9-16 The Final Schedule

Look, we made it to Dunedin!  I swear!

Our original schedule contained a few errors in planning, as the “6 Lessons Learned” post details. Our first error was assuming we could do 90 k a day and still sightsee. After one day where we missed our goal and had a terrifying run across a bridge, we decided to re-think our plan. At lunch on day 2, we considered options.

The original schedule or as much as we had looked like this:

Tuesday 6th– Pick up the bikes in Christchurch and bike to Ashburton.

It was a long bike ride the first day.

Wednesday 7th – Bike Ashburton to Timaru

Thursday 8th – Bike Timaru to Oamaru
Friday 9th – Bike Oamaru to Waiakouaiti
Saturday 10th – Bike Waiakouwaiti to Dunedin
Sunday 11th – Extra day, just in case.
Here’s what actually happened.

Tuesday 6th – Pick up bikes in Christchuch and bike to Rakaia River
Wednesday 7th – Bike from Rakaia River to Ashburton in the morning. Spend the afternoon at a wine tasting and playing on the internet.
Thursday 8th – Catch the bus to Oamaru in the morning. Spend the afternoon biking along the coast road to Hampden.
Friday 9th – Walk to the Moeraki Boulders at dawn, bike to Palmerston by lunch. After lunch bike to Waiakouaiti. Get picked up by friends in Waikouaiti to watch the Rugby World Cup opening ceremonies and match in their living room in Dunedin.
Plenty of time for play

While sitting in a MacDonald’s in Ashburton, we were faced with a choice; haul down the coast doing 90 k or 6-8 hours a day on the bike and sightseeing from the handlebars because we said we’d bike to Dunedin, or do we catch a bus part of the day and scale back to 40-50 k a day and 4-5 hours on the bike to take time for wine tasting, scenic photography and a more relaxing vacation. We chose to slow down and see New Zealand. We could have made it, but it seemed silly. So, we jumped on a bus to Oamaru and biked the hilly part.

This is a beautiful country worth seeing, we made a good choice.

4-23 Easter Traditions blong Melsisi

We had Easter here. It was a four day affair. I’m serious, four days.

The week kicked off on Thursday with a half day at school and an evening mass. The mass was the beginning of the vigil that represented watching over the dying Jesus. The vigil was done in shifts, which Jason thinks is cheating.

The church was tricked out for it. They turned the alter so we were facing the back of the church and the entire thing was candlelit. I don’t mean candle lit like it is in the States where you walk into the sanctuary and find nothing but candles but you go looking for your coat in the coat room with fluorescent lights. I mean, it was pitch dark and the front around the alter was light with candles and covered in white cloth that caught the light and made it almost glow.

The shifts at the vigil were organized by area or district. Vanmelang, where I live, was supposed to be number five. I figured an hour a piece and we’d be up to pray around 2:30 am. I set an alarm and went to bed. At 2:30, we crawled out of bed and went to the church only to find out that we’d missed our time to pray by about two hours. Whoops. Well, we made an appearance anyway. Jason stayed and drank kava with some of the guys on the way back while I went back o the house and my bed.

The next morning was Good Friday, which is really celebrated as a holiday here. It is a day off of work, even work in the garden. We went down to Jason’s papa’s house in the morning with hopes of going snorkeling and playing in the ocean. It worked, though not quite how we were expecting. That’s the usual around here.

We were planning on going down to an area around Waterfall, which is further south than Vansemakul, and looking for a tourist spot down there for Jason’s papa to take tourists to. He wants to try to capitalize on the tourism from Nakhol (land diving, go look it up on youtube, [seriously, it’s crazy -J]). We didn’t get there. Instead, we had a picnic on the beach and snorkeled around the reef. I swam a good way south with one of the other girls and everyone seemed a little surprised that I know how to swim well. I guess their idea of lakes and mine are a little different.

No amazing pictures from that round of snorkeling, though it was Jason’s first attempt at daeva or spearfishing. Apparently the rope was too short on the spear and he couldn’t catch anything.

Friday afternoon, we walked the stations of the cross starting at the ocean and walking up to the church. It is a big hill. It was also the middle of the afternoon in the tropics. Who’s good idea was that one? I decided to abstain from the service that followed for the sake of my nose (there was some serious BO, even by my new more relaxed standards) and not wanting to snore during church. I’m glad I did since what was supposed to be a short one hour service turned into a three hour service. I would have been sleeping.
Saturday morning we ran away and hid in Vansemakul. There was an evening service the represent the resurrection. It had a bonfire and candles and all sorts of fire. I’m sure it was very pretty. I was happily sitting in my house, eating my food, and not being surrounded by people. It was good. My introvert tendencies are coming out stronger than ever before.

Sunday morning, we went back to Melsisi for church. We showed up about an hour late and we weren’t the last ones in. Church lasted for another hour and a half after we got there, too. It was a bit long for my tastes.

After church we ate with Jason’s family and went back to the village. It was nice to be home again after the week of being in Melsisi.
I still have trouble understanding the services, but now I think it is a lack of interest and an attention span issue, not a Bislama issue. I’m just not an auditory learner and I don’t have an interest in paying attention in church. I guess I’ll just keep showing up and day dreaming. I’m good at day dreaming.

I will point out that I have had no less than an audience of five for the writing of most of this blog post. I am waiting for a workshop to start and have the computer on my lap. I’ve been the center of a group of children off and on for the last half an hour. Who knew writing could be such a fascinating spectator sport?

1-4 Christmas Part 3: Getting Home

In case it wasn’t clear from the trek of getting to the north, it is not in fact a day’s walk away. We figured we’d go the other direction and see how far we could walk before it was boat time. Catching a speed boat is a bit expensive, so the more we could walk the better.

We started out with Alex and Lucas as our guides. After about two hours of walking, they turned back. We continued on for awhile on our own. Then it started raining. We walked along a nice, wide truck road in the rain. This wasn’t a problem. The truck roads make off-roading look like a two-lane highway, but are still entirely walkable. Sometime before noon, we got to the first large village. We found out from a woman on the road that her brother is a teacher in Melsisi and would be heading back to Melsisi that day. We figured we’d look for him and see about splitting a boat.

The first person told us he was at the Catholic Mission. The next few didn’t have a clue. The one after that said he’d already gone to Melsisi. The one after that told us he was at the Mission. We decided to try the Mission. We got there and found a lot of people. More than a Wednesday church gathering would merit. Because we are white, we got attention immediately and someone came over to ask us what we were doing there. We asked about the teacher and were told he had left already.

It started to down pour. This is how Jason and I crashed a wedding. We hung out for awhile, sitting in the two of the three chairs while the priest had the other one. We eventually figured out that there had been not one, but three weddings. (This is how Jason and I came to crash three weddings.) They often do multiple weddings at once here, I guess it saves on travel for the families.

When it stopped raining and Jason and I had had our water re-filled and made a great story for the entire area for months, we decided to head out. We got about forty feet away from the gate before they decided to give us a guide. The guide was a young man in his early twenties. All his friends couldn’t let him have the glory so we got a pack of guides. The pack of guides decided to follow us and direct from the rear.

After another half hour or so, the pack left and we walked on with just the one guide. He told us we were going to go on a “short cut.” Never trust that phrase. Our “short cut” last for the next three hours and all of it was up and down paths that were mud-slick, overgrown and had never been wider than a goat’s feet to begin with. We both mostly kept our feet, but there were some near misses.

By the time we got to the village with the wedding, we were happy to go back to the main road. From there, it was only 45 minutes more hiking to the ocean where we got a speed boat back to Melsisi. We still had to walk to Vansemakul, but at least it was a familiar road wide enough for three people to walk abreast and mostly groomed with gravel.

We made it home in time for Jason to get a fever and spend the next two days in bed. He’s better now.

1-4 Christmas Part 2: The Holiday

We went north to a town called Nabarangiut where to other PCVs live. Alex and Lucas are another married couple and have been living there for a year. They offered up their house as Christmas Central to everyone on Pentecost. Unfortunately, we were the only ones close enough to make it since the ship wasn’t running.

Christmas itself was pretty mellow. We went to Lucas’ family house and had a lovely meal complete with ramen noodles and pineapple. It’s pineapple season and this is a wonderful thing.

Between eating times, I learned a couple of sand drawings. They are pretty cool and when I have more information will be a post of their own. We had enough cell phone reception to call our families for Christmas, which was also great. Jason and Lucas had a couple shells of kava apiece but we had all forgotten to bring a flashlight, so we had to make an early night of it. In fact, we walked the last ten minutes home almost entirely by feel, since it had gotten dark.

The rest of the weekend we spent chilling, taking pictures of fish and eating whiteman food. It was a really nice weekend. It was great to spend time with people going through the same experience that we are, in both being PCVs and in being a married couple. Alex and Lucas seem to have a very similar world view to me which made for some great conversation. It was also really useful to see how they live. The day-to-day routine of a PCV and of a married PCV. I feel like we learned a lot from being there including some new recipes, tips for cooking on an open fire, useful furniture and house arrangement ideas, fence-building techniques and other such life-improvements.

Really, it was a great weekend but there wasn’t a lot of exceptional stories. The highlight of my weekend happened the first night when I was sniffing fresh basil with a purring cat in my lap.

1-4 Christmas Part 1: The Trek North

Jason and I walked north for Christmas. Well, we started out walking. We were told that it would be able to eat lunch in Nabarangiut if we started at 8 am. We started at 8 am. At 9 am we got to Melsisi. We stopped there for an hour to get mail and pick up a few things from the house there. At 10 am, we started down a small, slippery “short cut.” In this case, I do believe that the short cut was significantly shorter than staying on the big road. This did not remain true.

So, we took a short cut. A narrow, half-rock climbing short cut while carrying a backpack and a basket apiece. We made it down to the shore carrying our muddy shoes, having given up on actually wearing them. By shoes, I mean flip-flops. We stayed on the path, which was our first mistake. We should have gone and walked on the beach, it would have been nicer to our feet.

Around 11:30, we re-connected with the big road. We started walking up a gently incline. We stopped and split a grapefruit. (They are super sweet here and really, really big.) We kept walking up something that was turning steeper than a gentle incline. In fact, it turned into a giant hill. It turned into a giant hill that just didn’t end. Every time we thought, “that next bend will be the top” it went on. It was a large enough hill that we stopped for a water break. Twice. Then we ran out of water.

Around 1, we got to the top. We stopped in a village to refill our water. They were very confused as to why two white people were standing in the middle of their village.

Then we got to go down the big hill. Though up is worse than down, down is rather rough, too. Slipping and sliding in flip flops down a steep incline is a really good ass and hips workout.

At the bottom of the hill, we decided that a boat was in order. Another hour in the boat got us to the village nearest to our friends’ house. From there, it was only a ten minute walk up another slippery though wide path to their house. We were very, very glad to see their house and put down our backpacks.