Oh what a lot there is to learn as a new missionary!
My computer went on the blitz soon after I arrived in Fiji. It took 2 1/2 weeks for them to figure out that my hard drive was bad. One of the senior couples here was expecting family to come and visit. I emailed Paul the night I found this out and when I awoke in the morning and called him, he had already purchased a new computer and delivered it to the family just an hour before they left for the airport. They delivered it to me about 18 hours later. What service that was! The computer is a touch screen Lenovo with Windows 8--the program that is all APP's. It has been a very sharp learning curve for me but I am finally getting it down and it has some wonderful features.
One of my responsibilities is to be aware of the medical facilities and providers in Fiji. As part of that, my companion and I took a three day drive around the main island, Viti Levu. Viti is the actual name of the nation. That was so much fun and was so educational. We toured several hospitals and met a number of physicians. There is national health care here in Fiji which is free for Fijians. Recently they started charging non-residents. Since the British left in the 70's, the infrastructure throughout the country has suffered, including the hospital buildings. There are two large hospitals plus small hospitals in many of the towns. We found out that there are only two actual cities in Fiji--Suva and Lautoka--where the two large hospitals are located. There is also one private hospital in the country and it is located in Suva and provides most of the care for our missionaries. All the hospitals have xray and sonogram and most lab tests. The large hospital in Suva also has CT scan and MRI. There are some specialists but no neurosurgeons so serious cases must be life flighted to New Zealand. It was great to see the rural countryside with their sugar cane fields and the many little villages where life moves at a slower pace and many live off the land and the sea.
|A traditional building
|Lots of livestock on the roads
Sugar cane is the main crop on the north and west of the island. Evidence of it was everywhere. The East Indians were imported to work the cane fields in the 1800's. Now there are some large plantations requiring trains to haul the cane and many small plots run be individual families.
|These trains run on very narrow tracks and move the cane
|Huge trucks like these were all over the roads
|house on stilts
|Houses were humble and often pretty
|Traditional greeting post made from the roots of a plant and put in front of a home
|more common housing
The scenery was stunning as we drove along the coast on the east side coming back to Suva
The next week we had a huge intake of new missionaries--22--which increased the size of the mission by about 20% all at once. Lots of time and planning went into it and as a result it went very well. New areas needed to be opened up. If the president wants to open a new area for proselyting, he must visit the chief of that village and go through a very formal ceremony of offering a whale's tooth. That happened in one area and the chief started to cry. He had joined the church years before when living outside of the village and had given up on the idea that the church would ever be in his village.
For three days we were arranging or preparing meals, dealing with lots of luggage, getting missionaries oriented, helping them purchase sandals and sulus (the wrap around skirts that the elders all wear, pairing them up with a companion and then sending them off. Some were sent to remote islands, reached by boat. Some of the islands only get a boat in monthly or less often. For one of the meals we did a brunch and had them make their own French toast and syrup. It was a good teaching moment. There was a lot of excitement and energy.
During that same week we were saying goodbye to two senior couples and two young missionaries. Again there were lots of meals and photos and tender moments.
|The Terrys, Elder Smith, the Kennerlys and Sis. Lewenatotoka (between the Kennerleys)
There have been lots of medical issues to deal with. We have had three hospitalizations, two needing MRI's, one needing IV antibiotics on an outpatient basis, some rather serious boils, as well as the usual injuries and illnesses. This has all been very interesting to me and has kept me really busy. It has been really satisfying to be connected with medicine again.
We got our piano program started the week after the large intake. Once word went out, we had many applicants from a total of 8 wards. About 16 had some experience already. Another 45 or so were beginners. We teach three classes on Sunday, one beginner class on Monday afternoon and one more advanced class, and a beginner class on Thursday with more advanced classes before and after. It is going well and is very rewarding. We have received enough keyboards from the Harman Grant Program to allow us to teach classes of up to 10 students at a time. We use the more advanced students to help us during the beginner classes so we can teach that large number of students. I think that they learn more that way anyway. The teacher always learns more than the student.
|These are some of our piano students holding Flat Stanley who is explained later
Our Mission President asked us to start attending the Tamavua ward, held at the LDS College. We are both working in the primary and visiting teaching with separate partners to less-active sisters. I am one-on-one with a four year old autistic boy in primary. His family has been very appreciative of information I have been able to give them about autism and some techniques for behavior modification. It will be a challenge but should be very rewarding.
Julie's second daughter, Natasha, has received a mission call to Korea and entered the MTC in Sept. Her father, Brock, has recently completed all but his dissertation for his PhD in rural development. He has been applying at various universities. The university who was most interested in him was one in Korea. They accepted the offer of a two year professorship and will move to Korea in February, returning to Nauvoo Illinois in the summers. They will not be living in the same mission as Tashi will be serving in.
Pat's granddaughter had a class project where they colored a large paper boy named Flat Stanley. He could then be folded up and mailed off to various places in the world. Her granddaughter sent Flat Stanley to Fiji and we got to take him around to a number of places to get his photo taken. We had so much fun with that and we drew a lot of attention as we tried to tape him to light poles and various other places around Suva so we could photograph him.
|At the sea wall
|In the children's library
|An intersection in downtown Suva
|A classroom of 8 year olds at the LDS Primary School
This is in our office with some missionaries. The Islander missionary is the only one I've found with Windows 8 knowledge
|At the post office
|With the coconut vendors
|At the produce stand
The stake Relief Society had a big fair with a wonderful musical program on "The Woman at the Well" and then lots of talent from each ward. Afterward there was an opportunity to browse through rooms decorated by various wards where they displayed and sold crafts and food. It was so fun. I bought a huge sea shell which was all decorated up with Fijian flowers.
That's all for now. Hope you have enjoyed the tour of my world.