The wealth manifests itself in gas-powered generators, TV screens, DVD players, MP3 players, mobile phones, cement-floor houses, processed foods (rice and tinned meat from the store to supplement garden produce), trucks (for public transportation as opposed to private use), and boats (for commercial fishing and inner-island transportation). Most recently, we’ve seen an increase in the use of solar power in our area (used primarily for lights, movies, music, and charging mobile phones).
Since I “installed” my own solar panel system at the house (which involved little more than connecting the red wire to the red wire and the black wire to the black wire), it is common knowledge (i.e. assumption) in the village that I am the one to call on to install your new solar panel. This was magnified by my installing the system at the area’s Medical Clinic in Unmet Village a few months ago.
So, a few days after we arrived in Malekula this trip, a man from a neighboring village came by the house and asked if I could help him with the installation of his system. I am glad to help out, as it’s the neighborly thing to do. After dropping the kids off at kindy, I walked to Livit Village and found the man’s house. Come to find out, everything was still wrapped and boxed up - he had purchased the system several weeks prior, but was afraid he would “spoil” it if he opened it up (and certainly wasn’t about to try and install it himself). We opened everything up and got it connected. And true to fashion, new electronic device + white man working = a big crowd. They were all very excited, giddy even, to try it out. They plugged in their TV and DVD player, and started up a movie. They were all amazed that the sun was providing power, and quickly realized that they wouldn’t need to purchase fuel for their generator any longer.
A neighbor heard about my presence, and asked if I would stop by his house on the way home to install his too. The installation process itself only takes about 10 minutes, and I was already there, so I agreed. Different house, different system, same size crowd gathered to watch.
Both of these men tried to pay me, but I refused their money. They were very appreciative. I told them I was just helping them out, and for them to “pass it on.” Frankly, this society exists on such a “pass it on” philosophy - they just aren’t used to expatriates following suit. We’ve certainly reaped the benefits of the philosophy, and are glad to share in it both physically (installing solar panels) and spiritually (teaching the Bible).
However, in true Vanuatu form, Jile came to our house that afternoon carrying a chicken and a giant yam to show his gratitude. When I saw him coming, I told Shawnda to grab the camera. I wanted proof that I had officially been “paid in full.” Just another reason I love living here.
Putting our payment to work, we enjoyed a customarily prepared “laplap sorsor” (yam laplap cooked with chicken) with Abu Mommy and Abu Daddy early the next week. Well worth my effort, and hopefully we also opened a door for the gospel in Livit Village.
|An "after" view of the chicken|