Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29

Our Thanksgiving celebrations have been slow and sweet.  Aaron let me get some much needed extra rest this morning, then we enjoyed some pumpkin muffins that Sarah made yesterday.  Thankfully, the pumpkin pies were the only food we made before we knew the US Navy wasn't coming, so we have four pumpkin pies to enjoy over the next few days. 

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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). 

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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.

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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!

Thursday, November 28

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

Wednesday, November 27

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.Winking smile  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.

Tuesday, November 26

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!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25

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!

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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?!? IMG_0304 - Copy (320x213)
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.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24

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. IMG_0296 - Copy (320x213)

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. IMG_0300 - Copy (320x213)

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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

Saturday, November 23

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. 

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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.

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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.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22

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. 

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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.

Food and Games

A bit of fellowship: Sarah and Olivia had a little fun when their friend Stacy from Marulaon village joined them for a card game and some cassava. Stacy’s little brother Oma joined them as well!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Safe in Marulaon

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

Over and Out

In just a little bit, our family will be headed down to the wharf to catch the Kosco.  Again.  The ship should pull out around 9 p.m. (4 a.m. CST) and arrive in Marulaon around 6 a.m. (2 p.m. CST).  We appreciate your prayers as we make the trip again and pick up where we left off serving the Lavukal in Marulaon Village.  We think we have village e-mail working, but it still transfers in characters per second (cps), and we have no internet.  Hoping to be back in town sometime in February.  This is Honiara, over and out!

Honiara Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Tuesday, November 19
Outside my window...chickens making their morning ruckus as they start the day and sunshine filtering through the mango leaves.  We're in a house we haven't lived in since 2011, and it's so cute and homey!
On my bookshelf..."Living Faith:  Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint" by Dr. Helen Roseveare.  Challenging.
A heart of thankfulness...for people who help extend Aaron's birthday celebration.  Mystic Monk Coffee is our newest favorite!
From the learning amazing kids carted school books back so we didn't miss any school.  Our basket includes "How We Crossed the West:  The Adventures of Lewis and Clark" by Rosalyn Schanzer, "Lewis and Clark:  A Prairie Dog for the President" by Shirley Raye Redmond, "The Lewis and Clark Expedition Coloring Book" by Peter F. Copeland, "Of Courage Undaunted" by James Daugherty, "Seaman:  The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark" by Gail Langer Karwoski
Crafting in the kitchen...our SITAG colleagues have provided every single supper for our stay in Honiara.  So we were freed up to make a key lime pound cake for this morning's tea break.
Pondering these words...One of the students prayed in French, the government language, rather haltingly, "Go ahead, God, stir me.  I don't care what it costs..." Then there was a long pause, before he burst out, in his mother tongue, "I do care what it costs, I care a lot, but stir me all the same, God!"
 ~Dr. Helen Roseveare
One of my favorite things...autumn.  Friends and family are helping me pretend with things like Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin shower gel, an Autumn Wreath scented candle, and Pumpkin Spice Chai tea.  So grateful for the care packages that were waiting for us when we arrived in Honiara.  THANK YOU to those of you who scrape your pennies together to encourage our family and help keep us on the field with your prayers, gifts, and encouraging words.
A few plans for the rest of the week...chipping away at our long "to do" list and getting back on the Kosco Wednesday night to head back to Marulaon Village

Monday, November 18, 2013


This cutie lives down the hill from us in Marulaon Village.  He was born the night my parents arrived, and I played a little peek-a-boo with him through the gate on his porch as I visited with parents a few days ago.  Rube is wearing his favorite outfit:  his necklaces. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

More adventures

We were down at the beach by 5:30 a.m. waiting for the canoe to arrive.  By six o'clock, we were all on our way, driving into the rising sun.

After we left Marulaon, we stopped at the next village, Karumalun, to pick up our driver's son.  The son that was supposed to go wasn't around, so our driver hollered out for a different son (who happened to be asleep on the porch when we pulled ashore).  One shout from dad, and the son was up like a shot, pulling on a shirt, and climbing into the boat.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and pointed toward the sun the entire three hours we were in the boat.  The Russell Islands sheltered us for a while, then we hit the open ocean and really slapped through those waves.  Flying fish kept us company, and toward the end of our trip we watched three frigate bird diving for their breakfast.  We finally arrived, wet, salty, and sore, at the tip of Guadalcanal a few minutes before nine o'clock and found a SITAG welcoming party alongside Chief Leonard.
Just a few days ago, I had been chatting with a friend in Marulaon about the body of Christ working together, and our SITAG family is such a beautiful picture of I Corinthians 12 in action.  The SITAG truck carried our linguistics coordinator, another colleague, his five children, our village chief, two containers of gasoline for the canoe's return trip, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and cold grape koolaid.  Our SITAG family also provided lunch and supper Sunday, so we didn't have to try and buy food on a Sunday afternoon.  Chief Leonard headed back to Marulaon so he could attend his son's graduation on Tuesday, and the rest of us (including two of the guys from our canoe) piled into the SITAG truck to drive the hour back to Honiara.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The radio hasn't been working well since we arrived in Marulaon.  We can hear Honiara just fine, and we can talk back and forth with our colleagues on Malaita, but Honiara can't hear us.  That's kind of important.  In addition, our new batteries haven't been holding a charge and Aaron thinks there may be something wrong with our regulator.  SITAG's translation coordinator has asked us to practice our emergency evacuation procedures and come back into Honiara to correct the problems.  So, we'll be hopping into a motor canoe tomorrow for a quick trip into Honiara, and we plan to return on the Kosco Wednesday night.  The timing is totally a God thing, because the Kosco has begun a new schedule and only comes out to our area about every three weeks.
So, we won't get to go to graduation next Tuesday, and I won't get to hold the Bible story workshop next Thursday.  As our family's contribution to the graduation Form 3 students, we would have taken parcels of cassava pudding.  Instead, our whole family went out to the garden to harvest cassava and give it to each of the families that we knew had a graduating student.

We filled four bags with cassava and still have plenty left to make cassava pudding for weeks ahead.  We also have twenty-one pineapples ripening!

Lots of insects were out and about.  Including huge mosquitoes that really liked my ankles.  I uncovered this grasshopper while weeding around the pineapples.

We walked back through beautiful coconut groves.  Can you see Benjamin at the bottom of the picture?  These trees are so tall!  And, yes, we do watch out for falling coconuts.
So, tomorrow morning, we'll be down at the beach at 5:30, ready to bounce our way back to Honiara.  The adventure continues...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yesterday, we finished bringing in bags of dirt to fill up the canoes, then Pogo and I transplanted Chinese cabbage and tomatoes into one of the canoes and planted marigold seeds on either side of them to help deter pests.  I kept going back and forth from school to the yard.  The kids did a great job of staying on task and being flexible. Pogo and I also dug a couple of rows to plant some green beans, put in a small bamboo fence to keep children from walking through my slippery cabbage, and planted watermelon seeds.  My neighbors would say I'm planting a "sup-sup" garden.
This afternoon, I took grabbed some of the colorful rubber bands I bought back in America.  My goal is to share them with every little girl in our village.  The moms like them, too!  I just walked around trying to chat and sharing rubber bands.  I like to alternate parts of the village so I get to spend a little bit of time with everybody. 
I love how our kids jump in and play with the other kids in our village.  It's so fun to walk around the village and hear the sounds of laughter.  We've been in Marulaon for five years now, and watching all of the children grow up brings me much joy.  The Bible translation really is for them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We now have two busted canoes to use as planters in our yard.  I'm so excited, even if my neighbors think I'm crazy!  When I've planted Chinese cabbage in the past, the frogs have dug up a lot of them trying to get into the cool, soft dirt.  Now I can transplant the cabbage into the canoe and the frogs won't be able to reach them.  Early this morning, our family worked to scoop up rich dirt with a coconut shell half.  We carried the dirt over to our house and filled up the bigger canoe.  We sure were sweating by the time we started school, but one more morning of carrying dirt and we should be ready to plant in both canoes.
We've also begun making banana muffins again to share with our neighbors.  It's a small way we can say thank you.   We delivered over three dozen muffins this afternoon.  As I visited with Kiko and her sister Daisy, I learned that the Form three graduation had finally been set for November 19, next Tuesday.  Our whole family wants to go and support the students that are graduating.  I also set a date for the next Bible story workshop with the ladies from Marulaon and neighboring villages, next Thursday.  I'm itching to get started again!  Daisy's husband, Hiva, has had a cold lately and his voice has been coming and going.  I told him about the English idiom "frog in my throat" and asked him if the Lavukal had anything similar.  Hiva told me that there is a bird, sofiruaem, with a red head and a white tail.  The Lavukal say that this bird is in your throat if you cough a lot.
I often get asked, "How hot is it in the Solomon Islands?"  While I was chopping slippery cabbage tonight for supper, I glanced up at the thermometer.  I hadn't turned on the burners or the oven.  It was 92 degrees.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, November 11

Outside my window...produce growing that was planted by the amazing young lady who kept our yard nice for a year and a half. Our neighbors really weren't sure if we were coming back, but she planted food in faith, and now we have grape tomatoes, long beans, and eggplant in addition to the pineapples that my mom and I planted in December 2010.  Twenty four pineapples are ripening!
On my bookshelf... “Blue Shoes and Happiness” by Alexander McCall Smith
A heart of thankfulness...for the men and women who have served America in the armed forces. Especially for those close to our hearts like Aaron's grandfather and father.
From the learning rooms...we started back to school today.  Loving some Beethoven listening and books (like "The Heroic Symphony" by Anna Harwell Celenza, "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" by Barbara Nichol, "Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells " by Opal Wheeler) and some Audubon paintings and books ("The Boy Who Drew Birds" by Jacqueline Davies, "John James Audubon" by Margaret and John Kieran, and "Classic American Artists:  Four Jigsaw Puzzles to Piece Together" by Bronwyn Collie.
Crafting in the kitchen...spaghetti made with TVP and lots of veggies from market on Saturday. I didn't have any bell pepper, so I walked over to Pogo's to see if she had any extra to sell. She did!
Pondering these words..."The Lord must laugh at our complaints.  We're soft!  We need to toughen up and learn how to take anything the enemy can dish out because 'the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.' (John 4:4)"  ~  Don Wyrtzen
One of my favorite things...hearing the familiar voices of our SITAG colleagues on the radio
A few plans for the rest of the week...settling back in to life in Marulaon.  Our neighbors have gotten used to life without us.  It's my goal to spend lots of time with them so they feel a hole when we are gone!
A peek into my corner of the world...the view from Benjamin's perch in the hammock on the porch. The kids take turns doing school there, it's a prize seat!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

This may look disgusting...

...but it's delicious!  Naris brought a big plate of cassava pudding with a layer of bananas in the middle.  Yum!!! The bananas turn purple when cooked.  We didn't make any cassava pudding yesterday, but we plan to get our outside kitchen going next weekend.  On Saturday nights, you can smell and see the smoke from all of the kitchens as everyone starts their fires for making cassava pudding.  Sunday morning after church, everybody heads straight to the kitchen to take their breakfast of cassava pudding and fish off the hot stones which have kept the food warm all night long.

Friday, November 8, 2013

This morning, everyone in Marulaon was supposed to participate in cleaning up and weeding the village as part of a healthy village program.  Our family was excused since we were still unpacking boxes, but the rest of the village met in a designated area to work together.  My friend, Ofoaen, and her daughter got special permission to come weed our yard.  They weeded around the spiky pineapples, all twenty-four of them!  Soon, we'll be eating all of the pineapples we can hold.

I walked around the village this afternoon and found so many new babies! One of my favorite stories came from Chief Leonard's wife, Janet. She knew when we left last year that she was expecting another baby. After six boys, she really desired a girl. In the Solomon Islands culture, girls are prized for their high value. In our language group, girls are extra special because our culture is matrilineal, meaning the family lines and the land are traced through the women. Janet had a baby girl last September and named her Lolikia, “We two want you”. Isn't that beautiful?!? I also heard about a local “birth announcement”. When a baby girl is born, someone from the family walks around the village with a cord of firewood on his or her head; when a baby boy is born, someone walks around with a bow and arrow.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Here We Go!

As usual, our SITAG family turned out in full force to help us get ready for the ship. We sent an e-mail out this morning letting everyone know that we hoped to load the truck at three o'clock. Well before then, we had extras at the house helping do whatever needed to be done.
Almost our entire SITAG came to help load the truck, and by four o'clock we were stuck in Honiara traffic on our way to the wharf.

 Our family almost always has to divide up to find enough space on the ship for us to spread out and sleep.
 But this time, the ship was almost empty and we were able to find a great spot where we could all stretch out on benches or the floor, and all of our cargo stacked up on the walls behind us.

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.
Around six o'clock, another SITAG team came to bring us supper: homemade pizza and cold grape koolaid. Koolaid never tasted so good!

 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.

We finally settled in to our sleeping positions around 8:30, the kids reading books, and Aaron and I just talking softly. The area where we settled was full of Lavukal, and it was really nice to hear snippets of Lavukaleve floating through the air.

We were surprised when the ship pulled quietly out of the wharf a few minutes before nine o'clock. No whistle or anything to warn late passengers. We paused in the water then turned back to the other end of the wharf where the ship pulled up to refuel. We were so glad the Kosco came back because more SITAG friends came to say goodbye and boarded the ship for a few minutes!   Finally, a little before ten o'clock, the ship really did begin its journey toward the Russell Islands, and we settled in for a long night.

We pulled into Yandina, the first stop, around 4 a.m. Our friends warned us to watch our many boxes carefully, because young men often boarded the ship just to walk around and take things. Sure enough, Olivia saw a man take one of our boxes, so Aaron got off the ship to deal with the situation in a culturally appropriate way – by making a big stink! We didn't get the box back, but thankfully, it was a kitchen box with baking soda, baking powder, and salt in it. I think our thief was bitterly disappointed.

Between Yandina and our village, Marulaon, we watched the sun rise. Benjamin and Olivia climbed to the very front of the ship and stood talking almost the entire hour.
We watched dark clouds begin to form, and a rainbow appeared over Marulaon as we approached our home for the first time in 19 months. Unfortunately, a storm was approaching, too. It broke just as we begin to unload our boxes from the upper deck where we slept to the lower deck.
 Canoes lined up four deep as everyone attempted to get to shore in the driving rain. I was so proud of our kids!.
The Choates made a line as we handed boxes down from me on the upper deck all the way to Sarah in the bobbing canoe.  I whispered prayers for safety as I hoisted boxes. 
Eventually, the three girls went on to shore with the first load of boxes while the rest of us stayed to battle the storm. We were soaked through by the time we climbed into the last canoe and headed toward Marulaon. Our neighbors helped immensely. Some of them had climbed on board to lend their muscles in the driving rain, extra canoes had shown up to help, some of our friends were already carrying our wet boxes up the hill to our house, some of them were watching our boxes under cover. We have the best neighbors ever.
We quickly changed into dry clothes, devoured the banana bread we brought along, and tackled the new day by unpacking boxes and drying of damp books. Several boxes dissolved in the rain and had to be thrown away. Thankfully, the sun came out soon, and we were able to put our wet backpacks and clothes out to dry. We're so thankful for all of those who were praying for us through this crazy ship ride!