Saturday, October 13, 2012

     Bula Vinaka everyone, this week has been watanavu! (awesome).  We were invited to go on a one day river trip with President and sister Klingler and thier daughter Aimee and her family (her husband and 4 older children{the 3 year old and 1 year old stayed at home with grandma and grandpa}) They came for a 1 week visit)  Two senior couples had planned on coming but one had to cancel due to being sick.  We drove for an hour to Nauvua and then boarded the long narrow boats with a small motor, that took us up the river to a village.  Our guide spoke english very well and had us gather in the main building where villagers normally meet.  There were some benches around the perimeter of the building and large woven mats covering the floor.  The ceilings were decorated in tradition Fijian art work and there were two large pictures of ancestors in two corners of the room next to the small couch where the chief sits.  We were asked to sit on the floor with the men in the first row and we women behind them in the second row.  I'm happy to report that all of us managed to sit cross legged on the floor the whole time (Richard was worried he wouldn't be able to do it but he did fine)  They chose a volunteer to be honorary chief and participate in the official Cava ceremony.  He was advised to do a loud cupped hand clap at a certain point in the ceremony and was told if he did it incorrectly (clapped 4 times instead of once etc) they would continue to pour cava (considering it has narcotic properties we were glad he did it corretly!).  Our guide knew that our church has told our members not to participate in the cava ceremony so they are careful to ask someone to volunteer to participate.  They asked if anyone else wanted to try the cava and two women in our tourn group volunteered, but we could tell it didn't taste very good by their reactions when they drank it.  The village had a small circular garden with one Cava bush in it and it takes 5 years for it to reach the mature stage to harvest it.  They keep a cutting and stick it in the ground to grow a new bush and pull the bush out and prepare the roots for the cava drink that looks a lot like muddy water.
     We next went to a colorful little building they use for a preschool.  The children and their teacher sang us 3 songs and then they returned to class.
     The next we went to had women who work on weaving mats and doing tapa craft work. The oldest woman was 89 and still going strong.  Long thin leaves are harvested from a tree that grows here and they roll and boil the leaves for a day to dry them out.  Next they scrape them with clam shells to make them pliable and then they weave the mats.  They dredge some of the leaves in dirt mixed with charcoal from a fire to dye them and use them to create designs in the mats they weave.  The tappa cloth artwork used to be created by carving stencils in a big broad leaf, but they have created a better way to do it using old ex ray films that the men occasionally have when they need to have an x-ray taken from getting injured in a rugby game.  It makes for a more lasting stencil and is  better for the environment. We then went to where the lovo (pit cooking) was being done for our lunch.  They typically do this type of cooking for funerals or weddings, but have included it in the tourist, village experience.  For lunch we had rice, chicken, dalo (dense fiberous root plant a little bit like a potatoe) a noodle dish, a spinach like vegetable cooked in coconut milk, pineapple, and a drink.  Many of the guests sat on the floor but Richard and I chose to enjoy the confort of the bench that had a padded cushion.  The rain had been drizzling up until then and then started pouring.  Our guide told us that they get 11 inches of rain a month which is more than we get in a year in Arizona.  After lunch used the restrooms to change into some get wet clothes for our waterfall experience.  By the sinks there were fresh Fagi Pani blossoms (Known as Pulmeria in Hawaii)  In Fiji they come in various colors pink, peach, and cream.  Richard and I were slow in getting dressed and hurried down to the boats where everyone was waiting in the boats.  They had some heavy plastic drapes for us to use to try and stay dry.  Richard of course didn't want or need a drape so I wrapped it around my head and back and created a poncho.  Everyone visited and anticipated the waterfall and chose to ignore the pouring rain.  Because it was raining the waterfall had a heavier flow than usual and was quite striking. When we plunged into the water we were surprised how cold it was.  Our guide said it's cold even in the summer when it's hot and sticky.  The rain started coming down pretty hard on the way back, but we stopped and transferred onto some rafts and our guide explained how villagers often cut and lash bamboo into rafts to travel down the river to take vegetables they've grown to Navua.  It's an 8 hour trip for some of the villages further up the river.  When they get to Navua they lay out their vegetables in a stack and sleep on the ground until the next day when they can sell their vegetables.  They unlash the bamboo and take the rope to use again and catch one of the boats that are scheduled to travel back up the river.  It was a great day in spite of the rain and it made changing back into some dry clothes at the end of the tour all the sweeter.
     One of the Fijian employees who works down in the service center (Brother Magoon )came in to the office and when he heard about our river trip he shared some history about the village with us.  He said his cousin lives in the village and the two pictures we saw in the building were of his ancestors One a chief and the other a missionary who was from England and lived in the village for many years.  When the chief was getting older he wanted to give an inheritance to two white men who have lived with them in the village a long time.  He gathered his 17 wives together, turned to the two men and told them to pick one. The first man declined saying he already had a wife, the second one (missionary) chose one of the wives whom he already was having an intimate relationship with. Brother Magoon then said the missionary was his great great great grandfather and that the chief had also verbally given his grandfather 1000 acres of land that started in the village and spread out to the ocean.  He said unfortunately it was never written down and officially documented and now all that is left of his families inheritance is the three acres of land his current home is on in Magoons Lagoon near the ocean which is quite a ways away from the village and river that we visited.
Richard is staying busy dealing with the many calls he gets from missionaries with broken bikes that need repairing, news of missionaries that will soon be arriving and needing a flat to live in etc, etc.  He got a call from an unhappy landlord that requested he come and see the condition the flat that 3 elders are living in.  I went with him and it was pretty bad.  There were books and shoes on the bars and tables while 3 nice size bookshelves that are provided for storing materials sat empty.  There werer also 3 plates with food left on them on the bar (which can create a bug problem in no time), grease and grime on the stove dirty floors that hadn't been swept or cleaned in a long time and a bathroom that smelled of mold and other unpleasant things. Before we left I opened a plastic bag on the kitchen bar and saw what looked like black mold growing on 6 grayish objects.  Richard said "no those are just rocks Mary", I closed the bag and squeezed the objects and they squished, and told Richard "those are rotten dalo!" Part of the problem was that several missionaries from further out stayed with these elders overnight so they could attend a regional meeting the next day.  They stayed up until 2 am and were so noisy that the neighbor complained to the landlord and then Richard got the call.  The flat was probably not in good shape when they arrived and then they left a big mess rather than clean up after themselves.  Richard gave them a week to get things in order before he returns to inspect it again and  reminded them that leaving a bad impression with their landlord and neighbors doesn't help the work to move forward.
      On Friday a senior couple dropped by and said it had been a hard day.  I told Richard to tell them about the Kennerly's to try and put things into perspective.  They are a senior couple out in the bush in Ba where things are pretty challenging and there aren't as many choices for food, eateries or comforts as we have here in Suva.  Brother Kennerly had called earlier to tell Richard that his washer was in bad shape and shimmied so bad on the spin cycle that he and his wife had to sit on it to keep it from moving around the room! That made sister Tennis smile.  Then he told him how their dryer also malfunctions and they have to remember to interrupt it or it gets so hot that their clothes melt (that made everyone get the giggles) and then brother Kennerly called again while we were all still talking.  With his Austrailian accent, hew told Richard that the washer that was up on a pedistal type structure just fell off of it and died!  We couldn't stop laughing.  Not because we can't feel their pain but we've all learned to find the humor in the crazy things that happen while you're on a mission.  This same couple were in town last week and we had them over for dinner.  They told us how they went to a social gathering with some ward members and how they brought big platters of food and set it down on the ground where they were sitting and began encouraging them to eat.  Brother Kennerly did okay but sister Kennerly felt strange, looked down in her lap and saw large ants swarming up her waist and across her chest and she was calmly trying to brush them off of her and be social but had a hard time having any appetite that night.  They have served 4 missions and sold their business and took their young family with them the first time they served. You meet amazing people on a mission and come to appreciate how the Lord has blessed them with special talents as you get to know them and hear their life stories.  We're grateful to be serving a mission and are learning so much about the special people that live in Fiji.

I love the rain even if it does fog my glasses up!

Children sang and said bula as we entered the village

Cava ceremony

Early Fijian chief who had 17 wives

Brother Magoon's missionary great great great grandfather

These patterns were printed on the ceiling of the village meeting building. The I bought a tappa art piece from the same woman who did these patterns on the ceiling

Village cava plant

preschool children singing songs to us

grandpa doing a fist bump with one of the kids

school house

the woman who did the ceiling stencil work in the village meeting house

grating cocomut

pit where our lovo lunch was cooked

early villge houses made of palm frongs and woven materials called a burne

recent burial of loved one.  Deceased person buried above ground and it is often draped with colorful material 

these young men came and invited each of us to do a group dance.
Even Richard danced!

farewell song

path to the waterfall

Sister Whitehead loved the cold water because she's from Canada

We rode rafts made of bamboo part of the way down the river. It was interesting to learn that bamboo is a grass and has water tight compartments that make it ideal for using in rafts because it floats so well.

President Klingler and his grandaughter

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