Mission Team Visit: Visit 2, Day 7

We are homeward bound. The taxi was on time at 4:45am. We’re in the departure lounge waiting our boarding call. There was a party over the fence at the Kava Joint with loud music until 2:00am, so we’re a bit tired for broken sleep.

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It’s been a great trip. We’re just talking to one of Enni’s girls at the airport — she is on check-in duty and lives in at the hostel.

Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 6

It was an early start this morning. The backup software had been downloaded overnight at the motel and I wanted plenty of time to do the installations and backups. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, so I walked up the hill to the training centre just after 8:00am. It was a nice sunny morning and Enikelen was sweeping the concrete paths when I arrived.

It took a good part of the day, but by 5:30pm we had the backup software installed and the system backups recorded on the network drive. We struck a few issues on the way, inevitably, but we either solved them, established a work-around or decided they didn’t matter. The computers are all ready for the next round of computer training, which is scheduled for mid-June. We’ve achieved what we set out to do with the computers this week.

Paul and Joan spent some time looking around Mele in the morning. Their bus driver was an AOG pastor, so he took them to see the beach by Hideaway Island en route to dropping them by the big church at Mele. There was a church service in progress, so they sat in the back of the church and listened before going for a walk through the village. They admired the cleanliness of the streets and surrounds, unlike the surrounds in Port Vila, which are often spoilt by rubbish dropped on the ground. They joined me back at the training centre around 11:00am.

At 12:30pm we had a special lunch with Cyrilline, Leifai and some other women from the PWMU leadership. Leifai thanked us very warmly for the gift of the computers. She is not only the PWMU President, but she also convenes the committee that oversees the training program. Cyrilline told us about the work that is currrently being done to produce a written history of the PWMU. Joan, Paul and I were presented with gifts to bring back, the main items being 3 very nice woven mats, complete with a certificate which will hopefully get them through Customs when we arrive in Auckland tomorrow.

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A Special Celebration Lunch

After lunch, Joan, Paul and I went into the city centre to attend to a few final matters, like reconfirming our flight home, buying 3 more flash drives and a couple of plastic containers to store spare cables, computer manuals, flash drives and so on. We then returned to the training centre to finish off a few remaining tasks, like putting a password on the administrator user accounts on the computers and saying a final “Goodbye” to Enikelen .

We’ve now had tea and are about to start packing our suitcases for the flight home. We have an early start with the taxi ordered for 4:45am, so that we get to the airport in good time to check in for our 7:00am flight home. It will be early to bed!

Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 5

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here 5 days now! The day dawned bright for Ascension Day. In fact it dawned for us in the early hours of the morning when the local cats decided to stage a catfight outside our window.

Day 5 has been a long day, starting at the training centre at 8:45am and not finishing until about 6:30pm. We have settled for Office 2010 on the computers and have now set this up to our satisfaction for ease of use by the students. We’ve created Morning User, Afternoon User and Evening User user accounts as well as an Administrator user account. We’ve put icons on the task bar for the students, the same set for each user account. We’ve tried to make sure each computer will function in the same way to make teaching easier. It also makes it easier for Joan who is working on the new revised training manual.

We’re nearly there but not quite there yet. Late afternoon we started to do a system image backup of the computers to a Network Attached Storage drive. We got an error message shortly after the backup started to run. We made a few adjustments and tried again with the same result. We searched the Internet and discovered that lots of people have had difficulty getting Windows to do a system image to a network location. Why? Goodness knows! We persevered and finally gave up on this option. Plan B is to download a free backup utility overnight at the motel, install this on the computers and try and do a system image. That will be my task in the morning while Paul and Joan go to Mele to have a look around the village and take some photos.

We have found staying at the Pacific Paradise motel to be well-suited to our need to be close to the training centre. It is within walking distance, more so walking back down the hill at the end of the day. It’s a bit of climb to walk up the hill to the centre, so we’ve usually caught one of the buses to get up there. The team stayed at the same motel last year, but I’ve noticed a few changes this time. The office has shifted to the middle section of the motel, the BBQ area has been upgraded a bit and mosquito nets have been installed over the beds. We tried tying the nets up neatly after the first night, but we couldn’t get it looking right. We gave up after that because the cleaners undid our efforts and tied the nets up their way. Below are a few photos to give you the idea.

Tomorrow is our last full day and it too promises to be a full one.

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The Old Office

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The New Office

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View Down the Entrance Drive

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Mosquito Nets in Use

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Mosquito Nets All Tied Up

Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 4

The day started well! We had a downpour of rain to clear some of the humidity and a bus with “All Blacks” emblazoned across the front turned up to take us to the training centre. We made it inside without getting wet, but there were several more showers until the rain eased back mid-afternoon. More of the same is forecast for tomorrow, which is a pity because it’s a public holiday for “Ascension Day.” There’s a big picnic for fundraising in one of the parks too, so they will be hoping for better weather.

Sadly we haven’t made good progress with installing the Office software. We have managed to get the Internet connection up and running, but the connection speed is proving too slow for large downloads. Microsoft’s use of large downloads and updates and online delivery of software is not a user-friendly practice for people living in the digital age in Pacific countries other than New Zealand or Australia. We have now come up with a solution, hopefully, which will let us install the necessary software on the computers and complete the rest of the setting-up tomorrow.

We certainly haven’t gone hungry while we have been persevering with the computers because Enikelen has been keeping us well-supplied with refreshments, including lunch today. We have appreciated her hospitality very much and it has been a lesson in graciously receiving, as well as an opportunity for conversation.
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In response Joan has been showing her iPad to Enikelen and has introduced her to the game of Solitaire on the iPad. That’s cross-cultural learning in the present context!

The bus drivers we have encountered here are always happy to accept a fare, and they get pretty enterprising at times to make up for other times when the standard ’round Port Vila’ fare probably barely covers the cost. I mentioned the driver who took me to deliver a cooking pot to his uncle, but tonight’s driver beats this! We got on the bus opposite the fruit and vegetable market in the centre of the city to go to our motel some 4-5 km away at Tebakor. En route to our destination, the bus driver spotted a group of 4 standing outside one of the larger tourist hotels, asked if we minded and did a U-turn to pick them up. We didn’t mind so we were taken all the way back into Port Vila to drop them off at their accommodation some 500 m on the other side of the market. The bus driver then set out again for our destination, picking up another couple on the way, and dropped us back at our motel. All for the standard fare of 150 VT each.

The time is going quickly, in spite of the challenges, and we are looking forward to the next couple of days. To finish here’s a mural over the road from the market depicting some scenes of Melanesian life.
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Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 3

It’s been a warm hot day, unlike the weather at home in Auckland.

A quick early morning walk to one of the local markets ensured that we had fresh fruit for breakfast, bananas and pawpaw. The local produce is priced very reasonably, unlike imported produce. The grapefruit are large and fleshy, sweeter than New Zealand grapefruit, while the pawpaw melt in your mouth.

We caught a bus to the training centre, arriving there about 9:15am in plenty of time for the meeting with Cyrilline and the National President, Leifai Chilia. We chatted with Cyrilline and Enikelen while we waited for Leifai to arrive. Leifai lives on the other side of Efate in the northern region, so she had further to travel.

We heard about the sewing classes, which are popular with the women because they can give them a source of income as well as yielding clothing for their families. Some of the women bring their own sewing machines, a mixture of manual and electric ones. The classes give the women the skills to pass their knowledge on to others. We asked about maintenance on the training centre and learned that there are plans being made to replace the existing corrugated iron roof. We heard also that there is a need for classes to teach the women how to maintain their sewing machines. We enjoyed a morning tea, complete with fresh coconut milk, fresh fruit, sandwiches, biscuits and fruit juice. We are continually being humbled by the generous and gracious hospitality we encounter.
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We finished up with a photo session in front of the new computers. The photo below shows from left, Joan, Enikelen, Cyrilline, Leifai and Paul.
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The PWMU leadership are very grateful for the gift of the computers, bought with money provided by the Hibiscus Coast Presbyterian Church and the Lily Erikson Trust. We will now have to decide what can be done with the old computers that have been replaced. It is highly unlikely that any can be upgraded to a suitable standard because the technology inside them is just too dated to run the software required for the courses. Joan has now started work on rewriting the training manuals for the new version of Windows and the current Microsoft Office software.

This afternoon we have been on a learning curve. We couldn’t get the wireless connection working with my Nokia E71 phone for a start, and neither could we install the USB wireless adaptor on the new computers. We walked back down the hill to the motel so that we could use the free wireless connection at the motel to begin our troubleshooting. We downloaded a Windows 8 compatible version of the software for the wireless adaptor and found that this solved the second of the issues. We solved the first issue by some calculated guesswork and soon had the wireless adaptor and the wireless hotspot on my phone working on Paul’s computer. This gave us enough confidence to think that we could now install the wireless adaptor on the new computers back at the training centre, so back up the hill (by bus) we went.

We had sucess, well of sorts. The wireless adaptor is now installed on each of the new computers, and we have had the wireless hotspot running on my phone. The Digicel mobile network connection is much stronger up at the training centre than it is at the motel. By this stage, late afternoon, the battery on the phone needed recharging, however, and there were some issues with the Microsoft Office 365 setup webpage, so we decided that tomorrow is another day. We will begin the software installation tomorrow morning and, hopefully, it will all go without a hitch this time!

It’s been a challenging afternoon, but we are getting there!

Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 2

It has been a busy, but successful day! We were up early because it was light about 6:00am. A fine day beckoned us on our first full day in Vanuatu.

We ventured into the Port Vila centre just after 9:00am. The first stop was Goodies Money Exchange where we changed some money into the local currency, today’s going rate being $1 NZD = VUV 78.78. This was better than yesterday’s rate at the airport. The second stop was Digicell Mobile to purchase a local SIM card and load a 2 GB data allowance onto it. We will need this to complete the setting up of the computers at the PWMU training centre because it does not currently have an Internet connection. This took up the first hour, which also included a quick tour of the Port Vila Fruit and Vegetable Market with its ‘mind boggling’ selection of local produce. It was so crowded and with so much produce on display, including on the floor, that it was difficult walking around between the stalls.
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We made our way up the hill to the PCV offices next to make contact with Cyrilline, the National Secretary of the PWMU. She welcomed us warmly. We had a good round-table discussion on the PWMU and the work at the training centre. We will be meeting with Elder Leifai Chilia, the National President of the PWMU, at the training centre at 9:30am tomorrow, as well as with Cyrilline and Deaconness Enikelen, the matron and training coordinator. This will let us begin to deepen our relationship with the PWMU leadership and also find out some more about the hopes and needs of the PWMU. It takes time to sit and talk, but it is an important aspect of what we are doing. The walk back down the hill to the city centre was a little easier in the heat than the climb up!

I left Joan and Paul to find some relaxing shade in the city centre next, while I caught a bus to Computer World to arrange delivery of the computers in the afternoon. It was a little way out of the city centre, so I was glad I hadn’t tried to walk and find my way. I arranged delivery for the afternoon and agreed to meet their driver back at Computer World at 2:00pm to show him where to go. I caught a bus back into the city, well it was in a round-about way. The driver was happy to take my standard VUV 150 fare, so long as I didn’t mind him taking a detour because he had to deliver a cooking pot to his uncle on the way back to the city. As a result I had a pleasant drive back into the city from another direction.

After lunch, Joan, Paul and I caught a bus to the training centre. I had worked out where it was in relation to our motel using Google Earth, and the map that Cyrilline drew for us confirmed that it was the right place. When we arrived at the training centre, the students on a basic tourism course were just finishing their end-of-course lunch. There were 5-6 students, and most were from islands other than the main island of Efate. I renewed contact with Enikelen and introduced her to Joan and Paul. I also renewed contact with Rose (Roslyn) Avok, Melody’s daughter, who was the course tutor. We won’t meet Melody, who is the National Treasurer, this time because she is on a course in Fiji. We do, however, have a written report from her on the latest literacy training workshop held at the Santo Bush Mission Centre on South Santo over the period 29 April – 2 May 2014. The $2,000 sent by the Hibiscus Coast Presbyterian Church helped to fund this course.

The highlight of the afternoon, of course, was the delivery and initial setting-up of the 5 new HP computers in the training centre. We cleared some space and the two friendly technicians from Computer World went to work. We ended up with boxes and old computer parts everywhere in the room, but the pride of place went to the new computers. It took about 2 hours to unpack the equipment, set up the computers and establish a local area network. Joan, Paul and I watched on. We’ll get our turn with the computers tomorrow when we begin to finish the setting up and the installation of the remaining software. It has been quite an exercise bringing all this together, but it is great to reach this point and have the computers in place.
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We celebrated reaching this stage with a lovely afternoon tea of fruit juice, fresh fruit and biscuits provided by Enikelen. We hope that the rest of the week is as productive and fruitful! A walk back down the hill to the motel finished off the day.
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Vanuatu Mission Team: Visit 2, Day 1

We arrived in Port Vila at 12:10pm, local time, after a flight of just over 3 hours from Auckland.
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We return home next Saturday. This visit builds on the first mission team visit in May 2013. Only one member of the first team (me, Ron) is on this visit, but the other members, Joan and Paul, have been to Vanautu before.  Paul’s last visit was over 20 years ago, and he is noticing the changes this time round, particularly the explosion of mobile technology in Port Vila. There are Digicell signs in English, French, Bislama and even Asian languages everywhere we go. The digital age has certainly arrived in Port Vila, and as a sign of this there is strong competition between the various Internet providers here.

Some things haven’t changed, though, with the passage of time. The local people are still very friendly, stopping us to talk when we went for a walk around the city centre of Port Vila this afternoon. The shops are still largely closed on a Sunday afternoon, even though there was a large, white tourist ship anchored in the harbour. It’s quite a change from what we have come to expect in the way of shopping convenience in Auckland. The minivan buses are still vying for customers in and around Port Vila, and they do provide a cheap, convenient service. In the wake of the furore over taxi fares at home from the airport to the city, we felt that 500 VT (about $6.50 NZD) for 3 adults with cases and carry-on luggage was very reasonable for the trip from Bauerfield International Airport to our motel in Port Vila.

We have a busy week ahead of us, starting with tomorrow Monday. We will arrange delivery of the 5 computers we have purchased from Computer World in Port Vila for tomorrow afternoon. This will give us the rest of the week to install Microsoft Offfice 365 and other software on the computers, finish setting them up to the requirements of the PWMU (Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union), and install a network storage device for system back-ups. Joan will also begin work on producing some user-friendly teaching resources for the computer modules run by the PWMU at the training centre. In addition, Paul is going to make a video to publicise our mission project with the PWMU. We are keen to involve other local Presbyterian churches in this project so that it doesn’t depend soley on us for success. We will be able to show the video during the Global Mission stream at this year’s PCANZ (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand) General Assembly.

Renewing our contact with the leadership of the PWMU is also important on this visit. We want to build on the foundations we laid during the first visit in May 2013, so that we can ensure, so far as possible, that we learn from one another. In the first couple of days we are meeting up with both the National Secretary and the National President of the PWMU. We will be discussing how we can further build up the mission relationship between our local church and the PWMU. There is really no substitute for face-to-face contact at this stage, particularly when we are working across different cultures where misunderstandings can so easily arise. It is challenging, but it also is potentially an enriching experience.

We look forward to sharing with you further as this week unfolds.