Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tuesday, December 23

When we woke up this morning, the plan for the day was work a little, play a little, get ready for the boat tomorrow.  Yesterday, we finished cooking and closed up the kitchen, super thankful for the small, propane powered refrigerator we have to keep all of that food from spoiling until we get on the boat.  I spent much of the day delivering things to friends: leftover unpopped popcorn, empty air-tight containers, laundry detergent, onions, and fish hooks.  It's important in this Melanesian culture to maintain relationships well, and it's important to me, too, to have time to say goodbye and hug necks before we leave.

 When we checked our e-mail, we received an update from our director informing us that the Kosco office was now predicting the ship's arrival at 4:00 p.m. TODAY instead of tomorrow.  That sounded a little bit strange to us, but we kicked everything into high gear just in case.  We also started asking neighbors lots of questions about what they had heard from the ship or on the radio, and we began sending lots of e-mails to colleagues asking for updates and confirmation.

The Kosco used to come right to Marulaon, but we've heard rumors that some people in our village offended the boat's crew, so the Kosco now stops at a village about twenty minutes away.  Our neighbors began telling us that the ship wouldn't be in the Russell Islands until tomorrow morning, but we hadn't heard anything definite from Honiara, so a little bit before 4:00, Aaron made the decision to load up the canoes with our things just in case the ship really did come.  So, we quickly turned off the fridge, stripped the beds so we could wash the sheets in Honiara, gave away the pineapple, papaya, and pumpkin I had saved for supper, and began hauling everything down the hill while Aaron went to talk to the owners of the motor canoes.  No time for showers or a change of clothes, we were getting on that boat stinky and sweaty!

Friends helped us carry everything down the hill, Olivia grabbed little Muna, who was happy as long as she got her sugar cane.  We were ready to drive away when I realized it was 4:30, time for SITAG's radio sched, so I ran up the hill, unlocked the house, and turned on the radio to chat.  I discovered that the ship wasn't coming today!  Our colleague told us that the updated arrival time was between 8:00 and 9:00 tomorrow morning.  So, our wonderful Marulaon friends offered to cover one canoe with our bags still in it, and the rest of our luggage was carted to a friend's house to stay on the porch overnight.

We carried our backpacks back up to the house, scrounged for sheets and towels to make it through the next sixteen hours, turned the fridge back on, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Jason and Kayla were troopers through the whole ordeal.  Now we could get a good night's sleep at home instead of trying to sleep on the ship.  God's timing is always perfect!

Monday, December 22

A little work and a little play.  When we pack and clean the house, we need both of those things to make life work well. 
Benjamin inventoried our stash of medicine so we would know what we need to buy in Honiara to keep our medicine chest stocked well.  We also counted toilet paper rolls, dish soap, cans of diced tomatoes, anything and everything that stays in the village and might need to be replaced in Honiara.

But as much as we need to work, we also need to take time and play together.  So we alternated rounds of golf with packing.  We heard from our director that the ship anticipated coming to Marulaon late on Wednesday afternoon, so our kids went swimming this afternoon, knowing that we could still wash and dry clothes tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunday, December 21

In June, Kayla and Jason bought their plane tickets for their trip to the Solomon Islands.  In July, Fiji Airways and Solomon Airlines began fussing like two spoiled toddlers.  Because the two airlines have yet to work out their problems, our friends lost two days on each end of their trip.  Four days lost meant we had only from one Thursday to the next Thursday.  And we had to pack up our house in Marulaon and return to Honiara in the midst of our time together.

I grieved over potential lost experiences in this amazing culture and over time lost playing games and singing together.  And then God stepped in.  He didn't restore the lost time, our friends still had only a generous week in the Solomon Islands.  But he gave us other gifts.  Like finding out about the ordination of the priest on the other side of the Russell Islands only a week before it was to take place.  Oh, and it would happen while our friends were here so they would get to experience it, too.

And discovering that a Mother's Union group of more than sixty people arrived this morning at 3:00 from the Lengo/Doku language group on Guadalcanal.  Although our friends were going to miss Christmas in the village with all of its rich tradition and celebration, God gave them a traditional welcome party in which to participate!  After church, everybody from Marulaon gathered on the beach to await the canoe shuttle service that was bringing the large group around to the prepared welcome area.

One of my friends asked if Sarah would be willing to participate in the welcome dancing, so my willing teenager sprinted up to the house to get the bark skirt she made last Christmas.  Jason and Aaron joined the group of men that would give each guest a garland of flowers. 
I was also asked to join the group of dancing women (thankfully, minus the traditional costumes!), Kayla stood in as family photographer, and the rest of the kids spread out among our friends to fulfill their roles in the community singing and baby holding.
Chief Leonard was all decked out to welcome the guests in traditional shell money and a dolphin teeth headdress that both belonged to his father.
When the group finally arrived, they were greeted with traditional warriors who shot arrows over their heads and challenged the visitors with spears.  When everyone had finally come ashore, Chief Leonard welcomed them and the men of our village gave each visitor a necklace of flowers.

Then the party began!  We had already been dancing and singing as the boats approached, but now the Marulaon ladies led the newly arrived group as we danced and sang our way almost to the end of the village
and back to the tables set with bowls of steaming food.  It was one of the best cardio workouts I've ever had!

Marulaon gave speeches and songs, and the other group reciprocated.  Then we filed through the lines to shake hands before our guests finally got to sit down and eat.  When the introductions and polite formalities continued, I snuck into the shade feeling a little parched.  I noticed Jason and Kayla hiding in the shade, too, so we snuck up to the house to sit down and get a drink and ended up realizing just how wiped out we were.  So, we stayed at the house rehydrating until the rest of the family finally joined us when everything down below was finished.  So thankful that our friends got to experience a little bit of life in our small corner of the world!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Saturday, December 20

We were down at the beach by 5:30, enjoying a beautiful sunrise while we waited for our driver to show up. 
We watched rain coming, so we moved underneath my friend Naris' outside kitchen to take shelter.  Our breakfast of banana bread and hard-boiled eggs was easy to share with Naris while we waited.  Sylvester walked by, and when she came back again, she had a tray full of fish that had just been caught by a neighbor at the end of the village.  If I hadn't been leaving within a few minutes, I would have been buying some fish, too!
Around 6:15, Belza arrived, and he traded spots with our translation committee chairman, Hiva, to drive us across the Russells for the ordination of the first Lavukal Catholic Priest.  A young man home from school, Jim, joined us, too.  As we pulled out, Jovan (love his mischievous grin) was paddling in a small canoe right next to us, the kids here are so good at maneuvering around in a little dugout!

We were already running almost an hour later than we intended, and in just a few minutes, we began to get heavy rain - so heavy that Hiva stayed close to the shore instead of cutting across with a more direct route.  Olivia, Katherine, and I crawled underneath the hood of the canoe, and eventually Kayla joined us.  The guys had to make do with wrapping up in the downpour.

After about an hour, the rain let up enough for Hiva to get his bearings AND for us to see the dolphins that were swimming alongside us!  God kept giving Jason and Kayla gifts of His creation throughout their entire stay in the Solomon Islands.  He is just so good like that!

We finally pulled soaking wet into Louna Village after two hours in the boat, and we were relieved to find that the festivities weren't scheduled to begin until 10:00.  We had plenty of time to meet the other guests there and to visit with the Archbishop and a priest, both from Ireland.  They had come in 1966 and 1968 and had so many stories to tell of their time in the Solomon Islands.  We also had time to dry out before the service began.

When the celebration finally did start, I was just in awe.  The mass began with traditional dancers leading the procession and singing in Lavukaleve.  I never get tired of watching our neighbors' culture come alive.

Even though this particular Catholic diocese uses the Ghari language (from the Western tip of Guadalcanal) for church, today the language we heard most was Lavukaleve
The Lavukal singing and the voices of our Lavukal neighbors mingled with the English spoken in the liturgy, and those mingled with the Pijin of the visitors from outside the Russell Islands.  In addition, the Archbishop used a little bit of Ghari in his sermon, and two Filipino sisters sitting next to me were chatting away in their own language, too.

I felt like I was listening in on a tiny slice of heaven with all of those languages floating around!  The sun started to come out to heat everything up, and an umbrella mysteriously appeared for Katherine and me to share.  After the service finished, we began to walk over to the beautiful shelter where we would eat, and my flower friend, Maria, showed up!  I wish I had gotten a picture of her beautiful smile.  She is from Louna Village but married a man from Honiara, so she now sells flowers just outside Honiara.  She had passed the umbrella up to us during the service to help us stay out of the sun and was coming to say hi and to retrieve her umbrella.

And then we got to the feasting, and I got a tiny taste of heaven again.  Every kind of seafood that exists here was paraded for us to enjoy - lobster, multiple types of fish, clamshells, what we know as hotehote and kalimeta (maybe some kind of strombus shell?).  Oh.  My.

We started home in sunshine, with full bellies, and in plenty of time to make it home before dark.  But I think the rain must have been waiting for us at Marulaon, because before we got home, we got wet again.

Kayla and I tried to stay dry under the hood of the canoe, but the rest of the crew just braved getting wet again since we were almost home.

In fact, when we finally arrived, Benjamin, Olivia, and Jason dove out into the warm Pacific water to warm their rain-cooled bodies.  What a great way to end our big day!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Friday afternoon, December 19

After that fabulous birthday lunch, we took Jason and Kayla out to the garden to get some uvikola to make lelenga for tomorrow's ordination.  Sarah went along, too, she is quite capable with her big bush knife. 

On the way, we found some guys working on a canoe.  Our family has been watching every step of the way, from the day after they cut the huge tree down.  Their skill is fascinating!

We carried pineapple tops with us to plant in the garden, and we needed to find enough munu leaves to serve as insulation between the hot stones and the burlap sacks that go on top of the entire motu.

Jason and Aaron planted the pineapple tops while Sarah, Kayla, and I tried to find enough ripe cassava to make a tiny pan of lelenga.  Most of my cassava I planted in July, so it's not ripe yet.

When we got back from the garden, I found a ripe papaya on the tree right next to our house.

Then, we taught Jason and Kayla how to husk, cut open, and scrape a dry coconut, essential for cooking in the South Pacific.

A pianist's hands are super strong!

We hope to leave at 5:00 in the morning with a hot tray of lelenga as our food contribution for the ordination of the first Catholic Lavukal priest.  Should be a very exciting day!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday morning, December 19

Kayla with grass knife
This morning was a community clean up day to get the village ready for a large group of visitors arriving early on Sunday morning.  So, after morning chores were done, Aaron took the grass knife and went out to help our neighbors tidy up.
DSCN9258 - Copy (400x300)
I thought our Jason and Kayla might like to try working with the grass
knife (the village version of a lawn mower), so we all went out to the
work area as we began our tour of the village to introduce our American friends to our Lavukal friends.
When we returned from furlough, we shipped a crate that had t-shirts from Eastern New Mexico University choir t-shirts in it.  Kayla and Jason sent enough t-shirts that every house in both Marulaon and
Karumulun (Ezekiel's village) got a shirt - more than fifty!  It was fun
for them to find the well-used t-shirts still being worn around the
village, and our neighbors enjoyed meeting the sweet couple who sent the shirts.
Joanna & Volikia getting rubberbands
Some members of Kayla and Jason's church choir sent some things for our village, too, like enough hair rubberbands for every female to choose two.
Volikia's hands
My friend, Volikia, got some for herself and for one of the ladies who
wasn't at the house when we came by.  Aren't her hands lovely? She has worked hard in her long life, and now her hands tend little ones more than they chop firewood.
lizard - FRI
We found this cute little guy sunning himself on a tree as we walked
around to the point of the village.
Louisa & Olivia in a tree
I love how my kids have made friends here and that they have the freedom to run and play around the village.  Lelis and Louisa accompanied us as we introduced Jason and Kayla, and I love how Kayla's lens caught the two little girls from completely different cultures giggling together.
Olivia, Aaron, Lolikia
Olivia loves little ones, and lately Lolikia has taken a decided
interest in Olivia, even preferring Olivia to her own brothers. When we stopped by Chief Leonard's house to introduce Kayla and Jason and to share rubberbands, Lolikia decided to go with Olivia. Off she went with our crew around the village!
Kiko making beaded necklace FRI
We found three generations of women around a table making necklaces when we arrived at Kiko's house.  She is almost finished with her necklace after weeks of threading the tiny beads.
Kiko's hands FRI
I sent Olivia to deliver Lolikia back to her own house, because the rest of us had some celebrating to do.  Benjamin's birthday is really
tomorrow, but we will be attending the ordination of the first Lavukal
Catholic Priest, so today is the day we are choosing to celebrate the
amazing guy that God has given our family.
Sarah with Benjamin's cake FRI
Thanks to our willing colleagues in Honiara, we had the ingredients we needed to make Benjamin's requests for pumpkin cheesecake brownies and cinnamon ice cream.  Wow - were they ever fabulous together!
Benjamin blowing out candles
This dynamo, dimpled faced boy is fast becoming a man.  Happy 14th
birthday, Benjamin!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

From our friends...

Dear Terri, Ken, Linda, Greg, Kara, Samuel, Sarah Grace, Jimmy, Tobitha, Aislyn, Benjamin, Abi, Donna, Kimberly, and students we love,

Happy Christmas from the South Pacific! Specifically from Honiara, Solomon Islands. We just celebrated Christmas morning with the Choates, replete with Aaron's famous gingerbread waffles and homemade whipped cream, cinnamon rolls from SITAG friends, and all sorts of tropical fruits. Most of all we celebrated the birth of Jesus and gave thanks for each of you. Now we're off to catch our flight to Australia and thinking of all of you back in the States.


Kayla and Jason Paulk

We're back in Honiara!

We arrived safely last night after a great trip on the Kosco.  Thanks for all of your prayers - more pictures and stories to follow...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Kosco Update

I just received another e-mail from Joanna indicating that they are now back on the initial Kosco schedule. Trying to track down information from the village can be pretty tricky since they cannot just make a phone call to check on the schedule like they can when in Honiara. So, they hurriedly prepared for the earlier departure, but found out later that it would, indeed, be Wednesday morning before the ship arrived. Pray for them as they make the adjustments to stay an extra night, including sleeping on sheet-less mattresses and trying to find enough extra clothes to go around!

The current plan is to meet the ship around 9:00 AM Christmas Eve (4:00 PM Tues CST). They hope to arrive in Honiara around supper time on Christmas Eve.

Thanks for continuing to pray as they continue to go with the flow!

~Ann H.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thursday, December 18

Since last Sunday's Old Testament reading, I've had Malachi 3:2 going around in my head - the part about Jesus being about laundry soap.  Between the Messiah aria (refi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ner's fire) and thinking about detergent, my mind has really been thinking about preparing for Jesus' second coming, one of the goals for Advent. 
ziploc of detergent THURS
Laundry detergent is a treat for our neighbors here in Marulaon, so I took a small ziplock bag and wrote the text from Malachi 3:2 in Pijin on the outside with a sharpie.  Then I filled it with detergent.  Not flashy, but my friend Margaret Rasol was super happy when I gave it to her!  I'm planning to fill as many bags as I can before we go back to Honiara next week.
Sarah making lei
While I was packing this afternoon, I looked out the window over the kitchen sink and saw lots of little girls climbing frangipani trees and gathering flowers alongside Sarah.  A few minutes later, a group of girls sat underneath our house making garlands of beautiful flowers to put on the necks of our friends.  Aaron left at 12:30 this afternoon in a motor canoe in the pouring rain to go pick them up.
Jason & Belza THUR
At the same time that my girls were stringing flowers, our friends Jason and Kayla were zooming back towards Marulaon trying to get here before night fell.  Jason and the driver, Belza, took the opportunity to catch some fish along the way, and picked up three nice tuna.
sunset THURS
God also gave our friends an amazing sunset as they motored toward the West.  As it got darker, we began getting excited in anticipation.  At radio sched with SITAG, we heard that the canoe picked up our friends earlier than anticipated, so we thought they might make it to our village by 7:00.
Katherine & Olivia waiting for Jason & Kayla
The kids and I went down to the beach carrying the beautiful flower necklaces.  As our friends saw us waiting, they joined us.  As the light faded, we heard the canoe approaching and everybody got ready to sing and welcome our friends.  Our friends sang some beautiful songs and shook hands with Jason and Kayla, then they helped us carry the bags up to the house.
Olivia & Kayla
We got lots of hugs and a quick supper.  It's hard to believe that they are finally here, since they bought their tickets in June.  Because Fiji Airlines and Solomon Airlines are still not allowing planes from the other country to land, forcing people to stay a night in Fiji and a night in Brisbane, our friends' trip has been cut short by four days.  But we're going to make the most of our time together and return to Honiara together next week.