Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pride over Money

Tonga Rugby Team
I'm not sure where to start as this week has been absolutely crazy (in good ways).  I suppose I'll start with the major excitement around the island.  After Tonga won their match with Samoa last week in their round one match of the  Rugby League World Cup tournament, they moved on to meet New Zealand this week and defeated them in and exciting match held in Hamilton New Zealand last night (Saturday for us).  This week has been filled with excitement as advertisements were posted almost everything.  Pride over money was the main theme as several players (Tongans) qualified to play for two countries in the tournament (their choice).  As I understand it, five players (Tongans by blood) choose to play for Tonga instead of a tier one team (NZ or Australia).  The significance is that they could have made $50,000. playing for a tier one team instead of the $30 per day they get playing for Tonga.  Tonga (along with Samoa and Fiji) is considered a tier 2 team and no tier 2 team has ever won a game over a tier 1 team in World Cup Rugby (which started in 1985).  You can read a brief summary of the match by clicking here.

It was too dark to get a good photo so this is a stock photo
from the internet that gives you an idea of what I am trying
to describe.  Both lanes (in and out of town) were packed!
This led to pandemonium here in Tonga .... EVERYBODY was out in the streets dancing and running around or driving around in their cars packed with people (inside and out - yes people on top of their cars!) displaying Tongan flags, hooting and hollering blaring music and honking horns.  They kept this up until the wee hours of the morning (as we heard).  Having those pictures in mind, the people were not destructive at all and were just celebrating this momentous occasion for Tonga.  I have included one of our photos below ... it is pretty dark but you can definitely get the idea from it.

Photo of celebration night in downtown Nuku'alofa.  Becky
took this photo as we were trying to work our way through the
spontaneous party. 
During this celebration, we had a fun trip into town to take care of a sister missionary who had been bitten by a Molokau and traffic in town was bumper to bumper and at a standstill.  We were fortunate enough to find our way through so we could get to the MQ but coming back was a little more dicey.

There is also an election coming up this week so on top of all the hoopla surrounding rugby, there is also the spectacle of all the political propaganda with posters and flyers tacked up everywhere.  This is a special election as the King disbanded the Parliment several months ago as he wasn't happy with some of the things that were happening.  The government here are elected officials but everything can be changed by the King who has absolute power (the people here are very loyal to their royalty).  There's a short wiki page on the government and general the election on Nov. 16th you can read by clicking here.

Tongan Molokau (6-8 inches long)
A little about the Molokau.  It is a centipede-like creature that is really the nastiest creepy-crawly that exists here in Tonga.  Their bite is incredibly painful, and they will chase you - yes chase you - across the floor looking for a fight.  Perhaps they ride Harley's in their off time.  There is a story of a local trying to kill one with some bug spray and it actually chased him down the length of the hallway.   They're aggressive little buggers and appear in the strangest places without warning. Becky saw one out in front of our apartment one morning and gave it a wide berth but other than that we have been spared the battle.

Lepeka and Elder Grant (Utah) looking
through her bag of potions for some
eye of newt.
Treatment for the bite was successful and the sister is feeling great.  Treatment?  White vinegar applied to the area, ice and elevate ... and two Benadryl (to neutralize the bugs venom and provide a good nights sleep) ... and of course, a Priesthood blessing and some prayers (that was probably all that was needed, but I let Becky think she was helping by doing all the other stuff first).  

The missionaries continue in good health with a few bumps and bruises and some sickness but so far they are of the standard garden variety and pretty easily treated.  

We have some area authorities coming next week for a mission tour.  President Haleck (Pacific Area President), Elder Cardon (Pacific Area 1st Counselor), and Elder Uceda (Member of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy who assists Elder Neil L. Anderson with supervising the Philippines and Pacific area).  We have several meetings with them during the week and expect it to be a real spiritual high for us.

We are getting an unexpected surprise as we have a new senior missionary couple that will be arriving this week.  Elder and Sister Coombs.  He is an oral surgeon and our current dentist couldn't be happier.  He had put in his plan to request a second dentist and voila ... he's on his way.  There must be some master planner in charge somewhere.  We had a chance to speak with them last week as we worked out some of the logistics and we think they will love it here.  They know our good friends the Prestons (currently serving in the Marshall islands) who give them glowing references.  That's good enough for us!

Exhibit B
Exhibit A

The new Dentist has been organizing the clinic by putting in some adjustable shelving and bins.  He had to do this on weekends and after hours as the clinic is open every day and he was the only dentist here.  He did get some help from the previous temporary dentist before he left town.

There is also an election coming up this week so on top of all the hoopla surrounding rugby, there is also the spectacle of all the political propaganda with posters and flyers tacked up everywhere.  This is a special election as the King disbanded the Parliment several months ago as he wasn't happy with some of the things that were happening.  The government here are elected officials but everything can be changed by the King who has absolute power (the people here are very loyal to their royalty).  There's a short wiki page on the government and general the election on Nov. 16th you can read by clicking here.

We had a couple more hot muggy days last week and when it gets like that there's not much relief (at least outside).  It even gets pretty muggy inside but at least we have A/C.  Our missionaries hardly miss a beat and it is amazing to talk to them as they don't even complain, they just keep on working.

Love to all from Tonga!

Becky trying on her Pule Taha.  The dressing room is a three-sided
curtain in one of the aisles.  The patterns on the dress are Tongan

We ordered some custom made clothing from one of the shops in Nuku'alofa.  It took about a month for them to make our clothing but the custom work and fit made it worth the wait.  I had a shirt made from the same material with a mandarin collar.  You can see it on the hanger behind Lepeka.  I won't get to wear it much here as I am always in a white shirt and tie but it will definitely get worn when I get back.  I tried to get a tie made from the same fabric but they don't make ties and wouldn't sell the fabric ... I'm not sure why.

The way or data closet looked after the internet provider left.
We are making progress installing the new Family History Center
computers but it is slow.  We have to download some configuration
files from SLC that take about 13 hours to download at our current
speeds.  Having the internet stay up for 13 hours in a row is another
challenge.  I hope we are able to get someone's ear to look at our
network design.  Until things change it will always be a struggle.

Elder Mateale (Arizona) and Elder Grant at their MQ in Folaha.
Zone leaders in the Vaini Zone.

No back windshield and no wiper blade but the wiper motor was
running full speed back-and-forth.

Just in case anyone needs a Lawyer in Tonga who has Tonga skills.
Youth Mission Book Shop in Vaini.  All of the white papers
are special book deals.

Looking out over the ocean at the West-most point on the Island
at dusk.  The beach is called surfer beach.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Kindergarten dancers

The sisters were training some kindergarten children how to hula for their graduation program in Nakolo and we were able to stop in just in time to catch them practicing.  It was fun to watch them (as it is with most young kids) as they do their best to mimic the instructor.  That is such a fun age as they are starting to come alive with personality.

We were able to catch a short video of their number as they practiced.  We were a little bit worried that we would be too distracting to them but they seemed to stay focused and did their best to learn the steps they were being taught.

These youngsters seemed to get a kick out of teaching two old
Palangi's Tongan.  We enjoyed ourselves and hope to be able to
remember some of the things we are learning.  If nothing else,
we can at least be entertainment.
We also started taking a Tongan class again from some of the locals here.  We have an adult instructor and there are several children who volunteered to teach us as well.  They help as talking partners when we role play.  We relearned some of the things we thought we already knew and started in on some new vocabulary words as well.  They seemed to get a kick out of our attempts to say some of the phrases especially when we substituted the word nifo (teeth) with nofo (live or dwell) ... something like, "where are your teeth" instead of "where do you live".

We're not sure we'll ever be able to speak much but we are getting better at understanding and can get around shopping quite well now.  Numbers and some of the more common phrases related to shopping are much easier for us now ... we can even understand how much something costs when they answer us in Tongan which seems to surprise them.

As I mentioned last week pineapple season is upon us and we see pineapples everywhere now.  It's hard to describe how delicious they are as they still have the same pineapple flavor but it is much richer without the acidic after-taste and they are so tender it just melts in your mouth.  I'm sure that will be something we crave when we leave here.  We are making pineapple, banana, orange smoothies (or other pineapple blends) and they are so delicious.

We spent last night and this morning waiting for our internet provider to come swap out our old modem.  When our internet was originally installed they were out of aDSL modems and so we had to find an old one it has worked pretty well for the most part.  Recently it has started dropping the signal quite frequently which has made it difficult to use the internet.  It would go along just fine for a couple of minutes then drop off for 5-10 minutes.  The tech did call late last night to let us know he wouldn't make it but assured us he would be here this morning (Saturday) by 9:30 AM.  Once we reached 11:00 AM we decided we had other things that needed to be done.  It's a good thing we didn't wait as we haven't heard from him all day.  Monday is a holiday so it may be several more days that we have to deal with the spotty connection.

Dinner at Roby Ann's with the Hudsons.
It finally happened ... yes!  I found a good STEAK!  We have been to a restaurant called Roby Ann's but it was clear back in February and I had a hamburger and fries.   When we went this time I noticed that the steak on the menu was listed as New Zealand beef so I thought I'd give it a try  ... SHAZAM!!  This was such a pleasant surprise as all of the steaks I have had to date were tougher and not as flavorful as I am used to in the U.S.  Not very many places even have steak as a menu item in the first place.

Our waitress from Fiji. She's
been in Tonga for one week.
We had to go back the next night  (just to make sure I wasn't dreaming) and try the other steak on the menu.  This one was smothered in mushrooms and a garlic sauce.  We also brought our Heinz 57 (something we found at Costlo several weeks ago and had the foresight to purchase) so everything was just perfect.  I'm sure this will be come a regular dinner hangout (at least every week or two).   Oh, and the company was marvelous as well!

Now for a few random photos from the week.

Elder Tukuhaukava

We took Elder Tukuhaukava to physical therapy at the hospital and caught him posing in front of the full length mirror when he thought no one was watching.  We were able to convince him to give us a pose or two to capture the moment.  He is a native Tongan and finishes his mission in January of 2018.  I call him Elder Malomi (dimples).

I was able to get a good vantage point to take a photo of the indoor market.  The photo on the left is the clothing and souvenirs above the market.  The one on the right is the produce market where we buy most of our fruits and veggies.

This was our welcoming committee at one of the missionary quarters.  I think
they must have beat out the dogs for the missionary left-overs as they started
congregating as we drove in and they didn't scatter as we left.

Random photos from Graduation Day at Liahona (photos courtesy of the Hudsons)

184 Students in this year's graduating class

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ako Fakakakato!

Signing you name to a white shirt is
probably the equivalent of yearbook
signing in the U.S.
Thursday was the last day of school for the year as Summer Break has finally arrived in Tonga.  It was fun to see the kids all out on the front lawn signing shirts and saying their goodbyes.  School will start again near the end of January.  We will enjoy the peace and quite while they are gone but we will also miss seeing them every day.  They are so friendly and treat us so well.

Front lawn of Liahona was swarming
with HS students on the last afternoon
of school for the year.
Aho Fakakakato (Schools out) 
Lest anyone think it is all fun and games here, we had 21 PCs arrive on Friday for the Family History Centers so that should make for some happy genealogists.  We will be deploying them over the next few weeks to various Centers around the island.  It will be a little additional work as we also go through the disposal process for the old PCs as they are at end of life.

We will also do our best to work through some of the ongoing issues around internet connectivity and reliability.  I am having to go about it a little bit differently now as I am on my own but in some ways it does make it easier to get something done.  There will also be an opportunity or two to teach the Family Search program at a few locations around the island.  This is one area where at least we have been able to get some traction related to helping with technology.  The genealogy team here and in Salt Lake City are excited to have some outside help to get them deployed in a timely manner.

Just the beginning of pineapple season.
These are pretty small, about the size of a
softball, but they cheap and very juicy and
soooo tasty!
We understand that pineapple season is just around the corner and we are so excited as the pineapple are so sweet and tasty (without the acid that we are used to).  Even the center of the core is edible and the juice is great in smoothies.  We bought these three for $5 TOP (about $2.50 USD) but they get much cheaper once they really start to come on.  During the off season we can pay $20 TOP for one large pineapple (about $10 USD).  These are one thing we will definitely miss when we return to the U.S.

Young kittens next door behind the
dentists home.
There are a few cats around the campus here with the chickens.  I guess they are harder to keep out than pigs and dogs so the few that are here pretty much have free reign.  One of the cats had a litter of kittens behind the dentists home about a week ago.  Sister Hudson started to put out milk for them but keeps getting hissed at by the kittens.  They don't seem to be very appreciative of the free food.

I also got a good short video of Peg (our one footed chicken).  You can see why we named her Peg, especially as she crosses the sidewalk.  It was sad when we realized that she had lost all of her baby chicks (probably to those ungrateful cats).  We weren't as sad to discover that the rooster (with no concept of day and night either moved on or has been invited to dinner somewhere (as the main course)).

"Peg" the one-footed chicken.

We have enjoyed getting to know the Gardners (our temporary Dentist for the past three weeks).  They had a one week overlap with the new dental clinic directors, the Hudson's.  They are from Spokane Washington and we enjoyed introducing them to Tonga.   The Gardners (Randy and JoAnn standing) and Elder Hudson (clinging to his leg) were able to have a one week over-lap which gave them some time to better organize the clinic (above photos).  Photo on the right L>R, Elder Hudson, Randy and JoAnn Gardner, Sister Hudson.  Sister Hudson is a Dental Hygienist and will also spend some time working in the clinic.

We took both of these couples to Oholei resort for some Tongan food and entertainment.  We have been there before and we enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the entertainment.  I've shared a few photos from the dinner followed by the entertainment which happens nearby in a cave on the beach.

The Tongan Buffet

No Tongan feast is complete without the Puaka (pig).

Plates are made from the stalk of the banana plant.  They did have a fork for us to use
but Tongans eat with their fingers so it was just something they have added for us outsiders.
The "table cloth" (use air quotes) is a banana leaf.  This is the first time we have had pumpkin
here.  Dessert was bread pudding.  I passed on the ota ika (raw fish) and the octopus.
Our security guards for the evening.  The one on the left works at the Hospital by day.
I don't think they are protecting us from anything as this is pretty remote.  Perhaps they
are protecting the island from some unruly outsiders ... sister Kapp can get pretty wild.

One of the dancers caught mid-step.  This is pretty entertaining and the cave
setting makes it wonderful!

Here he dances to protect his fair maiden.

Our pre-dinner entertainment.  The resort owner plays a ukulele and sings
while the others back him up.  They do a few Tongan songs but mostly some
oldie but goodie 60's and 70's music.
This is the highlight of the entertainment, the fire-dancers. 
I only have a few short clips and they were taken in a dark cave.

This is the owners 6 year old grandson who is learning the trade.

All-in-all it was a great week.  We have our new neighbors for the next year and they are a lot of fun.  A few of the new missionaries are having some minor adjustment issues here and there but it looks like the ones who have been here for 2 months now are settling in and adjusting well.  It does take patience as they learn the language but it is still amazing how fast they do learn it.  We have been able to get to know some of them pretty well and we are grateful for that.  It brings a little bit of home here as we do our best to be "grandparents" to them and it makes us feel useful.  Oh how we love our missionaries and the powerful testimonies they share through their service.
One final photo ...

This is a photo of a Spider in one of the Sister missionaries bathrooms.
Not the biggest ones we've seen here but the others were all outside.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Parade Daredevils

Youth standing atop an airplane entry to the parade.

The Tax Revenue Day Parade.  We have seen more parades in the past month than the rest of our stay here combined.  To the best of our knowledge this parade was for Tax Revenue Day (whatever that means) and has something to do with the upcoming election.  This parade may have been the largest one we have seen in Tonga and there have been many lately.   It may have seemed that way due to the fact that we parked on the street before we knew it was coming and were stuck there until it ended.  They didn't block off the road and if there was a break in the parade others would drive off.  I couldn't bring myself to do that so we waited until the end.

Another Parade entry.  Parades always
bring lots of music and dancing.  There
is also lots of hootin' and hollerin' and
plenty of smiles to go around.
We also encountered a parade last Saturday but we were just driving through town and somehow made it through during the parade.  We drove through the intersection before we really knew it was a parade (right in front of the military entry).  Others were doing it as well so I guess it was okay.  No one tried to stop us or yelled or came running after us.  I didn't get any photos of that one so these are both Tax Revenue Day Parade entries.  I think they are trying to draw attention to the fact that they spend the tax dollars wisely.

This Military marching band was the first entry in the parade.

Elder and Sister Hudson  - the new
Dentist and Dental Hygenist at Abel
Tasman's landing
Osi ha'u ae Toketā Ngaohi Nifo fo'ou (the new Dentist has arrived)!  We have thoroughly enjoyed the temporary dentists that have served here during the interim since the John's left in July but at last the new permanent dentist has arrived (one year mission).  Elder and Sister Hudson from Washington State (Spokane) are here for the next year.  We have enjoyed showing them around and orienting them to Tonga as we got to know them better  They are going to be a great addition to the senior couples group here.  They bring lots of energy and great fun personalities.

Elder Hudson (Washington State)
getting fitted for his first Tupenu.
It is amazing the instant connection you feel to the other couples serving here.  We miss those couples who have finished up their service and returned home.  They will be lifelong friends and the community stays in touch with them all.  We also love our young missionaries.  We enjoy our interactions with them and it is fun to see them progress as they serve.  We get to laugh and cry with them and hopefully provide a touch of home for those serving far away from their loved ones.  We are grateful for their health and their testimonies.  We look forward to keeping track of them through the years as well and hope to be able to attend homecomings and weddings as they each move on to the next chapters of their lives.

We also had our senior couples dinner prepared by the cooking students at Liahona High school on Friday evening.  It was part of their final grade and there were people there to judge the food quality and presentation.   There was plenty of palangi food with a few Tongan dishes as well.

The Cooking class staff and our meal.
Presented in the Liahona HS cafeteria.

The dance in the gymnasium.
There was also a dance going on across the street in the gymnasium  so we were able to catch that for a few minutes after dinner.  Here are a couple of photos from the dance.  We were the recipient of several smiles and chuckles as we snuck in and took a couple of photos and were caught movin' to the beat on the sidelines.
A cute little girl at the dance.

These are some photos we took on Saturday.  We (all the senior missionary couples) went down to the coast (about 3K from here) to watch the sunset and see the waves crash into the coastline.  It's actually quite peaceful and Lepeka and I go there quite often.

These last few photos are not for the fainthearted and they are very graphic in nature so you may want to turn your head away now.

Lepeka at the market on Saturday buying vegetables.

More veggies ... I know you're thinking, what is she going to do
with all of those vegetables ... I kid you not, we actually eat them.
I find it hard to believe myself but so far I am still able to find
enough good food that I can choke them down  (hehe).

Some flowers at the market.  I was relieved to discover that they were not on the
dinner menu.  Maybe if I was a little better husband they would have been on the
dinner table though.  Maybe I'll surprise Lepeka next week.