Sunday, 14 July 2013

Island time

Piliura, Pele Island - photo by Karyn Sippel 

Much is said & joked about island time in reference to the laid back, chilled approach islanders take to schedules & time. Much of it is true. Some of it is good and some not.

I did not wear a watch in Vanuatu. I didn't even take one.

Having my iPhone battery go flat after a day with no electricity to charge it, also meant that mode of time keeping was gone too. After a few days of adjusting to not even needing to know the time, except for mornings where an alarm was needed to wake us, it felt incredibly liberating to not be so bound to time keeping as we are here at home.

This struck me most when leaving the shopping centre car park yesterday experiencing a mini traffic jam, I felt myself starting to get annoyed. Annoyed that I had to wait.

Instantly I was taken back to the many hours of waiting we did in Vanuatu.

At the airport for a Dr who turned up a whole day late due to his flight being redirected back to Brisbane. Waiting for team members to turn up for events, {an hour late by our terms, accepatable & usual for island time}. Waiting for transport, either taxi, mini bus or banana boat, some that came, some didn't. Waiting for food to be prepared. Waiting for the pigs to cook island, rotisserie style, taking hours longer than expected. There was much activity, but there was also much waiting.

It was actually relaxing to wait in Vanuatu.

Not so once back home. The demand of the clock, the pull push of schedules, meetings and of having to be exactly on time clicks in almost instantly in our productive, consumer driven culture. Planes, trains & taxis wait for no one here!

How do we blend the two?

I can't be late for meetings here and claim, island time. That would get me sacked!

But I can take the patience learnt in the islands waiting into my day to day, so that little things like car pack traffic jams don't unnecessarily annoy me! Slow down, take a few breaths, it's ok not to rush. It's good to wait. Be patient. 

Patience is a good lesson learnt from island time.

I also learnt that too much island time can lead to inertia and demotivation. We saw this with many unfinished projects in the village. Too much island time sometimes leads to not much getting done. An unfinished church after several years, a medical clinic to build with ground work not completed in time for our team to lay a slab. Some of that is good, some is not.

Much patience is required.

Putting our western schedules into an island culture just doesn't work. So taking the good from island time and brining it into our western schedules just might. I am having fun trying.

Cherishing lessons learnt
Cherishing the delicate art of patience
Cherishing weaving island time into western schedules

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Palm trees & coconuts

Pele Island - photo by Jane Lean

Beautiful friendly locals, crystal clear water in every shade of blue to green, white sand, palm trees, coconuts everywhere, hot days, cool evenings, medical clinics, school programs, women's workshops, singing, dancing, swimming, snorkeling, island hopping & island time plus more filled our days in Vanuatu. Everything you imagine a Pacific Island to be, Vanuatu is.

A dream come true to be able to take my four on a family missions trip together. How to instill eternity in the hearts of our children? Exposing them to other cultures, people & places so their world view is not just confined to the narrow Australian way. Exposing them to poverty so they appreciate our wealth. We are not rich by Australian standards, but certainly by Vanuatu ones we are. Exposing them to the generosity of Nevans {local people} who give out of their own poverty, not just material things, but their hearts, love & welcoming. This always strikes me the most.

We go to give, but end up feeling we have been given more.

We take store bought gifts, medical supplies, clothes, computers, chocolate, jewellery, art supplies, sewing kits, toiletries & more, yet they give of their own hands & hearts - homemade clothes, share their homes, their food, their time, their joy.

When I asked my four what their highlights were, both the girls commented on 'the village feeling' & 'sense of community' they experienced living in a village. Everybody looks out for everybody {to us independent westerners sometimes an encroaching thought}. My girls were deeply touched by the power of community like we don't experience in Australia. Here neighbours ignore each other & complain about where the rubbish bin gets put on the front lawn once a week! The girls played from dawn to dusk with the village children, seeing them huddled in groups, doing each other's hair, hand games, no iPods, iPhones, Facebook or X-boxes in sight! Just lots of laughing & love!

EQ experienced the beauty of friendships made even with language barriers. Him not being able to speak Bislama or French and locals not being able to speak English, yet finding ways to communicate & feel connected. He also killed his first pig by slitting its throat & learnt the Hakka. 'Man lessons' as coined by one team member. Male bonding time for our team lads to catch & kill pigs to cook island style for the women of Mangliliu. A counter culture experience that brought many to tears, men cooking & serving women is not a usual occurrence .

For DW seeing how locals live with no electricity, no hot water, outside kitchens with fires, simple hut homes, no proper bathrooms or creature comforts like home. You can know these things from TV & books, but to experience them is another. To have the vomits & diarrhoea & not have a flushing toilet makes you appreciate all we have!

Our trip was called, Fan the Flame Tour, our team's {2 Dr's, 3 nurses, 3 teachers, 2 chaplains, 1 lawyer ,11 adults & 9 teens} hope was to fan into flame the health, hopes, dreams, goodly desires, ambitions of those we met. We did this physically by conducting medical clinics {in Magaliliu, Lelepa & Pele}, women's workshops on child health, diabetes & STDs, pamper packages & massages, through school programs, donating to their district sports day, through dance, dramas & fire twirling! Emotionally & socially by testimonies, inspirational talks, giving of our hearts & time to invest in those we met along the way. By staying with host families & getting to know, connect with individuals, families & whole villages. Spiritually by praying & being, connecting and sharing of how we can all find a greater purpose to life by fanning into flame our gifts & calling.

Blessed to be a blessing. Grateful. Overwhelmed. Humbled.

Cherishing devoted family & team time
Cherishing our precious host families & their incredible generosity
Cherishing dreams come true