Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Week–December 24, 2013

Christmas is coming – even if the weather doesn’t look like it.  Christmas is rather low key here in Fiji, in fact our ward didn’t even have a Christmas program and Sunday only two of the 4 speakers even mentioned it, so it’s a different type of celebration.

We have had 3 young men coming into the Institute all last week and they love music and singing.  They would spend all day just playing the guitar and piano and singing.  Dew thought it would be fun to have them sing for our family and they were more than willing. 

And so on Monday (Sunday at home) we Skyped with all of our family and they sang songs for them.  On that day they had another young man join them and he played the drums with two magic markers!  The Peterson’s and Dew had out their Skype cameras and we hope our families enjoyed our little Christmas concert.

Monday night we had FHE with all the senior couples.  We had a really good dinner, sang carols and Sister Peterson brought a set of hand chimes with her and it doesn’t take much to learn to play them and we accompanied ourselves with the chimes.  We told favorite Christmas experiences and had a wonderful evening.

And today is Christmas Eve.  Sister Peterson got the hand chimes out and a group of the Institute youth played them.  Then we all drove up to a place called “Home of Compassion” where I go visiting teaching to a sister. We just dropped in, but they were good enough to let us come in and play and sing and it was very fun.  And the young men were so charming and cute with the older sisters, they are such impressive young guys.

When we finished the young people still wanted to do more and they knew of another place so we dropped in on them and did another impromptu concert and the kids loved it.  Then we all went to McDonalds for lunch!  Who could ask for a more fun day?

And in the evening the seniors and the missionary zone here had planned a big program for the same home, so back we went.  We told stories, played the chimes and sang and dressed the residents up to be a nativity scene.  Cookies and gifts of toilet paper rounded out the evening.  Very fun Christmas Eve day and evening.

And today as I was getting to work late after making my cookies I noticed that there were a group of workers all standing around watching something.  I asked them what they were doing and they said they were watching the crab!  No kidding!  There was a HUGE crab and it was crawling all over their bags and tools and they weren’t about to mess with it.  After we got pictures we carried it over to the lawn and let it go (not us, but some of the young men) and off it went as fast as it could and that was the last we saw of it.

The workers told us that if we were Fijians we would have had it for dinner.  But we are Americans and would rather have Mickey D’s, so it was safe.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Trip to Northern Islands–December 13-16, 2013

Fiji is made up of about 350 islands, but the two largest are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Vanua Levu means “long island”, and Viti Levu means “big island”.  Suva is located on Viti Levu.

There are branches on the northern island and we have some students up there and have had some problems with their loans and repayments.  And so we thought it would be good to go up there and visit the branches and do some training and check out the schools and other facilities in the area so we would know more about things up there.

We planned to fly into Labasa which is on the north side of Vanua Levu, then drive down to Savusavu which is on the south side and then ferry over to Taveuni (called the Garden Island of Fiji) and meet with those three branches.  So off we went on Friday the 13th of December – maybe we should have paid more attention to that date.

Everything went well in Labasa and we even got to see some of the missionaries we knew from Suva.  Saturday we held an education fireside and met with a young returned missionary to help him get his paper work ready so he could attend school.  Saturday was also the day we got a call from the resort on Taveuni that we were supposed to stay in – seems the whole resort had been shut down – supposedly it was a power problem.  We called other resorts frantically, but it’s December and everything was filled.  So we quickly changed our flights and were forced to skip that part of our trip.

Saturday night I also found myself at the Labasa hospital.  I have had bronchitis and was having a hard time breathing.  Visiting that hospital has made me more grateful than ever for our medical system at home.  Hope it never gets to look like Fiji Care!  But they were kind, and after two breathing treatments and some pills we got back to the hotel about 2 am.

Sunday we attended a tiny branch in Seaququ, which is in the middle of the island and with the three of us the total number in attendance was 9.  But the spirit was great.  The Branch President’s wife fed us a quick lunch – best I’ve had here – and we were on the road again for Savusavu.

This branch was a tad bit bigger and we were very warmly received.  Elder and Sister Walker and Elder and Sister Howard were there and were a big help.  Foki went with us and the saints there were able to ask her the questions and get the answers in Fijian.  We left with lots of ideas of how we can better serve them spinning in our heads.  We flew home on Monday.

Vanua Levu is much like Nadi, sugarcane is king.  Lots and lots of fields of sugarcane and rice and it’s very beautiful.  But it is about 10 degrees warmer than Suva and we felt it.  We were able to take lot of pictures and everywhere you look it’s beautiful.  We didn’t get to see the “garden island”, maybe that will work into our plans sometime before we leave for home.

But we came home with a much better understanding of the small branches on the northern islands.