Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bula Vinaka ya'll... What a week we've had!.  Richard and I have been  finding and furnishing a lot of flats lately.  We bumped the AP's into a smaller flat so our second new senior couple who are here for only 2 months could use theirs (mainly becauase it has air conditioning).  Richard noticed the kitchen drawer was stuck so he was bent over  and was jiggling it to trying and  work it loose and out jumped this huge gecko, hitting his stomach, careening off the edge of my skirt, (Richard yelped I I screamed) then Godzilla scurried off into the bedroom where we took a picture of him.  We told the AP's their flat would be bug free but there was a surprise waiting for them.  They gave us an update.  They cornered Godzilla in the shower and waved a towel at him making him run around  and around the bathroom until he was exhausted, picked him up and set him outside to find a new place to live.

The Elder's on the L and R of the picture came down from another island where they've been serving.  The one on the left was quite plump when he first arrived (he showed us a picture) and he now looks completely differ4ent.  The one on the R is modeling a woven hat he bought before leaving Rotuma a more remote island where there's long stretches between boats that bring food to the island. 

A quick lunch at KFE (mock up of Kentucky Fried Chicken where we've discovered the best  meal is chicken bites

The guy on the Left is a future Elder coming to our mission.  Middle Elder Haimin, and R Elder Ulululakeba who  was serving here temporarily (he's Fijian) until his visa came through and is now heading to his assigned mission

Sister Mabey from Christmas island with Elder  Tebetanga.  It's a lot more challenging on  their island and when she and her were here with a group of member's coming for their first time at the temple, she was also trying to talk with embassy people to get the Visa this Elder had for the US as a baby upgraded so he could head to the Provo MTC on time.  He had to go back to another island Tarawa where the service center will help get his application in order and send paperwork to me to do the Fiji Visa when he heads for Provo.  It's very challenging for these kids to get police reports, bank account statements etc when most of them don't have a  car to get a driver's liscense, use cash and don't have a bank account etc.

Friday we headed out on an adventure.  There's a small island NE of us that  President Klingler  is putting elder's on after 10 years of not having missionaries there. We caught a bus that loaded on this boat and then we sat on chairs along the side of the boat during the 3 hour trip to the island.

As we headed home, we came out of the office just as a group of members from Christmas Island were on the steps for a picture and we were able to capture it.  This is why we are here, and what will be a part of  out sweet memories of Fiji.  It is so great, to see the joy in there faces as they come to the house of the Lord.  For some this will be their only time.

Looking down from the rail of the boat we saw this  about 10 feet behind a motor boat and Richard said  "a Fiji  wakeboard"  Of course it's a bamboo raft, but I was glad to be traveling on the boat.

Thisboat came into the doc as we were leaving.  It looked like a boat that transports food to the different islands.

We traveled along the back of Ovalau and there were a lot of grassy hills, trees and  coconut palms and one road along the perimeter of the island

The AP's told us to stay at the Royal Hotel in Levuka, so we rented a room for 3 days and  discovered  there was no air conditioning, a small mirror and sink next to the dresser in the bedroom.

A lovely view (these boats are a common site and many rust out quickly  due to the salt water)  The windows had no screens and heavy wood doors that we proped open with a stick with notches and a huge nail.

This is another shot of the bays we ocassionally saw with alot of  palm trees and group of houses

These two chairs and the table served as our game room.  Richard  got a yatzee on the first roll and another one during the game, (a definite sign I wasn't going to win that one, but I did win some others we played.  Our room felt like a sauna and as the night progressed I knew the heat had gotten to Richard when he said "I need a new bolo, then bulu until he finally got out sulu (mans skirt) that's more light weight material rather than the polyester one's I have now".

Yes you're looking at our suite.  That door is literally 2 feet wide.  The towels are well used and  their was no hot water (we began to savor the cold showers because it was very hot during the day and we took our unbrellas to create a little shade while we looked for a flat.  Tthe two white objects that look like lamps are mosquitoe netting which we didn't realize what they were or use until the last night, after serving as a smorgasboard for the local mosquitoes who sampled my R eyelid and both of our legs!

This is a historical picture of the hotel with victorian style railing that is now gone.  When   members at church on Sunday asked where we were staying and we said the Royal Hotel they kind of gave each other a knowing look.  We found out from the AP's after we got home that they have modern cabins with air conditioning that they neglected to tell us about.  The members tried to make us feel better by saying "the queen of England had stayed at the Royal Hotel" (It was built in the 1800's so I guess you can't fault them for not having some of the modern conveniences we're used to)

This is one of the many historical pieces they had in the dining area where we had breakfast

The lounge area with a mix of old and newer furniture.  When we rented our room the owner was an older man near our age, and we asked him "where's a good place to eat?"  "He said I don't know I don't eat out"

This is the back view of a church with a tall clock tower that reminded me of Big Ben in England

This is the road along the ocean in Levuka has several groups of shops.
They had store fronts that reminded me of the old west.  

We stopped at a museum....yes you guessed it, this is a neck breaker ,
used in the early days to dislocate the head from the body of their victims.

un uh (= yes) this is the famous club use to knock an enemy out
as they entered the low narrow door  of a villager's house.

Big Ben's cousin

We went around asking people on the street if they knew of a flat to rent , and one lead took us to Mike's house.  He offered us a glass of apple juice which we accepted and it had ice in it (the first we'd had.since arriving on the island)  It tasted so heavenly.  He'd traveled a lot over the years to Levuka with his work, divorced and then moved to Levuka and ended up marrying a Fijian woman and had 3 children (Mike is Caucasian).  He takes care of his yard and told us about an island we could see from his porch that is owned by a wealthy person who rented it to Bill Gates for his honeymoon.  It costs $5,000 a night and requires you stay for a week.   He said that during the Civil War when the Northern states couldn't get cotton someone enterprising came to Levuka and they grow cotton to supply the states.  There were other industries then too but as these entrepeneurs left the people didn't have the money to keep the industries going.  When I asked if Levuka was mostly influenced by the British,, he said no "the Americans were also here" and told us about early days, when the American Embassy caught fire and a prominent Chief and the natives looted anything of worth out of the Embassy.  The Americans demanded the items be returned, and when they wouldn't do it An American ship in the harbor shot cannonballs at the island.  (Mike's children found some of the cannon balls in the hills above their house. 

This bay is on the way to the flat Mike told us about.  We often see these
where the telephone poles were set up right through the water which is quite shallow.

A very old tapa cloth 

A view from the Chinese restaurant we ate at.  The trucks with tarps have bench seats along both edges and help people get around the island, but are hot while they wait for it to fill up.  The second night we ate here the chef came and apologized for the delay, which we didn't think much about since it took an hour the first time we ate there.  She said "we're out of vegetables, but they're coming on the boat and pointed to a boat like the one we came on slowly coming into view.  There was also a very noisy generator about 30 feet away that creates the electricity for Levuka that runs 24/7.  Our only question was why did they build it right by the dock for the boats and the shops in town?

I got up early one morning and watched the sun rise

This is the church in Levuka.  It is a small home with a space  for church (a small half wall masks the  sink area that was the kitchen, and there are two side rooms.  There were 5 sisters in Relief Society.  This is Sister Merekisi, I met her when I was frantically looking for a seat on the bus for Levuka.  Richard was outside making sure the Elders got our luggage loaded on the bus and said "go save us some seats"  I was near the entrance of the bus and experienced the "Fijian's don't understand the concept of a line" first hand.  Everyone pushed to try and get on the bus and when I got in there was one seat by Merekisi and another further back.  I asked her if I could sit by her and left my purse then stood by the other empty seat.  Richard was the last guy on the bus and several people were standing with no seat.  The bus driver tried to tell Richard to get on the next bus but he said "I'm going on this one my wife's on this bus" so the bus driver told 2 people to get on the next bus and one person sat on a large bucket in the isle.  Any way we learned that this sister lived in Suva and taught school 30 years, then lived in San Francisco in the states for 17 years and was now returning to live on her island that her family owns and is near the Ovalau. 

The church building

L-R Sister Liya, Emily, Wati, her sons and youngest daughter She asked me to send
her a copy of these pictures since they don't get a chance to have many pictures.

It's hard to see but there's a sad,bent over, basketball standard on the L 1/3of this picture
A basketball standard seems to be included on all LDS church buildings here,
even though the kids probably can't afford a ball and end up using the standard
 as a jungle gym instead.  If they have a ball it's to used for rugby.

Across the road from the church is this small stream and a swimming hole that   also serves
as the Waters of Mormon (baptisimal font) for the Levuka Missionaries

Catholic Cathedral in Levuka

This young man is a returned missionary who gives the Levuka  branch much strength.  He said his name was Diloi,  and we asked "are you related to our Elder Deloi?" who is serving in Suva?(the big guy we've shown pictures of before) and he said yes we're related and he is my name sake.  We also met the parents of Elder Musuka who is in our mission temporarily while waiting for his Visa and  Sister Anna Raloka's parents whose paperwork I'm working on right now.

Anyway, our trip was quite an adventure and we came back realizing how lucky we are to have air conditioning, a refrigerator, many stores and restaurants to choose from and hot water to name a few.
I'll close for now, be well everyone  Love Sister and Elder Hogge

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hello Everyone, how's it going?  Things are moving right along for us as we try to find flats. We signed a contract for a flat with a sweet Indian woman named Shanti this week.  She's a widow and lives on the top flat and due to her difficulty in walking down the many stairs from her flat doesn't get out much.  The flat we rented from her is unfurnished and is a studio apartment.  The Howards will only be here several months and then move on to other islands, but as we thought about the expense of buying a bed, air conditioning unit and some basic furniture they would require we decided to bump the AP's  into this flat since they aren't allowed to have air conditioning and already have some of the furniture needed for the flat.  Their flat originally had a queen size bed, and TV which we had the Landlord move elsewhere, when the Elders moved in, so with a little finagling we should be able to cover every one's needs better without as much cost.  Our car is currently stuffed with items that will be needed for an unfurnished flat like a broom, dustpan, cleaning supplies, rags, towels, sheets, pillows, fans, pan set, dishes and utensils, for the Elders a 2 burner stove that sits on top of the kitchen bar, a gas tank, a rice cooker, microwave, to name a few of the items we buy.  When we sat down with Shanti to sign the contract she had us sit at her kitchen table.  I immediately noticed about 20-30 small ants traveling all around her place mats on an ant freeway.  I pulled my chair out a bit further so I could sit on the chair but not have to have my arms or body touch the table while I made polite conversation and  Richard signed the contract.  There was a very sweet saying on her wall and I asked if I could copy it.  I hope you will enjoy it as I did.

You are richer tonight then you were this morning
If you have taken the time to trace the handiwork of God 
in the common place things of life,
or if you have learned to count out the things 
that really do not count,
or if you have been a little  blinder to the faults of a friend.
You are richer if a little child smiled at you,
and a stray dog has licked your hand,
or if you have looked for the best in others.

Monday we will have ten curtain panels made for the flat and Richard will meet the delivery truck for the washer and refrigerator delivery on Tuesday (that's if all goes well, we've discovered that customer service is not a well understood concept here).

The Whitings who work with us in the office announced that their landlord is selling the home that's been converted into a duplex that they and the Whiteheads live in!  Luckily both of these couples are highly motivated and will do a lot of the leg work in finding a new flat.  Saturday after our lunch with the Senior Couples we went and looked at a flat the Whiteheads found and liked.  After showing us, they decided to rent it so Richard sat and did the paperwork with the Landlady. 
We got home for dinner around 7pm but it was nice to have it done and be one less thing for us to fit in during the week. 

We're finding it an ever growing challenge to remember and pronounce names correctly here, but some easy ones are Hawk and Stock our AP's in the office.  Avenish and Ravenish our landlord and the landlord of the Osborne's but the Fijian's struggle with ours too.  Our Bishop announced that Elder" Hogges" would be confirming a sister today.

We got a call late Friday night that the sisters had a baptism scheduled 7am Sunday morning and asked if I could print up some programs.  That meant getting up by 6am so we could have the programs there on time.  Richard woke up at 5am and I arose a few minutes later.  All of us were there on time and waiting, except the sisters and the sister to be baptized.  The sisters came in and asked if we could go pick up the sister which we would have been happy to do except our back seat was filled to the top with things for the flat.  We told them to take a taxi and we would pay for it.  They arrived back a few minutes later and we managed to have the baptism before the Sisters started filtering in for Relief Society at 8am.  

We dropped 2 senior couples off at the airport on Saturday, then  looked around
for  possible flats to rent.  No flats, but I took a picture of this tree I like.

Our AP's, enjoying their "Dear Elder Birthday Party Box" in Sister Whitings office

No flats, but we found a colorful fence!

L-R Sister Michael (speaks 3 languages from the Solomon Islands), new member Sister Tinai Maria Tavaita Moce
Sister Nauer (comes from Samoa, she's the sister who had parents on a boat during Cyclone Evan that were  okay)
I must say I've come to appreciate all the conveniences we enjoy back home.  Sister Irava came to me and asked if I would take 5 minutes to teach the sisters how to lead music using a practice  hymn 311.  I said sure, and tried to take a minute to see which hymn it was during the announcements.  It was totally unfamiliar to me and is meant for a woman's choir!  I decided to teach all the sisters how to move their hands to lead music for either a 3/4 time or 4/4 time or 6/8 time as we said the words, and promised to work with Sister Klingler (who has a piano) this week to learn the melody.  We have no piano at church or anyone who knows how to play if we did have one.  Richard reminded me that we're going out of town next weekend to check on flat possibilities on a small island NE of us called Ovalau, so I devised a plan to grab sister Taito who is in our Relief Society, but also works next door to us in the Distribution Center during the week and we'll both go to Sister Klingler's and learn the hymn so she can cover for me this week while I'm gone.  Richard was asked to confirm Sister Tinai Maria Tavaita Moce,in sacrament meeting (who's baptism we attended this morning).  When he went up to give the opening prayer for church he quickly grabbed the baptism program which led me to realize that he was confirming her and needed to know how to pronounce her name since we met her for the first time this morning.  There is no hand microphones here so we couldn't hear it and I had to keep peeking to see when he had finished.  How very blessed we are to have so many things that these people don't, but they do have strong testimonies of our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and that's all that matters.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hi everyone,
      This week has been a crazy and unusual week.  We have a new senior couple this week, Elder and Sister Osborn, who are going to teach at the LDS College in Tamavua village.  The "college" is really a high school that nearly all students are LDS and they learn normal subjects, with an emphasis on the technological area--mechanical as well as electronic subjects.  The Osborn's are going to teach the electronic part for the next four months, and then move on to another island and do the same somewhere else.  So far they have taught in Toga and Samoa and now Fiji.  Anyway, I had to find them a flat, which was pretty difficult due to the short lease period.  I found one and cleaned it up so they could move in yesterday.  Two couples helped me clean it in the morning, then later that afternoon, I went back with Mary to put in new light bulbs, and deliver sheets and towels.  While we were there, a rainstorm hit and it came in buckets.  An outside drain had been plugged up so all the sudden water was pouring in through the back door and flooding the flat.  We worked the nest couple of hours to get it cleaned up and dried, so now the flat is double clean. It was a good thing we had gone back or the new couple would have to swim to their bedroom!  The Lord keeps His hand in wherever His missionaries are.
Osborne's kitchen

Living room

Front yard leading to entrance
      We have changed our church start time to 8 AM instead of 10AM, and I love it.  We get done and it leaves time for us to do other things, like this blog.  We had a good New Years eve--we went over and played board games until 11 PM and then went to bed.  The next day we cleaned our flat (even mopped the floors) and then played some more games with the Wells.  It was a nice smooth day, and very few necessary   things to have interrupted us.  The missionaries also got together with each other and talked a lot.  They had a day off at Christmas and New Years day. Life is good.