga.  I milked and cooked the coconut cream and sliced the bananas.  Felta brought by some leaves for the motu since we don't have our own trees yet (but we have some small ones growing in our yard now).  I carried everything down to Eileen's house where they were just beginning to scrape (they are a lot faster than we are!).  By four, we had finished and it was time to get ready for supper and church.
I know this post is long and rambling, but that's how our day felt!  Looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ordinary time

Friday, November 13
Life is just trucking along here in Marulaon.  Our oven is still not behaving, but if we crank it up to broil and wait for it to heat up, we can usually manage to get about 300 degrees.  So, today I loaded up the oven with 3 dozen banana muffins (for market in the morning), a loaf of bread, and some rolls (for sloppy Joes tonight).  Oh, the house smelled good!  Pogo finished up her week with us today.  She has such a beautiful flower garden, so whenever she works for me I ask her to plant more flowers.  Today, she added some beautiful red hibiscus that I hope will thrive on the Eastern border of our yard.  I'm still amazed that they just hack off a branch and stick it in the ground to grow.
Yesterday, the kids stayed out and played with the neighbors until the bell for prayer rang.  Watching them all play together puts a smile on my face.  The older kids should all come home from school for the weekend within the next hour.  I spent some time yesterday trying to again translate some of the hymns and liturgy.  Over and over, we are finding that our neighbors do not know what they are saying and singing because it was translated word for word instead of for its meaning.  Starting with poorly translated words is almost harder than starting without anything written down!
Feathers are beginning to appear on our Thankful Turkey.  It's fun to see the things my kids choose to write on the feathers ("our family being helthy" and "getting to know nibors family and frenids in our village" both from Olivia).  We're saving our books to read aloud while Aaron is gone to Honiara next week for a meeting.  Louisa May Alcott's "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving" remains on the top of our favorites list.  Pulling out good books each year is like pulling out old friends!  We love "Molly's Pilgrim" by Barbara Cohen, "Thank You, Thanksgiving" by David Milgrim, "This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story" by Laura Krauss Melmed, "Thanks for Thanksgiving" by Julie Markes, and "My Book of Thanks" by B.B. Hennessy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Tonight (Wednesday), Felta brought by the whole, huge tuna that we put on the motu this morning, as well as all of the umalau.  I took the lower half of the fish and left the half with the head (the choice part) for her family.  I also took half of the umalau and asked her to share the food with everyone who helped cook it. 
Felta told me that everybody was saying we must be Christian because the tree that fell last weekend missed our house!  I tried to tell her that I trusted God to always do what was best for me and my family.  If He thought the tree needed to miss our house, then that was best for us.  But if He thought the tree needed to hit our house, then that was best for us.  I don't think I explained very well (especially since I wasn't speaking in English), because she just smiled and nodded.  We are being given more and more peeks into their worldview, and it's scary and humbling and exciting all at the same time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is what we saw outside our bedroom window just before morning prayer.

More pics from Wednesday

When the fish is so big, it doesn't need to be wrapped in banana leaves. You just place it directly on the hot stones, then cover it with leaves to trap the heat. It smells wonderful!

This is how Katherine spent the time while I was peeling umalau and watching Felta work. Eileen loves Katherine and was watching her use the peeler (something they don't use here) on the umalau. All of the ladies adore playing with Katherine, feeding her, and talking Lavukaleve with her. When I finished with the food, I found Katherine asleep on Eileen's shoulder.

Lots of food

Wednesday, November 11
Yesterday, Felta came by and asked Sarah if we liked to eat crab. Of course, Sarah told her yes, so Felta asked her to bring a dish and fill it with fresh. Aaron went with Sarah to fetch the crab, and he came back with our dish full as well as another big dish full. She is so generous! You can see our small dish compared to her big dish in the picture.

This morning about 8:30, Daisy came by and said the ladies were waiting at the market for me. Last time we stayed in Marulaon, market met on Wednesday afternoons, but now it meets on Wednesday mornings. I was so thankful she came and told me. We were able to buy some bananas (now I can make banana cake for market on Saturday), a huge watermelon, a pineapple, and some umalau, all in the rain :]

Felta came by again while I was deciphering language with Pogo. She said that her brother had just caught a big fish and would we be interested in buying it? She even offered to cook it for us over hot stones so it would be ready by tonight. So, I spent a couple hours this morning watching and learning how to cook a huge meo (tuna). I took down the big basket of umalau that we bought this morning and asked Felta to motu (cook over hot stones) the umalau, too, so we could all share it tonight.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...Monday, November 9

Outside my window...dusk is falling, frigate birds are catching the last updrafts of the day

I am thinking...that Marulaon is the perfect place to live 

From the learning rooms...circuits & electricity in science, 1950's & 1960's in history, math reviews for all as we wind down another school year, picture study with our Norman Rockwell playing cards, nature journaling with the many trees in bloom and new plants popping up
I am thankful for...a hardworking husband

From the kitchen...lots of fun foods sent in care packages from the States

I am t-shirt, wrap around skirt from Papua New Guinea, black beaded earrings

I am reading..."No Ordinary Home" by Carol Jo Brazo.  I found this gem on sale when Sarah was little, and it's still a favorite!

I am hoping...and praying Olivia's eye infection continues to clear up
Pondering these words..."God always calls unqualified people." -- Madeleine L'Engle 
Around the house...almost finished unpacking and cleaning, passion fruit ripening in the hanging fruit basket, caladiums from Honiara growing in a pot on our porch, card sized pictures of presidents from the 1950's-present hung on a line in the hall

One of my favorite things...hearing Aaron reading aloud to the kids

A few plans for the rest of the week...continuing to clean, dislodge the spiders, and try to get organized

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
The little brown ants here love to build their high rise apartments in the stacks of Katherine's cloth diapers.  These are the same ants who live on the green bean plants, and they BURN if they touch your skin.  I can't figure out why they love her clean diapers so much.  Guess she really does have "ants in her pants"!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

After the Storm

Sunday, November 8
The first bell rang at 4:45 this morning - but only 54 times. The second bell was at 5:15, and the last one rang at 5:45. Service began at 6:30. I'm thankful we meet for worship early while it's still cool! From her bed, Sarah asked if she had to get up when she heard the first series of bells ring :]
It is a lovely day today after yesterday's storm, and we'll begin cleanup tomorrow. My three big kids are outside playing with the other kids, and I just took a big stalk of sugar cane (along with my knife) down under the house for the masses to snack on. It's been a really nice Sabbath. We taught the kids how to play hearts this morning and there has been lots of laughter in the house today.


Today (Saturday) we had lots of straight line winds come through. It was breezy all morning, but in the early afternoon the wind picked up enough that I asked the kids to come inside. Benjamin had been playing soccer with the boys, so Aaron went to find him. As the wind increased, papaya trees around us began to snap in half because they were top heavy with fruit. Just after Aaron got home, the big kapok tree by our house blew over, taking some papaya and banana trees with it but sparing any houses around it. As a family, we gathered around and prayed for our neighbors. We observed many people facing the sea with their knives in their hands. They waved their knives furiously. Later, Daisy told me that the Lavukal wave their knives at the wind and tell it to slow down. It looks like we sustained more damage than anyone else, which is a very good thing.
I walked down the hill and checked on some of our neighbors. Nobody was hurt and no buildings seemed to be damaged. We are so thankful that God protected each of us during the storm. When I came back up the hill, lots of people stood around our house chatting. Wendy (a girl about Sarah's age) stood up on the kapok tree and let me take her picture so you can see how big the tree was. She later gathered the pods from the tree to take home and make a pillow with the fluffy insides. Because of the storm, the day was wonderfully breezy and cool, and after we put the kids to bed Aaron and I sat on the porch in the dark and enjoyed the pleasant evening.


Saturday, November 7
Bananas aren't in season right now, so we knew we couldn't make banana cake for market. We've been told lots of things that the family before us did, and popcorn was mentioned many times. So, we decided to take popcorn to market in small plastic bags. Last time we were here, market met a little bit before 8:00 on Saturdays, so we assumed it would be the same this time. After a yummy breakfast of pancakes and some of our precious "real" eggs (we save the powdered ones for baking), we made some popcorn and headed down to the market. There was very little there, and I was a little disappointed. But I soon found out that market was finished! Next week, we'll go right after morning prayer. Our popcorn sold really fast, so I think we will continue to bring it until bananas come back in season.
We were able to get one bunch of green beans, some eggplant, a papaya, and a soursop. The picture of the soursop has Olivia's hand on it so you can get an idea of how big it is. It is a little tart, but this one was nice and ripe and we enjoyed eating it.

more garden work

Friday, November 6
Today was Felta's last day to help (the girls only come three mornings a week and they rotate weeks). Since we harvested our umalau on Wednesday, we took out the old vines and put in new plants today. Felta said the umalau we planted today should be ready around April. Lots of ladies came by why we were working. One of them paid me a huge compliment when she asked if she could have some of my umalau cuttings to plant in her own garden! Katherine kept stealing my bush knife and hacking at the vines or the ground. She's pretty good with it! All of the little ones here practice with small knives. As they grow, they get bigger knives and learn to use them at a very early age. I finally got her a small kitchen knife so I could use mine to work.
Melissa and Ruthie (two of the young ladies who often help me) came by and storied for a while as well. Katherine loves all of her "aunties" and enjoyed sitting in their laps and listening to them sing and talk.  I was better at digging the holes this time, but I'm still slow. Every time I lifted the hoe, big clumps of dirt fell in my hair. Felta reminded me not to lift the hoe quite so high. When you plant umalau or obikola, you bring the hoe down and toward you while you slowly work in a circle. When you are finished, you have a nice circle about two feet wide with deep soft dirt all heaped up in the middle. I'll be sore tomorrow :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

glass house

Thursday, November 5

This moving back and forth stuff is so hard. We love living here, but it always takes us a little bit to remember that the "rules" change every time we switch houses. Our neighbors around us can hear every little thing we do since the louvers are always open. With no ceilings, the house isn't sound proof at all. The reflective layer inside the roof line takes a tiny amount of light and brightens the whole house. And any noise in our room can be heard anywhere in the house. So getting up early in the mornings before the kids wake up is really hard because we wake them up no matter how hard we try to be quiet and keep things dark.

The little girls from the neighborhood still love to watch me hang up laundry and name the owner of every piece I hang up. They just giggle!

I've been told several times since we came back how fat I've gotten :-) It's a good thing I'm secure in who God made me to be! Felta was laughing that she and all her friends were whispering about me when I got off the boat last Sunday. I just tell them that I didn't have a garden in Honiara, and now I'll work hard and be thin again.

Our oven is also having difficulties. Part of our training last year was cooking over an open fire, but right now the stove top still works. The pilot light is on, but the whole element won't light to heat the oven. So no baked goods for us right now! This might be really good for my waistline...

Even our daily schedule has to adjust to living here in Marulaon. We've been surprised at how much the angle of the sun changes and how much earlier the sun is rising now than when we were here in April. By 5:30, the sun is well on its way up. The bell for morning prayer has been ringing consistently at 5:50. So everybody is up and moving early, and we eat breakfast around 6:30 when Aaron gets home from morning prayer. Then the "bucket brigade" begins. We still have to pump water by hand from the big rain tank on the ground to the small tanks on the roof. So, it's easier to bring in buckets of water to wash dishes and clothes. I do love my twin tub washing machine that my sweet husband bought for me! Aaron put wheels on the bottom of the washing machine's cart (which he built last time we were here), so now it's much easier to move the machine over to the shower drain when it's time to wash clothes. We all haul buckets of water to fill up the washing machine, wash !
dishes, and refill the toilet tank in addition to taking turns pumping water as part of our morning routine. I try to have laundry and daily cleaning finished up by 8:30 so we can start school. The house girls usually come around 8:00 (though Felta came at 7:00) and stay for four hours. School usually finishes up around 2, and the kids play outside. I try to get outside and visit with neighbors and work on language until about 4. Radio sked is at 4:30 with SITAG in Honiara, and then we eat supper at 5:00. Evening prayer usually starts between 5:30 and 6:00. Then it's cleanup and bedtime routine and crash!

Even with the difficulties of adjusting to living here again and trying to learn the language and culture, I still LOVE it here! Watching the moon rise over the Pacific Ocean thrills me. God is so good to provide friends and food and more than we could possibly ask or imagine. Our village is sooooo beautiful! Our kids love to swim with goggles and admire the coral and the myriads of ocean creatures that live there. I'm constantly reminded of His grace to me and learning to extend grace to myself and to my family as we live in a cross cultural situation.

more umalau

Curious onlookers as we harvested our umalau.


Wednesday, November 4
Back in the swing of things with school. We started back yesterday, but I think next time we come, we will give ourselves two days off. Too many boxes and piles still left!
Felta and I worked in the garden digging lots of umalau this morning. I took three heaps to market to sell since I didn't have any banana cake. They must have really missed their banana cake, because while I was hanging up clothes this morning, three little girls were watching me very closely. When I asked them if they had a question for me, they asked if I was going to bring banana cake to market! The market doesn't meet while we are gone (how's that for God's provision for us?!?), so this was the first one they've had in three months. I was the only one who brought anything to sell, but lots of people came to see if I had any banana cake.  
Eventually, my three heaps sold, and through some "encouragement" of one of my friends, somebody brought some manioco (papaya) for me to buy.
The rest of the umalau we set aside to take to the church, just like the Children of Israel did in the Old Testament. You can take a basket or bowl of food, and the catechist will see it and know that you are bringing the first fruits of your harvest. So, at evening prayer, our bowl of umalau was "prayed over" and a prayer of thanksgiving was offered. We wanted to be able to eat the fruits of our labor, so we put money on top of the umalau (the amount we would have spent at market) for the church. If we had wanted to leave the food, it would have been set out and anyone could have bought it with the proceeds going to the church.

Garden update

Monday, November 2
Last night we enjoyed our traditional mac and cheese (with tuna and dehydrated peas thrown in). Three times now, and it's a tradition! Hard to believe this is just our third time out here, it sure feels like home.

One of the first things we did today was check out our garden. The beans were almost finished, but I was able to harvest enough for a couple of batches for us to eat. The umalau is ready now, the obikola won't be ready until Christmas or later. The chinese cabbage is all gone, but we've heard it was beautiful, and Sarah Kiko told me that she was able to sell six heads at the market. I told her to keep the money. We have one pineapple that should be ready soon. When we had the big weeding day in April, the pineapple plants were uprooted because mosquitoes like to live near them. The tomatoes are finished, and all but one of the watermelons are gone. Many people have told us that they think boys came and stole the watermelon because we had lots of them that just disappeared. If we had come back in October according to the original plan, we could have enjoyed the food, but I'm thankful that our neighbors were able to enjoy it.

Felta is helping me this week with the house and the yard. She has such a sweet spirit and a perpetual smile, and she has been here since we first came in April. Her husband and oldest daughter (five years old) stay out West while Felta stays here in Marulaon with her baby, Doris, who is a year and a half old, and her mother. Our community is very matrilineal, so it's very common for a woman to be surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren. Men frequently "marry in" and move to the village of the wife. Land passes down through the women, too. I know lots of families where the husband and wife live in separate places, but it works here because families all work together to watch the children, cook, garden, clean, etc. I'm so thankful for the help that these ladies give me! It's nice to have in the house (especially when we first come back and have to wash every dish, dust every book, wash every sheet, etc.), but their work in the yard is invaluable! I have no idea !
what their idea of a nice yard should be. Felta worked a long time this morning tidying up our yard, picking up trash, and weeding. I imagine we'll tackle the garden when she comes back on Wednesday.

More Bikoi

This is the view of the tip of Guadalcanal from my perch on the boat. You can see how glassy the water was, and although we stayed in the shade all day, we still got sunburned from the reflection off the water.

Choates on the Bikoi

This is how the Choates travel on the Bikoi. We got lots of stares whenever one of our kids pulled out a book (which was frequently).

Bikoi passengers

Just a taste of what it looks like to be a passenger on the Bikoi.