Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Vanuatu Week Four: Alphabets and Feasts

A lot of people are not fans of Mondays, particularly that morning struggle to pull yourself together and get to work or school after a week. This Monday morning was a bit harder, not because I didn’t love where I was and what I was doing. No, after the wretched dog barked all night. The cows started mooing at 5. At assembly it was revealed that if they’re on school property, we are allowed to kill them. Jeffery’s dad’s bullock needed to watch himself because my mamie had plans involving a bush knife and a feast.

Monday afternoon was spectacular! Courtney and I watched Sorina and Lavi while their mum taught class five. We made sweet rice, ate fruit, coloured and scrubbed some pots. When school let out, the sisters came and collected us. We were off to the garden for the first time. I have major respect for the gardens and their owners, the sheer amount of food that comes out of them is incredible. It took half an hour to walk there, barefoot up and down the hills sliding in the mud, bush knife in hand. We dug taro, collected bush cabbage, picked island cabbage and devoured sugar cane. I loved the garden, as you go down into the valley there is so much greenery hiding the actual gardens. It’s like walking into a secret, as though the place might be forbidden for some reason, it is so beautiful.

In class one and two we ended up with four English groups. I still had the top level Pineapples, but I also had the Soursops. Soursop is a fruit that smells nasty but is delicious, it was the only fruit we could think of in a pinch. The Soursops were 5 francophone transfers who no idea what was going on. Their main goals were learning the alphabet and writing their names. They really needed a confidence boost too. It looked like it was going to be an uphill battle. On Tuesday, Familla and Jerine, two of the soursops, managed to write the whole alphabet out between them. It took an hour and a half but they did it! I was so proud of them!

Reading was my planned activity for Tuesdays in classes five and six. I had no other explanation for that disaster other than God testing my patience. I got totally blank looks for the hour I spent with each class. It didn’t matter who I asked to read, how slowly we went through the work, it just didn’t work. Why anyone would write a book about a Mexican walking fish called Pepe who looks like a banana is beyond me. In class five, I kept repeating the word banana. Lavi walked into the classroom, handed me a banana, smiled so big her tiny face nearly split in half and left again. She didn’t say a word. Everyone in my class looked at the banana, looked at Lavi, looked at each other, looked at Miss Viran, looked at me, looked at the banana, looked at where Lavi had gone and then we all burst out laughing.

Tuesday was also Mamie’s birthday. Courtney and I spent the afternoon with Wawa (Auntie) cooking. We made banana laplap and while it was cooking we had to keep running out of the kitchen, eyes streaming because of the smoke. It made splitting the cabbage take a very long time.  Birthdays mean feast in Vanuatu. Mamie’s birthday was no exception. We had laplap, noodles, rice, bread and cake. There was cordial as well. I never claimed that the food I ate was healthy but parties really were all about the carbs. We played uke and cards, two things I was getting very good at. There was singing too, there is always singing though.

It was a food week because on Wednesday, we were hanging around before breakfast when Dad and Daddy Presley showed up carrying a whole pig. Well, half a pig each which they had already gutted. It certainly explained the barking we woke up to. Breakfast was the eight shaped donuts, except not eight shaped and real bread. I had some of my bread a s a snack later. We had island cabbage and namumbah at lunch. Namumbah is a kind of nut that you cook at eat. It’s not particularly flavoursome but it is tasty. Then the school was having a fundraiser after classes so we had baked taro and pork at 4:30. This was after I had eaten a simporo roll that was actually really good. The day was polished off with more pork and taro for dinner. I have never had food baby quite as spectacular.

It was a good thing it was sports day as well. The whole school played Cat and Mouse and Seaweed, which started people laughing. Then while the big girls played volleyball and the boys played soccer, we taught the year 1/2 girls the hokey pokey. The whole body shake had all the parents laughing. We also played left, right, under, over which was designed during maths week and duck, duck, goose. No one could stop laughing and when I almost rolled down the hill we were playing on, I had to agree.

On Friday I opened a coconut all by myself! I popped a blister but I was still super pleased with myself. We also got to use our little kitchen for the first time. We made soursop and orange tea to celebrate and didn’t burn ourselves. We then invested in a box of matches and a bag of sugar. Phil and Terry were due to visit us that weekend, so we taught year 1/2 the choruses to “Our God” and “10,000 Reasons”, they could sing the song but they liked to do it in an echo. They’re funny kids.

Love from Me and My Backpack

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