Archive for the ‘week 3 on the island’ Category

Island realities

We are thoroughly loving it here but there are some oddities that keep amusing us. We know the grocery bill is going to be high, but who would think tomatoes would be so expensive?

Here’s another poll (the answer to the previous one is now on its post):

Answer: $4 on CI gives you 3 tomatoes

We encountered another oddity when our church friends (who are also our neighbours and tour guides to the blowholes) asked if they could come for dinner… and bring all the food… and then wash everything up… and then thank us for our hospitality! We could really get used to this. So beware anyone who’s invited to dinner at our place. You might not want to ask if you can bring something 😉


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Rob spoke today to an employee of the Detention Centre and learned that there are some refugees who are demanding and will even break something on purpose in order to get a new one. Just goes to show that just because you are poor or needy does not suddenly make you a good person. This is not to say most people in their situation are not thankful but it’s an interesting point nonetheless.

Rob also spoke again to the two guys he’s been meeting with over the last few weeks and discovered more of their story, just the beginning of very detailed stories. One of them, who had been shot back home, nearly died again on the trip from Malaysia to Christmas Island when his boat caught alight. This was in addition to the boat being stranded for 10 days in the ocean, visits from Banda Aceh pirates and rats the size of his forearm crawling over him while he slept. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale.

The other guy was sick after a few days’ sailing and simply cannot remember the rest of the journey.

There must be thousands of stories similar to this. And how many have gone to the bottom of the ocean with their narrators?

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Rob-ber crab

We thought we’d seen crabs until today. After another Martin show at church – Rob on keyboard, Aiden on triangle, Di singing/leading and then Rob preaching, our new friends, Yip Ming and Siew Fong, took us out into a different part of the island, where there are less palms and more towering trees and strangely enough a perfectly clean forest floor. This is because instead of being carpeted with plants and leaves it is carpeted with red crabs. It would be hard even to estimate how many we saw.

Yip Ming is a Park Ranger so knows his animals. At one point, he stopped, picked up a robber crab and said ‘this is named after you, come and hold it’. As Di quickly got into place with the camera, Yip Ming casually warned Rob that their nippers can break your finger. Expertly, though, he passed the strong, heavy crab over without incident and he’s the photographic evidence.We also saw an amazing web of blowholes. Kiama is a yawn compared to this. On the coastline, there is a brittle, almost metallic, type of rock that the crashing water easily bites through. Even from the carpark, we could hear the surging waves breathing through the holes. Aiden was rather scared of the ‘whoomph’ sound, but the rest of us were mesmerised. This was just another place on the island that is very special. It is a rare glimpse into nature relatively untouched by development. We didn’t just see a nice blowhole – there are interesting birds, easily visible schools of fish (and apparently some days, whale sharks and dolphins), and jungle-topped cliffs extending off in each direction.

We feel incredibly blessed to be here.

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Boat people

Another day, another walk exploring the forest  and we keep coming to the conclusion this is a special place, almost like stepping back in time. Rob feels as though he’s in Jurassic Park. The large trees, the sprouting, serrated-edged palms and the teradactyl-like birds all give the impression they’ve been around for a long, long time.
We heard that the news back home mentioned the cruise ship that came the other day and how Tony Abbott had suggested a ban on cruise ship tourism here. We have to agree with him. The detention centre has already put a strain on the island environmentally.
A year ago there was no-one in the detention centre and 800 residents. Now there are more than 1000 residents and well over 1000 refugees. The once quiet roads are now well used so there are crabs squashed all over the place. On some stretches of road there might be 1 every metre. What can you do though? There are people who are obviously desparate and need help. You can’t turn them away because of the crabs. But a ship of 1700 passengers just having a look, and from our observations not with a great deal of environmental sensitivity, is by no means essential. Comments welcome…

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Well what a privilege to be able to spend Christmas on Christmas Island! Apart from it being pretty cool to say we’ve done it, it was a unique experience.
After the kids had opened their presents and Aiden had stolen Aoife’s Upsy Daisy doll and Aoife had been most excited about the packaging , Rob went off to do a Christmas service at the detention centre. It was organised by some of the guys there who did a great job of promotion because 40 people showed up. I know you might think, ‘what else have they got to do?’ but apparently many people get up at midday so to get that many there at 9.30am was an achievement! Also an achievement was Rob’s entry into the Centre. Usually he meets with his two ‘contacts’ in a special room – a bit like in a jail, not that we’ve visited many. But today he had to go into the Centre itself. The guards (probably technically called Client Services staff) were a little reluctant to let Rob go through without seeing proper paperwork, which mustn’t have been passed on to the right person. He went to the usual visitor’s area but got a bit worried when, at 9.25, no-one had come to meet him. But some guards came to his aid and escorted him to an Activities Room in Detention Centre itself.

In true sub-continental style soem people gathered into a little committee to discuss how the service would proceed. Somewhat to Rob’s surprise, a keyboard had been organised for him to play. So when it came time, he muddled through Silent Night, playing a couple of notes and remembering one of the chords and singing very loudly. He also had the chance to preach a Christmas message, choosing the theme of Joy and how it comes from knowing Jesus, the king of kings, saves sinners like us. This was translated into their language by an in-house interpreter. What an experience only a month out of college! We don’t know if the clients realised how fresh this pastor is, but they were lining up to have their Bibles he gave them autographed, with one asking for a blessing on his family. With the guy kneeling before him, what else could Rob do but ask for God to bless his family.

Back at our place, Di managed to get the place into a good state before our guests from church arrived for a Christmas brunch. Everyone brought something to share, which brought a great variety since most people are Chinese. So we had homemade dumplings – yum! – as well as Christmas cake and Di’s mango pancakes. Mango pancakes are a Chinese thing, where mango and cream are wrapped up in nice little pancake packages. They were nice but didn’t quite turn out – firstly because no mangoes were available so cherries, local jackfruit and nectarines were substituted and secondly our lovely new Chinese friend Wai Ling said they looked lovely and would be good to try something new. The punch was a bit more of a hit … :), with some people asking for the recipe after initially looking a bit wary of Di’s concoction. Aiden thought he needed to see the nurses at the hospital one more time so shoved a lolly up his nose. It took three of us standing around him to stop him trying to get it out with his finger and instead snorting it out. It came very close to another visit to Emergency but after the fifth snort the offending goober shot out. Otherwise, it was a very pleasant affair – a very different Christmas ‘lunch’ but really special.

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No wonder Aiden was in pain.. he has a spiral fracture of his tibia – he’s cracked his shin bone. So now he has a lovely blue fibreglass cast. He was very brave to have some X-rays, then drink a foul tasting concoction to make him very drowsy while they put on his cast. When he got home he just cried. It was all too much. He went off to sleep around 4 and it’s past 5.30 now and he looks set in for the night. Poor little boy.
He’ll be in the cast for 3 weeks, in which time he’s not allowed to submerse his leg in water. That means no swimming at the beach. Very sad 😦

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