Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Hilton House and other Christmas Activities

 This week all the missionaries from the big island, Viti Levu, and from the other large island, Vanua Levu, came to Suva for a Christmas party.  There were 70 missionaries, plus the 7 senior missisonay couples, and the Mission President and his wife.  I was in charge of the dinner of enchildas, rice, and corn, but I had a lot of help from the other senior couples and Mike (Mostly from me, Mike, + 34 liters of ice cream which Cherie thought was too much).  I sent Mike to buy the ice cream the day of the event, and instead of buying 20 liters as he was instructed, he buys 34 liters.  Even with huge, giant-size portions handed out to the Elders, there was about 8 liters left over. I do have to say the missionaries were very excited when they saw the giant servings of ice cream on their brownie.  Anyway everyone was happy and full and I was really glad when it was all over.  After dinner, the missinaries had a talent show.  There was a lot of island dancing and singing. It was a fun show and an enjoyable night for everyone. 
 These missionaries did a Fijian fan dance. 

For a Christmas service project all the senior missionaries bought needed items for the Hilton House, a disabled children's facility right down the street from where we live.  There are 15 children who live here full time, but 10 of the children were at home for the holidays.  These children (below) do not have any family.  They were abandoned at birth because of their severe disabilities.  We visited today, and took the items and some goodies. The two older girls were so happy to have visitors.  They held our hands when the caretakers showed us around the facility and were so proud to show us their beds.  We sang someChristmas carols and primary songs to them, which they loved, and left them with a prayer.  It was at times impossible to hold back the tears, but it felt so good to bring a little happiness into their lives.
Back -  John, Joshua, Mere, Annie (standing)
Front - Sai

The Group
(Back) Elder Tait, Elder and Sister Kasteller, Sister and Elder Checketts
Sister Tait, Sister Anderson

Annie learning to blow bubbles!  They loved the bubbles!

There is a rain forest preserve not far from Suva, so we took a drive up there.  It was beautiful.  This is actually a small pond that sits below a restaurant called the Raintree Lodge.

These tikis are carved from stone, but they reminded Mike of the tikis we have in our back yard.
This is Brother Meli and Sister Litia Vakarewakobau.  They just moved back to Fiji after living in Northern California for the past 8 years.  Most of you are probably familiar with the "will you" invitation that is part of Preach My Gospel.    Meli told us he was the  Fijian high chief  Brother Merrill was referring to in the
story below:

The focus of the Lord’s mission for His Church might be illustrated by an experience in the island nation of Fiji in 1995. We had just finished a stake conference, and as we were leaving, some missionaries pointed to a woman who wanted us to meet her nonmember husband of 30 years, a Fijian high chief. I shook his hand and, after greetings were exchanged, asked if he had heard the missionaries. “Yes,” he said. “How do you feel about the Church?” I asked. He said he felt good about it. I then asked, “Will you be baptized today?” He looked into my eyes, then away at the sky, the ground, and from side to side. Eternity pressed on this moment. Then came his answer: “Why not?” So I asked, “Is that a yes or a no?” “Yes!” he exclaimed.
His wife burst into tears of joy. We had a jubilant baptism. The mission of the Church had been put into action. This brother was invited and he then took an essential step in coming unto Christ. Baptism was the gate (see 2 Ne. 31:17), but he needed to press forward after baptism. I returned to Fiji a few months later and found that our new member was already an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. A year after his baptism, he and his wife were endowed and sealed.    
If you want to read the entire article found in the Ensign Oct. 2001, the link is below.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Season in the South Seas

The Sisters tracting in Fiji on their day off, but nobody
was around except for a few crabs that ran inside
when they got near their home.

Here I am wearing my sulu I got at the school Christmas party.  It is really cool!  A lot cooler than pants.
I doubt this is BYU dress code even with the T-shirt.

We spent part of P-day in Pacific Harbor with the Andersons, a Temple couple from British Colombia.  It was nice getting to know them and taking a little break from the work we have been doing.  We average about 14hr. days, and are trying to be faithful in our calling so we usually don't feel too tired.  I believe D&C 84:33 For whoso is faithful unto ... the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
We may not look to "new" but we feel great. 

Family home evening with the Saints from Vanuatu and Tas.  They are different countries from Fiji, but are part of the Fiji Mission.  Three widows and a family with seven "pickaninnies" (this is NOT a derogatory term in their language, Bislamic).  We could get the jist of what they were saying as it is a pidgin form of English & French.  Pickaninny is the word for child and in their lesson and testimonies Father in Heaven was "Papa God"  and the Son was "Papa God Pickaninny"  It was very spiritual and humbling to be in the presence of such faithful people.  The widows were from Tas, they speak an entirely different language, which has no translation of the scriptures or temple ordinances at this time.  Many of them slept at the school because the patron housing at the temple was full.  They were moved to tears by the generosity of the saints in Fiji who provided food for them for the week they were here.  We were moved to tears to hear their testimonies of Joseph Smith and the restoration, listen to them quote scriptures, pray for President Monson, and sing Christmas Carols.  After FHE most of them went upstairs and started singing more Christmas Carols.

Here I am with the District President (Stake President for a Mission Area).  He joined the church when there was only an annex (a congregation too small to be a Branch) in Vanuatu.  Now there are two Districts. (This is my dressy sulu)  Sister
Wooley, the Temple Matron, in the background.

This little girl was so cute.  I think she was fascinated with my blue eyes as she would smile and stare at my eyes when I was talking to her or her mother.

This is the Fanafo Branch Chapel.  They had 43 at church Sunday.

Volleyball on land.

Volleyball at sea.

Guess why I am doing the blog this time?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Primary Assembly and Thanksgiving

Yesterday I, Cherie, (Mike was teaching our class at the college) was the "honored guest" and speaker at the end of the year assembly for the LDS Primary School.  They presented me with a lei and I just gave a short talk, 8 minutes, on motivation.  It was really an amazing experience.  They are really big into singing here.  They sing at the beginning and end of every meeting.  And they sing with all their hearts.  They are a very soft spoken people.  When someone says a prayer often you can hardly hear it,  but when they sing everyone sings loudly.  When they sang the Fiji National Anthem, it was so inspiring.  Everyone stands at attention with their hands at their sides and sings.  I so wanted to take a video of it, but I was on the stand in the front and I wasn't sure if it would be rude.  So instead I have a very short video clip of the kids singing a Primary song.. 


We were invited to Thanksgiving with some of the other church members who are from the US.  I wanted to bring sweet potatoes, but couldn't find any.  Finally I decided I would make a pumpkin pie, but there is no canned pumpkin here, only a type of squash they call pumpkin.  It looks like a pumpkin but is squash yellow instead of orange like our pumpkins.  So I cleaned it out, cooked it in the microwave, then scooped it into the blender and pureed the pumpkin.  It was really runny, so I tried to strain it and then mixed and baked it.  It tasted pretty good, but didn't set up really well, it just had too much water in it.  I will need to practice more on that I guess.  But we still had a nice Thanksgiving meal: roasted chicken (no turkey), mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, squash for sweet potatoes, etc.  We were just very thankful to be able to spend the holiday with friends.  My pictures didn't turn out very well. But we had about 16 adults and 10 or so kids.

That same evening we were invited to the Christmas party for the Primary School.  So we ate our Thanksgiving meal, and then left a little early to go over to that party.  They had a little gift exchange.  This is Mike receiving his Fiji key chain from his Pixie Teis (that is the shortened version of her name.)  I am actually starting to remember peoples' names now. 

This is Sister Rabuka giving me my gift.  It was a handmade bag made of basket type material.  I loved it!  She called in a scripture case.  I took it to church Sunday with my scriptures and all my other necessities. 

Saturday it was pouring.  We have had a lot of rain since we arrived here, but nothing like this.  We had to walk from a covered area to our car with an unbrella, it was about 3 feet, and Mike's pant legs were soaked!  Our shoes were also very wet. There were many people walking on the streets with no umbrellas as they do little good!   On our way home, we saw a taxi driver out in the rain washing his car!  We thought it looked pretty funny. 

Saturday, Nov. 27 we had a senior missionary get together and a farewell dinner for our neighbors, Elder and Sister Seare.  They are going home to Utah this Thursday.  There is a nice restaurant downtown on a boat.  We had a really nice dinner there.  Mike ordered "Surf & Sand" a reef trout & baby lobster tail that was big and really good.  We had a great time and got to know President and Sister Wooley, the Fiji temple president and matron a little better.  They are from Canada and are both pretty funny.  Elder Seare is going to have an operation for a torn rotater-cuff that happened when he slipped in the shower.  Pres. Wooley quipped, "at least it was a clean break".

Friday, November 26, 2010

LIfe in Fiji

I don't have very many pictures this week, but I wanted to share a few of the things that went on this past week.  I have been supervising a student teacher at the primary school her name is Vika.  She is working in a 1st Grade classroom.  I spent a few days with her this week and had some fun with the kids in the class.  Below is a picture of the children reading.

This is Vika, the sweet girl that is the student teacher.

The Primary School is also getting a computer lab.  They are the first church primary school to have a computer lab, so everyone is excited about that.  Some of the things about the school are so different than in the U.S.  Mike was watching the boys play rugby on the playground.  The kids in the US would NEVER be allowed to play as roughly as they do here.  (I tried to put the video on the blog, of the rugby, but it wouldn't load.)

We have been mainly in our office the last few weeks getting the lessons ready for our class, Content Area Literacy that starts on Monday, November 22.  It has been hard because we basically have to develop 8, 4 hour lessons from a book on the subject.  It has taken a lot of time, but we have put our heads together and hopefully it will be beneficial to the teachers.

 Then, we also are going to teach a class on Study Skills and vocabulary for 14 returned missionaries who will be going to BYU Hawaii in January.  This came about after talking to one of the Brothers in our ward.  He says many of the missionaries who go to college in the states end up flunking out because they are not prepared academically for the rigors of college.  So we are going to try and help them out.

Last night we went to a dinner over at the church.  When we first got there, I was afraid there wasn't going to be much food because there were 3 dishes of food on the table.  But about 25 minutes later (they call it Fijian time) they started bringing out food, plates and plates of food.  We had everything from pizza to fish baked in coconut milk.  The funniest part was there was not any silverware!  Everyone just ate with their hands and no one seemed to think twice about it.  Well it does save on clean up.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Food and Diwali

Bula (hello) everyone!  I thought I would tell you a little about the food here.  Food here is sort of expensive except the local grown products.  Most beef, chicken, and pork is shipped here either from Australia or New Zealand and a lot of other food products also.  The ground beef is ok and also the chicken, but very pricey.  The locals eat a lot of rice, dahlo (not sure about the spelling here) (which is sort of like a potato except blander and it's sort of purple), and casava (which is a kind of root).  The dahlo and casava are very bland.  They usually do not put any spices or condiments on them when they eat them or prepare them.  The local grown vegetables are eggplant, okra, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans (they are longer and thinner than what we usuall sell, but they are pretty good) and tomatoes.  The fruit is more in the season it grows.  Right now the mangoes are good.  They also have a lot of watermelon right now.  The pineapples are the best and the bananas are smaller in size but very good.  We are adjusting to the food.  There is a local store which does have some American type products so that is nice.   Shopping is time consuming because you have to go to different places for things.  People go to a bakery for bread, the meat market for meat, the fruit stands for fresh foods, the market for other items.  The markets are similar to what we have at home, but not as big.

They have little roadside stands all over the city where you can buy local fruit and vegetables.   They also have a big market downtown where you can buy the same thing as at the roadside stands.

 This is the guy we have named "The Watermelon Man" because that is what he sells almost every day just down the street from where we live.  He works very long hours.  We usually leave for the school around 7:30 and he will be on the street selling his watermelon and most days he is still out there until 7:00 or 7:30 at night. Rain or shine his is out there- 10 to 12 hours a day.  Lately we hadn't seen him in his usual place,  and Mike was teasing me because I had bought a watermelon from him last week for $10, and Mike jokingly said, I had made the watermelon man rich so he didn't need to sell any more watermelon.
 When we stopped to take his picture we asked him where he had been.  He said he had been selling at another place in the city. 

Last week was the Hindu holiday called Diwali, or Festival of Lights.  It is a big tradition here in Fiji and since a big part of the population here is from India it is a national holiday so the schools and stores were closed.  Even if you are not Hindu the Fijians also celebrate.  They decorate their homes with lights similar to what we do at Christmas.  They also have get-togethers with family and friends where people exchange sweets and small gifts of love.  The other big traditon for Diwali is fireworks.  People buy fireworks and shoot them off all over the city.  We sat on our deck with some of the other missionary couples and watched the fireworks for 2 hours.  They are pretty big fireworks for the at-home variety.  Below is one of the type of fireworks they sold all over the city.

This is like some of the fireworks we saw.  I got this picture from off the internet because my pictures didn't turn out well.    Take care everyone.  We love you

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The LDS Primary School and The Outrigger

The LDS Primary School (Elementary)
There is such a warm positive feeling at the school.  The Principal Brother Qaqa (Gan-ga) is such a kind, humble man, but he has a wonderful vision to improve the quality of education for the students. Don't you love the signs he has up?  There is also one that says, "I Know My Savior Lives."

Mike and Brother Qaqa, (Gan-ga)  the Primary School Principal

The Outrigger

This past weekend we went to a resort with 2 other missionary couples.  This is the greeter.  When we arrived he opened the gate and shouted, "Bula!"
This is a view of the Outrigger Resort from the main balcony of the lobby.  We just had a relaxing day hanging out.

We passed this group of guys on our way to the Outrigger.  They were getting ready to have a feast of pig.  They were so funny.  When we stopped to take their picture, they were all cheering.  Then Sunday at church we heard a talk that reminded me of this picture.  There was a family visiting the branch who were from Santa Barbara, California and the Branch President asked them to bear their testimony.  The father of the family said they wanted to have a lovo (luau) before they left for home.  So they took their rental car up into the hills and captured a wild pig.  They loaded the pig into their car and with the help of their host family they had a wonderful lovo of roast pig.  However, they noticed their car smelled terrible from the pig.  They washed and shampooed the seats, but it still smelled like pig.  They used fabric fresheners and perfumes but the car still smelled like pig.  He compared the smell of pig to sin.  No matter how hard we try, we can not remove the effects of "pig" (sin ) from our life.  Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we be clean from the smell of "pig".

This was a poster that sort of reflects the attitude of the Fijians.

Just a few thoughts we have had about the country.  Things we thought were interesting.
Suva is a city of about 300,000 and is located on a peninsula, so no matter where you are in the city you are not too far from the ocean.  From most 2 story homes there is a view of the ocean.  Unfortunately we don't live in a 2 story, but we are not far to drive to the ocean, probably about 5 -10 minutes.  The driving is crazy around here!  There are so many taxis and buses.  Most people either walk or take a bus or taxi, so there are a lot of pedestrians.  There are always pedestrians of all ages walking across the street and no one stops for them.  They just stand in the middle of the street while cars zoom by them.  They even do this at night!  It's pretty crazy.  All the schools have their own uniform and most men wear sulu's (what some cultures call lava lavas.)  Mike even bought one.  He has only worn it around the house so far.  I will have to get his picture soon.  Most houses do not have screens on the windows, but they do have bars.  I think because they keep their windows open all night, since most homes have no air conditioning.  Usually there will be a wall unit in the bedroom, but not the rest of the house.  Most homes have big fences around them and some even have a night watchman.  We have a night watchman here that the landlord pays for.  His name is Simone and he is the happiest man I have ever met.  He always has a big smile on his face and is always laughing.  He sits in a little house all night with NO lights on.  I've asked if there is a lot of crime, and no one seems to think there is, maybe because of all the precautions.  Anyway we do feel very safe and secure here.  Below is a picture of Simone's little guard house.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bula Vinaka (A Very Warm Welcome) To Fiji

 On our way to Fiji our one and only stop was at Christmas Island.  It is somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Fiji.  There was a medical team getting off there.  As we were flying in we saw this view of the beautiful turquoise water.

This is the airport terminal at Christmas Island.  We were the only plane there. 

As you can see it is an international airport. 

On our second day in Fiji we took a drive along by the ocean.  This is the sign that greeted us by the beach.

This is Mike learning to drive.  It is really hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road and on the other side of the car.  The turn signals are on the opposite side of the steering wheel too.  Every time he wanted to signal a right turn he would turn on the windshield wipers.  We were laughing so hard every time the wipers would come on.  Actually he is doing really well with his driving.  I haven't tried driving yet (I am going to wait a few weeks.)

 This is a view of the valley and the bay from the temple.  It was an overcast day, but it has been drizzly and overcast most days since we arrived. 

The Suva, Fiji Temple

 This is the view from the LDS Church College.  It is a beautiful campus.  Mike and I have our office here at the college.
They call the high schools, colleges and the elementary schools, primary schools.
They have a few buildings that have thatched roofs like this. But the other buildings are larger and also have walls that are made out of some kind of woven plant material.  Most of the buildings at the school are made from block.

 We are pretty much settled into our little flat.  This is the shower room.
 And the room for the toilet.
The Kitchen

The living room.

This is the biggest and best part of the flat.  There is a very large deck that we share with the neighboring missionary couple.  We had dinner on the deck tonight.

We finally arrived in Fiji late Wednesday evening.  Bishop Prasad, his sweet wife, and their daughter, Channel, picked us up at the airport.  We stayed at the apartments at the Suva temple for a few days until our apartment was ready.  We thought we had a choice between 2 apartments, but then the larger one near the church schools wasn't available, so we moved in to the other apartment.  It is actually very nice and fully furnished.  We are very thankful to have it.

We have met so many wonderful people already.  Everyone is so friendly and welcoming here.  Today we went to church.  It was a very small branch, but the spirit there was very strong. There was no accompaniment to any of the music, but the members sing beautifully and with all their hearts.  Most people here are very poor, but also very humble and so happy and thankful for the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are so kind to the missionaries.  The children just love us and want to be near us.