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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.ūüėČ

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. =)

 

 

March 27, 2016

Well…it has been a while! Life here has kept me on my toes and so preoccupied that I haven’t had the time nor energy to sit down and write.

Every day here is so interesting, funny, and packed full that at the end of the day when I sit down and think about writing home, I don’t even know where to start. There’s just too much to say. Because even the (seemingly) simplest task here can become a major ordeal, you end up with so much to talk about by the end of the day.

This past week we have been going over to City Baptist Church in Suva every night for their nightly revival meetings and then their anniversary service on Sunday. That has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been extremely exhausting. I haven’t been sleeping that well, so combined with the heat and humidity AND the fact that I have to take car sickness medicine (that knocks me out) to survive the long, winding road to Suva means that I am a zombie each night. But every night was so good and I am so glad I was able to go. It’s been a lot of fun seeing people that I remember¬†from their college days at¬†PCBBC.

In addition to the meetings, another exciting thing happened last week. WE GOT AN AC UNIT! It’s only in our living room downstairs, which means the upstairs bedrooms are still sweltering, BUT it means we can come down here and hang out (and sleep) and feel normal again! (Cool and dry and not hot, sweaty and sticky.) I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is. We spent all morning walking around Suva trying to find a unit to buy. A lot of stores were completely sold out of all units. They said that because of this extreme heat we’ve been having, everyone has been buying all the AC units. And for some reason, the stores we talked to weren’t getting any more in stock until MAY! And May is when it starts to cool down here. We finally found a place that had one available that was close to the price we had been hoping for (all of the cheapest units were long gone) AND they said they could install it the same day! So we bought it and then headed back to Nausori to pack up all our stuff (we had been staying with a friend who has an AC unit) to head back to our house and wait for the installers. After the bus dropped us off in town, we hung out at the school for a while and then took the bus back to our house. My roommate told me the plan: she would stay at our house to wait while I packed up all our stuff at our friend’s house. Once it was packed up, I would call her and she would grab a taxi and come up and get it all. Well, she got off at our house and told me to just get off at our friend’s house. Only, the bus didn’t turn to go up to our friend’s house. It kept going straight and I knew that didn’t seem good. We were heading back to Suva. So I texted Christen and told her and she said “get off.” By this point I was far down the road. (I would have gotten off as soon I as I saw he didn’t turn, but I thought “Well, Christen knows this place and she said the bus would go there, so maybe he is going to turn around at some point?” So I got off the bus on the side of the road and started walking back towards Nausori. I knew I couldn’t walk all the way back to town but I walked a ways and then grabbed a taxi the rest of the way. As I was walking on the side of the road, a bunch of little Fijian kids started running alongside me yelling¬†cavilongi (sp?)¬† (white person) Haha. They kept saying it over and over again till I looked at them and smiled and then they all started smiling.

Anyway, I think life right now can be summed up as:

Hot. Humid. Unpredictable. Rain. Conjunctivitis. (EVERYONE has been getting it – all over the Suva area. Apparently pharmacies are running out of medicine. I have been a hand washing Nazi over here! Too bad all the Fijians don’t like washing their hands with soap like I do!) Geckos. Gecko excrement all over the house. Bugs. Mosquito bites. Hot, crowded buses. Busy, busy streets. Friendly people. Everyone yelling/whistling at us from their cars. Getting stared at. Having school kids all say “bye” as they walk past (it feels weird saying bye to someone you didn’t first say hi to). Being called ma’am (I miss being Jennifer. I don’t like being “ma’am.”) Excitement at finding some new food item to buy (choices are so limited here in Nausori.) Cockroaches. IN OUR SILVERWARE DRAWER. School. School. School. Having kids constantly ask me to define English words for them (I feel like a walking dictionary. I think I need to start referring them to an actual dictionary.) Flies. Trying to keep flies off of the food. Struggling with internet. Beautiful sunrises. Flying foxes (bats) flying around even during the day! Stray dogs. EVERYWHERE. And really sickly and diseased looking. =( Surviving each day through lots of prayer! (I was suddenly thrown into the high school learning center when they got desperate for help as staff was out with pink eye and it was such a learning curve because they do things so differently than we did in our ACE school. It was a good experience though and I learned a lot. I think next week I will be back in the office helping with Fine Arts while we wait for my work visa to be approved. Still just volunteering but the load of work has definitely been full-time!)

The past few weeks have been so funny, challenging, tiring, and full that I feel I could write a book if I sat down and thought about it all. The other day I was so distracted in church as I watched a gecko overhead stalking and eating moths and flies! I had never seen a gecko actually catch and chomp down on a moth before. It was fascinating. I was glad it wasn’t over MY head though, but a few rows away. Every time he would chomp down on the moth, puffs of moth dust (whatever that stuff is on their wings) would float into the air. It was funny and gross at the same time. This place……

I have LOTS of phone pictures to share, but the internet is rarely good enough for me to be able to upload them. =( One of these days!

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