A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysian Sights and Sounds

sunny 32 °C

After 11 days in the heat of Malaysia’s tropical and humid weather, Dwaine & I have begun to adjust and acclimatize. Not only to the weather and these adjustments made, but also in light to a new and different lifestyle and culture we have been blessed to be a part of. In the melting pot of Malaysia the three distinct and different cultures have made themselves home. The Chinese, the Malay and the Indians are all working together, living in close proximity and yet still maintaining their heritage. In a short drive one can hear the loud speaker call from the Mosque announcing the Muslim prayer time, then see a large Christian church, pass by a busy Chinese Buddhist temple and sight a highly decorated Hindu temple off in the distance. There are also many Malay women that wear the traditional Muslim head covering in most places one goes. And with these cultures bring a vast amount of food choices lining most streets. From the spicy curries of India to the noodles of China, Malay food had incorporated much in its food design. Dwaine hasn’t stopped drooling or eating since we have gotten here (since he loves his spicy curries of Indian descent). Many of the places we have been to have reminded me vaguely of my time spent in China. The fresh food & meat markets to the full stalls of the Chinatown selling everything from “designer” handbags and sun glasses to sought after perfumes and kids toys. However, there are many other things here that allow us the comforts and joys of our home countries. There are air-conditioned shopping malls all over the place. There are movie cinemas at good prices and with English movies! And more importantly they have Krispie Kreme Doughnuts and McDonalds to keep us healthy and fit! To top it all off our most gracious hosts had some people over yesterday and celebrated with an old fashioned BBQ! D_and_BBQ.jpgOur hosts Christine & Inn have been wonderful to us and have showed us many things Malaysia has to offer. Last weekend they took us to a place called Maleka (about 2 hours drive away from Kuala Lumpur) to visit the town and to stay with Christine’s parents. We learned about rubber trees (which we learned Malaysia used to be the number one supplier in the world) and how they collect the sap, and about palm oil & its origins. Dwaine even sampled Durian (which I have tried previously), affectionately known as ice cream fruit, but many are unable to eat it due to its pungent smell and flavour. Christine’s father relished in Dwaine’s joy in eating their Malay food and we left with many requests for our return to their home one day.
We had intentioned to come to Malaysia with the idea of doing some sort of mission work, but it seems that it will not really be the focus of our time here at all. Instead we are enjoying just being in Malaysia, experiencing the culture and learning from and encouraging our brothers and sisters here. Christine’s sister also is currently living in the same house and their two nieces are staying with us for their two week school holiday. Last week we had the opportunity to go to the KL Zoo with the two girls and it was quite a nice day with lots of animals to see. Our days also include the greeting of Christine and Inn’s two dogs, Alert & Courage. They are part local dog, part Doberman and have lots of energy (and sometimes naughty). Dwaine and I have been having a really good time here so far and we have exciting plans ahead. We have decided to take advantage of some cheap airfares offered currently and we are journeying to Phuket Island in Thailand for 4 days. We look forward to seeing some beautiful beaches, riding elephants and eating lots of Thai food. Well, that’s about it currently. Overall, Malaysia is a very interesting place and to our surprise many many people speak English! Thanks again to everyone for keeping us in your prayers. May God bless you abundantly and graciously. Take care, Dwaine and RachelDwaine_s_B-day.jpg

Posted by InHisHands 06:35 Archived in Malaysia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Next Stop Malaysia!

overcast 12 °C

Our time in Australia is limited since on Wednesday, May 27th we will be again heading to the airport to start our journey westward. We will do our best to keep you updated through our travels. Take care and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Posted by InHisHands 22:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Thrilled to be DownUnder!

semi-overcast 15 °C

We are back in Australia again!! However, between our last update and now, a lot has happened. Let me explain.
April 29th saw us once again back on the “mosquito” (a small 8 passenger plane) returning to the island of Ambae. We were both excited yet apprehensive to return; excited to see our friends again, yet not so sure about facing mosquitoes and hornets again and having less of our comforts for 13 more days. Those of you who may be feeling downcast by the “everyday”, may I offer a friendly reminder to give thanks to the Lord for the things we take for granted. Eg) hot showers and cold refrigerated food.
Our friends on Ambae were very glad to see us again and during this second time there our relationships with them grew even deeper. More time was spent just hanging out, including playing cards, feeding the pigs and planting bananas and island cabbage. And of course, Rach continued to thrill the local people with her volleyball skills. They live and breathe volleyball and play every afternoon. One day Rach was on the team that won six games in a row!! Needless to say she was plum tuckered after playing volleyball that long in that
Vanuatu_09___90_.jpgmuch humidity! I was confined to the bench as my thumb was still not fully recovered enough to play, oh well next time. Instead I was able to join in with “the coconut shell game.” This involved two teams attempting to knock down a stack of coconut shells with a tennis ball and then stacking them up again. It sounds easy but let me assure you, it takes more skill than first meets the eye.
Once again, we were able to help out with painting. Yep, in developing nations there is never any shortage of painting and moving soil by hand! This time we assisted Pastor Eston with painting the whole of the outside of his newly rendered house. The result was satisfying and the chosen colour was a light brown, quite modern actually.
I think Rach would agree that our marriage grew stronger during our time in Vanuatu. Experiencing trials together requires good communication, in fact its essential! Plus, we were both forced to rely more on the Lord, hence drawing us closer to each other in the process.
Another adventure was a night time journey through the bush in a truck with no lights! I was riding in the tray using my flashlight for the driver to see the road! We managed to not hit anyone or anything on the way to and from the church. At least it wasn’t raining that night. However, the next day made up for it with torrents of rain all day that refilled the wells to almost overflowing.
The next night saw us sitting around the fire listening to the kids tell us kastom (cultural) stories. Very entertaining indeed! I was also happy to have the opportunity this time to cook a wicked fish curry, sambosas and enjoy a fresh lobster caught especially for us.

Mother’s Day was quite uneventful and if it wasn’t for us they would have forgotten all about it (since the people normally don’t have a calendar to know when the day even is). That night however turned out to be far from uneventful! At midnight we were suddenly awoken to the agonizing shrieks of pain from Blackie the dog. As fate would have it, somehow the dog had stepped on a large fish hook that went straight through its foot! So I took my trusty Leatherman and cut the end off the hook and removed it. Of course the dog was happy and I was happy to resume sleeping.
Our final two days on Ambae saw us learning how to make Natangora (local roofing material using palm fronds), then Rachel administered nursing care to a guy who almost chopped his index finger off with a bush knife and we had a birthday party for two of Pastor Eston’s daughters.
Overall, our time in Vanuatu was challenging yet valuable. It is a very relationship based culture so at times we didn’t feel like we achieved much in practical terms. We believe that the Lord will use our time there in ways we may never know.
And now we are back in Australia for 9 days before departing for Malaysia for one month and then onwards around the world.
Please continue to pray for us as our journey continues. Till the next update we wish you happiness where ever you are.

Posted by InHisHands 23:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Big Adventures in Little Vanuatu

rain 30 °C

Much has happened since we last had a chance to provide you all with an update. We have but two weeks left here and times seems to have disappeared quickly in the last little while. Overall we are "fat and sassy" and staying healthy! Hygiene is not one of the strong points here so things we take for granted all of a sudden become vital to staying healthy. eg) boiling and filtering drinking water and trying to keep things dry to avoid fungal infections etc.
I have never been in a place where it rains so much! Almost everyday we get torrential rains which leave the soil in a constant state of being water logged. And this is the dry season! If only we could send some water back home!
Awe cnyway, after enjoying our weekend break at Oyster Island (this included kayaking, swimming in the blue hole and snorkeling) we returned back to Luganville. We have been immensely blessed by a missionary family allowing us to stay in their guest house here. Brian and Renee are from the States and have included us in their family by providing us with meals and playing games with their kids etc. We were able to continue helping a pastor in town set up a youth center. This included more painting, odd jobs like hanging a door, making a program and designing a bulletin board. They are also building a front patio using natangara (local roofing material which is dried palm fronds) that looks quite cool.
This weekend just past we went with Brian and some Ni Vanuatu pastors up in to the bush! We traveled two and a half hours by "road", an hour by boat and then a 40 minute trek through jungle in thick mud to reach the Tehali speaking tribe. Their village is at the north of Santo near Big Bay. We went to visit another missionary couple who are working in the clinic that Brian built there. Brian just happens to love fishing! On the way we took the opportunity to troll surface lures in the pristine waters of the bay. Rachel's lure got hit first and after much effort she brought a lovely 4 foot barracutta to the boat. Our local guides soon subdued this toothy critter with a swift knife through the head. These fish are nasty and one could easily loose a finger or toe if your not careful! An hour passed and we had a few more hits on our lures but nothing stuck. Rachel's reel again started screaming as line peeled off! This time a monster from the deep had taken hold. After a fair struggle Rachel realized we would never see this fish. The wire trace had been frayed from the teeth of this fish! Disappointed, we continued towing lures and soon enough Rachel's lure was consume again. Rach and I shared the fight and after about 15 minutes we brought a 45 pound (25 kg) Wahoo into the boat. Wahoo are one of the quickest fish in the sea. This was truly a day we will never forget!!
So we arrived at the village with enough fish to feed everyone there! It was a pleasure to meet Gary and Pricilla from Montana who are working a the clinic. Gary showed me all the ins and outs of how to set up a solar system properly. Pricilla showed Rachel how the clinic is run and what she is dealing with. Everything from treating fevers, dealing with worms, wound care and preventing infection is done.
On Sunday the church put on a feast for us which included lap lap (mashed banana cooked in banana leaves), mashed taro with coconut cream, rice, beef, manioc, crabs, bananas and fish. Its tradition to dig into the mashed taro using your hand and all which is a little scary and hardly anyone here washes their hands! But for the most part the food was tasty and good.
It was a great trip out there and we both learnt a lot. It was amazing to see how much impact missionaries from the West are having in that place. They are using medical care as an open door to tell the people about the gospel.
We can now understand Bishlama pretty well and speak it a tiny bit. It basically a mix of French, English and native language. But there is many different languages in Vanuatu.
Tomorrow we fly back to Ambae for our last two weeks. Please continue to pray for ongoing health and safety for us. We have many more stories to tell you in person soon!
Till next time, God bless you. Look em you! (See you later in Bishlama!)

Posted by InHisHands 22:09 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Alo from Ambae

sunny 31 °C

We just returned yesterday from the tropical paradise of Ambae. It was a very good and rewarding, as well as difficult and stretching experience. There are so many stories we could tell, and there are many good people that we have met. Dwaine and I had the privilege of staying with Pastor Eston and his family. His wife Maureen and their 8 kids (6 biological, 2 adopted from other families in Vanuatu) always left us with plenty of entertainment. I will go a step back further and explain a bit of our journey to get to Ambae. The island is 50 km off the coast of Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island. We decided to travel with Ps Eston and his son Lyndon by boat to get there. After the boat was delayed two nights due to rain and lack of cargo, we left Thursday evening, April 2nd. It took 5 hours to get there, and another 2 or so hours to actually get to our village due to the boat only being able to drop off passengers and cargo via a smaller boat. Then we all piled into a pick-up truck to traverse our way through dense vines, banana trees, and coconut palms. The coast always had the sound of waves crashing against the volcanic rock beaches that line this area of the island. When we arrived to Eston’s home we were greeted by children from the surrounding areas, many ducks and chickens, and a beautiful sunshining day. Our adventures then began….

Dwaine and I set about collecting coconuts the following day in order to start the long and tedious process of making coconut oil. One has to pick up the coconuts, then remove the husks, crack the coconut shells with a bush knife, then the inside flesh has to be grated (all by hand), and dried over a fire/furnance (heated by the coconut husks & shells), then when it is dried it is taken over to the handy-dandy coconut press and the squeezing begins. Each coconut has about approximately 35ml of oil to contribute to the finished process…..it was a whole lot of effort for 50 bottles (350ml each) and 4 days worth of work!

We also had the opportunity to do many other things. From fishing out on the water, to playing volleyball several times (the villagers really know how to play), to swimming almost every day, to jumping from the rocks into the sea (not too high, don’t worry!), to playing skip-bo and go fish with the kids, and going to church a lot….our days were filled with many activities. Dwaine helped to render the outside of Eston’s house with cement, and I learned the process of making their traditional food of lap lap (a dish made from bananas or taro or sweet potatoes grated up and then it is cooked in banana leaves). We even had the chance to teach on two occasions about health and hygiene. The people are very helpful, and their lives may be simple but they are very joyful. They mainly live on bananas and coconuts and any other fresh fruit that comes from the jungle. People were very generous to us in bringing us or showing us where to find coconuts, papaya, grapefruit, paplemos (a sweeter grapefruit), pineapple, bananas, and oranges….they even have watermelons and mangos in certain seasons. If you are hungry, you can just go and find some fruit on the tree for a snack!

During our 12 days there we also had our first wedding anniversary and celebrated Easter. These were both very interesting experiences that left us feeling a bit home-sick. Not one person said “Happy Anniversary” to us on the actual day. We did have 2 cards from home that helped us through, but since it is not a major deal for the Vanuatu people it was just another cultural difference that we noticed. Easter time was also not too much of a celebration, but more so a time to head to the church bells. We had a church service every night all weekend long, and then had a picnic on the beach Easter Monday (which was quite a good time!). Overall, we felt disappointed in missing our normal family gatherings and were wishing we could have been together for the special time of celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection. Dwaine and I are planning on going away for a few nights this weekend in order to properly celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary! Wow, what a year it has been! I can’t believe it has already been that long!

Now to our current and upcoming plans….we are in Luganville on Santo for probably the next week and a half or so. We met a missionary named Brian from Texas before we left to Ambae that offered for us to stay in their guest house for a short period. Yesterday we were able to move our things to the guest house, and it is truly a great blessing. We had a shower yesterday (even with warm water) for the first time in several weeks, since bucket showers are the go on Ambae. During our time here we have already started a painting project, and finished another part of it today for Ps William, who has recently started a Boy’s Centre that provides Bible studies and classes for the community and some of the prisoners at the local jail. We plan on helping him where we can, and then maybe doing some work around Brian’s house. After we may have the opportunity to go and visit a couple that are missionaries in the bush further in the north of Santo for a few days. Then after our plans at this point are to return to Ambae (even though they had a going-away feast for us and even gave us gifts such as an island dress for me and an island shirt for Dwaine) for maybe another 12 days or so….and soon after our flight will be bringing us back to the wonderful land of Australia. All of the plans could change in an instant, as flexibility must be the precursor to every action and thought here. There have been some very rough times during our stay here, but there have been many rewards and relationships formed that make it all worth it. And if you noticed a patch on my forehead in one of the pictures I was helping to cut apart a tree that fell down and I got into a fight with a stick and the stick won! It’s nothing serious, we are just really cautious to keep any wounds & cuts clean and sterile. Until we are able to write again, God bless and take care…

Posted by InHisHands 20:36 Archived in Vanuatu Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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