Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Easter on Vanuatu

By the time this gets posted, Easter will be a month old but I thought I would share my weekend. It was a good one.
Good Friday morning started in the garden. There were weeds to pull, but I was also really excited about planting the tomato and bell pepper seedlings that I started in February. Eight tomatoes and 4 peppers sprouted, survived my occasional underwatering, escaped the mice, and were tall enough to plant. I won’t declare success until I’ve actually harvested a tomato or pepper, but I am sure that 4 days after planting they were already bigger. Vanuatu has miracle soil, I think. Unfortunately, none of my carrot, dill, spring onion, or parsley seeds sprouted. Disappointing. Then a quick, cold shower (the only kind I’ve got) and into my island dress for church. I attend an Anglican church here on Ambae, at an Anglican seminary that is about 10 minutes walk from my house. It has been a new experience for me, all the form and liturgy of the Anglican service, but the more I hear some of the regular responses the more I appreciate them. We follow the same order of worship/liturgy each week except for the readings and the sermon. And the Lord’s Supper is celebrated each week. This weekend, they had a Good Friday service which started at noon. A different brother spoke about each of Jesus’s statements from the cross. After each reading and reflection was a prayer. We were there for about 3 hours, I think it intended to symbolize the length of time that darkness descended on Calvary.
[On a linguistic level, it’s really interesting to go to church there. Students come to the seminary from all over Vanuatu so most of the service is in Bislama, but many of the novices and brothers have English Bibles. So from one Sunday to the next, one reader to the next, the scripture changes from Bislama (01 reading, maybe) to English MV (NT reading) to another version in English (gospel reading). And the priests will often switch from Bislama to English during the message if there’s a word they need.]
On Friday afternoon, I started to empty out the kitchen in preparation for a serious scrubbing—ceiling to floor needs an application of soap. My plan was to remove all the food and dishes and then put out some rat poison before doing the soapy-rag-over-every-surface cleaning either Saturday or Monday. That way the mice couldn’t undo my hard work with one scamper over the shelves and dishes. However, both of the (open) stores here in Saratamata were out of poison. A lady who works at one of the stores suggested the sticky traps but when I asked for one of those, they were gone too. So I spent the rest of the afternoon working on a crafty project instead. Can’t say I was disappointed.
**update, the hardly-ever-open store was open yesterday (a week later) so I picked up a packet of poison. I put it out last night and my conscience has been kicking me ever since. Not sure I can go through with it. Did you know that some kinds of poison require 4-7 days before the mice die? I’m not sure I can live with that. My animal care ethics have really undergone some serious testing here in Vanuatu. Between the pitiful dogs who all need better care and the really aggravating mice who are eating through everything not made of metal, I’ve had to stamp down many of my compassionate impulses. If I don’t, I’ll be running a charity home for 30 odd village dogs and any mice who care to take up residence.
Saturday morning I did laundry, which always takes awhile, made a couple of trips to various stores for various things in between the rain showers, and finished the book I was reading. And in the afternoon, it was raining again so I felt perfectly free to stay inside and lounge about with my project.
Easter morning began very, very early. Church was scheduled to begin at 3:00 am. I still haven’t figured out why. We didn’t actually start on time (usual for Vanuatu but not so typical of Tumsisiro. The seminary services typically begin right on time.) When I arrived at 2:45, the novices were just gathering for a pre-service devotion. There were several people from Saratamata there already so we went into church for the devotion and then came back out to prepare for the service. We started with a fire, which the priest blessed. (Why?—I have a lot of questions about the Anglican service/tradition, things where I don’t understand the purpose or the history or the symbolism. Maybe I’ll post that list as another blog and someone out there who has some knowledge about the Anglican Church can fill me in.) Then we were all given candles and we processed into the church. (I considered the possibility that the early start was for the candlelit procession but it was dark enough for that at 5 or 5:30 too.) There were several reading and prayer cycles again, similar to Friday’s service, but after the special Easter things, we started the regular Sunday liturgy. (The sun rose while we were in church so I thought maybe this was a sunrise service? But we didn’t actually watch the sun rise; it just got light while we were in church.) So church lasted about 3 hours again.
Afterwards, the novices and brothers invited everyone to stay for tea so my host mother and I stayed. It took about an hour for them to prepare the food (crackers and bread and fruit) and drinks but nobody seemed to notice. The novices sang several songs for us while we were eating and that was wonderful.
They always sing in several parts and with great enthusiasm. I was really disappointed that I hadn’t brought my camera. I would have recorded a song or two. Maybe next time.
I got home at about 9 am and took a short nap. After that Mai and I spent the day with my host family. We scratched bananas for lap lap, which takes a while to bake, and then had rice and fried fish for lunch. After lunch one of my brothers shot a wild pig so they butchered and cooked the pig for supper. Yum. It was a good supper on Sunday, though mine was to-go. I usually walk back to Saratamata in the late afternoon while it is still light out. That way no one needs to walk me home. So my host mama wrapped up two pieces of lap lap (one kumala and one banana) with a fried fish left from lunch, some pig, and a chicken wing in a couple of leaves and tied it with the stem and I ate it later that night. That much protein is pretty unusual but is always welcome.
Monday was a rainy day again so I baked a lemon cake (the chocolate cake mix here is really terrible but the lemon is quite good) and worked on my project and went to the beach to talk to my parents (the cell tower on Ambae is not working at the moment so I have to walk down to the beach where I can get reception from the tower on Pentecost) and gave Mai a bath (which she did not enjoy) and washed the rugs and basically puttered about all day. It was a lovely weekend. Rainy and a little cooler (winter is approaching) and slow but with a few necessary chores to add a sense of purpose. © I hope that all of you had a blessed and refreshing weekend too.