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Adventures in Shopping

May 7, 2016

The other day my flatmate and I set out after school to buy a small table and chairs for our house. When I moved in there wasn’t much furniture in the house (and there still isn’t.) There were three chairs, of sorts, and that was it!! No table and chairs for eating, no couches, nothing. We’re living pretty “Fijian” here I guess? Anyway, we finally went to buy something so at least now we have a place to eat. I had seen a cheap (that term is so relative, it was the equivalent of $150 USD and back home I wouldn’t even pay 50 bucks for this thing!

But things are EXPENSIVE here, and this we could afford) table and chairs at a store in town, so we went to buy it. While there I also bought a small bookshelf (again it cost more than I’d normally pay) so I could at least have some sort of furniture in my room. The purchasing of these items, alone, was an adventure, but not nearly as much of one as the delivery of those items.

When we bought these items it took 3 people to ring up the items, and one to keep running up and down the stairs to get the prices so the clerk could ring them up. Then it took all of them to interpret the directions to our house (and they still got it wrong when they actually came to deliver.)

Day of delivery: They told me they would call ahead of time to make sure we were home (since we’d be at school all day) but as I was walking home from school I got a call saying “deliveryman is already there.” We actually had about FOUR phone calls between us in the time it took me to finish walking home. He’d say something, I wouldn’t understand, he’d hang up, I’d call back. The whole phone call process was ridiculously funny. When I finally got home, I saw the delivery truck turning onto our street (from the street where he’d driven while trying to find our house – he’d driven past and made a wrong turn.) Three men jumped out and started unloading our table and chairs. The man carrying the table kept banging the table legs into the fence and doorjamb. I actually stopped him and helped him turn the table sideways and carry it through the door since he kept trying to get it to fit and kept hitting the legs. I couldn’t believe the careless way they treated the table! My flatmate later told me they are careless like that with everything. That’s why things always get broken in the moving process here. =(

After they brought the table and chairs in, they went out to get my bookshelf. When they brought it in, I saw that the top part was pulling away from the back part of the shelf. Granted this is not a nice piece of furniture, but I didn’t want to start out with it broken already. So I asked them about it, since it hadn’t been broken when I saw it in the store. (After seeing how they treat things here, it’s no wonder it broke). They tried to tell me that it could be easily fixed by tightening a screw in the shelf. It was so comical I almost laughed. The screw was nowhere near the problem area! I might not be mechanically inclined but I DO have common sense. They insisted that would fix it and asked me for a screwdriver. I went and got one for them, and watched as they were not able to fix it, obviously. Then they tried to tell me it was a different part that needed to be tightened. Well, they tried that and it didn’t work either. I was kinda stunned that three men were honestly trying to “fix” something in such a wrong way. Maybe they thought the (not so) dumb white lady would fall for it? Uh, nope, sorry. When they (obviously) couldn’t fix it, and I insisted I either wanted a new one or my money back, they told me they would bring a new one on Saturday (this was on a Wed). I thought that was intriguing, since I hadn’t seen any other bookshelves that size in the store. And here, what you see on the floor is what you get. There is no backroom full of stock. And often stores look a bit like yard sales with what is out on the salesfloor. It’s odd, honestly. But I figured ok whatever and waited until Saturday (today).

Well, why I thought this day would turn out differently, I don’t know, but thank goodness I didn’t have my heart set on getting that bookshelf because…I didn’t get it. But they did try to deliver it again. THE SAME ONE. Only this time it looked WORSE. You guys, I don’t understand people here. WHY on earth would you bring me the same bookshelf that I sent back? And bring it back looking even worse? That boggles my mind. I guess I give people too much credit here, but honestly…..

When the guy started to pull it out of the truck, I noticed the crack right away and pointed it out. It was a new delivery guy, I think, but I definitely recognized the driver, and when he got out, he was kind of apologetic like “we don’t have any more so you can have your money back.” I was wondering why on earth they didn’t just say that on the phone when I called this morning, instead of just saying “We’ll deliver after 4.” So I said thank you and they put it back in the truck and left. And I walked away laughing in disbelief.

Some days I just don’t understand this place. Like, every day.

 

Flora and fauna of our backyard

April 25, 2016

This post is nothing exciting, but I was just out in the yard snapping a few pictures (after I discovered some odd growths on one of our trees while taking laundry off of the line) and decided to post them for you to see.

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I’m so curious as to these growths on these leaves.

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The cat that lives in our yard.

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Internet frustrations

April 20, 2016

If you only KNEW how hard I have tried recently to update this blog….and the post I was working on STILL won’t cooperate, so we’ll save that for another day. Or maybe never. We’ll see if I’m ever in the mood again to tackle it.😉

Life here has been one series of interesting events after another. And each week it seems I am working on something new at the school. So I’ve *started* a lot of things, but haven’t quite managed to *finish* anything as I keep getting pulled away to tackle something new. I think I will know a little bit about everything here after a while. =) BUT, I am here to help, so it doesn’t matter to me what I do. As long as I can show up each day and be a blessing then I’m accomplishing why I came.  Life sure is never dull here though! The multitude of geckos, toads, and termites that either LIVE in the house or frequently visit (toads) help to keep life just as interesting when we are home as when we are away.

I won’t try to upload any pictures tonight, as that seems to jinx the internet, but maybe one of these days I will be able to give you a peek into what is going on here.  AND I have a week off in June so I am *hoping* to be able to get away to some nearby islands and actually do some sightseeing in Fiji- so maybe I will have some pretty pictures to post eventually, too!

The Highs and Lows of Travel Life

April 8, 2016

Wow this week has been an interesting one! Cyclones. Earthquakes. The South Pacific won’t bore you, that’s for sure. And in amongst travel, life still goes on. So while trying to deal with changing travel plans and rebooking flights, and figuring out accommodations for the next few days here in Vanuatu due to flying on Sunday instead of Friday, there was sad news from back home to deal with. I am so thankful, though, that the internet worked ALL day long here yesterday (first day since I’ve been here that we’ve had internet all day) and enabled me to keep up with the news back home. Of course that meant that the emotions of it all kept resurfacing with each new email, but…it was expected and I knew that this day would come, so at least I had warning. The staff here at the Hideaway Resort has been fabulous. They’ve been so accommodating and sweet and I am so thankful that I was here for all that I had to deal with. I highly recommend staying on Hideaway Island at the resort if you visit Port Vila! (And the snorkeling is awesome)

A few pictures from the past few days:

 

 

 

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Hideaway Island

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Mele Cascades

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Hideaway Island Resort

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If my internet would cooperate better with WordPress I would have a TON more photos to show you. But I can’t upload them, and I know that in the busyness of life that awaits me back in Fiji, combined with our poor internet, they will probably never get posted here. But trust me, it’s cool here. =)

 

 

Vanuatu Volcano tips

April 4, 2016

You guys, you should visit Vanuatu and I’ll tell you why. It’s AMAZING. Really. The biggest highlight for me so far has been Tanna Island and Mt. Yasur, but rainy weather aside, I’m loving all of Vanuatu.

Right now I’m sitting at Hideaway Island Resort on the tiny Hideaway Island and rain is falling all around me. I’m *really*hoping it clears up tomorrow as I’m hoping to get out and snorkel, but having a down day today is fine with me, and even if it’s raining I’m still going to snorkel. This place is so cute and there are so many little places to sit and relax and enjoy the views.
Mt. Yasur:
I did as much homework as I could before this trip, but looking back I realize there was a lot I didn’t know/wasn’t able to find out ahead of time. Originally I had thought about booking my Mt. Yasur excursion on my own, but after realizing that flights alone to Tanna Island were more expensive than combo packages, I quickly threw that idea out the window. I contacted two different companies that provide excursions to Tanna and then booked the cheaper one. I highly recommend Unity Airlines for this trip. They didn’t provide as much communication as I thought they should have with regards to what to expect on this trip, so that’s why I am writing this.
The things they didn’t tell us: there is a departure tax on all domestic flights within Vanuatu. That said, I quickly realized that they were only charging the tourists the tax, as others just walked on past the counter without paying. They also didn’t tell us that there is a weight limit on what you can take on the plane, so that is something good to know ahead of time. They only allowed us 5kg to carry on and 10 kg to “check” (it’s just thrown in the plane behind you). The rest we had to pay to leave at the airport. These fees aren’t expensive, a few bucks here and there. But it would have been good to know ahead of time as you do want to use cash as much as possible here. They charge a lot to use credit cards (on the rare times they are even accepted) and ATMS also charge high fees. They also didn’t tell us that in certain months it can be cold up on top of the volcano. So it’s good to bring a jacket and wear long pants. I recommend long pants anyway as when the ash flies it can really sting your legs (and eyes, etc.).
We stayed at the Evergreen Resort and I absolutely loved it. Others found it a bit rustic but I found it delightfully charming. And the view of the stars at night was simply amazing. I highly recommend it. The food was good and our tour included dinner and breakfast. I think the value for money on this Unity Airlines package was really good.
From the resorts near the airport, it takes 1.5 hours to get to the base of the volcano. Then you have to wait there while all the other tourists show up. Once everyone is there, they perform some sort of ceremony (which felt like it was just for the benefit of tourists) allowing you to approach the volcano, and then everyone is divided into groups and you drive up closer to the volcano. Once you are at the very base of the volcano, you have to walk up a ways to get to the top. It takes around 20 minutes or so and is fairly steep. The last part of the walk is up volcanic ash and is a little bit difficult.  But once you are at the top it is so worth it! As the sun begins to set, you can see the eruptions of the volcano better and it becomes a spectacular fireworks show. The loud booms of each eruption are part of the fun and you can almost feel them. As I fell asleep that night I heard the loud explosions playing over and over again in my head. I dreamed of volcanoes that night. =)
After the sun has set you slowly descend the volcano using the provided flashlights and are driven to a fruit feast waiting for you. After drinking coconuts and bottled water and eating sugar cane and cucumbers and bananas you are driven 1.5 hours back to your accommodations where, in our case, dinner waits.  Be warned, though. The ride to and from the volcano will be like nothing you have ever experienced! If you don’t like bumpy rides, this is not for you. I can’t really put into words just how intense the ride is. The best way to describe it is wondering if all your internal organs are still in their original places once you arrive!
The next morning we checked out of our accommodations and were driven back to the airport to await the arrival of the charter flight arriving from Port Vila.
This was one of THE coolest experiences ever and I am so, SO glad that I forked over the money to do it. It’s expensive, but once you take into account all that is included, it seems like such a great deal. And it’s certainly worth every penny.
You should definitely add this to your bucket list!
General Vanuatu tips:
* You can drink the water. Some people say it makes them sick because they aren’t used to the high levels of minerals. I’ve been drinking it just fine though, in small quantities supplemented by bottled water that has been bottled elsewhere.
*To get around simply find a van that has a B on the license plate, tell them where you are going and if they agree, jump on. Costs 150 Vatu ($1.50 USD)
*Find an Au Bon Marche supermarket if you want to find Aussie/Kiwi or French food products. Prices are very reasonable.
*Visit Hideaway Island. I’m spending a few days here and I LOVE it already. Free boat ride to the island. There is an entrance fee if you aren’t spending the night here. Home to the world’s only underwater post office. You can mail postcards there.

V is for Volcano!

April 2, 2016

I’m lying by a pool in Vanuatu. Looking up at the stars and getting wet from passing clouds that are sending down drops here and there. A cool breeze is ruffling the palm trees all around me and I’m so thankful for it. Tonight there is going to be a fire show at the place I’m staying. And tomorrow I’m supposed to be flying to Tanna island to visit the volcano that is Mt. Yasur. Nights like this have me smiling and thinking “what is my life?” Seriously, how much more can God spoil me? I was thinking last night about how crazy the last ten years have been. If you’d have told me ten years ago what the next ten years would hold I would have said you were insane. Ten years ago I was finishing up my first year of grad school and pondering the deeper issues of life. Like trying to figure out boys. Or at least one of them. Ha. Looking back I just have to smile. You really never know what life will hold!
I think we often dream way too small. And then when we give those small dreams to God, He has a way of giving back bigger dreams than we even thought about dreaming of!
If I don’t get struck by chunks of flying lava tomorrow (it’s happened before – to others, ha) I’ll be sure to post about the volcano – eek!

V is for Vanuatu

April 1, 2016

So apparently updating from my phone doesn’t work so well. At least not when the internet is super sketchy. Thought I’d take advantage of the time I have here with nothing I *have* to do and update the blog a bit.

I’m sitting at the Coconut Palms Resort (sounds better than it is. My room is like a hostel room, but at least it’s private. Just have to go down the hall to the shower and then another hall to the toilet lol.) in Port Vila, Vanuatu listening to the rain and enjoying not having a schedule.  I was supposed to fly to Tanna Island today to visit the volcano and spend the night there but I was informed after I arrived yesterday that my trip had been cancelled due to not enough participants. So they rescheduled me for another day and I had to scramble to switch around all my accommodations. Thankfully reception was able to call everyone for me and we got it all worked out.

Yesterday at the airport I was so surprised to run into another American solo traveler! (Vanuatu isn’t really a mainstream American destination lol) We both needed to catch the bus so we stuck together and found it (with the help of a friendly Vanuatuan). As we were getting ready to hop on, 3 British girls arrived to join us (I had pointed them in the direction of the bus earlier, but somehow we beat them there) and we all piled in after smashing all our luggage into the back seat. It was fun chatting with them all for a while while we all peered out the window, amused at our surroundings. Port Vila is certainly not “tourist friendly.”

I haven’t pulled out the DSLR one time yet since leaving the US =( (haven’t done anything touristy yet!) so all I have are phone pics of everything.

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Vanuatu from the air

 

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This pretty hibiscus made my teeny, tiny room feel a little nicer.

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Pretty and yummy pumpkin tomato soup for dinner

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Little glimpse of the sunset last night

Hopefully when I arrive back in Fiji next week progress will have been made on my visa situation and everything will have worked out ok. Fingers crossed (prayers) that it all works out ok. Things in Fiji are so funny. They require *so* much documentation for everything and they want it all *certified.* So the other day as I was filling out a form for a license, I noticed at the bottom that my signature for the document had to be witnessed by either an education minister, a justice of the peace, etc. So I asked about it and was told to walk to the Education office nearby. I did and when I arrived, the man signed my forms (after I signed them) without even asking for photo ID (good thing, because I’d forgotten to bring it along on my walk!). So, they require a witnessed signature, but don’t require proof of WHO is signing it. Just an example of the oddity of things over there. =) Just praying that if God wants me to stay there He will work it all out. I’m actually still waiting on letters of reference that Fiji requires. I thought I had brought along all that was required, but apparently there is much more that is required. They want certified letters of reference from all of my employers! So I’m just waiting on those. *Then* I think my visa can be applied for. Whew. It’s been an interesting month!

But in the meantime I’m just going to enjoy exploring Vanuatu. =)

 

 

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