Sunday, September 17, 2017

70th Birthday Bash

Liahona High School celebrated its 70th Birthday at this campus.  The first building on campus was built from cinder-brick which was made by a machine the LDS Church brought here specifically for that purpose a little over 70 years ago.  Since then, cinder-brick construction has become extremely popular and common as it is so good at withstanding the frequent severe storms that come to Tonga.  Also, it does not rot in the high humidity like wood construction.  I also understand that an LDS Church sponsored school had its first presence at the site where Camp Makeke now resides and was started as early as 1926.

They had many events to celebrate the day and things got kicked-off in great fashion with a parade of students and local LDS Church sponsored schools from around the main island.    The total distance of the parade was only about 1/4 of a mile as they marched from in front of the school through the school grounds and back to the large sports field behind the school where additional activities followed.

The first parade entry was the Liahona HS band which we get to hear quite often as they typically practice outside about 200 feet from our apartment.  We took several photos of the parade which consisted of a few cars with balloons but mostly students from each school marching in a group displaying signs with different values  printed on them.  They were all smiles as they proudly passed by us ... all students decked out in the green and white that signifies the LDS sponsored secondary schools in Tonga.

The start of the parade.  We had many people just walking along
side of the parade entries.  I stopped this one too soon so I have one
more short clip of the band playing. 

This is the Liahona High School band. 
They were the only school that had a band in the parade

Be Prayerful
I thought you might enjoy learning a little bit about the education system here in Tonga.  I have interspersed photos of the parade throughout.  I have gotten a few conflicting stories about some of the information below so I went with the consensus or what I thought was the best source.  Some of the photos are fun to click on and look at the details.  These students are so proud of their heritage and their schools.

Be True
Tongan, is a dialect of Polynesian; English, which is taught as a second language in schools, is used mainly for business (and communicating with older palangi missionaries). Wesleyan missionaries introduced formal education into Tonga in 1826, followed by Latter-day Saints, Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations beginning in 1846. The educational system still reflects this colonial/missionary history.

School values
Primary education has been compulsory in Tonga since 1876 and is free for students between the ages of 6 and 14. Education consists of six years at the primary level, three years at the junior secondary level, and three years at the senior secondary level. The first nine years are compulsory.

Liahona student waving for the camera
Levels 1-6 (primary school) are the equivalent of grades 1-6 in the U.S. (correspondingly). Forms 1-6 (secondary school) correspond with grades 7-12 in the U.S. and after form 3 (our 9th grade equivalent) students have to apply and be accepted to forms 4, 5, and 6 (grades 10,11, and 12).  Form 7 is an additional year for students that need it to graduate and it can be taken more than once but students must apply each time and be accepted to attend.   English as a second language is one of the required classes for all.

See the lady laying in the back of the bike cart (green dress).
The secondary schools are mostly sponsored by different Churches.  After secondary school, you can also apply for 2 years of tertiary school which can be technical or vocational colleges.  Churches also sponsor the majority of these schools which include: the Institute for Vocational Education and Training, the Polytechnical Institute, the Teacher's College, Queen Salote School of Nursing, and the Tonga Police Training School.

The Government's Ministry of Education oversees the management of government schools in all provinces, including primary, secondary, and tertiary schools. In addition, it manages the adherence of private schools to the national laws on education and the National Examination programs.  Annual examinations are required for placement of primary school students into government schools; the Tonga School Certificate is the national examination for secondary school students at their fifth year, and the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate examination is given at the sixth year. Examinations and assessments are developed internally or delegated to an external source, but they are monitored and coordinated by this unit of government. Examinations are set in the English language with a strong emphasis at the college level on maintaining knowledge and skills of the Tongan culture.

The missionaries are all well with a few minor health issues.  We received 17 new missionaries two weeks ago and as is usual there are a few that are working through the adjustment of living in Tonga and being on a mission.  The mission president is great to work with as he really cares about his missionaries and works hard to get them in situations where they can succeed.  Lepeka is always on top of everything and always follows through.  We pray constantly for our missionaries to be safe and healthy and that we will be guided and directed in all we do related to their health and well being.  It can be a difficult adjustment as they get used to the culture, living conditions and language.  We develop an instant love for these missionaries.

I'm still working to initiate some conversation around a private Church network in Tonga and I think I am starting to make some headway (at least to have the conversation with Network Engineers in SLC).  It may still stall but I'm hoping to plant a seed if nothing else.  If we can even get a small pilot approved it would be great and I think people would be surprised at what could happen here.  I keep hoping and praying with an understanding that change can be very slow sometimes and perhaps there are reasons unknown to me that would prevent this from happening.  As long as I can present to the right people I have faith that the decision will be the right one and I can live with that either way.

This weeks blog is fairly short but I have added a few more random photos and more of the parade.

Lepeka at the end of the parade.  She is such a joy to be with 24x7.

Waiting patiently in the staging area prior to the parade.
The parade route travels down the road that goes in from of our apartment.

This is the large field behind the school buildings.
We had to leave for a meeting before these festivities started.

One of our famous security guards here at Liahona.
He always smiles and waves at us as we drive in and out.
He really is normal size, but seems to have shrunk to the
'fun size'  for this photo.  Camera angle is looking down
from a small hill.

The last entry in the parade ... or maybe just following behind after taking photos.

Waves breaking at the blow-holes in Houma.  The level of the tide
isn't the best for the blow-holes but the breaking waves were fun to see.
I think I am stuck in slo-mo on my iPhone videos, I'll start checking closer
but I think it is fun to see the slo-mo on this one so I posted it.

They pruned??? the avocado tree behind our apartment.
I don't think it is going to produce any avocados this year.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

This is a photo from our trip to the island of Ha'afeva.  You can
tell we're moving along at a pretty good clip.  Other than a big
splash or two it was a pretty smooth ride.  I gave one of the
ladies my handkerchief so she could dry off her face and never got it back
Recently I traveled to Ha’afeva a small island in the Ha’apai group in central Tonga about 42 km Southwest of Pangai, which is about 156 km North of Tongatapu.  There is a small airport in Pangai which closes the main road when airplanes take-off and land.  I was gone for two days and I installed the internet connection and a new PC which will be shared by several wards on nearby islands as well.  They come to Ha’afeva to meet about once a month and they will now be able to enter their Church financial data and send and receive email.  Becky stayed here on the main island of Tongatapu to care for the missionaries.

While we were waiting on the dock for
the boat, a fisherman fishing from the
wharf caught this needle fish.  I tried
to identify it but the closest I got was
Tylosurus crocodilus.   You are welcome
to zoom in and try to ID it yourself, it's
a very interesting fish with a long sword-
like snout.
There were three of us that made the trip to Ha’afeva.  My job as mentioned was to get the new internet connection working and install the PC.  We flew from Tongatapu to Pangai where we spent the night at an unoccupied MQ near the wharf, then we got on the boat (one of four owned by the the Church in Tonga) early the next morning for our trip to Ha'afeva.  Early is a relative term as we were told to be ready by 7:30 a.m.  The next morning we were ready to leave and down at the wharf with our luggage (I had the PC, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and wireless router in my suitcase).  We were also told to bring all of our clothes and toiletries with us just in case the water was too rough to make the return trip that day.

It was almost 9:00 a.m. before the boat arrived to take us to Ha’afeva.  We were joined by two other women and a baby and 3 crew members for our trip across the water.  It is normally about an hour ride as the boat was powered by two Yamaha 150 HP outboard motors which push it along at a pretty good clip.  The trip was not too bad just a little rough in places and we made the trip from dock to dock in about 55 minutes.  

High speed boat ride to Ha'afeva

The landing dock in Ha'afeva and our boat the Molonai.
  When we arrived it was dry.Three hours later it was
partially submerged.  You can also see the how
broken up it was.  To board we had to wade out to
near the end, then walk back along the top of the wall.
From the landing dock, we walked about 1/4 mile to the meetinghouse (which is actually serves as a small Stake Center for several wards on nearby islands.  I went to work in the Stake President’s office getting my work going and the other two gentlemen started their training meeting a few doors down.  They were training Bishops on the audit procedures. 

Elder Oldroyd and our boat the Malonai at the end of the
dock in Ha'afeva,  you can see how broken up the dock is.
My install went fairly smoothly with a minor hiccup as I was working with the ISP to bring the router online but I eventually got connected with the right person and it came online pretty quickly after that.  The Stake had also received a new copier about a month ago and they had not unboxed it and set it up yet so I did that while I was waiting for them to finish up.  Well we all finished after about 3 hours and went back to board our small craft for the return to Pangai.  The weather looked pretty good and I anticipated we would get back in about an hour with nothing worse for the wear.  It turns out I was wrong.

The trip back would be going against the current and the swells were just enough larger to make a huge difference.  Once we were clear of the reef the pounding started.  I estimated the swells to be about 5-6 feet which didn’t look that bad but in our small craft we were tossed to and fro, jostled up and down and even at our extremely reduced speed it was almost more than I could take.  Elder Oldroyd decide to try and stand (like the crew members) holding onto a railing to see if it would ease the jarring on his spine.  He almost immediately went airborne so he quickly and wisely sat back down (good thing he was holding on).  We had no choice but to endure the incessant and non-stop pounding for the rest of our return trip.  Our return trip took us 90 minutes, almost double the time it took to get there, and I have never been so happy to get off a boat in my life.  My back and neck are still aching just a bit and it has been several days now.

Same boat slower ride back.  I didn't realize my video was being shot
utilizing slow motion but you still get the idea and can see the swells
in the background.  I'm doing my best to hold the video still.

An interesting thing happened while we were crossing the rough water.  As Becky and I have been on many cruises some with much rougher water than this, I thought about how insignificant these waves would be to a large cruise ship as opposed to the small craft I was now on.  The cruise ship could navigate this water at pretty much the same speed as we were able to in our small craft without even noticing the waves that now tossed us about like rag dolls.  Both are seaworthy vessels and safe, yet I’m not sure how often I would make the trip if I had to endure the buffeting time and time again.  

I thought about how this is like the Church in our lives, many of us think we can navigate through the buffeting of society with only our own testimonies (I know I have been there before).  The answer to “Why the Church?” has become obvious to me.  Just as the large cruise ship can sail through the rough waters, the Church can provide that same protection for the buffeting of society.  If we try to do it on our own, eventually the constant barrage that is directed against us will take it’s toll and we will become less and less willing to stand up for what we believe.  I pray that we will all do our best to enjoy the ride on our "luxury liner Church” as we travel through the social upheaval that exists today.  The buffeting will not be gone but we will have a good firm base from which to exercise our Faith.

I am constantly amazed at how life can teach us lessons if we learn to apply our experiences with a focus on what the prophets and apostles teach us.  Everything around us testifies of God and the plan of salvation if we just open our hearts and minds and apply a smidgen of faith.

A few other random photos for the week.

The airplane that flies back and forth between Tongatapu and Pangai.
It holds 17 passengers and you can't walk up and down the aisle without
folding the seats down.

Lepeka in line at the main bread store in Nuku'alofa.  Bread is about $1.50 TOP
(or .72 USD) per loaf unless you but some of the dark rye or multigrain varieties.
Bread is pretty much all they sell here with the exception of a few pastries and drinks. 

The best shot to date of our one-legged chicken.  It's amazing to see how
she gets around so well.  One of these days we'll capture a short video to show you.

More chickens for Lindsay.  They pretty much roam everywhere just like the
pigs and the dogs.  We're surprised that the dogs seem to leave them alone.
President and Sister Tui'one took the senior missionary group to
Liku'alofa Beach Resort where we had a nice smorgasbord dinner
(Tongan food) and an after dinner show. 

I hope they don't have to use this in an emergency.
Fire extinguisher at Liku'alofa Beach Resort

Cute little Tonga child with his dad waiting to order.
This is one of the restaurants we frequent in Ma'ufanga.
It doesn't seem to have a name but the missionaries
call it the Mata (green) restaurant.  All of the walls in
the dining area are lime green.

Duncan is one of our Stake Technology Specialist.
He is also an event photographer and we met him
at the 50 birthday bash for the Wesleyan Church
last week.  We heard from our sister missionaries
that serve in that area that we caused quite a stir
(they said in a good way) as two old Palangi LDS
missionaries attending and enjoyed their event.
If you remember this from last week's blog, we stayed
about 3 1/2 hours and really enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A True Tongan Feast

Sunset over Tonga.    Lepeka captured this sunset on
Aug. 31 2017 while I was in Ha'apai.
It is raining hard tonight as I write our blog.  I love to hear the ping of the rain on the metal roofs here.   The weather is starting to turn warmer and more humid but it is still pretty pleasant overall.  We know that in a few short weeks we will be back to hot and humid so we're enjoying it while we can.

We were invited to attend the 50th birthday celebration for the Free Wesleyan Church in Kolomatu'a on Saturday.  The FWC in Tonga is the world's only state church in the Methodist tradition.  Most of the royal family are prominent members, and the late king was a lay preacher.  One son of the current King is a convert to the LDS Church and his family is okay with it since it really helped him turn his 'wild life' around.  He attends the Temple regularly and has his mind set on only marrying in the Temple.

Just a few FWC facts from Wikipedia:  The Free Wesleyan Church runs approximately 1/3 of the schools in Tonga.  FWC schools are known for their moral education as they teach obedience, hard work, good manners, and respect, which are all high values in Tonga.  As in other schools, FWC schools usually do not have class on Fridays, but instead use the day for school cleanup; all school facilities in Tonga are maintained by the students.  School uniforms are the church's colors: royal blue and white.

Some of Sione's family with Lepeka
(his mom is next to Lepeka)
The family of the young many who Lepeka treated and dressed his arm for the past 3 months, invited us to attend with them as it was some of their ancestors that were the first FWC converts in that area.  It was quite an event!

They kicked off the celebration with a ceremony attended by the current president of the Free Wesleyan Church,  'Ahio (I think that was his name).  There was an re-enactment by the youth, of the first Wesleyan missionaries in Tonga and the conversion of some of the families in that area.  There was also some singing and dancing by the youth of the church and then a performance by some very talented professional singers (4 tenors) who sang
The 4 tenors (names unknown to us) and Sione Heimuli.  We
think the 2nd guy from the left is a Sammy Davis Jr. look-alike.
He had an amazing voice and looked like him when he sang.
several songs and they were outstanding.  The congregation also stood to sing a couple of FWC hymns.  I thought it just a bit ironic that one of the hymns we sang was the same tune as the LDS hymn "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling" especially as I mouthed the words, 'Come to Zion, Come to Zion'.

Then 'Ahio stood to talk and he said just enough in english (enhanced by our limited vocabulary of Tongan) as he praised the freedom of all to worship as they wanted and that they should respect the views of others and strive to always exhibit the high moral standards of Tonga.

Tent and tables covered in food.  It's hard to see the Puaka (pig) between the fruit
baskets as they are covered with food!  Plates are stacked on the food as there is
no room.  See the guy in the middle of the picture in the white shirt?  Lepeka
thinks he needs to work on his tan.
The food in front of me when I sat down.  The brown thing in the upper RH corner
is the roasted puaka (pig).  There was one for every 3-4 people.
Lepeka's food.  You can see she has her own little roasted puaka (pig).
After this ceremony adjourned, we headed to another area where big tents had been setup with tables covered in food .... really, I literally mean COVERED IN FOOD.  There were containers of food that had been stacked on every available inch of the table 3 and 4 deep as well as a small roasted pig for every 3-4 people (no room for plates).  It was unbelievable!  As we were seated Lepeka and I looked at each other in horror and chuckled hoping they weren't expecting us to eat all of the food that was in front of us.  It would have been enough to feed us for a week.  Thankfully, they were okay with us just eating what we wanted.  The "leftovers" would be used to continue the feast tomorrow (Sunday).

Banjo, guitars and singing
Family singing and dancing

More family dancing
The dinner was followed by family presentations as they spoke and presented their prized Tapas to the Church followed by the family singing and dancing.  Then another family would follow.  It is obvious that they all have such respect for others and the family is the center of their worship as well.  We hope you enjoy the photos and are able to see the magnitude of the celebration.  All the stops were pulled out and it was quite an event.  We left after about 3 1/2 hours but it was still going strong.


As they dance people from the audience will come put money
on them to show their appreciation.

Keke (cake) depiction of the early FWC building.

Proud papa and happy child.  They are centered around their families here.

The food has the Sione Heimuli seal of approval.

I had to include a couple more shots of the sunset that Lepeka took whilst I was away.

More of the sunset taken from just outside our front door.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Some pretty mixed messages on the back of this car.
The Boat is fixed!  No it's not ... Yes it is ... No it's not ... Oh wait, the guy who drives the boat says it's down but then I learn they are both are correct ... there are two boats.  The PC is not working.  No, it's not there.   Yes, it is there and working but the internet is connection is down.  You can fly there and return the same day ... if you stay over-night.

You get the picture?  It's tough here sometime to know what is real and what is not so you frequently just have to go find out for yourself.  There are so many great and well meaning people here that sometimes you can't get to the real facts by discussing the situation.  I have walked away from many meetings wondering what just happened.  I know some of it is my language barrier and I have to accept my weakness there, however, it is hard to make plans or get much done quickly when you have to make so many personal visits just to get a good view of the real issues.

Word on the street is that this is to be a new
Cost-lo store.  I'll be surprised if it is as no
 store in Tonga is that large.  Our current
Cost-lo here is probably about 30x40 sq. ft.
Most of this weeks post are a little bit random in nature and so I thought I'd take the opportunity to post a few photos we have taken in the past few weeks but not posted.  No method to the madness so just roll with it.

As you might have guessed from the first paragraph, I am headed to one of the outer islands next week.  A one hour flight to Pangai, then about an hour high-speed boat ride to Ha'afeva to see if we can get their computer, firewall and internet up and working again.  I'll leave Wednesday afternoon and return on Friday morning (at least that is the current plan).  From what I understand, their system has been down now for about a year.  Other than "it is down"  it's hard to get any feel for what exactly is not working.  Best guess at this point .... nothing is working.  I am hoping to find a PC that I can take with me and I have a new wireless router, the firewall may not even exist.  We'll see what we encounter and try to get them back on-line.  I'm hoping to touch base with someone local to teach them how to troubleshoot and get it working again should it go back down after I leave.

Road construction markers consist of
rocks, sticks a pile of dirt and in this
case "caution tape"
It is hard to accept the slow pace of change sometimes.  The phrase "The more times you run over a dead cat the flatter it gets" comes to mind (please, no hate mail - I am not advocating running over a cat).  I am hoping we are making progress and I do see some indications of that from time to time.  One of our signs of successes is with the Stake Technology Specialist in the Matahau Stake, Brother Moli.  He just received a new projector and called me because he didn't want to open the box without my approval.  I asked it he felt comfortable opening it up and testing it himself and he said, "yes".  I wanted to tell him to "tear it up", but chose my words more carefully and just said, "Yes, go ahead.  Let me know if you have questions or need help".   He was so excited when everything worked for him and then called to ask about the next phase of moving forward in his Stake.  SUCCESS!

We also had one of the local maintenance workers at Liahona campus
approach us and ask if there were things he could do to help as he wants to learn more about technology (especially computers).  We will teach him as he wants to learn.  He didn't have the opportunity to go to school but is so interested in Technology.  We got approval from his supervisor as long as we give her some advanced notice.

I debated with myself whether or not to mention this but it is part of our experience so warts and all here it is.  We were coming back from Nuku'alofa about 7:30 A.M. on Monday as we were bringing some Elders to the Dental clinic here at Liahona.  We were on Hihifo road which is one of the main roads and leaving town in a group of several cars when a police officer gave me a signal which I took to mean slow down.  I did and we passed by them, they then jumped in their truck and flagged us down.  It turns out that was his signal for me to stop.  He didn't seem to happy with me and showed me his RADAR gun with had clocked me at 5 KPH over the speed limit (about 3MPH).  His partner wrote me a ticket which I signed and we left.  We went to pay the fine later in the day and after being directed to 3 different locations, paid the fine of $35 TOP (about $15). USD).

I really try to obey the traffic laws and be courteous but there are almost no speed limit signs so it is sometimes difficult to know how fast to even go.  You can have an area where the speed limit is 70 kph.  This converts to about 40 mph and is the fastest you can legally drive anywhere.  You will also have people driving 20 kph (this converts to about 12 mph).  You just have to go with the flow unless you're brave enough to attempt the pass.  People quite often just stop by a roadside stand without even getting off the road.  You either wait or inch around them when the oncoming traffic will allow it.  It is just a different pace of life here.  We're mostly used to it so it doesn't bother me much (disregard the twitch).  In the interest of full disclosure, the drivers here are extremely courteous.  They never seem to get impatient and someone will always let you merge in front of them.  That has done a lot to teach me better driving habits and over-all patience in general.

The humid air here has brought my life-long mild asthma condition to the forefront and I was having a few related problems (nothing serious).  With Lepeka's recommendation, and after a visit to the local clinic, I was put on a low-dose inhaler twice a day to see if that would help.  They measured my lung capacity and then I went back about 10 days later to see if there was any improvement.  I know I was feeling better and not wheezing as much but we found I had a 33% increase in lung capacity.  I guess I'll keep using it at least until I get back to a more arid climate again.  It is interesting how small issues can become magnified in the extreme humidity.  At  least the weather has been cooler during the Winter here.

Elder Woods with his favorite
Mac n Cheese
Lepeka just keeps going day after day and does such an amazing job with the missionaries.  They all seem to genuinely love her even when she gets on them about cleaning their MQs of some other healthy habit.  We never let anything go until tomorrow without seeing the missionary if they call.  Sometimes she will whip up a batch of cookies or in this case "Mac and Cheese" just to cheer up a missionary and give them a taste of home cookin'.  She is very thoughtful and is always looking for someone to help make their day.  Elder Wood is at a nearby MQ and happens to love Mac and Cheese so unannounced we showed up with food.  As it turned out, their fafanga (meal provided by local members) was cancelled and they would have ended up having to find their own food (coincidence?).

This week we say goodbye to several missionaries and welcome 17 new ones coming in the following week.  It will be hard to say goodbye but we look forward to making new friends and getting to know the missionaries as they start their service.

We are losing one senior couple, the Waddoups from Idaho.  We are sorry to see them go as we have become good friends with this humble couple but we are excited for them as they have served honorably and miss their family at home.  Their replacement arrived this week but we are still in need of other senior couples if you know of anyone who is interested.

We hope you enjoy this weeks random photos from Tonga.

The Authorized Apple repair shop.  He also has a few Apple products for sale.
The standard Apple wireless mouse sells for about $150. USD.

This is a closeup of the side of his shop.  It is a Sundial and tells the time.
I'm not sure how accurate it is but you can see the dot of light in the shadow
of the eave that is supposed to tell the date and time.  I haven't tried to figure
it out yet as I have a handy little watch on my wrist that is still working.

Brother and Sister Huni - extremely dedicated to serving the poor in Tonga.
He still goes fishing to provide food for the needy.  No one is able to list all that they
have done here.  I think at last count there are approximately 500 chicken coops
that he has been instrumental in helping build.  They are a cute couple and they
invited all the senior couples to their home for dinner to say goodbye to the
Waddoups who leave us in 8 days.  We'll definitely be sorry to see them leave.

This is a cute little guy that Becky had to get a photo of.  Becky said he 
is in his future missionary attire.  He is standing by one of our missionaries.

Kapo Lauti wanted me to take his photo.
We have worked with his mom and dad as we
have done some of our community computer
Samisi and Tevita (Sam and David) wanted
to have their picture taken.  Becky's 2 older brothers
are Sam and David (same haircut as Sam
 and David too!) - (cue music)  It's a circle .... a circle of life!
Just before Church on Aug 27, 2017

This is a photo of a small section of the Farmers Market in Downtown Nuku'alofa.
This is the outside facing the street.  There is also a large area inside where locals
will sell their produce.  Winter here definitely has the best veggies.

Universal Pharmacy in Nuku'alofa.  The largest Pharmacy here.  One of the main
health clinics is also run out of this pharmacy each weekday evening starting
at 5:00 P.M.

One of our regular lunch locations is A Taste of the Island.  It is really more
of what we would see in the states as far as menu items.  Fish and Chips,
Chicken and Beef burgers, Veggie Stir fry etc. Oh yeah, and Diet Coke!
The blue dots represent the islands of Tonga laid out over
Utah and Idaho so you can get a feel for how spread out they
are.  Don't loose sight of the one up near Idaho Falls.
The total land mass of Tonga  is only 289 square miles.