You Only Live Once

You Only Live Once

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Tanna Farms...

The main reason that brings us to Vanuatu is our new business venture, Tanna Farms.

In partnership with Lou & Jason and our Ni-Vanuatu business partner Seth Kaurua, who has worked with us for the past 7 years recruiting our staff, we have set up a Coconut Oil Plant and are contract growing coffee beans for Tanna Coffee.

These businesses are located in Lenakel on Tanna Island, we have strong ties with Tanna as Seth is from there, as are many of our staff.

Coconut Oil Mill - Lenakel, Tanna Island

As we are living in Port Vila Jono spends half his week in Tanna. We have quickly fallen into a routine whereby he goes to Tanna on Monday morning and returns Wednesday evening. It works well as on Thursday and Friday Jono can gather anything the Tanna team team need as he can't buy any supplies on Tanna itself, making this project challenging at times, as well using those two days to work remotely from home on our Vineyard in Blenheim and Vinepower work.

When Jono is in Tanna I think I can safely say that he "roughs" it when it comes to his accommodation...we are talking grass hut stuff with resident rats to keep him company! Jason was therre last week and came back to say that he was never staying there again! There are no restaurants or cafes near where he stays so often he goes without dinner...the upside of this is he is losing weight! The reason he stays here is because it is close to the farm and he doesn't have any transport over there. Jason and I agree that our next purchase needs to be a motorbike so he can at least stay somewhere where there is running water! 

It is very exciting how it has all come together, after building the plant and coconut dryers Jono had the team quickly producing oil...of course there has been some trial and error but generally it has gone really well!

Grinding Coconuts

Drying Coconut

Back in Port Vila, Jono and I have been working on our logo and branding, in a previous life we both worked in the graphic design and print industry so this has been fun and exciting for us. Pacific Trade and Invest have been working with us on our project and have assisted us in providing a branding company, Hanga Media based in Auckland these guys have come up with a fantastic brand which we are all very happy with. Next thing to investigate is jars/bottles for the Coconut Oil.

This last week Jono brought home our first bars of soap and Pete, our friend and builder, has built us a still so that we can start making our own essential oils! This is being tested as I write.

Seth mixing our first batch of soap

The coffee is growing! As with grapes coffee takes around 3 years before we get our first crop. In the meantime Jono organised for other crops to be inter-sewn in the rows for selling locally at the market, at the moment we have peanuts, taro, sweet potato, sweet corn and we are also currently growing vetiver grass which is used to make essential oils.

Coffee Bush

Growing Coffee Plants inter-sewn with Peanuts

Last week Terry Adlington owner of Tanna Coffee had Steve Gianoutsos "Dr Mojo" and Alan Bruce from Mojo visit Vanuatu as they may be interested in buying green beans from Tanna Coffee for roasting in NZ. We briefly meet with them at Tanna Coffee Factory in Port Vila as they had visited our coffee plantation when in Tanna, being ex Wellingtonians we are familiar with their coffee and can highly recommend!

Tanna Coffee Factory

A selection of Coffee Beans

Richard at Tanna Coffee Factory making fantastic coffee!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Settling in....

So here we are...and we are loving it! 

Heading into week 7, 2 weeks down after a month of visitors and all is going well! We of course loved, and love, having our family and friends here but it was good to get stuck into Island life as a family!

The 1st month spent with our visitors felt like one long holiday as we did all the usual "holiday" touristy things that there is to do here...and there are so many! If you are thinking of coming here on holiday it is a place where you can do as much or as little as you want and there are plenty of options. Here are some of the things we love and highly recommend....

We thankfully found a fantastic fully furnished house to rent which is situated on the 2nd lagoon, it has a pool and plenty of space and is about a 10 minute drive from Port Vila Town, depending on traffic! It has a cottage at the back of the property which is perfect for when our business partners, Lou & Jason come over and for any other visitors.

Front entrance to our house

Sunset looking out to the Lagoon and Nakamal from our garden
A Nakamal (Bislama word) is a traditional meeting place in Vanuatu

Other than our business our time here is all about family for me. We seemed so busy in NZ that I often felt guilty about not spending enough quality time with our 3 children mixed with resentment because I also didn't seem to have enough time for me! 

Here, I definitely have more time...I don't feel rushed...this is Island Life! I am still working part time from home but our day starts earlier so I fit a lot more into my day. The children are at school from 7.30-1.30pm so if I have jobs in town I can have these done, had a coffee and pastry at one of my favourite cafes, Au Peche Mignon, and be home before 9am. Then in the afternoon there is plenty of time for after school activities and homework. 

Au Peche Mignon - the pastries and cakes here are amazing!

They make a great coffee!

The extra time is of course helped by the fact that common place here is to have a house girl, gardener and pool guy, therefore, there is no household chores to be done by me! We have 2 house girls, Edna who comes 3 days a week and Noeline who comes 2 days and also does our babysitting. They are wonderful! The concept is unusual to me and I have found it hard to not do things, but the girls do not like me helping so very quickly it has become the norm to have these lovely ladies in my life every day and organising my household.

Our lovely Edna

Our very smiley Noeline

My priority after our visitors was to ensure the kids settled quickly and even though we had a few tricky moments, in the first couple of weeks of school, I think we can safely say they have all settled well, have made friends and are enjoying life here, even Jack, our 10 year old, who was our concern as he was the one that wasn't really keen on this move.

Millie, Joe & Jack - 1st day at Port Vila International School (PVIS)

I had to very quickly master driving on the left hand side and although initially it was a bit daunting after a couple of times it became second nature. There don't appear to be many road rules and the intersections which mostly lack signage are interesting to say the least! It is not law to wear seat belts and the kids ride on the back of my truck! 

From the stats showing on this blog I have readers from all around the world, which is great! There are a few reasons for writing this blog, firstly, it is so we have a record of our time here, secondly, it keeps our friends and family up to date with what we are up to and last but not least, it would be great to engage with other people who have or are interested in doing something similar to I am wondering if any of you have moved countries for a new adventure? It would be great to receive any feedback/comments....

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Those last 2 weeks...

My last 2 weeks in NZ were made busier than expected with events that were out of my control....these needed my time, love and energy...

Jono left NZ 2 weeks prior to us to get the Coconut Oil building on Tanna underway, I thought it would be fine we had done the majority of the packing together and I felt in control but I have to say it ended up being a pretty stressful time!

Having already thought through the title of my blog these events really brought home that my YOLO title was absolutely perfect! And all the feelings I had been feeling about leaving were trumped by the feeling that we had to enjoy and celebrate life as much as we can!

A couple of months prior to leaving, my dear friend Cayley was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer! It was a huge shock and I still can't quite believe it....she was one of my healthiest and fittest friends...putting most of us to shame! She had to go through gruelling surgery and is now going through 6 months of chemo. I think of her daily and even though I can't visit her at the moment I enjoyed a wonderful telephone conversation with her yesterday which will become a fortnightly catch-up. She is an amazing, strong, wonderful woman and I know with the love and support of her many friends and family she will beat this!

A lovely photo of Cayley taken recently having a break in the Marlborough Sounds

About 5 years ago Jono was diagnosed with a condition called CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia). It had taken some time for him and myself to understand and come to terms with this condition so other than a couple of close friends and our mothers we hadn't told anyone about it. While his condition doesn't currently have a significant effect on his day to day life, other than he's prone to infections, longer term he will need treatment. Just before we left NZ Jono discovered the "Shave for a Cure" campaign and decided to participate. He felt that participating was a positive way of telling people about his condition so he wrote a post on Facebook and subsequently a shock wave was sent through our community! Understandably friends and family were shocked so we spent that week talking to people and reassuring them that in the short term he would be fine.
I am so proud of Jono as I know it wasn't an easy thing for him to do!
This event in our life confirmed our motto in life "that you need to live life to the fullest"! 

The finished result and $1700 raised for the cause!
He likes his haircut fact he keeps getting it shaved...the kids and I are not so sure!

Jack has an ongoing sore hip, he is a tall solid boy and growing very fast he has ongoing growing pains and because of these I have to admit I ignored the hip complaints for some time! But in the last couple of weeks at home the pain got worst for him and the thought of going to an Island with relatively basic medical care sent me in a spin. We went to many people - our GP, Osteopath, Kinesiologist but with no luck at our last week I made the decision to pull a favour with a friend who is an Orthopaedic Surgeon, he fitted us into his very busy schedule and had Jack x-rayed (thank you Andy)! The x-ray didn't show anything untoward so at least we knew it isn't a serious condition. However, Jack is still in a lot of pain so we are really hoping that he grows out of it soon!

My daughters cat, Lucy, ran away! Millie was devastated...not good for either of our stress levels! Don't you hate how cats are so unfaithful and just take off whenever the want?!


Our 15 year old family dog died during an was one the hardest things I have ever had to tell our children and Jono was in Vanuatu at the time so I had to deal with it myself. Our children were devastated, more than I thought they would be, it was so sad!

Saba - not a great photo but only one I could find for now

Millie had to have some teeth taken out under general anaesthetic. Surgery was scheduled for 2 weeks prior to leaving (while Jono was around), we went in at 7am to be told at Midday that they had run out of surgery time and we would have to come back in 2 weeks! Not possible when in 2 weeks we would be in Vanuatu! They managed to fit us in a week later thankfully but again didn't help the stress levels!

Millie waiting for surgery

I am a list person....I hate to admit it but I can't seem to function without a list! While preparing to move to Vanuatu I decided to go completely electronic and have my lists on line. I purchased the app Evernote and set about creating my was fantastic...until my notes were somehow not backed up by the system and deleted....argh! I spent many hours on-line with the support team trying to retrieve luck! They admitted they discovered a was fixed! But I had to recreate my notes! Have to admit though I still love the app!

After everything that happened I probably wasn't going to get the "best Mother in the world  award"! So even though it was hard to say goodbye to our friends, family, Millie's dog, Lottie and pet sheep, Piper and Charlie it was good to get here and start to relax with my family!

Lottie - Millie's mad cartoon looking Labradoodle

Millie's pet sheep - Piper and Charlie

Me - finally relaxing!

Next posts...finally about Vanuatu....

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Preparation....

When we were on holiday here in July last year we had already decided the businesses we wanted to set up, now it was just a matter of timing and when we would do it. While we were here we took our children to the Port Vila International School to see what we all thought...this was key as if it was not a good school and we didn't get buy in from the children it was going to be questionable as to whether we all moved.

Thankfully the school impressed us and although the children were, of course, apprehensive of the prospect of leaving NZ we decided that it was definitely something we could and wanted to do.

A very funny moment on day one of this term when we read the school sign...hmmm might teach spelling at home! Just joking it is actually a fantastic school!

Lagoon Beach Apartments - the resort we have stayed at for the  past 7 years when holidaying in Vanuatu - highly recommend!

We returned home thinking that we would prepare to come over in 2015! However, opportunities in Vanuatu presented themselves quicker than we had anticipated and the principal of our NZ school suggested that Year 6 for our eldest son Jack would be a good year to do something like this.

The wheels were set in motion and planning started, Jono of course focusing on the business working with Jason and myself on the logistics of leaving our house, animals and school.

It was an extremely busy, and at times stressful, 7 months!

Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and to be honest there were times pre leaving last month I thought that if I hadn't had their support it would have been a whole lot harder for us. I will miss them a lot but I am also looking forward to meeting new people and creating new friendships.

My very supportive and gorgeous friends! There are many more of them...these are the girls that I headed to Auckland with for a friends hens party just before leaving NZ.

Understandably the children have been apprehensive, especially Jack who at 10 was very worried about not meeting any new friends and feeling like his friends in NZ would forget him. It doesn't matter how many times you tell children that 6 months is not that long, in their world it is a life time. There have been times that I know Jack has thought we are the worst parents in the world taking him away from his secure, country life and from a wonderful country school of only 160 kids.

I have had many moments where I have had to suck up the guilt, ultimately knowing that we are making the right decision for these gorgeous kids and that one day they will hopefully thank us!

And I know that even though we will miss elements of our life in NZ the long term benefits for our entire family will out way those times when we feel like going home....

Summer 2014 - family photo in our Vineyard

Friday, 16 May 2014

Some background....

It's hard to believe that by the end of this week the children and I would have been in Vanuatu for 5 weeks already!

My lovely friend Barb DeLeo (successful romantic novelist) has done a wonderful job of encouraging me to write a blog. I mentioned to her that I wanted to spend my time in Vanuatu doing totally different things to what I would do at home and things I had always wanted to do.
I have always loved I am good at it is another matter...I suppose time will tell!

Barbara DeLeo
Barbara Deleo - giving her a plug!

I had wanted to start this blog while preparing for our move but things were so busy that it is only now that I am getting a chance to sit down...breathe and get typing.

My first few posts are at risk of being too long (I apologise for this in advance) but I think some background is required....for some of you (my friends) this may be boring as you have already lived and breathed this period of my life.

To give you some background, my husband, Jono, and I are co-owners of a business in NZ called Vinepower. We have the most fantastic business partners, Lou and Jason Kennard who have the same philosophy on life, around living life to the fullest and having the best time we can while creating a solid future for our families and our staff.

Lou & Jason Kennard - great friends and supportive Vinepower business partners

Marlborough Vineyard - Autumn - ready for pruning

Vinepower is a vineyard contracting business based in Blenheim at the top of the South Island in NZ, we are large RSE employers which means we recruit many of our staff from the Pacific, including Vanuatu.

A new group of workers heading to NZ last week

Ni-Vanuatu ladies wrapping vines in Blenheim - it is very cold!

Jono and I fell in love with this country and have holidayed here for for the past 7 years with our children - Jack 10, Millie 9 and Joe 5. Jono also comes here about 4 times a year recruiting staff for Vinepower.

For a few years now we have been looking at different business ideas that we could set up here so that when our staff come home from their time in NZ they have work to come home to.

So in partnership with Jason and Lou, we have created a new business called Tanna Farms which contract grows coffee beans for Tanna Coffee and will produce virgin coconut oil. This business is being established on Tanna Island where many of our staff come from and with which we have strong ties with. With any new business there is a lot to do in setting it up so because Jono needed to initially be here more than in NZ we decided to pack up our family and come over to experience living here for 6 months. This of course would not be possible without the support of Jason & Lou as while we are here they will continue to run Vinepower in NZ.

Coconut Plant being built on Tanna Island

So that you have some understanding as to why we are involved in so much, Jono is a man who always needs a new project and a new adventure! We have a few sideline businesses to Vinepower, including a small Vineyard in Thailand growing table grapes, an accommodation business which houses our RSE staff and a 50 acre Vineyard growing Sauvignon Blanc which we are 1 of 10 shareholders in and also manage on behalf of the shareholder group.

So here we are.....