There is a great Pioneer adage that goes something like this: "Use it up , make it do or do without." Fiji has given us ample opportunity to utilize this philosophy. As spoiled Americans we have come to rely on availability of resources and conveniences which we have come to realize do not exist in much of the world, Fiji included. We are not camping, but some days we feel a bit of the "pinch" of adjusting to what we have to work with. Good thing I come from pioneer stock and was raised by resourceful parents because usually we can see the absence as a challenge and we get to laugh a lot too. We thought we would share some of those with you today.
Yogurt is pretty much a staple in our diet, yet tasty yogurt here is only available in Suva (5 hours away) and very expensive so we went back to the original way of getting yogurt and make it now. Aren't we smart?? It is so easy and rewarding. Now we are set with "sour cream"and "buttermilk" and I used to do it all the time but had gotten lazy.
As we have prepared lessons we have wondered, "why didn't we come prepared with more teaching aids?" (Hint to those of you who are preparing for your own missions.) In their absence, card board has come to our rescue for making props, visuals, and teaching aids. Nothing fancy, but perhaps adequate for the circumstance. When we use our computer it always seems so out of place when we are all sitting on the floor of a humble home with beautiful hand woven mats.
Our kitchen shelving is not solid pieces of wood, rather slats and I found things weren't as stable as they would be on a solid surface so out came the cardboard. It works.
And don't throw out any used containers because they come in very handy for storing things that ants, cockroaches, humidity or who knows what else might find.
Our clip on bed lamps themselves were a feat to obtain. We must have asked in 20 stores (that means 2 towns worth of stores) for lamps. No one even understood what we were asking about. I think Fijians only read during the day because their homes are extremely dark (electricity is so minimally used) so when I spotted some potential clipon lamps we snatched them up. Once home we found they could not clamp securely to the bed railings so we pulled out the cardboard and wrapped it around to increase the surface area the clamp had to grip onto. Again, magic!
Mattress pads don't seem to be a necessity here but then neither are beds, so when we were hoping to find a cover for our new mattress no one understood our request. In fact sheets come only with a fitted sheet and pillow case because most nights, a top sheet is not needed. During our last trip to the bigger town of Suva, we happened onto a thrift store. I asked them where their things came from because Fijians definitely do not discard belongings. Her reply was "Australia". A nearby bin had some linens in it and a huge lovely quilted cover for a king size bed caught my eye. I know you are thinking bedbugs, etc. but I figured all would be well after a good soak in the washer. It came out smelling sweet and so soft; now much of it covers our mattress.
As you can see, we have use of a beautiful new 4 wheel drive Toyota truck while here in Fiji. We love it and are so grateful for it. Although we have only had need of the 4 wheel drive a couple times thus far, we are told the rainy season will allow many opportunities to engage all 4 tires.
The only problem with our beautiful truck is that it was required that all the seats be covered with clear indestructible vinyl. Think 90+ degrees, hot shower humidity and very warm body masses glued to the truck seats. Tom especially was not a happy camper. For some reason he does not like to peel himself from the seat when we get out of the truck, so I pulled out our extra set of towels and lined the underneath side with left over quilt material, pinned them together with safety pins and voila, we now can sit more comfortably.
Cooking presents many opportunities to be creative. I could find a few spices I recognize but not always ground. Since we do not have a mortar and pedestal, I find a hammer works pretty well to crush whole cloves and smells wonderful. Looking for some whole grains to add to making our bread, we almost bought chicken food that also is sold in grocery stores until we were advised to the contrary. In the open market there is a vast array of beautiful legumes used in Indian cooking. Tom made fried rice the other day but it lacked sprouts so a couple days ago we bought some mung beans and found sprouting here is a cinch. In spite of the vast number of choices of currys, marslas and many other spices with exotic names, basil was not to be found. While in Suva on the same trip a few weeks ago, I spotted some fresh basil. We have kept it in a glass of water allowing it to grow roots and today I planted the starts in a makeshift pot. Hopefully it will continue to grow and produce many sprigs of fragrant basil for our use. Speaking of spices, I discovered a new use for cinnamon and curry. As a gift for one of the special families here, I was making a wall hanging. The only paper I had was white and I wanted it to be off white, so I tried rubbing the spice into the paper and and got just what I needed it to be.
We have the luxury of a washer, drier and an ironing board but we still chuckle when we sit down to iron on this minature ironing board (Fijians do not own irons and the Indians are short - hence the micro-ironing board height). Speaking of laundry, when we moved into our flat it had a musty smell and we wanted to counter that with a better fragrance so we puled out the newly acquired drier sheets (for fragrance and anti-static) and I stuck them in the key holes in the bedroom doors, closets, and drawers and all smells much better now. Maybe we just got used to it?? To insure we know it is Christmas here, we will be simmering cinnamon, cloves and ginger on the stove; it may be the only familiar part of Christmas this year.
When we go out in the day, we have found taking frozen bottles of Fiji water is a treat because it easily melts and then we have ice cold water to drink, but we found another use for the frozen bottles is to put them in a little insulated lunch bag we were given and then we can take home butter or fresh meat and not have it go bad on the way back home. And speaking of meat, we find chickens are much smaller here, in fact they are all the same size! They are sold frozen in 1 kilo size bags or maybe 1.2 kilo size. How do they do that? We picture the chickens lined up ready to be weighed and awaiting their fate. There is a nice butcher here in Ba that we have become acquainted with. Each week he patiently waits for the meat truck to deliver. Yesterday when we went in (he had told us Thursday was the best day to come because the shipment came in) his cooler was mostly empty. Apparently they only kill on certain days and he was still waiting, so are we. We have found USDA meat is not available here. Surprised? Neither were we but we also find that parts and pieces we find here are not recognizable to us former WINCO shoppers. The other night as we chewed and chewed on some beef, I asked Tom to, "Please pass the connective tissue." I guess that's why corned beef, corned mutton and other canned protein is so common on the grocery shelves.
We have scheduled a lesson from a former fish monger we are now teaching who has offerred to give us some tips on buying fish from the fish market. Clothes pins may take on another use as you can imagine the smells that await us.
Although we sweep several times a week and mop in between, we find we need to wear flip flops or we are constantly brushing off ash from our feet that comes in the windows from the cane burning and sugar mill. I recently purchased a pair of blue flip flops so I could use them as slippers. The other day I noticed blue smudges around the flat. My first instinct was to assume my flip flops were melting -- it now seems they actually are. Is that because of the heat or the quality? Time will tell.