Sunday, July 27, 2014

Flat Stanley Travels to Fiji to Visit Grandma

These are two of my granddaughters, Tessa and Brooke Bair. They live in Mesa, Arizona where it is hot and dry. Brooke's classroom had a Flat Stanley project. Each student created a Flat Stanley and mailed them to someone they knew. Brooke, age nine, mailed hers to me here in Fiji. I think he traveled on the slow boat because he took 5 weeks to arrive. He came further than any of the other Flat Stanleys--9,342 kilometers or 5,805 miles. I took him to all the places I usually go and some places that I had never been.

 These photos were taken on September 23 and 25, 2013.

This is a Level Three class of students at LDS Primary School in Samabula--the same age as my granddaughter Brooke.

Same class. Their teacher is in the background, Mr. Batisaresare. We teach his daughter piano.

 Flat Stanley was hungry and so we went to McDonald's in downtown Suva.

Down the street was Proud's department store. Naturally Flat Stanley liked the toy department.

The children's section of the local public library was a Flat Stanley pleaser also.

This is a busy intersection in Suva. ANZ stands for Australia New Zealand Bank and the tower in the background is the main office for Fiji. Victoria Parade is the street that runs in front of the bank.

This is the sea wall at Suva Harbor. The clouds in Fiji are amazingly beautiful. The boat that is closest to the sea wall is actually a fancy restaurant. When you eat there, the boat gently rocks back and forth.

The mission office staff were looking for Flat Stanley in the mail every day. Left to right: Sister Limburg, my companion, Elder and Sister Hogge, Elder Wells, Elder Moantewa, and Elder Johnson.
Flat Stanley and I are hanging out at my office. The bulletin board has photos of people I love.
Flat Stanley loved to see the temple. People come from many different islands to do work for themselves and their ancestors in the Fiji Suva Temple. This is the holy place where families are sealed together forever. It is truly a house of God, a place of love and beauty, where we can feel the Holy Spirit, listen, pray, and make covenants with our Father in Heaven.
 I took Flat Stanley to the ANZ Bank in Lami to cash four checks. There are a few places that will take a credit card, but cash is always the preferred method of payment. This is Alumita. She is a very pleasant teller and good at counting money rapidly. She was excited to accept a Book of Mormon on this visit. Flat Stanley likes to do missionary work.  

This is the Samabula Post Office. Wilisoni helps me send Telegraphic Money Orders (TMO) to the missionaries on the islands that do not have ATM machines. He is a friendly happy guy. He also accepted a Book of Mormon on another day.

These fellows really wanted to sell me a ripe coconut. Instead I gave them a $2.00 coin for letting me take their photo with Flat Stanley.

 This is a beautiful produce stand. We buy fruit and vegetables here often. If you want, you can drive up and they will bring you what you need to your car--curbside service.

 These are some of our piano students with Flat Stanley. We teach all ages. Two of these students continue to take piano today and we are very proud of their efforts.
This is the rugby field near the LDS Primary school and also near our house. I was afraid Flat Stanley would get even flatter if I included him in this photo. Rugby players are a dedicated bunch. They play even in the rain and the mud.

This is our neighbor Vineel Chandra helping Flat Stanley pose with their papaya tree. You can see them bunched together at the top of the tree. You can also see the side of the house where we live.

This is Vineel again posing with Flat Stanley beside a banana tree. Those leaves are over six feet long. The one in the center is just beginning to unfold. Before it unfolds, it is in a tight one-inch roll.
This is what coconut look like when they are growing. They are tightly bunched together much like papaya, but they grow on a palm tree.

Well, that concludes Flat Stanley's visit to Fiji. He took a shorter route home inside the suitcase of some visitors to Fiji. They mailed him to Brooke from the airport in Seattle.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Places in Our Neighborhood

These places are all within a short walk from our house. Fiji has a very hilly terrain. Our house has a hill going down behind it and going up in front of it. Then there is a hill up on one side and down on the other. There is absolutely no place that is flat. This necessitates some creative architecture and some very steep driveways.

Ravines like this one go between streets and homes everywhere. I believe that a garden has been planted in the rich brown dirt coming up from the bottom of the ravine.

If you look carefully, you can see rows in the brown earth. They call these gardens "plantations". It is definitely possible to live off the land in Fiji.

This large home, with the unfinished top floor, is built about halfway down a ravine. You can see homes in the background that are built even further down the hill. This home has not been burned on top. The black is most likely mold. Fiji has more than its share of mold due to the warm moist climate

This is one very steep driveway. This house is probably home to three or more families who all have cars. 

I love this photo. The clouds are hovering over the mountains. Joske's thumb is sticking up off to the right tantalizing dare-devil climbers. Homes roll up and down over the hills. You can see Suva Harbor in the foreground and Lami Bay in the distance.

This is a Catholic Church. I can see this church from my office window. Sometimes I can hear beautiful voices singing in this church. It is an active busy church especially early on Sunday mornings.

This is the Institute of Religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our young single adult members and their friends. It is a wholesome place where young people can come and learn and also socialize and have fun. Some of them even find their eternal companions here. The missionaries assigned were Elder and Sister Tennis, but now they have gone home and Elder and Sister Peterson have taken their place. Both have been so good with the young people.

This home is across the street from ours. To my knowledge, the pink station wagon never leaves its spot on the grass.

This home is also across the street from our home. I think it is a pretty home and it has beautiful plants and flowers growing in front. The back of both of these homes goes down a steep hill.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Samabula First Ward Music Festival

I found from this music festival that Fijian people love music and they know how to have fun. The date is 12 September 2013.

Here are the Assistants to the President, Elder LeDoux and Elder Palmer. They were the AP's when I first arrived on my mission. They are singing the Mission Rally Song. Every companionship sings this song before they have study time each day. Here are the invigorating words:

We are marching in the service of our Lord,
Endowed with power from on high.
Armed with faith to teach His Holy Word
For the Lord is Nigh. (Chorus)

Faith's the power and obedience the price
To serve our Savior valiantly. 
Love's the motive and the spirit key.
Through eternity. (Chorus)                  

Oh, we labor in the service of God
With heart, might, mind, and strength.
Ever onward holding with faith the Iron Rod.
Ever onward forward with faith
We serve our God.

These words and music were written by Michele Bauer who was wife to one of our former mission presidents.

These three young men look like missionaries already. They sang very well. The first two are Indo-Fijian and the young man to the right is from Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas). Fiji has people from many different backgrounds, but it all works out. The English speaking wards have more diversity than the Fijian speaking wards.

The two women on either side were are sister leader trainers at the time: Sister Su'a and Sister Lavatai'. The other sister singing is Sister Vai. Her first name is Inservice. When she hurt her foot, her companion said, "Inservice is out of service."

 I tried to download the video of these men singing Abide With Me. It was beautiful, but it just wouldn't download. The Fijian people have beautiful voices and harmonize effortlessly.
I believe these children are all performing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." Unfortunately, you cannot hear the music, but you can see how much fun they are having--and the adults too.

Sister Bhan and her daughter sang a duet with voices blending beautifully. Sister Bhan is a convert. She joined the Church over 30 years ago after she married Brother Bhan who was already a member. She is Fijian and he is Indo-Fijian. Apparently their marriage caused quite a stir in both of their families. She teaches Gospel Doctrine in Sunday School and he is on the High Council. Their daughter is single and beautiful. She teaches at the LDS College (like the U.S. high school). One of Brother Bhan's claims to fame is that he is pictured on page 144 of the Gospel Principles Manual opposite the lesson on Fasting. He is also a temple worker.

Brother Gaga on the left is the principal of the LDS Primary School and also on the High Council. He forgot his glasses and so his little daughter brought him hers to use at the podium so he could see the music. He had a lot of fun with those little glasses and had us all laughing with him.

Each of these young men enjoyed dancing their own unique way. They were having good clean fun.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Missionaries Going--Missionaries Coming

These photos were all taken early September 2013.

It is a sad fact in missionary life--all missionaries eventually go home. Our time in Fiji is short: eighteen months to two years. Each missionary blesses your life. Here are Elder and Sister Terry who served in Labasa as Mission Leadership Support (MLS). Elder Smith (we had four Elder Smiths for a while) served most recently in Tamavua as a Zone Leader and he is from New Zealand. Elder and Sister Kennerly served in Ba and Tuvalu also as MLS. She is from Samoa and he is from Australia, but they will be returning to Washington State. Sister Lawenitotoka comes from Fiji and served in Fiji. These people all made a difference in the lives of those they served.

It was fun to meet Elder Smith's parents. They live in Australia now, but value their New Zealand heritage. The beads are given as a gift while the congregation sings "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" when people leave a ward.  I told the Smith family about my great-great grandfather William Paxman who served as mission president in New Zealand from 1886-1889. He initiated the first translation of the Book of Mormon into Maori. In April 1888, 2000 copies were printed and sold for 5 shillings or $1.25 each to cover the cost of printing. Later 500 copies were distributed at the April Conference in 1889 at Te Hauke. My grandfather stood on a table with books stacked all around him while he gave a history of the Book of Mormon.  The people were so happy and gave him many embraces including rubbing noses as was their custom with someone they loved. His dear wife took care of the missionaries while they were translating and her work helped her as she grieved for their little 18-month old daughter, Sarah Jane Love Paxman, who died from pneumonia while they were serving.

We helped Sister Klinger (far right), our mission president's wife, prepare this feast for the departing missionaries. Sister Klinger was known for her cooking and she loved to serve by cooking, sewing, playing the piano, leading music, and visiting. They also have gone home.

This was a very large intake of missionaries. Look at all the suitcases! Everyone is leaving for their first assigned area. The prophet has lowered the age for young men to 18 and for young women to 19 to help hasten the work. One of our leaders said that young members of the Church spend the first 18-19 years of their life preparing for their mission and then spend 18 months to two years on their mission preparing for the rest of their life. They learn so much on their missions. They firm up their testimonies of their Savior, gain a love for serving others, learn to love their many companions who come from all kinds of backgrounds, learn to live on their own, cook, clean, launder, iron clothing, and budget their money. They also learn to teach the gospel directed by the spirit. Each missionary is a true miracle.

Here are just a few of the new elders. They have just purchased sulus (wrap around tailored skirt for men with pockets). They all love their sulus--very cool in the hot humid weather. We are one of the few missions (perhaps the only mission) to allow their elders to wear sulus. Left to right we have Elder Higa, Elder Johnson, Elder Raju, Elder Tanoai, Elder Haretuku, Elder Vole, and Elder Po'ona. They all became very fine missionaries.

Here is the feminine side of missionary work. Two of these sisters (Sister Fanene and Sister Agavale) have already gone home. The other three have also proved to be wonderful missionaries. Left to right they are Sister Fanene, Sister Manusavai, Sister Agavale, Sister Chong, and Sister Rich.

Check back in a few days and hopefully you will find another blog from me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hibiscus Festival Parade

I started my holiday celebration by eating lunch at Mango's with some of the other senior missionaries: Elder and Sister Wells, Elder and Sister Tennis (and their son, daughter and her family), Elder and Sister Hogge, and my companion Sister Limburg. It is Saturday, August 24, 2013. This is a great bunch of people except for one fact: they have all gone home except for me and Sister Limburg. 

I had great fun this day even if it did start out poorly with my lunch not being served until everyone had eaten (and it was cold!) and ended with my wallet being stolen in the crowds after the parade. The "rest of the story" is that my wallet was found by a kind taxi driver named Michael and he matched up the Angel Moroni on my temple recommend with the one found on top of the Fiji Suva Temple and then found his way to the mission office. Everything was in the wallet (credit cards, temple recommend, driver license) except the money--not a great loss. Since I had no money to reward him with, I gave him something far more valuable--a Book of Mormon!

I thought this woven Fijian wall decor and carved screen were very pretty at the restaurant.

Every parade should begin with a big brass band and this one sounded great. The uniforms are spectacular. I love the crisp white sulus with the pointed edges. Keep in mind that it is a very hot sunny day and these men aren't breaking a sweat even with long sleeves and white gloves.

 Half of Suva was in the parade and the other half was watching it. I like the sentiment on the sign: 
"Let's Educate Children and Give Them Hope."

These girls are so cute and they know how to march. Again they are wearing sweaters and gloves. It is August which would be like the Northern Hemisphere's February, so it is winter in Fiji and the people are cold! But truthfully, it is HOT! The design on their shorts is patterned after the stenciled masa or tapa cloth that is created so beautifully here in Fiji.

Every parade also has to have beautiful queen contestants.

And their sponsors . . .

And fresh flowers in their hair . . .

And larger than life floats.

And colorful balloons.

And adorable little children marching.

 And singers and dancers--this cute little guy really had the dance moves.

And more dancers--Fijians with an Indian heritage. These women are wearing 
Salwar (pants) Kaneez (dress) and Duppata (scarf).

And a theme float--Hibiscus flower float for the Hibiscus Parade

And the Grand Finale--the cleanest garbage truck you ever saw--with a great message.

Our day ended on a spiritual note when we had the opportunity to attend the baptism of three Johnson children who were baptized by their father. Aren't they beautiful all dressed in white. They continue to be a strong family and will soon be able to be sealed as a family in the Fiji Suva Temple. Their missionaries were Sister Fanene and Sister Lavatai of Western and American Samoa. These were our wonderful leader trainer missionaries. I miss them and hope they are doing well in their homelands. Our mission president's wife, Sister Klingler, introduced them to the gospel in Kadavu island at the restaurant they managed before moving to Suva. Then the elders there walked two hours to deliver the Book of Mormon she promised them. What a story! This is a strong family who will bless many lives by their leadership and loving example.

The next day, Sunday, we had the opportunity to meet the parents of our Fijian language teacher, Brother and Sister Vuikadavu. They are such a strength to the church here in Fiji.