Also here is a great visual story of the TEAR Fund/Nasi Tuan partnership in response to Cyclone Pam
A bit delayed but there is a summary up of our project on Tanna post cyclone Pam. http://www.nasituan.org/cyclone-pam---recovery-project.html
Also here is a great visual story of the TEAR Fund/Nasi Tuan partnership in response to Cyclone Pam
Rosaline is an extremely quiet and softly spoken women, with an incredible laugh. I first met her about 5 years ago, and although she is shy, we quickly became friends. She has not had an easy life. She has lost two children, and her seven year old daughter has a life-threatening condition. She has left her home island of Erromango to move to Tanna, where she pastors a church with her husband in the village of Lownamilo. She has left behind family and everything that was known to her, and many times she has expressed a wish to return home. Yet each time her and her husband have concluded that they still have work to do on Tanna. They have both spent years building the Lownamilo church (literally!), and they have also volunteered and worked extensively with Nasi Tuan.
When we heard the news late last year that Rosaline was pregnant again, we rejoiced for her and have kept her in prayer ever since. When we heard the news that Cyclone Pam was on its way, she was one of the first people I thought of and worried for.
The cyclone was a tough and terrifying time for everyone, but perhaps especially for Rosaline, who has already lost so much. Here is her story of the night it hit, as told to Helen Manson of TEARFund.
“My name is Rosaline Samuels and I am 36 years old. I have produced four children but two died when they were young. I am now six months pregnant. Amelia is 11 and Winnie is 7 with a heart condition that means she has not grown since she was very young. The night of the cyclone I was in my house when it completely collapsed. We escaped quickly and moved to another house. When that house started collapsing I moved to another house. I found it hard to move quickly from place to place with such strong winds and items flying in the air. It was the largest storm I’ve ever seen in my life. Not only was I trying to protect my two children but also the baby inside me. I told my husband after we moved to the third house that I would not be moving again. I lost the will to survive at that point I was just so tired of it all. With help from Nasi Tuan and other NGO’s I have hope that things will get better. My husband and I hope to receive seeds to re-plant our garden from Nasi Tuan and I know that the field coordinator is coming to our part of the island tomorrow to teach us about preserving the food in our garden. Without her teaching our cassava and bananas will go off faster than we can eat them.”
Helen has also kindly sent us some photos she took of Rosaline and her children. I was delighted to see that Rosaline has still got her indomitable smile; she has overcome the darkest moments and is looking to the future for her family and new baby. While this future is uncertain, there is a lot of progress being made.
Food aid is being distributed on Tanna this week, and each family will be receiving a sack of rice, two packets of noodles, a tin of tuna and a tin of meat. This will last 15 days. Although it is wonderful to have food, this is obviously not a balanced diet, and there is a desperate need for green veggies and fresh produce.
To that effect, Nasi Tuan is working with urgency on an agricultural recovery project, which will involve clearing gardens, planting seeds, and pruning/rehabilitating coffee plants in order to provide income for farmers. Although in the past Nasi Tuan has focused on a smaller contained area, since Cyclone Pam hit, we have been called upon to deliver a project that can reach almost the entire island of Tanna- a huge step up! More staff are needed, and thankfully another of TEARFund’s partners, Ola Fau, are going to be helping out with manpower and training.
We are INCREDIBLY grateful to all the donations that have been made to Nasi Tuan in the past few weeks. These funds will be used to support the ongoing work that we are doing, and also for urgent needs such as Chainsaws to clear gardens. Thank you everyone for all your generosity. The staff of Nasi Tuan and the people of Tanna are so grateful.
Alan is a man from Central Tanna. Those of you who know him will definitely agree that he is incredibly gentle: a quiet man with a great deal of humility and kindness. He has two sons and two daughters, whom he adores, and he takes care of an amazing dog called Manny (that's another story). He is good with animals and there is always a host of kittens tumbling and playing in all the nooks and crannies of his home. His kids faithfully tend the family pig, which has grown huge over the years and is now the family's most valuable possession. He is the kind of person that would bump into you on the road and give you the best cabbage that he had just pulled out of the garden for his dinner. Or if you passed by his house you would get given a bag or oranges, or a plate of dinner, even if that meant he went without.
Alan is also an amateur builder- he has spent most of his adult life picking up skills where he can and trying to improve his knowledge. He has built many houses for others in his village- often taking payment in non-monetary items like taro. He has worked tirelessly as a Nasi Tuan contractor, and been a large part of the construction of water collection buildings as well as the office and adjoining buildings.
For as long as we have known him, he has dreamt of building a solid timber house for his family. For years now he has talked of finally making his own, permanent timber house that is dry and safe, with room for his kids. To this end, he has worked and worked and worked. He has spent a few months in NZ learning building techniques, his wife has baked and sold endless loaves of bread, they have sold taro and cabbages and corn at the lenakel market, they have raised chickens and grown coffee and planted peanuts. Alan even spent three months in Port Vila growing watermelons to sell to tourists for extra cash. His kids missed him terribly.
He finally laid the foundations for the house about 4 years ago, once they had saved enough to buy the concrete and the posts, and since then he has have slowly progressed through each stage of house building. It became a bit of a running joke in the village- when will Alan actually finish his house? He and his wife Nawiwa have literally pieced it together nail by nail, and in the interim the family of 6 has slept in a tiny hut that had rot and leaks and mildew. They didn't want to upgrade or improve their hut, because they were putting all their energy into getting the house done.
By the time they reached the end of 2014, it was so so close to being finished. All he had to do was put on the doors and windows; his four kids were eagerly anticipating the first night they would sleep in it, and everyone round the village was admiring how awesome it was.
Then Cyclone Pam hit.
You can guess what happened.
Not only was the entire house destroyed, the sleeping hut and cooking hut and fruit trees and coffee plants and peanut crops and taro plants and the chickens and every means that Alan had of supporting his family are all gone too.
It's hard to imagine how Alan might feel. Of course, his family are safe and that's the biggest thing. But it's hard to comprehend how so many years of work and livelihood can disappear in one day. It must be absolutely gutting. And it must be very hard to know where to even begin the process of starting again.
Like I say- just gutting.
However, the story doesn't end there. Alan is a Tanna man through and through, and he will show the same resilience and fortitude and hope that people all over Tanna have been displaying. Life will go on, things will regrow, and Alan will rebuild his house. Eventually.
Nasi Tuan is currently in the process of designing a specific one year recovery project, that will get the right tools in peoples hands to get gardens back up and growing in a minimum of time. I will write more about that in the next post. But in the meantime, as we get desensitised to pictures of the cyclone and start turning to more arresting news stories, it helps to remember the people like Alan, that have are facing smashed lives and dreams. We appreciate your prayers, thoughts, and support for them.
News from Tanna!!
We have great news- everyone in our village and surrounding area is safe and unharmed. This includes our staff and volunteer team. The relief is huge.
Jeffrey Lahva, Nasi Tuan's managing director, said that the lack of serious injuries and deaths in Middlebush is a complete miracle, as there were some extremely terrifying moments and a lot of people had to run for their lives as buildings collapsed around and behind them. He said that if the cyclone had been at night, the death toll would have been very high. The fact that it was daytime meant people could see well enough to crawl and hide from flying debris. The entire village of Loanahuru crawled to Lowehau (where Nasi Tuan is based) with their children clinging to their stomachs.
Amazingly the Nasi Tuan office, processing house, and local church all remained standing and kept their roofs, along with two recently built houses. There are many many people sheltering in these buildings now, as nearly everything else has been destroyed. There were 8 water tanks outside the Nasi tuan office waiting to be installed, and these went flying around and travelled some incredible distances. Andrew said that debris abounds, and the trees are stripped bare of fruit, leaves and branches. All the above ground crops were destroyed.
The atmosphere sounds fairly intense. There are a lot of people sitting around in disbelief. However, as we had hoped, Nasi Tuan is already mobilised and working hard.
Jeffrey has organised a hygiene workshop, to be held tomorrow. Nasi tuan is located in a densely populated area, and the lack of housing and clean water will quickly breed sickness. So he has planned a workshop for the surrounding communities that will reinforce and emphasise the importance of hygiene practises. They will probably set in place some systems to help people maintain good hygiene and eliminate the risks.
May (a Nasi Tuan field worker) has been busy organising women to harvest Manioc (otherwise known as Cassava) and make it into flour. A cyclone will not necessarily kill root crops like manioc and kumara, but if left in the ground they will rot from the excess water. Using the solar dryers that Nasi Tuan installed last year (you can read more about them in previous blogs) the manioc that May and her team harvest will be dried and turned into flour, thus preserving it for the lean days ahead. Manioc flour can be used for all kinds of cooking, including bread and biscuits and pancakes and dumplings. May is teaching as she goes, showing women how to carry out the process.
As I mentioned in the last blog, Nasi tuan is a local grassroots organisation, and therefore can be extremely quick to mobilise. Our staff and volunteer team largely belong to local communities/villages, and are very much working 'from the ground up'. Of course, a disaster on this scale will definitely require outside aid and assistance, 'from the top down' so to speak, and relief supplies are being flown in and organised down at the airport and in centres in Lenakel (Tanna's main town). So an ideal outcome is that these two different operations will keep working until they 'meet in the middle' and can reach maximum effectiveness in helping the people of Tanna.
Networks are still down, so we are relying on andrews to give us info via his satellite phone. He is the only person in Central Tanna with a working communication device at this stage! Hopefully we can keep getting information out, especially concerning the food, water and housing situation.
Appreciate all your support everyone!!
(I've posted some pics from previous years, the 'before' pics. We will attempt to get some post-cyclone pics up once networks are up again).
Firstly, thank you all for your support and prayers for Nasi Tuan's staff and communities. We still don't have any news from anyone on Tanna, as the cellphone networks are all down and are likely to be for some time. However, we do know from fly-by reports that most local houses and structures on Tanna were destroyed, and that access to clean water is a major problem already. There have been reports of fatalities on Tanna, but information is very vague and there is nothing to confirm these reports as yet. We just don't know what the Nasi Tuan staff are dealing with. However, here are some things we can assume:
Most people in our communities will now be homeless.
Most of the crops that people live on will be wiped out. After heavy rains, even root crops like kumara will rot in the ground due to waterlogged soil. Post-hurricane, a normal activity will be to pull all these crops up as quickly as possible. Everyone will be salvaging what they can before food becomes very scarce.
Coffee crops will probably be wiped out. It is nearly harvest time, so before Pam hit, the trees would have been laden with nearly ripe fruit. This means that the bulk of the years income for most people has now disappeared. Other cash crops will also have been affected.
There are probably some injuries, and sickness will also easily spread through communities, especially as a lot of water sources will have been contaminated.
So what can Nasi Tuan offer in this pretty bleak looking situation?
We don't know what it looks like over there right now, but we do know these things
Nasi Tuan is a local organisation, and therefore is already mobilised, in that our staff and volunteer team are on the ground and in the midst of it. They belong to the communities they work with, and although we don't know if they are injured or able, if they have the capacity they will already be assessing needs and evaluating damage.
Nasi Tuan staff and volunteers recently completed a week long training course in Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response. This course equipped our team to perform CPR, manage wounds, make splints, rescue victims from tricky stretches of bush, put out fires, rescue a drowning person from a flooded river, and much more. Most importantly, they learnt to keep calm, take control, and work together to help in a disaster or emergency situation. These skills may be proving very useful right now.
Recovery from Pam is going to demand short and long term agricultural solutions. Nasi Tuan has a particular focus on agriculture, and the staff team has specialist knowledge and training in this area. They will be ready to get started.
Andrew is flying to Vila today (Monday) and will hopefully be in Tanna by tomorrow (Tuesday). He is travelling with Alice from TEARfund, who are supporting and equipping Nasi Tuan in the recovery operation. We will try our best to keep you all updated with what is happening over there.
In the meantime, if you wanted to support the recovery work, you could either donate from NZ through the Vanuatu Community Trust (non-tax deductible)- http://www.nasituan.org/vct.html
or through the TEARfund appeal -
Long overdue- we have found NZ life to be just as busy and chaotic as we had feared, and so my apologies for this much delayed post!
I have had many questions about why we ended up coming home two weeks early, so here it is, finally!!
At the end of September, after months of great health, Charlie and I came down with a nasty cold. It was hardly surprising as every other kid and mum in the village seemed to have it too! And Charlie and I had got caught in a sudden downpour a few days before, a common hazard when going for a walk in Tanna.
We sniffled and snuffled for a few days, but seemed to be getting over it. We were mostly focussed on the urgency of having only two and a half weeks until we left! The only funny thing was Charlie had these insect bites popping up round his neck. We had a few fleas from time to time in our hut (especially when Charlies puppy sneaked inside!) so we thought it was that, and then we thought it might be bed bugs. He woke up one morning and the bites had exploded into a rash all over his chest and neck, so we decided to take him to the hospital to get it looked at by a doc.
We live in the bush, and there are a few clinics nearby (as I have talked about in an earlier post) but to see a doctor we needed to go down to Lenakel hospital. The hospital has one Tanna doctor, but he because of his skills at eye surgery it's rumoured he has been transferred up to Santo island, so there is a huge lack of trained doctors on the ground. However, for the past decade at least, Tanna has benefitted from a great program where Canada sends a doctor for a six month stint. These Canadian doctors will spend six months seeing patients, training staff, and using their skills to provide invaluable assistance to the people of Tanna.
Unfortunately we turned up at lunchtime and Tanna follows the European system of having long lunchtime breaks where everything closes- including the hospital! But some friendly nurses who were having a BBQ lunch outside directed us to the doctors house- he lives onsite with his wife and two girls. Luckily we had met this family before, and were able to go to their house and say hi, and chat about expat life on Tanna!
Jeff the doc had a look at Charlie's rash and straightaway said that it wasn't just your typical run-of-the-mill childhood rash. It was a petechiae rash, caused by burst blood vessels under the skin. It's the kind of rash that doesn't disappear when touched or pressed, and is known for its connection to meningitis or meningococcal. Because Charlie was running round playing and laughing, he wasn't too worried that Charlie had either of these things, but he did want to get it checked out.
We had his blood platelet count checked up at the hospital, and that came back normal, and Jeff said he would talk to some other doctors and paediatricians in Canada and get their opinion too. So we went home, and the next morning found that the rash had really spread round Charlie's body. We were also worried that he was a bit subdued and his tummy was a bit upset. So after talking to Jeff on the phone and discussing at length, we decided to be extra extra cautious and fly home. We decided this about Tuesday midday, and that afternoon I packed wildly while Andrew zoomed round the island getting some antibiotics and booking a flight. We got on a flight to Vila at 5 that night, and then left for New Zealand at 7am the next morning. Home in 24 hours! We went straight to the doc in NZ who said it was concerning, and to be really watchful of Charlie during the night. He said if his condition worsened at all, to go straight to starship. It felt great to be so close to medical care!
Charlie got better really quickly, so it was probably a virus that had a really strange immune reaction. But we felt like we had made the right call in bringing him home- we would much rather be safe than sorry.
However it did mean leaving was quite a whirlwind and there were lots of tears in the village. Not having a proper goodbye was quite hard for us, and there were lots of loose ends that we would rather have tied up.
It also made the contrast between Tanna and Auckland feel very marked, and we missed out on the family time we had planned to have in Vila- where we would have debriefed and talked about the big changes about to happen!
Luckily kids adjust quickly and Charlie has settled in really well on the whole. He is still absolutely fascinated by electric lights, and can't quite believe how many toys there are everywhere. He has reverted to mostly speaking English, with a few Tanna words peppered in for good measure. Andrew and I have also settled back in, but we miss Tanna too. It's a confusing feeling to face culture shock in your own country, but at least we have done this before and therefore know what to expect a little.
So that's us for now!!
PS. The Canadian doctors we saw are the last volunteers from their charity to be coming. They just don’t have any more doctors willing to relocate on the other side of the world for six months. This could leave Tanna with no doctor and could be very detrimental. If you are a doctor in NZ or know of some who might be interested in doing 6 month (or more) placements please get in contact with us, as we can link you with the Canadian charity who is set up with housing (suitable for a family), a vehicle, bank accounts, funding ect. It would be great to keep this scheme going!
Disclaimer: I wrote this post a week ago, we are back home now after an early unscheduled trip home, which I will explain in the next blog!
Last week we celebrated the opening of the processing house; our facility for creating all the amazing peanut products that I have been going on about. It was a pretty exciting event, the culmination of many months of hard work from staff and volunteers alike. Tanna loves its formal ceremonies, so this was the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops. We borrowed a speaker system, decorated the entire office area in palm branches and flowers, cleaned, swept and tidied, and even speedily finished the flash new VIP toilet. The ceremony started with an amazing custom dance at the nakamal, and then all the invited guests were taken through to a lovely grassy patch by the garden, where chairs and a podium where all set up. The guests included hotel owners, tourism board members, the Secretary-General, and the Vice-President of Tafea province, as well as chiefs and others. There were speeches, a swift ribbon-cutting (for a ribbon we used a long flowery length of vine) and the best part- peanut product tasting. The new chili peanuts were a hit. Afterwards we had refreshments of mango juice, chocolate cake (baked by a few of us over the embers of a fire- as tricky as it sounds), and homemade cassava cookies. During the milling-around part of the festivities, our newly trained emergency rescue team performed a surprise demonstration, with a ‘victim’ screaming and collapsing on the grass, and the team performing CPR. They also demonstrated how to rescue a drowning man. It was a good way to be able to show off the training, and also inform people that Nasi Tuan now has a team of emergency trainers, able to train others and spread this knowledge.
The thing that Andrew, Charlie and I are excited about is that Mango season has arrived!! I could wax lyrical all day long about how perfect, sweet, and tasty these mangoes are. But I won’t labour the point, lest you all get too jealous. In between gorging ourselves, we are doing some trials at creating dried mango with Nasi Tuan’s solar dryer. While it is early in the season yet, in a few months Tanna will be drowning in mangoes, so it makes sense to try and find a use for all this excess fruit instead of just letting it go to waste. If we perfect the process, we can potentially be selling yummy packets of dried mango along with our peanut products. I’m sure tourists and travelers will enjoy! The more we increase the sales of products like these, the more self-funding Nasi Tuan can become, with the added benefit of creating more jobs, and fuelling social enterprise. So many positives!
Despite all this activity, reality is starting to set in for us- we are going home in just a few weeks. This is both a really exciting prospect – we can’t wait to see our families, sit on a comfy couch, and drink fresh cold New Zealand milk! But it’s also really sad, and a bit scary. Living here in Tanna, we are very removed from Western culture, and readjusting can be extremely overwhelming. We have to get used to the fast pace of life, to living on a schedule (and being on time!), to working indoors, to not being surrounded by a village. I remember last time we came back to New Zealand after a year and a half in Tanna, I went to the supermarket and was so overwhelmed by the busyness, the sheer volume of products, and the amount of choices I had, that I left not buying anything!! Thankfully this time we are a bit more aware of what to expect, and we are going to take it quietly for a few months and most of all- we are going to try to avoid getting too busy too quickly. There are also many wonderful things to look forward to, and as a mother I will find it very reassuring being back within quick reach of fantastic medical care- just in case! I’m also glad that we are bringing Charlie back home so he can start speaking English again. He seems to prefer the local dialect right now!
We will hopefully write a blog or two before we leave and then we will write some from home too. So until then, Emam! Whoongen Aseeto Lark! (Goodbye and God Bless!).
Maxine, Andrew and Charlie
Our peaceful little bush oasis has been rather noisy in the past few weeks. Normally, our background noises include birdsong, conch shells, and the odd pig squeal. But this week there has been whistles blowing distress signals, shouts of ‘fire’, ‘emergency’ and ‘help’ and a lot of laughing and yelling. That’s because Rey and Mark from Greenminds inc have travelled here from the Phillippines to train 12 Nasituan staff and volunteers in Emergency Preparedness and disaster response.
The first morning of training really put the trainees to the test as the introduction was interrupted by a loud scream right outside the door. Mark from Greenminds burst in to the room with blood flowing from his knee. One trainee ran over and grabbed his leg, another ran around like a headless chicken, while the rest mostly panicked and did nothing. It was a simulation of course, and everyone laughed heartily once they realized, but it was a great and powerful illustration of how hard it can be to know what to do in an emergency. And so over the next five days, many many skills were learnt, scenarios put into practice, and ‘victims’ assisted.
Essentially, Tanna now boasts 12 first responders who are capable and equipped to take charge in an emergency or accident. They can perform CPR, manage wounds, make splints, rescue victims from tricky stretches of bush, put out fires, rescue a drowning person from a river, and much more. Most importantly, they are now able to keep calm and take control in a disaster or emergency situation.
That’s pretty amazing, especially considering Tanna has a very limited hospital and no ambulance service for most of the island. These skills really are invaluable. And this was a trainers training, meaning that the participants are now able to go out and train others.
Charlie has enjoyed participating and watching some of the training, although some of the simulations he found a little alarming. The highlight for him was the matchbox jeep Rey brought him from the Philippines. I don’t think its left his hand this whole week, and he has even slept with it a few times.
Rey and Mark have also found time to go through our food processing centre, making recommendations and suggestions that come from their many years experience in producing organic food products. They have trained the processing staff in how to make chilli peanuts, which are just incredible. The key to a good chilli peanut is not to have all the flavor in the coating, but rather to infuse the whole nut in a chilli bite. We have already sold all of our supplies, and next week will be busy roasting enough to fill all the orders. In fact, all the varieties of Tau’d peanuts are flying out the door. We are looking forward to hosting an official opening of our processing facility, so I will write about that next time.
As for our little family, we are trying to savour Tanna for our remaining four weeks. Charlie and I go on many walks around the village, looking at the ancient trees and sacred places hidden in the bush. We often find embers from last nights storytelling fires, and Charlie tries to blow them back into life, or we pick extravagant flowers of every colour, and play knucklebones with spiky seed pods from strange trees. Its lovely being among the fragrant greenery, and I know we will miss these walks a lot when we are home (although we are very much looking forward to spending time on the beautiful New Zealand coast too). I guess the key is to appreciate what you have when you have it!
Thank you all for your continued support!
Love Maxine Andrew and Charlie.
A couple of weekends ago we were lucky enough to be able to pack up our things and go camp down at the ocean. A friend of ours lives on a beautiful little cove very close to the two big resorts on Tanna, so we took our tent and pitched it on the sand. It was incredible weather, and this spot is really special because it not only has a blue hole, but it boasts many tiny little private coves tucked away all around the place. As soon as we arrived, Charlie leapt off the quad and threw himself in the water, fully clothed. He spent every waking minute for the best part of three days swimming, paddling, and having a great time with all the kids (Jeffrey, Nasituan’s Managing Director, also camped with us with his wife and four kids). Charlie regularly came out of the water with things to show me; a piece of coral, a coconut shell, or once, a small swordfish (another kid had given it to him it turned out!). It was a beautiful, hot and sunny weekend and the water was just so incredibly clear and lovely. A bit of a change from being in the bush that’s for sure! We chatted to quite a few tourists who came to snorkel in the blue hole, and made sure to tell them all to look out for Tau’d peanuts on sale at their resorts. We had a great encounter with a fantastic Japanese couple who live in Nelson. They came to chat while we were all sitting under a large tree after a taro lunch, and somehow, they ended up singing up a beautiful Japanese song for us, and in response Jeffrey performed a traditional song and dance, and then Sonja (8 years old) and I sang “Iesu tofa Kasey” (Jesus Gives us Paw Paw) and Andrew even did a Haka. It was an awesome and unexpected cultural exchange!
Once we came back to the bush it was business as usual, although we found it hard to come back up to Middlebush which is a much higher altitude, and therefore a lot colder. Feels like an entirely different climate! But the unique climatic conditions are what makes this area great for coffee, so we can grin and bear the cold (and remind ourselves that we are still in t-shirts most of the time, so it’s not too bad!). The 2014 coffee season has just ended and we were pleased to find that Talao Co-Op did 16 tonnes of coffee this year- we had predicted that the absolute best we could do would be 10 tonnes, so we exceeded our own expectations!! In monetary terms, aprox. 4 million vatu was paid out to local smallholder farmers. The next step for coffee is to run end of season training workshops for growers; now is the time for pruning, and these workshops will help growers learn the proper techniques so they will have maximum yields next year. We also have some other initiatives in the pipeline to ensure that quality and quantity will improve and farmers can keep increasing their income from coffee. Check out talaocoffee.com if you want to read more about the Co-op and the coffee that is being sold.
I have talked in past posts about the amazing peanut products being sold through Nasituan, but the new exciting line we are trialing is sugar-coated roasted peanuts. Charlie, Andrew and I have selflessly volunteered to taste-test each batch, and they are delicious. The peanuts here are super fresh, and have a great sweet flavor in themselves, but when roasted in caramelized sugar they are incredible. Our marketing manager Morgan is also a tour guide, and runs a business doing hosting tourists through a cultural show deep in the bush. It is an awesome experience, and now he is able to sell peanuts at the end. They are very popular, and he is selling loads. This is great news for the Tau’d staff, who are currently all volunteering. It will be great when the profits have built up enough to renumerate them!!
Time is ticking away and we are looking forward to home but not looking forward to saying goodbye to our Tanna family and pace of life. It is always hard to reacclimatize to the pace and chaos of life in New Zealand after living a slow and simple life here. But hot showers help!!
That’s us for now
Maxine Andrew and Chief Charlie
So Charlie had an uncomfortable encounter this week. I was washing dishes and he was sitting on the step in the sun watching the world, when he called me to come see something. Well actually he called Andrew (dada! Dada!) but I came instead. He had found a caterpillar and dismantled it, and he showed me the pieces. I carefully took it off him, disposed of it, and asked him to be gentle with animals, before continuing on with what I was doing. A few minutes later I took him inside to get dressed, and all of a sudden he started crying, then really crying, then screaming and he started to writhe and scratch at himself. I couldn't calm him down, and couldn't figure out what was going on. I called Andrew and we guessed maybe he had found some Nangalet (a kind of poison ivy) so I sent Andrew out on a scouting mission to see if he could find any of the leaves lying around, but no. Eventually Teresa (Nasi tuans accountant) and Marie (intern) came over and said 'he hasn't been touching a caterpillar has he?'. Turns out the small fuzzy black caterpillar has a poison that causes itching, burning and swelling on contact. Charlie had rubbed it all over himself. He was beside himself for about half an hour, although Teresa brought him a leaf which helped soothe it a little. He sported a red rash the rest of that day. I often forget that we are living in the middle of the Vanuatuan bush. Poison caterpillars help me remember.
Apart from dealing with vicious fauna, we have been celebrating the launch of Tau'd products and preparing to take orders. We have had a number of tourists and travellers visit recently (two of whom heard about Nasi tuan by reading this blog! Makes me happy). So we have had a number of sales through our slide window of the processing houSe. This week our marketing officer is taking samples and order sheets round all the many hotels, bungalows, and guest houses. We are hoping these places will be keen to buy stands of our peanuts to sell to guests. We have had one big order already from Whitegrass resort. Feedback so far has been really really positive, and a favourite seems to be the garlic roasted variety. They actually have crispy chinks of garlic roasted in with the nuts. When they are cooking, the smell around the village is heavenly. I shut my eyes and pretend I'm about to go visit an Italian restaurant. At the moment we are buying garlic from Port Vila, but we have put the word out that we need to buy garlic, so lots of people have planted some and will soon be ready to sell it to us. It will be better quality, and organic, and will provide some much needed income for people, so everyone is happy.
We have also experimented with making peanut butter in our grinder, and it works really well. Now we need to consider pricing and the cost effectiveness of selling it. Andrew and I are really happy to have good peanut butter again after being able to get only nasty sweet stuff imported from Malaysia. There are some other kiwis on Tanna who will be pleased too!
We have also recently celebrated Independence Day, and over the festivities there has been a huge football competition- a kind of Tanna World Cup! So we have watched a lot of football. Charlie has been right into it, but we have had a hard time keeping him off the field during some of the big matches. He couldn't believe there was a ball right there and he wasn't allowed to go play with it!
There has been lots more happening in our green, smoky little corner of the world, but I'll write more soon.
Thank you for all your continued support, for the lovely words, emails, and parcels. We love hearing updates and comments from you all, and have been surprised how far and wide this is being read.
Stay well everyone!
Maxine, Andrew and Charlie