Monday, March 4, 2013

Life on Taveuni

Welcome to our world -- off to teach a lesson
For the last 6 months, our life has been pretty much defined by the sea on one side and villages on the other side of the single road that runs north to south over about half of this 26x7 mile island.  Most of the eastern half of the island where all the water falls run into the sea, is not people-friendly with extremely dense vegetation, sharp drop offs into the ocean, and therefore no roads.

Up and down, up and down, always jostling and bouncing in our seats, we travel this road each day in one direction or another to the four main church centers in Qeleni, Matei, Somosomo, and Vuna, and to many villages in between.  Along the way we've captured some sights and memories that typify life on Taveuni.

The Kids
Smiles, always the smiles.  They seem to love life, love each other, and love social life and play time. They constantly hang out on the road, sitting and laughing together.  It always appears to us that they were on there way somewhere and just decided to sit down and laugh awhile.
Fijians have their own version of "bad hair" days -- but don't seem to care
In families and villages there's a fluidity in child care, everyone seems to take care of each other whether in or out of the nuclear family.  The "olders" are often caring for the "youngers".
Rosana patiently practicing the art of plaiting
Brothers back from bathing in the river -- how fun!
Jyoti ~ an exceptionally bright young woman who wanted to learn about the Church.
We appreciate her sincerity and inquiring mind that always has questions about
life and religion which seem well beyond her years.
Erik Watakini's kindergarten ("kindy") graduation.  His Mom,
Atelini, lovingly made the whole outfit.  We went to the ceremony
and kids were treated as though they'd all graduated from Harvard!
The smiles from graduation were short lived as Erik also "graduated" to circumcision age.  The dreaded but free "circumcision-mobile" visits annually at this time.  We shouldn't laugh but how can you not when large numbers of boys are walking around during the school break with a sulu tied up just as you see below.  They all have their sulus constantly pulled out in front, hmm - to avoid the rub?  In the camaraderie of misery they trapse up and down in the village and on the road headed for the ocean for their daily prescribed sea bath.
Creativity in so many ways.  Young Aisea had made himself a home and was just stirring up a batch of "curry"in a discarded chip bag when we passed by.
The Culinary Milieu
Speaking of curry, welcome to our local fast food dining option where menu decisions are easy.  It is either chicken curry with bones or chili chicken with bones.  We noticed it wasn't listed in the Frommer's guide to Taveuni but then maybe they missed this hometown spot.  When you're seated inside it is difficult to know if you are sweating from the heat in the food or the heat in this little metal trailer, either way the one fan is a special addition.
There's room for four, want to join us?
Guess who got the coveted seat? 
"Camping" is often in our thoughts when we think of describing how many of the local Fijians live day to day.  The Koy family invited us and about 15 others to their home to celebrate the 21st birthday of a much loved elder here.  Can you imagine preparing meals year after year under these circumstances yet they think nothing of it?
Sister Koy was pleased to demonstrate the art of making her delicious roti.  Each one in the
huge stack was beautifully crafted and cooked on the green kerosene stove.
Elder Mabunga was honored on his 21st birthday with a beautiful
home made lei and a chocolate cake made in his honor
A wonderful meal and a wonderful family who has gone out of their way
to love the missionaries.
Although no photo to document, we have vivid memories of enjoying post dinner conversation when a bird, a small plane? - no it was just a humungous cockroach flew into Annie's face. Hitting her forehead first and then somehow it's foot struck her eye, giving it a nasty scratch.  Struggling to recover, she heard the mother say of the intruding king of ugliness; "Oh, it's because the rainy season is coming."  Poor little cockroach, can't stand a little rain? Well, perhaps so and we noticed a lot of his "friends" who had already settled in for the night and they seemed to be welcomed guests.

Chocolate cake seems to be everyone's favorite no matter where you live so recently we have spent several Saturday afternoons with young women who wanted to learn how to bake them.  In contrast to Americans who stand and use counter tops, the Fijians generally prefer the floor, presumably that would be because they have no cabinets in their kitchens.  This group baked in partners and each went home with a cake for their families.  As young Joyti (center in pink blouse) proudly carried her cake home, she melted our hearts when she exclaimed, "This is the best day of my life!" Her mother promised her she would be able to bake her own birthday cake this next month so we gave her some candles to dress it up.

These girls from Vuna really got into it.  

This was a new technique to me but one tried and true to her.

We introduced them to German Chocolate Icing made with
freshly grated coconut, and it was a BIG hit.
One reported, "It's even good on bread!"
All ages enjoyed this activity.  The first young women activity ever for this
newly formed group.
Making French Bread brought this lovely group together.  With only one oven all were very patient in getting a turn to bake.   
All were experienced bakers but none had made French Bread so they
loved adding this to their repertoire
Sometimes we feel kind of sorry for ourselves when it comes to our limited food options.  One morning we were noticing a tree near by our deck that had large green balls on it. What could they be?  Hallelujah, we have avocados!  Now if only tortilla chips didn't cost an arm and a leg here.  Avocados are in the same league as chocolate cake so it has been fun to gift them and also discover some new recipes.  Ever tried avocado bread?
Local beauties from our own tree
Mangos grow everywhere here so we did what seemed like a provident thing to do and made a small batch of jam.  The excess we froze for smoothies which seemed like a good way to use the local produce. 
 Crafting Corner
Most of the women love to get together to create and visit.  Each church unit here owns one sewing machine and a few women have their own so by combining resources we can have 3 machines and do quite well.  Every few weeks we have gathered together to work on some simple quilting techniques.  Last December we found a school uniform making factory in Suva that was willing to donate a rather large bag of fabric scraps which has been a godsend for these projects. Table space was limited but that was no obstacle as you can see.  Each brings a little something to contribute for a light lunch- cucumbers and tuna, guavas, canned meat and bread or perhaps some pre-cooked dalo from home. Sharing something we've baked from home with simple ingredients they have access to is always appreciated and they often ask for a copy of the recipe to try at home.
While Annie works with the women, Tom helps get the generator started for enough electricity to run a couple sewing machines and the computer where he trains leaders on Church software.  Unfortunately, there's not enough power to also run the iron so when it comes time for that, we shut all the other machines down.  It's ok though, we all need time to wipe the sweat off and swab the mosquito bites.  Just before we met, the branch president had sprayed for cockroaches and it was a lucky thing because all those foraging worker ants carrying a big dead roach up the wall to their home would have otherwise had nothing to eat.  It was truly an amazing feat. Ok, enough of life in paradise, now back to the sewing . . .
Found foam insulation will serve as batting for the hand bag
Two Lusi's waiting to serve their missions soon and making bags to take
Sister Bibi was perfectly happy on the floor with a hand-crank machine
And so is he!
Craft supplies are a bit limited here but potatoes were in our cupboard so Annie was set to be able to cut stamps and print.  Imported acrylic paints from our December trip to Suva allowed us to proceed with plans to make banners for each of our Primaries.  No paint brushes, hmm... Tom's whisker brush for his electric razor worked great taped to a pencil.  Lest you think we were wasteful, we were able to cut off the painted parts of the potatoes and cook them up for dinner but that does mean these are "limited editions".

Finished product after the kids added their prints
Always trying to bring added variety to the teaching options for the Primaries, we recently received home made flannel boards made by our talented mission nurse.  They fold up and will travel easily to church.  Kind and generous friends from the US brought flannel board pieces we divided up for the 4 Primaries.  No need for computers when you have access to these.
Sights along the way
The smoke drifting through the heavy rain caught our eye one day as we drove north.  We'd been wondering what this odd shaped shed was for so we pulled in to get a closer look.  With all the smoke and rain you wouldn't think a fly could survive but we were swarmed as we got out of the car and neared the "processing plant."  Guess they like coconut too!  Turns out, this is the village copra drying operation that precedes the pressing out of prized coconut oil.

Though we've been here for nearly 18 months, we are daily reminded that here on Taveuni we not only live in a different time zone, but perhaps in a different century.

After the day's work on a copra plantation, our friends Teivita
and Loma head out for some spear fishing
A family out for some net fishing in the early evening
Headin' home after a long day -- what a joy to be together!

Goodnight Taveuni


Leah said...

You guys! Seriously couldn't have picked a more resourceful couple to go on this mission. You cooked the potatoes after using them as stamps...

Ditto Family said...

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Could I do it?? I think because you always wanted to be a pioneer is why you have the ability and courage to do what you are doing.

emily a. said...

Ditto to what my sissy's said. I'm certain your mission is the best documented mission ever. I love love love all the details.

Running Rinnes said...

Thanks again for transporting us to another "time and century." We love these glimpses through your experiences. Heikki & Vicki

Matt said...

What incredible examples of using what you have. You both have given them such a gift in bringing your talents and ideas from the states to them, however I imagine that equal gifts have been given in return in their love and talents! We can't wait to see you soon.

Matt said...

What incredible examples of using what you have. You both have given them such a gift in bringing your talents and ideas from the states to them, however I imagine that equal gifts have been given in return in their love and talents! We can't wait to see you soon.

Lester said...

I was born in the Fiji Islands and served my mission there too. One of my areas was Taveuni and in Somosomo. Back then (1983),we had a little wooden chapel. To see through your photographs the members of the church and the places and people, bring so many wonderful memories. I miss that place and I'm sure you will too. Thanks for sharing.

Julie said...

I stumbled upon your blog today while searching for a Fiji Suva Mission blog. My daughter is currently serving her mission in Taveuni and it was such a treat to see your pictures and see what it's like to live and serve on that island. She LOVES the people in Taveuni and has had wonderful experiences there. I'm so glad I found your blog!