Thursday, February 21, 2013

Treasures in Taveuni

A couple months ago, just after Ela and Ana were baptized, Ela mentioned that her cousin Rosana Valelala was interested in learning about the Church and asked if we would teach her.  Ela lives in the same home with Rosana, who is a bright but quiet young woman and they both help Rosana's single mother to raise young Litiana, an adopted sister.
Ela helping Litiana with a gifted headband sent from Yakima
Loving sisters, Rosana and little Liti 
Although only 14 years old, Rosana understands well and has been attending Church for several months.   When she was ready and her mother consented, we had a lovely baptism across the road from their home in Vuna at our traditional place on the sea shore.  It was a nice high tide and her friends from the church gathered to celebrate with her.  
 Ela herself would like to serve a mission in the future and has been independently studying the scriptures as well as serving as a teacher to high school age girls in the small Vuna unit of the Church.  We are delighted with how well she is doing so we asked her if she would prepare a talk on baptism for Rosana's program.  Ela not only wrote out a beautiful talk, but also memorized and delivered it with grace as we stood under a small tree by the shore. 

Rosana and Tom then walked out into the sea for the baptism.  It's always so unique there since many of the kids who come along are just swimming and enjoying themselves before and after the baptism.
After the baptism we sat around and visited along the shore with some of the members, sang hymns, and generally enjoyed this beautiful moment.  Fijians have beautiful voices and this group even gathers on Saturdays to practice and learn new hymns for the next day.
With a new haircut, Ela sits with a traditional hand-made Fijian fan
Tradition has been set, so following the program they all love Annie's banana bread or other treats she makes and brings with us.  It was so funny because the bread knife got lost under a seat in the bumpy ride down to Vuna so she ingeniously settled for our big cane knife to slice the loaves. After the treats, the kids jumped back in the ocean and played around (the water is always a perfect temperature).  Tom was walking by the sea a few yards from one 10 yr. old girl who was swimming with a mask and snorkel and it dawned on him that he was hearing her sing a muffled version of "I am a child of God" through her snorkel as she swam along!

Other kids had also gone down the shore and gathered seed pods from a tree and brought them back to where we were.  With a handy volcanic rock, they pounded open the 2-3 inch pods to find a long narrow seed that tasted somewhat like an almond -- yummy.

The sea is everyone's friend.  They swim and play, hand-line fish and spear fish, gather various things to eat from it's waters and shoreline, and run along the shore playing games -- it is nothing short of wonderful to us and we love that part of Fiji.

Saying our goodbyes, we headed southeast to Navakawau, the very last village where the road ends on Taveuni.  We went to have a visit with a man and his wife who are also preparing for baptism (the young missionaries are teaching them).  This is a village that is very isolated and we arrived just as a big gathering of people were butchering a cow.  They had quartered it and were skinning it out and cutting up the meat for everyone in this quite large village.  Few visitors venture down to this village -- especially white ones, and the moment we arrived one of the butchers came right over with a big toothless Fijian smile and reached out a crusty, bloody hand to welcome us to the village. Oooh . . .
The "butcher shop" along with what we think are dalo suckers to be planted
We watched briefly as they worked and saw the kids taking pieces of hide, the tail, etc. and play tug of war with the dogs. Walking down to the home of our friends we found that the husband had gone out spear fishing.  Of course there are no phones down there so you just go and hope you catch people.  Since Muri was not home, we visited with his wife, Mele, and their kids.  
Earlier that day, we had gathered about 15 coconuts from the yard and since they have fewer coconut trees in that village area, we thought Mele might like them (when available, they regularly cook with coconut cream and then use the husks for their fires).  By that time, we had gathered a large entourage of kids from the village who were intrigued with their white visitors, so we asked them if they would come along and help us get the coconuts.  The truck was parked about a block distance from the home so we ran and played with the kids back to the truck where Luisa climbed under the bed cover and gave each child one or two coconuts.


All the kids trailed back down to Mele's home with coconuts in their arms. It was so funny as they were getting a real charge out of the event and one girl kept looking back at us as we took pictures, when all of a sudden she ran into a big bamboo pole that was propping up a clothes line and broke it in half!  Everyone laughed like crazy and it all added to the uniqueness of the moment.  Unfortunately, the movie we were taking had stopped just a second before she broke the old weathered pole -- it would have been so great to have it preserved, particularly her laughter after the fact.

After dumping the coconuts near Mele's outdoor kitchen, Annie suggested we play "Duck, Duck, Goose" so we got in a large circle and taught them the game.  We could tell they were struggling with "goose" until we realized they don't have geese here and didn't know what we were talking about, so we changed that to "chicken".  They absolutely loved it. Since all homes are close to each other in a village, many other people gathered to see the game and cheered the kids along.  When we were done, we were visiting with one mother and then she asked, "can you get them all to go take their baths now?"  But everyone was too wound up for that so we raced back up the hill to the truck and played "follow the leader" for a bit.
While the young missionaries are fluent in Fijian, we are not so we couldn't really verbally communicate well with the little kids, but all children speak "play" and we had a great time.  As we backed out and drove away, about 15 of them mobbed the truck and waved goodbye.  Many of them had seen our name tags and yelled out as we drove away, "Good bye Sister Sherry!"  What a magical day.