Tuesday, December 8, 2009

we're coming home

We'll be coming home in early January. Leaving Tarawa on Jan. 9 and arriving at RDU on Jan. 12 at 5pm. I'll blog more when I get home.
Take care,
Jennifer and Family

Friday, November 6, 2009

The power's out

by James
I was talking to Mommy and then I was walking but only got to a chair near mommy. Why you say? because the power was out! don't say "so!" it was comin up to 8:00 pm. dark, eh? I couden't see and mommy said stay where we were. I held on to the chair I was by. daddy got a lantern and three flashlights, two blues and one red. I took the oldest flash light, blue. Tanielu took the red and parker took the blue, other, flash light. then we had a flashlight party. then I went over to the other house. Tanielu put his flashlight beside Daddy and went over to the dark house. in 2 seconds he ran back shouting "monster, monster, monster." I asked him "were?" and he said "over there." he showed me where and started shouting the same thing. Tanielu was too loud that Daddy said "go over to that shelf." While he was sitting there he drawed himself. Well at least he tried to but in the dark he put a B on the face, wich was sopposed to be on the body I guss, and the face was outside of the head. then it was bedtime. now you know that I had fun after all. the end.

by Tanielu
when the lite went off
when the lite went out I felt scared and then Parker cryed very loud and I felt very scared I felt my way to a poset that I could holed on too but then daddy came with flashlites too give us so we can see around the hous the end

Weekend Getaway

For the past several weeks, Conn's mom has been helping administer the Junior Secondary Certificate exams and Kiribati National Certificate exams in North Tarawa. Last weekend, we were able to go and visit her there on the outer island. We went on Saturday by boat and returned Monday by outrigger canoe. The boys had a great time with all of our experiences over the weekend. When we got there, we stayed with the Assistant Principal of the Secondary School where Mama was staying. Their house faces the area of water between the lagoon and the main part of the island, so there was water in the front yard at high tide. The boys were eager to go straight from boat to lunch to water. They stayed in the water for about 2 hours before coming out to shower and change. While the boys played, Conn, Parker and I took a motorbike ride to our old stomping ground just a short way up the island. We pulled into the school compound where I worked in the Peace Corps on our way to the village where we first knew each other. We were disappointed to see the school compound in worse condition than when we left. I didn't know it could get worse with falling down classrooms, worn out school yard and houses that were not kept up but now the brush and trees have grown up, the houses are also falling down and have holes in them (including mine), the school classrooms look like they had been fixed, but were falling down again, and the window screens of the library/office were coming off. We turned around and headed into the village. There weren't many people out, and the ones we went to see weren't home, but the village is nice and kept up and the house we went to was well taken care of. We saw the people when we came back to South Tarawa and we're planning to return during the school break to stay with them and visit. When we returned to the Secondary School, it was getting dark so we had our showers and relaxed until dinner. We had the best food there! Pork that was so tender, fresh fish, soups, and my favorite - te bekai, which is grated taro mixed with coconut cream and sugar. The boys really liked it too, and it was a great dessert for them. We slept outside on the buia - a roof with a platform floor and no walls. It rained all night and the wind blew to keep us cool. Mama had complained about the heat and mosquitoes, but we thought it was better there than at our house! On Sunday, we enjoyed the relaxed environment of having nothing to do and the cool, constant breeze so we laid around, the kids played and we just relaxed and refreshed. In the afternoon when the tide came in, the boys played out in the water for another 2 hours or so. There was more kids playing after dinner and Conn and I packed our bags for the early morning trip the next day. We slept again with wind and rain all night and woke to clear skies. We got on the wa - outrigger canoe from the village with about 35 other people and sat still for about an hour and a half until we returned to South Tarawa. Although we were tired from letting the kids stay up a little later and getting up early in the morning, we were refreshed from not having anything to do while we were gone and being able to enjoy the company.

from Tanielu: The weekend me and James went swiming we had lots of fun and we made freinds with a boy and we wer in the watr very long but then daddy calld us back then we went back home and had a shawer then we had dinner but the boy was older and he cepet falling.

from James: swimming in North Tarawa.
Me and Tanielu were swimming in (I guess what you call an ocean pool.) It took a long time till we got out. eniy way we were playing power rangers and Tanielu was Dustin, power of air, water, earth, I was the leader of the bad guys but desighned as Dustin's freind. I was trying to steal a scroll which was rilly a peace of wood. Tanielu was tossing it around shouting, "fech." I tryed to get it but it always landed near Tanielu and he always got it. only 2 times I got it. we then went to a moniaba that was kind of streaching in the, as I said, ocean pool. We hunted and chased crabs along the stones beside the moniaba with sticks. One big crab with big claws fought back. I jumped back and called Tanielu to come see this. he said "cool." I told him how the crab fought back. a kid with his dad came over to where we were. The dad knew how to speak english and he asked us what we were doing. I said "looking for crabs." Then we started playing with them. the boy was tanner, just a little bit more than us. the dad was darker than broun but lighter than black. they both had short hair. the boys funny. we're playing hide and seek (we taght 2 people how to play hide and seek.) I'm hideing on some big roots from mangroves. I put my leg on the roots and he triped. he looked back and I went under. then it was time to go back. the end

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Candy Making

Our newest endeavor is making candy. We've been short on cash in this house and the candy business has been our answer. Laae and Toamwane had been making the candy to earn some money for their daughter's first birthday party. Since then Laae had been pretty tired and not home very much to keep it up regularly so Conn and I decided to learn the process to help out more. This will add to our contribution for the family needs. So, in the evening around 8:30 or so, Conn puts the kids to bed and I start cooking the candy. The main ingredient is sweetened condensed milk. We use 6-8 cans each batch. I put a little oil to cover the bottom of the pot, then empty the cans into the pot cleaning them out as well as I can with a metal tablespoon. The pot goes onto the stove on high, stirring constantly until it boils. When it comes to a full boil (watch out because it splatters), reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir constantly making sure it doesn't stick and doesn't burn. While I am stirring (6-8 cans takes about 40-50 minutes), Conn puts a big of oil in a large mixing bowl and two trays. Also a bit of powdered milk in another bowl to roll the finished candies in. Conn usually takes over the last 10 minutes of stirring because I'm usually tired by then, and because it's getting really thick and hard for me to scrape the bottom. We know it's done when it's thick and dark caramel brown. The candy gets scraped into one tray so it can spread out and cool enough to be rolled by hand into balls. Bit by bit it goes into the bowl so that part will cool faster and get rolled. Usually Conn pinches off the right size pieces and I roll it into a ball and regulate the size. The other tray is for the balls to cool and harden enough before tossing them in the powdered milk. The rolling process takes about an hour. When we're finished, we count them from the powdered milk bowl into containers to be taken to school and sold for 10 cents each. 6 cans makes about 200 1 inch balls. The candies are very similar to caramel, although Conn says they're not. It's a bit tiring, but we prepare mentally for it all day, and we only do it Sunday-Wednesday and sell leftovers on Friday. We sell all the candies by Friday so we've been doing good so far. We're going to make a bit more this week (30 cans of sweetened condensed milk) and see how we do. This money pays for laundry soap, gas for the stove, rice, fish, sugar, flour, etc. for the household. We're also hoping to save up for the long term break from school in December when we won't get paid and school will be out so we won't sell as much candy. It's pretty easy to make once we've gotten the hang of it, and it gives Conn and I time to talk together and talk with his sister and her husband when they help roll the candy. The kids really like to eat the candy, especially Parker, so we try to make it at night when they're asleep. Let me know if any of you try it at home. I'd like to know how it turns out. I'll probably keep making it (in much smaller quantity) when we return to the US.

Geckos and mice and cockroaches, oh my!

This is just a bit of the wildlife here in Kiribati, and we can enjoy it right in our own home. Geckos are regulars about everywhere. They hang out around the lights at night and around the kitchen during the day. We enjoy them because they eat the bugs, but are annoyed when they poop on us, which I hope is understandable. When we can catch one, I mean when someone else can catch them (like Conn or Tanielu have been known to do) they get fed live to the chickens. This must be a real delicacy to them because they sure do fight over them and you can really see what the pecking order is out there. Another delicacy for the chickens is mice. Conn beats any cat around here in catching mice. He says he used to leave mice and rats alone because it's been said that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. Until, one night when he was young and woke up to a rat chewing on his toes and fingertips. After that, it was war! To date, since we've been here, Conn has caught 9 mice and 1 rat. The chickens are loving him. Most of the time, he just stomps on them but his most interesting trap was a roll of tin foil. The mice like to run on top of the food safe, which is where the foil was. They would run in one end and peep out at me from the other end. When I alerted Conn to this, he was on the task right away. There were 2 running between the table and the food safe. He watched them for a few minutes and found something to close one end of the cardboard tube. They both ran into the tube and he turned it up and put his hand over it. He found something else to close the other end (so the mice wouldn't bite him) and laid it on the ground and stomped on them. The two mice quickly became chicken food. Another proud moment for Conn (and not so proud a moment for the rat) was late one night on his way back from the shower. The rat was sitting on top of a rice bag looking the other way from the door where Conn was entering. Conn saw it, and without thinking twice slapped it into the wall where it fell to the ground knocked out. It wasn't dead yet, but Conn was quick to make sure he was going to complete the task at hand. He grabbed the rat by the tail and laid it out on the rocks. The rat's body began quivering and Conn chose an adequate sized rock to bash its head in the rocks. This eradicated the last thoughts of living the rat may have had. Since this was late at night, when chickens should be sleeping and ours were, Conn just put several rocks on top of the dead rat and waited until morning to feed it to the chickens. Now, mice are about 1-2 inches plus tail while rats are 4-6 inches plus tail. This rat was almost too big for the chickens, but I guess they found a way because it was gone when we checked later. Oh yes, did I also mention cockroaches? Well, they are here too, as in everywhere else in the world. But geckos also like to eat cockroaches, if they can swallow them. We saw a gecko battling a roach and the roach almost won if Conn hadn't intervened. The gecko had the roach in his mouth, but the roach was still alive. It was struggling to get out and the two were coming closer to where we were sitting. Geckos are not fans of people and also are not the bravest of creatures. The slightest move will send him running away. So, when the gecko saw us move, he was quick to move in the other direction and, unfortunately opened his mouth just enough to let the cockroach go. Again, Conn was quick to react and slapped the roach to its death. He threw it back to the gecko, who was now on the other side of the room. The gecko just grabbed it and ran. It was pretty amazing to watch. We're thankful for the things we probably wouldn't experience elsewhere in the world, however wacky and weird they are! I'm sure thankful to have Conn the Exterminator on my side.

We got to use the floaties

but not for a tsunami, thankfully! We finally got to take the boys swimming the weekend after the second tsunami warning after the earthquake in Vanuatu. That Friday, I took the boys to Betio to school with me and Conn took Parker in his floatie out to the lagoon. He said they had such a great time, we decided to take all the boys on Saturday afternoon. They were all so cute and having such a great time floating around. The boys found out they could move around better doing the backstroke. Our water shoes also were a great thing as they protected our feet from the rock and coral at that part of the island. There is not much beach at that part and the shoreline is pretty close to the road so we also didn't have to worry too much about trash and human/animal waste (you know what I mean). While we were out there, I wished I had my camera so we made plans to go back on Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, we went to another part of the island on the ocean side with Toamwane and Melesiata. I took some pictures of the kids in their floaties, then went in myself. The waves were a bit bigger, but still fun to ride. It's nice swimming in the sea here because the waves break far enough out on the reef that they're not crashing on you, but they still roll in to the shore so you can still float up and down on them. The water was warm, like a bath. Not refreshing, but still fun. Each day we were in the water for about an hour in the late afternoon. Enough to wear out the kids for a good dinner and restful sleep. We also got to enjoy a nice sunset before heading home. I've noticed that since the tsunami warnings, I've seen some really beautiful sunsets. Mom, I wish you were here to enjoy them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We're safe from the tsunami

So, Wednesday morning, we woke up to hear news that a tsunami was headed our way. It should hit within the hour! Imagine our panic and worry that followed. The schools were sending their children back to their families and preparations were being made. We listened to the radio for updates and all emergency personnel were on standby. Conn's mom bought some swimming floaties and we blew up the exercise ball to float with. We filled all the water bottles with boiled water and put them in the fridge so we could find them when we need them. Then waited. I prayed without ceasing that morning for our safety. I remembered the Bible verse that Pastor Bryan taught James: "Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything and thank God for his answers." Philipians 4:6. Well Praise God! The tsunami warning was cancelled about 11:30 in the morning. It never showed itself here. We're all safe.
We pray for recovery for the people of Samoa and Cook Islands and of Indonesia.
Tanielu said too bad the tsunami didn't come. Now we can't use our floaties! He was the most worried about it beforehand. I guess we'll have to take the kids for a swim in the lagoon.