Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Deer god

One of our concerns in the jungle was making sure we had enough protein in our children's diet. In the early years, before the solar panels, generators and battery powered refrigerator, we were constantly searching and trading with the Indians for fresh meat and fish.

One meat that the Indians were usually interested in trading with us, was liver. Deer liver and tapir liver. We were glad to get it! We always pretended it was STEAK! The most yummy, prized, sought after cut of meat in the jungle! OH ,yes, my children, you get to eat LIVER! Poor children in America rarely have this opportunity! Aren't you all lucky!! WOO HOO!!!

Since my kids were really isolated in the jungle...the ruse worked! They all ate liver with gusto! But our favorite was deer liver as it was more tender.

One day, Jorge arrived and asked if we liked liver! My husband assured him that we liked liver very much. Then, dear hubby said, in very clear Ye'kwana, " We love to eat deer liver! Our children all love to eat deer liver. Can we buy or trade for some of your deer liver????"

Jorge, opened his eyes and repeated, "Deer liver???"

Hubby says, "Oh yes! We would be glad to trade whatever you might need, for some of your deer liver for our children."

Unfortunately, the Ye'kwana word for "DEER" is "CAWAADI" and the Ye'kwana word for "GOD" is "WANAADI". Very similar to a new language learner!

My husband had been asking to purchase a bit of "God's" liver for our children to eat!

Wanaadi...Cawaadi.. a big difference!

What People Want

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I have always loved the sound of thunder. The louder the better! If accompanied by brilliant white lightning flashes, I am entranced. Nothing seems to reach into my soul like a good thunder storm.

Each year as a new raining season would begin in the jungle, we would have some spectacular thunder storms, the likes I have never experienced elsewhere. I eagerly awaited these storms every year. I can't explain the appeal thunder holds for me. It just leaves me in awe!

I remember one night in the jungle as a new thunder storm worked it's way towards us. The thunder could be heard rumbling off in the distant mountains. You could see the black sky light up as the lightning bolts jagged through the storm clouds, touching earth but for a moment.

I stepped out of my little mud hut, left the protection of my palm roof, and spent an hour alone, in the dark watching the wondrous work of my Creator!

As the storm slowly worked its way over the mountain ridge, down into the valley and along the bed of our river, it felt as if the very power and presence of God was to be felt in the atmosphere.

I lingered as the sound of the rain, falling on the endless leaves of the jungle trees, miles away, yet audible, came closer towards me, louder each minute, until I felt the cool, hard rain falling upon my head. Then my soul seemed unable to bear the wonder of it and my voice broke forth in a song of worship to my Father God!

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Cherokee Heritage

Of interest to my family...

This is the only known photo of my Cherokee great grandmother. Her name has been spelled in different ways and she is listed in the Cherokee Guion Miller Roll as a full blood Cherokee.

Nichati's (Spelled Nycetye) daughter, America, is listed as well, which has caused some confusion as to the question, "How much Cherokee blood do we have???"

She is of the 'Lester' family who are direct descendants of William Lester an original settler of the Wyoming County area of West Virginia.She married William England.

...March 26, 1785 - James Anderson, assignee of William Lester...400 ac...on the waters of Holstein River on the Poplar Grove...250 ac. surveyed for William Lester on January 29, 1774, includes improvements, actual settlement made in 1768..

It was her daughter, that married and became a 'Riffe' which is my maiden name. My father remembers his grandmother singing Cherokee songs to him, but no one made the effort to teach the children the language, which saddens me!

This is my family back in the '70's and you can see that my father still carries some of the Cherokee genes in his coloring and facial features. I have always seen a lot of it in my older sister, Pam, a fact which has made me secretly jealous over the years!

By my generation there are no longer many traces of our Cherokee heritage visible. I guess the red hair and freckles cover it!!!

This is my Dad with his two surviving sisters...all grand children of Nichati Cherokee !

Monday, June 23, 2008

Making Arepas at my House


The two criollas who make the arepas,
my daughter Jewel and Patricia, Steven's wife.
We made pabellon arepas tonight.

After the food network show last night, we all decided we needed to eat arepas today! Right now, my little apartment is full and overflowing. My daughter and family are here. My nephew, Steven, and his wife and their two kids are also here from Venezuela. They have their own apartment in the same complex, but we all spend the day together and eat together. Josh and Naomy are only a block away,

So we all love arepas, the traditional Venezuelan food. It is made from a corn flour which is pre-cooked and then dried and packaged. It is mixed with water and salt until the right consistency, and then formed by hand into balls which are shaped into small cakes, similar in size to an english muffin. For you southerners, it is much like grits, a sort of 'grit bun'.

The arepa cooking on the griddle.

Cut open and add a little butter.

Then the shredded beef! (En Venezuela,
se dice 'carne mechada' en Cuba es"ropa vieja")

Next comes the fried plantains!

Then the black beans.

Topped off with white cheese!

And there you have it!
The Arepa de Pabellon!

Steven's daughter, Ema, enjoying her arepa!

No hay nada mas Venezolono que una arepa!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Girls Day Out

As many of you know, my daughter came from Paraguay for her brother's wedding. The plan was to bring her youngest daughter, Abby, with her. Brian was to stay in Paraguay with Elena, the oldest.

BUT... it was all a ruse! The real plan was for all four to come to the states, but that Brian would surprise his Mom with a visit! Amazingly, we all managed to keep that a secret! Even though five of us have blogs where we tell EVERYTHING!!!! It went off well, and dear Helen was totally thrilled with her surprise visit!

I was happy as well as, since that meant I also was able to see Elena, my oldest grand daughter, age 2 and a half. Last week we made a shopping trip with Elena and what fun it was.

Elena experiences Toys R Us!

Inspecting the merchandise!

She would say, "I want to see...a ver!"
Mixing her Spanish and English!

Then it was off to the mall to check out the clothes!
So many choices!

"How about this one?"

"Or maybe this one?????"

We had a great day. She ended up with a play set of cleaning supplies! Broom, mop, bucket, duster, etc. And a poodle purse...because a girl can never have too many purses!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Ye'kwana Marriage Proposal

Last December my son proposed marriage to Noamy in the traditional Western way of offering a ring. A few months later, he and Naomy, acted out the Ye'kwana marriage proposal ritual.

In the Ye'kwana culture there are several necessary steps a young man must fulfill in order to receive a young maiden's hand in marriage. The first of which is to begin visiting her parents. If the parents seem receptive to these visits, the young man will then begin to arrive with gifts for the parents. Usually this will be game or fish. The parents may accept this with obvious expressions of gratitude, or merely accept them gruffly as a matter of course. The young man will watch closely and notice if they seem grateful or not, as this will determine his next move.

If the young man is encouraged by the attitude of the girl's father, he will then visit more often and stay seated longer and longer each evening around the family's fire pit. When he feels confident that his desires are known and have not been rejected, he will then perform the most important ritual of all...akin to purchasing a diamond ring!

He will watch the hut closely and choose a moment when no one is at home. Then he will stealthily sneak into the hut and string up his hammock among those of the other family members. Then he will leave. He will not return for at least a day, perhaps two or three.

When he does return, he will look carefully to see that his hammock is still strung up in the hut, for if his proposal of marriage has been denied he will find it cut down by a machete or even tossed outside of the hut. If , however, his hammock remains strung along side those of the family's, he will quietly move in and begin to live as a family member.

(This is only a re-enactment!)

This does not mean the couple is now married! Now they must appear before the tribal council, in the village round house where all the complexities of marriage will be discussed and debated.
It is important that the bloodlines of the two be examined carefully to verify that they are eligible for marriage.

They may marry as first cousins, but only if they be 'cross cousins'. This means that you may not marry your father's brother's kids. Your father's brother is also your 'father' and thus, his children are your siblings. Your father's sister is merely your 'aunt' and her children are your cousins and thus eligible marriage partners. The same is true in relation to your mother's sister, who is your 'mother', as opposed to your mother's brother, who is your 'uncle'.

Sometimes these ties are not obvious to everyone as first borns are often given to others to be raised, or a man may have wives and children in other villages who have been raised by another man. So all this must be made clear before any marriage is allowed.

Once the familial eligibility is approved, the witch doctors will begin to recall the history of each family in regards to the two young people. Certain shamans lines can not cross with others and the descendants of two powerful witch doctors will not be allowed to marry as that would place too much power in the off springs of the couple.

Once this has been discussed and approved, the couple will now be considered married. ( The Christian couple will chose to have this acknowledged before the God and the church.) If they were denied permission to marry, the young man must remove his hammock and will leave for an extended visit to another village, often to return for a visit as a married man.

Once a couple is married, the man moves to the girls village and lives with her family. The first born child will be given to the girl's parents to be raised by them. The child will become a sort of retirement plan for the older couple as they age and the youth is able to provide for them.

If a married woman is upset with her husband, she will rarely mention it to him verbally. The way to show the depth of her anger is to cut the strings of his hammock with a machete, preferably while he is asleep in it. This is culturally acceptable and brings great shame on the man in the community, which promotes better behavior in the future!

( Naomy playfully threatens to cut his hammock down!)

If the husband has been unfaithful, or comes home drunk once too many times, he best be prepared to find himself cut down in his sleep! I once watched a young wife carefully build a small fire under her drunk husband's hammock before cutting the strings with a machete!

I know!
I should have warned him...or taught her about patience...
but who am I to mess with their culture????

Monday, June 16, 2008

Too busy to post...

I'm in Grandma mode!
Abby and I at the reception.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Photographer's Blog

The photographer for the wedding has her own blog. I got a chuckle from what she wrote about Josh and Naomy's family! ( That would be US!) We had a great time with her! She may never recover from the experience!

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of photographing the wedding of Josh & Naomy. They were such a fun couple. And their families!?... Wow. I don't think I've laughed that hard at inside jokes I didn't understand in a long time. The entire ceremony was in Spanish. Which, while that meant I didn't know when, "You may kiss the bride" was going to happen... It did make for a much more romantic sounding ceremony! I can honestly say that yesterday, I fully enjoyed their company... I mean working for them.

I guess people find us to be funny...I wonder why that is??? Are we that different??? Don't most people play miniature golf after their wedding???

To the Father of my Children

You taught our children the important lessons of life.
You taught them that ...

"Go ye into all the world", was a personal command!

"Teaching all nations" ,was our responsibility.

"Baptizing ,in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" was rewarding.

To love America!!

A true man knows how to nurture.

Setting a Godly example for others is a way of life.

Christian compassion is sharing the love of Christ with those in pain.

Life is an adventure, best lived to the fullest!

Everything is better with Coke!

One need not always take the easiest path in this life!

Comfort is over rated!

Getting dirty can be fun!

Not to take life too seriously!

To love their mother.

Helping others is not always easy!

Family is important!

How to look good in a suit!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wedding photos

'Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Vernoy' !

My children.
(Abby, Jackie, Jewel, Jayde, Naomy, and Josh.)

The Bride and her bridesmaids.
(sister Xenia, Jewel and Jayde)

The Groom and his groomsmen.
(Uncle John, Cousin Josh Rios)

Father and son.
( My husband performed the ceremony.)

Honorary grandparents.
( Retired missionaries from Venezuela)

I was there as well.
(Hanging out before the ceremony.)

Abby and I guard the imported Mexican Coca Cola.
(Because it tastes better and is in GLASS!)

With our son.

The Whole Tribe!