Saturday, November 30, 2013
I asked around for extra baking dishes when I thought we would have eight extra men, and Melody quickly loaned me two of her trays, the closest thing to 9x13 pans I could find. I returned them last night with eggplant, Ramen noodles, and canned tuna as a thank you for her immediate willingness to loan out her dishes.
Our Thankful turkey has grown lots of feathers in the last week. I love watching my kids' personalities come out as they write a variety of things on the feathers. We keep them from year to year, not to give the turkey a fuller tail, but to enjoy reading and sometimes deciphering the young handwriting (or scribbles).
After breakfast, we sat out on the porch and read Louisa May Alcott's "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving", one of my favorite Thanksgiving books. We read it aloud every year. Then we began a game of hand and foot. All six of us can play this one at the same time, and Sarah and I were way ahead by the time we needed to stop for lunch preparation. We enjoyed our chicken, green beans, corn casserole, faux candied yams with marshmallows from a care package, watermelon, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin spice coffee. Then, Sarah and I put so much space between us and the rest of the family that we called off the game before we even got to the fourth round.
I didn't realize how much we needed a Sabbath, just a day to stay in the house and rest both brains and bodies, to laugh and play and focus on the many things God has given us. What a gift!
While Eta weeded our yard this morning, I noticed big black clouds to the north. A few minutes later, Kiko walked by with her knife on the way to her garden. She turned, faced the oncoming clouds, and waved her bush knife back and forth. I've seen her, and others, do that before when the wind was blowing very strongly, but never at an approaching storm. A few minutes later, I went out to check on Eta and asked about what I saw. She confirmed what I thought about Kiko trying to cut the storm to keep it away. I asked Eta if there was anything the Lavuakal did when they wanted the rain to come. She told me that there is a special leaf that they take and throw into the ocean that will bring the rain. I'm going to try and find somebody to show me which leaf! Eta and I planted wing bean and cantaloupe, and I went back up to help the kids with school. As I went from room to room, checking on each member of my family, I glanced at Eta outside. She was cutting the storm with the bush knife!
Two of the members of the US Navy came by after lunch to let us know that they would not be able to join us for Thanksgiving. They hadn't discovered much in the way of bombs or artillery in our area (thankfully!), so their ship was moving to another area this afternoon, earlier than expected. We were disappointed, but their departure certainly solved the problem of stretching our little chicken.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
We received a huge surprise today! Four men from the US Navy showed up at our house to introduce themselves. They are serving on an Aussie ship with a team that is working around the Russell Islands to help find "leftovers" from WWII. They've already found several bombs and were asking if we had heard any stories that might help them find more remnants of the war. I asked if they had any plans for Thanksgiving, and they said no. So I invited all eight of the American on the boat to eat a Thanksgiving meal on Friday. One of the guys is supposed to come by tomorrow and let me know if they were granted permission to come share the holiday with us. I'm praying that the little frozen chicken we brought back from Honiara stretches to feed eight hungry men in addition to our family.
Skita has been telling me that she wants to tell me her story, so this afternoon she and Eta came over for afternoon tea. Sarah made gingersnaps (one of our village favorites because our recipe doesn't use precious butter). The ladies were supposed to come at 3, but at 3:40 they still hadn't arrived so I went looking for them. Nobody wears watches here. I found Eta asleep, and she hopped up to go find Skita. They both came to the house a little before 4:00. The conversation quickly turned intimate among the three of us, and I learned that these two lovely ladies have a heart to help young girls in our village love the Lord and serve Him with their lives. They also love to laugh, and we talked about a cheerful heart being good medicine! They stayed until the bell for evening prayer rang at 5:45, and my wonderful family followed directions beautifully and gave us the privacy we needed to chat. Plans are in the works for some casual get-togethers that combine fun, food, and God's Word.
Since we arrived from Honiara last Thursday, we've heard the consistent bang, bang, bang of some of our neighbors building a canoe. Thomas and Dawa have been using the end of an old hoe that they've sharpened to chip away at the parts of the wood they don't want on the canoe. Their work is so rhythmic that it almost sounds like somebody has turned up the bass on the radio!
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
We knew the Kosco was coming back from the West toward Honiara today, we just weren't sure what time. Since lots of my pineapples are ripening at the same time, I wanted to send some back to our SITAG family in Honiara as a "Merry Christmas". When we left SITAG in mid-November, one of the ladies who cleans houses for SITAG (and how we love her!) told us "Hapi Krismas and Hapi Niu Yia!" If you aren't going to see someone before Christmas, it's very appropriate to part with that phrase, even it if is still November. So, before SITAG's staff begin to leave for their own villages to celebrate Christmas, we wanted to send them each a pineapple. Yesterday, I asked Eta if she would make me a basket from a coconut leaf and help me pick the best pineapples to send back to Honiara. She showed up at 7:00 this morning with the basket, told me she expected the Kosco around 11:00, and that she would be back to weed my yard after breakfast.
A few minutes later, I heard the chugging of the Kosco's engines, and the village began to hum with activity. I sent Benjamin to run get Eta while I began to harvest the pineapples that were ripe close to the house. She came running, and we decided that we would have enough time to run get the pineapples from our bush garden.
So, Sarah, Benjamin, Olivia, and Eta went running down to the path to collect pineapples while Aaron went to find anybody who hadn't already gone to get on the ship. In record time, we had nine pineapples in a basket and on the shoulders of Chief Leonard. He is a great one to deliver the pineapples because he is familiar with several of our colleagues and can look for them at the wharf.
After our adrenaline quit pumping, we finished breakfast and morning chores and began our school work. Eta came around 9:00, and she and her young niece, Mariska, weeded in our much neglected yard. I don't think I'll ever win the "Marulaon Yard of the Year" award if I weed by myself, so I don't mind paying a young lady to help bring my yard up to village standards!
For our morning snack, I made enough popcorn to share with Eta and Mariska. We love popcorn popped in coconut oil, and the salt tastes so good when we are sweating so much. As we were munching away, doing math on the porch, all of the sudden, Katherine yelled. I looked up, and she was holding her tooth in her hands - tooth #5!
A few minutes later, Olivia hollered, and she was also holding a tooth in her hands. A molar for her. Who knew popcorn would help teeth fall out?!?
Eta reminded us of how to sing the "tooth song" when you throw your tooth up on the leaf roof:
"Kokomita de ngoneo, nam nganeo."
When Eta finished weeding, we walked over to her house so Olivia and Katherine could throw their teeth up on the roof.
Monday, November 25, 2013
The first set of Sunday bells began ringing at 5:30 a.m., and we were so thankful that the bells waited until daylight. Often, the bells ring as early as 4:30. The final bell rang around 6:30, and church began at 7:00 this morning. A sea of bodies pressed into our little concrete block church, and we filled up the wooden benches and kneeling rails, especially on the women's side. I know to sit on the end of the bench because it has the most support. Even my girls make the plank sink down in the middle!
Katherine had been awake in the night because she was itching so much, and this morning we discovered that both she and Benjamin had been enjoyed by some tiny sea creatures while they were swimming yesterday afternoon. We pulled out the Benadryl and the hydrocortizone cream to give them some relief, and Katherine slept on my lap through the entire church service.
By 9:00 we were home and taking our lelenga off the still warm stones. We had enough to share with three different friends! As I came back from delivering a plate to Kiko, I found Grace at our door returning one of our bowls. She had put a tuna inside to reciprocate our gift of cooking bananas last week. She and I sat on the porch and visited for a long time while the rest of the family did the prep work for our traditional Sunday lunch of pizza. We even used half a bag of the cherished pepperoni that we sent over in our crate.
After a while, I noticed that Grace was looking hard at something inside the house. She finally said, "What is that? A big flower on your wall?" I turned and discovered that she was asking about our "thankful turkey". I tried my best to explain Thanksgiving and our family's tradition of making a construction paper turkey and multi-colored feathers to list the many things for which we were thankful. Grace let us know that she and her kids are going back to her home village to celebrate Christmas with her family, so we won't see them again until sometime in January.
After Grace left, our family began playing Settlers of Catan. After church in Marulaon, we almost always set the pizza dough to rise and begin playing a family game. I'd only just begun my strategy to win when Hilda showed up asking for change for some big bills. She stayed a while and visited with two of her kids nearby. Hilda is involved in all kinds of groups and committees all over the Solomon Islands. She's very forward thinking, so it was good to hear her thoughts and feelings about education and church and sanitation and just life in general.
When Hilda left with her change and a packet of Chinese cabbage seeds, I finished my domination, I mean we completed our game and ate our pizza. We had hardly finished clean up when Chief Leonard arrived to talk to Aaron about compiling a book of Christmas carols in Lavukaleve. Those two guys can story about anything and everything, I'm so thankful for Chief Leonard. He's a good leader for our village, and he's trustworthy and hard working, too.
I walked down to the point of the island (where Grace and her family live) to check on our kids who were playing with Grace's kids for one last time this year. Sarah was playing cards, and the other three were swimming and playing with Grace's canoe.
I made my rounds through that half of Marulaon, storying with lots of women along the way, picking up a huge papaya from Hilda, and choosing a tentative date for the next Bible story workshop with women from several Lavukal villages. By the time I got home, kids were going through the shower, and leftovers were on the cabinet for supper.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Our whole family walked out to the garden again this morning to harvest cassava and weed. When we came home, we ate a quick lunch and then began working to make cassava pudding (lelenga), our first one in twenty months. We were a little bit slow and rusty, but we finished up most of the work in time for the kids to go out and play.
In addition to Aaron's "official" work of Bible translation, we have several goals that we want to accomplish in our village and in the Russell Islands. One of those is to serve as part of the community. When Marulaon holds a fundraiser, we contribute; if the village calls for a work day, we work; if there is a school graduation, we attend; and on Saturdays, we make lelenga to share with our neighbors.
I went down to check on our kids and found Benjamin and Katherine swimming with their friends and Olivia and Sarah cooking cutnuts on a motu with their friends.
I walked up the hill from checking on the kids so I could get my slippery cabbage planted now that the hottest part of the day was finished. One of the amazing things about the Solomon Islands is the rich soil. After you eat the leaves of slippery cabbage (yes, they are slimy, but they are our best option for greens here), you just take the stem and poke it in the ground. It grows! Aaron was beginning the fire to heat up the stones to cook our lelenga. The fire has to burn for about an hour to get the stones good and hot. The kids are really good at helping now. How different from when we arrived in Marulaon in 2009 with a nine, seven, five, and one year old. Not only do my kids know how things work now, but they are strong and capable, too! We worked together to move the stones, place the tray of lelenga on the hot coals, replace the stones, cover the stones with leaves, and cover the whole things with burlap bags. Just in time, we all finished showering (we WERE a little sweaty and smoky!) and filed into the evening prayer service.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Our batteries are dangerously low after several days of rain, so we were thrilled to see lots of sunshine this morning as we began the day with full rain tanks.
The morning was set aside for village cleanup. So after we got the morning chores finished, the kids and I started school and Aaron went out with his grass knife (long and curved on one end) to help our neighbors clean up the public areas of the village.
When the clean up crew was on the other side of my outdoor kitchen (you can see the roof in the picture), I made two big bowls of popcorn to say thank you to our neighbors who were working so hard. I almost caused a fight as every one fought for a handful of popcorn!
The bell just rang to end the time of work, and now clouds are once again covering up the sun we need so badly. Aaron has come in to study Lavukaleve while the kids and I tie up loose ends of the morning's schoolwork. We'll all pause for lunch soon.
Thanks for all of the prayers for our village e-mail. The CPS has stayed around 60, and we've been able to connect about 75% of the times we've tried. What a blessing to be able to stay connected to friends and family across the Pacific while pouring ourselves into the Lavukal.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Friends of the Choates,
I’m delighted to report that the Choates have made it safely to the village – in the sunshine this time! It has, however, rained a good deal since their arrival. So, their batteries are running a little low but their rain tanks are nice and full.
Joanna hopes to have a post of her own as soon as possible.
Ann H (friend)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Our family almost always has to divide up to find enough space on the ship for us to spread out and sleep.
Our SITAG family helped carry and count the one hundred boxes from the truck up to the ship (even my seedlings and flowers came along),
then several of them stayed, played games, and visited for a while.
Families came and went to tell us goodbye,
including our former director and his wife, dear friends. They will be leaving the Solomons soon, so this goodbye was a little teary.