Monday, January 23, 2012

Where Does Fiji Water Come From?!!

Rain always makes us feel more like we are back in Oregon plus it tends to keep the temperatures more comfortable, but today the making of Fiji Water took on a new meaning.

In sharing what has been happening here in Fiji the last couple days, we are aware that it is a mix of happy and tragic times -- depending on where your business or home is located.  The Fijians have a way of making the best of things with their "no worries" attitude. We've been having some wonderful rainy days lately and last night it REALLY came down all night.  This morning we were enjoying a quiet morning at home for our preparation day when we got a call from the Ba Elders, "Have you been out today?"  "Well, not really."  "Maybe you should, we'll be over soon!", they said.

". . . but the house on the rock stood still."

 At the beginning of our exploration we were rather cautious as we waded up the street amidst the many who had come to see the extent of the flood.
Walking down the main street of Ba
However, we soon found the streets full of Fijians playing in the water.  Many Fijians don't have running water and a good rain is their chance to bathe and have fun. They were floating on anything they could find, including a refrigerator and diving under the water, playing games and having a particularly jovial time.  At this point, the rain and splashing threatened our cameras so the Elders thought it best to take them back to the truck.  That was a shame because the scene became more and more interesting as the waters rose and the current became so strong we couldn't walk back up the road without holding on to storefronts and parking meters (where the water was up to the meter itself).  We did our water aerobics and high-stepping to get back to the truck and found our way home.  Ironically, we would never swim in the Ba river due to health concerns, but here we were joining the Fijian hooligans having a great time in what must have been a very unsanitary circumstance.
Another view of main street
One of the funniest things we witnessed was a person wading chest deep holding an umbrella over their head.  What?  They were soaked and we just couldn't figure that out until one of the Elders informed us that in Fijian lore, keeping your head dry helps protect your health!

One side note: There are literally millions of frogs in Fiji.  When it's hot and sunny, they come out during the evening hours and gratefully "harvest" the multi-millions of bugs.  
A crack in the foundation at the Bishop's house provides a great day-time hiding place for the
frogs before they begin to emerge in the cool of the evening - we counted 19.
Every evening frogs are hopping everywhere and the streets are littered with little frog bodies being eaten by ants every morning where they errantly determined to cross the road amidst traffic. Recently we were at the church building for a baptismal service and the rains had brought the frogs out early in the day.  Here's a scene of Annie walking through the grass around the church:
Herding Frogs from Tom Sherry on Vimeo.

On that day, the rains threatened the church building with minor flooding. . .
. . . so we found some shovels and tried to improve the drainage:

In 2009, Ba suffered a bad flood and our Church was submerged in at least 4 feet of water (see related video at:  The members suffered greatly from this and had to travel to a distant town for Church during the 6 months of repair.  We were very concerned today and when the tide went out, alleviating some of the flood depth we were fortunate to have a church member who works as a fireman arrange a ride over the river to inspect the church.  To our surprise, it had been spared damage and we count that as a miracle given the surrounding damage.
Who would have thought our day would have ended with a ride in a
At the end of the day, rain was still coming steadily.  We know the big clean-up will start soon but we guess that the rains and tide will keep that at bay for the time being.  The town was alerted early enough that some store keepers had moved stock up to higher shelves or storage and people had evacuated vulnerable areas so we're grateful for that.  However, the main commercial and transportation center including the open market that feeds so many and provides what little income the vendors make appears submerged under the highest water and time will tell what the outcome will be.  This is the town hub and apparently the lowest elevation level situated between a creek and the Ba river -- a terribly vulnerable location.  We can't help but compare our situation here to the tragic flooding going on concurrently in our own home town of Corvallis, Oregon.

For now, we have little communication capability to check on the welfare of community members or to travel out to their villages. Gratefully, the people are experienced and most villages are situated on sloping hills presumably to avoid this very thing. The town is cut off by it's lowland geography from getting to other towns and we are confined to foot travel in our little area (a hill overlooking town which has been spared the flooding).  The rains have continued and are forecast to become worse so we'll wait and see. Annie and I take a walk in the mornings to gauge the level of flood waters in town and we hope that we can be of help to others as soon as the opportunity permits.  We have extra food, cooking gas, and all the "Fiji" water we need!


Matt said...

Wow....that's some real rain! Who knew that your missionary work would include flood rescue and damage. In looking at your 10-day weather, it looks like this will not end soon. Perhaps you start building your ark.

Ditto Family said...

Happy Anniversary! Glad you guys are safe and dry (at least when you are at home). We loved the video clip. Our sister missionary from Samoa was very interested to know what was happening your area of the world.

Strahls said...

Once again, a new perspective on what "flooding" really is...I thought pictures of people canoeing down Conifer Blvd. were amazing, but your experiences again make me grateful for how blessed we are even during the worst of times here in Corvallis! Hope something works out to get everyone to Church in the next town. Maybe the old "baptist bus" idea, to round everyone up and get them there??? Keep the Faith! :) The Strahls