A cane field is dense and tall (perhaps 8 feet or so). Very little machinery (we've heard some farms use them but we have yet to see any), and most of cutting is done with a wicked "cane knife". The picture below the field is of cane trucks lined up at the factory which runs 24 hours a day.
The area is hot and humid, we feel "sticky" all the time. In some ways, Ba feels like we've moved to India with a few Fijians living in the area. The town is 80% Hindi and all the shops and industry seem owned by or run by Indians. That means that when you're downtown, most stores have Indian music blaring in them (a strange custom to us since you can barely hear yourself), incense smells, and to us, an odd assortment of goods.
We have had very blue times and needed all the help and prayers we can get. Everything is new, everything is difficult, everything is dirty -- Oh, did I mention this is a 3rd world country? That explains why most of the people, particularly Fijians live in desperately poor villages. We have just never really been exposed close up before. Homes are corrugated tin shacks or cinder block. Many have no facilities at all, or very little. Members of the Ba ward are few (about 30-40 active) and they have had no bishop for over a year. In the parking lot on Sunday, there is one car (ours) and we feel chagrined at the fact that we can drive but by Church rules cannot take anyone with us. The people either walk (most barefooted) 30-90 minutes, or they hire a "transport," which is a small Toyota truck that goes along the highway and you jump in until you get to the general area you're going. But most cost $3-10 (Fijian dollars)per person per trip and few Fijians can afford it. Public transportation is cheaper but does not run on Sundays except on the major road. By way of understanding one Fijian dollar is worth about 56 US cents. The challenges are immense -- it is difficult for people to come to meetings during the week, and cannot stay too late on Sundays. There is really no leadership structure and no base of knowledge to make that work anyway ("organization and efficiency" are not words found in the structure or cultural experience of Fiji). Our inactive Relief Society President was a member for 4 months when called but never previously heard of RS, had no counselors, and no training (she's been inactive since shortly after the call). So this will be one of the great challenges we have and a place where we might make some contribution (leadership training).
But for all our challenges, they simply melt away into insignificance when we are with the people. They are smiley and happy in the midst of nothing, and they freely share everything they have with you. Here's some of the beautiful people we have visited:
So what have we to complain about? When we are reminded that much of the world lives this way, we are quickly "put in our place." On Sunday we were listening to General Conference (they just received the DVD's). And after listening to the talks about trials and difficulties and being loved by Heavenly Father, Annie turned to me and said: "You hear these things differently here don't you." Indeed.