It was an overnight boat ride on a ferry from Suva to Vanua Levu island, or a short hop on this cute little 17 passenger plane -- we'd take the plane anytime, although it meant scaling our luggage down to the 15kg allowed. During our time in South Africa, other belongings had been ferried up to Taveuni and the missionaries had kindly placed them in our new home. The flight was a beautiful panorama over the aqua sea, past little islands and reef barriers to Savusavu, where we joined about 20 other missionaries for a 2-day conference before going to our new assignment on the neighboring island of Taveuni.
Looking out at the beautiful harbor at Savusavu, we could tell we were going to adjust just fine to our new home if it looked anything like this. It didn't hurt that we enjoyed a delicious meal at a little restaurant with the mission president, his wife, and two other stalwart senior mission couples on that island (one of the men served as a young missionary in Fiji 50 years ago).
Owing to our proclivity towards sea sickness, we ate no breakfast on the day of our departure and obediently arrived at the dock at 6am in our new truck to board the much maligned "Stinky Sofie" ferry for the 5-hour ride to Taveuni (the missionaries had warned us to arrive on time). But the Sofie was on Fiji time and didn't arrive until about 8:30am. All the bad rap and just look at that ship above, how did she deserve her reputation? Problem was, that cruise ship never came to dock but some of the tourists held their noses high as the real Sofie pulled into view.
|A bit tattered and rusty, but how do you like those tarp covered|
"first class" passenger decks on top?
|All the baggage being "carefully" loaded, as well as cars and flatbed trucks hauling|
every imaginable commodity from Viti Levu to the outer islands
|Cheeping chicks on their first and last boat ride|
|Enjoying the opulent accommodations with purse as a pillow|
(right next to the life boat which had rusted solidly to the side of the ship)
|Prepared for the worst and delighted all went well!|
|Taveuni coming into view. Rain clouds almost always cover the central mountainous|
spine of the 26 mile long and 7 mile wide island.
|Unlike many other islands where the Methodist Church is dominant, Taveuni has a very large Catholic population with a large educational and religious compound.|
Taveuni is a beautiful island, with little development, few stores, one branch bank, one post office, and one road that circumvents about 2/3 of the island along the coast with little branch roads and trails peeling off to the villages and farmlands. Most people farm Dalo (Taro root), and vegetables in the hills along the edge of the ocean. The interior is highly mountainous with lots of rain which bleeds down to the coast in varying amounts. Beautiful flowers, colorful parrots, and coconut plantations greet you everywhere and the only downside of "paradise" is it is also paradise for bugs and creepy crawly things of every sort.
|We live in the Taveuni Estates, Soqulu Village|
Vale nei Katherine is our lovely home - much nicer than we need but very few options here. From the deck, we gaze out over the Somosomo Strait towards the island of Vanua Levu and the yard has, among other lovely tropical plants, lots of coconut, banana, papaya, mango, and breadfruit trees.
|Hand woven palm fron panels line all the ceilings. We don't like to dwell on just|
what "Fijian friends" might also be living up there.
|Your bedroom when you come to visit (we'll be sure to have the ironing done before you come)|
|Our lovely bedroom opening out to the deck. How nice to have the shutters open,|
with the sea breeze and ocean surf always present.
|Pretty nice place for Pilates each morning . . .|
|. . . and sewing!|
|Beautiful views from the deck beyond the banana and coconut trees|
|Looking across the Somosomo Strait at the northern end of Vanua Levu Island|
We're a little jumpy about rain after our two floods in Ba, so when it rained heavily during one of our first nights we just enjoyed the assurance that it doesn't flood in Taveuni. However, in the morning we awoke to a thunderous sound that seemed like an angry ocean surf right next door. About a block away we found this sight . . .
Only a few hours later at this same lava flow run-off location after the volcanic mountains had shed their excess, and all was calm with hardly any evidence there had been a storm.
Our home is on the western coast about right in the middle of the island and no matter where we're headed, it's always on the coastal road -- since there is no other. While there are a few kilometers of appreciated pavement, most of the road is rough -- bone rattling rough. Keeping your eyes on the road is needed but a challenge because of the beautiful views.
|. . . and little girls following their example by net fishing in the rivers & streams|
|Learning early from a good dad on harvesting coconuts for the family|
|Another attentive father returning to the farm after a visit with granny|
|Plants obscure the little girl to whom Annie is giving a mint to -- instant friends!|
|The outhouse is awaits water hook-up. That sounds more sophisticated than it really|
will be as the water will flush from the toilet to a pit behind.
|The kids were invited to sit on the mat so adults would have a chair|
|Primary (children's class) was just finishing when we snapped this photo|
Missing some of the personal connection we had with friends in Ba, we are particularly grateful to have opportunity to share the gospel with Ela (21) and 17-yr. old Ana.
When we heard "Meke" at our favorite "one stop shopping center", our ears perked up and we got the details of a pending celebration of the 149th anniversary of Catholic missionaries landing on Taveuni. The celebration actually focused on whole villages presenting themselves to the priest along with their annual $5/christened person levy for the year (this year they hoped to buy a new van with the money). Has there ever been such a happy people all joining together to pay their religious contribution?
Among the hundreds gathered, we found this native costumed group awaiting their turn to perform. Coconut oil shined on their rich brown skin, ash marked their cheeks and dried fern wreathed their arms. Traditions of so many kinds unite this culture.
|Cuteness comes in all colors!|
Ice cream cones seem to be in many hands as we drive through town. Wondering why, it dawned on us that since there are no public utilities on the island, a scoop from the generator-powered freezer at the store would be the only source of such a delightful treat for all ages.
After finishing their treats, perhaps they'll make a visit to the country club?
Fijians take special pride in sharing meals with others and we had no idea that his wife, Aqela, was a professional chef. The meal was absolutely delicious and they insisted we sit at a table and eat with utensils - something we rarely do in Fijian homes where the norm is floor sitting and eating with your fingers.
|Lesuma family with two house guests. We found it's a rare meal with only their|
family - they regularly invite others over.
A few days later, we joined President Lesuma and another senior couple to tend to some Church business on Rabi island, about an hour away by motor boat. We left sea sickness worries in the boat wake and absolutely loved the opportunity to skim across the sea, visit another island, and meet with some dedicated church leaders.
|Joined by 10 year old Joe Lesuma who earned this trip after|
doing exceptionally well on a math exam
|Elder Muir and his wife returned to Fiji 50 years after serving his first mission|
|On their peaceful way after a day of fishing|
|A true dugout outrigger --|
|and on sea|
|Heading for shore|
|Court was in session|
|Main road and only road|
|LDS church in Rabi-spacious and adequate for now|
|Lovely laundry and most always hand washed|
|On the way home we enjoyed a delicious meal provided by members -- |
fried fish, dalo, and breadfruit all cooked over an open fire with a wonderful smoky flavor
|Flying on the high seas|
|A beautifully decorated post at the Garden Island Resort|
|Holding hands "across time"|
A few flowers and the almost daily sunsets to wish you well on your journey -- we send our love to each of you:
|Beautiful and fragrant plumeria are everywhere - white, pink, cranberry, and apricot colored|