Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Cockroach Experience

Iakwe in jota (Good Evening)  Emmon ao mour (My life is good)

These are the only kids I have seen out on the ocean side swimming
I am not a newcomer to cockroaches.  I lived in Hawaii for many years and I have seen some big, fat, ugly ones.  As missionaries we spray our apartments with permethrin every 6 weeks.  This helps to keep the bugs like cockroaches and ants and mosquitoes from getting into our apartments.  Well, I haven't seen any live cockroaches but every once in a while, a big dead one appears on the floor.  The first time I saw it laying there, I took my little hand broom and dust pan and started to pick it up.  I went to sweep it into the trash and there was no cockroach to be seen.  I couldn't figure out where it went.  All of a sudden it jumped out of the broom and ran like crazy.  I was too busy screaming to look at where it was going.  Later in the day I found one laying on the floor again and I just swept it out the door and saw it land in the dirt.  Now, I am very careful when I see them laying there and don't assume they are dead.  Luckily I have only seen maybe 4 since I got here. I hate hate hate them.

The Marshall Islands Cockroach

I told some of my grandchildren I would put in a few pictures of my apartment building and the inside of my apartment.  Anyway, here it is

My Apartment Building
My door, I am #12

My Kitchen
My bedroom
My office

My living Room

My Living Room

My keyboard and extra room

Its a good apartment building.  There are three buildings with three levels on two of them.  I live on the ground floor and my backyard is just a cinder block fence.  Some of the senior missionaries live on the second floor and they have a beautiful view of the ocean from their apartments.  To look at the ocean,  I have to walk over to the end of the building and climb up this little burm that was created as a block against the waves that might get big.  When the tide is high they are right there by the burm.

The bay where the kids were trying to boggie board on wood

My ward building

The tides are very interesting here.  They seem to be more extreme than I have ever known them to be in Hawaii.  When its low tide, the tide is really out there.  Like for instance when we walked over to some of the little islets at low tide.  It was really easy and the water was so shallow in most places.  When the tide is high, the waves really crash onto the reef and sometimes, I guess in a very high tide they have come up to the road.  I guess in 1979, some very high tidal waves washed over the atoll in a few places and took out some homes.  I should read more about that.  I have read a lot about the Marshall Islands' history, especially during World War II.  Its very fascinating. If anyone wants to come over and go diving, there are many World Ward II wrecks that you can dive to and they say there are many yet to be found under the water.

My favorite gas station.  They gas it up for you

I also told some of my grandchildren that I would take some pictures of  some of the city areas since many of my pictures I have posted in the past have been of the windward west side that doesn't have the population like the actual city does.  The thing that strikes me about the city is the old buildings that are never torn down but they just remain in shambles and stay right where they are in the middle of town or in the middle of a neighborhood.  I have heard that sometimes people just sleep in the rubble and you do see clotheslines with people's clothes hung in those old partially torn down buildings and homes.  The homes are very humble and close together.  Many of them have several families that sleep in the same house.  Most houses do not have furniture, making it possible for lots of people to put down mats and sleep on the floor. Many families wash by hand and do cooking outside on fire pits.  There are children everywhere.  When you go down these tiny little side streets, of which there are about 10 on the whole island, there are children everywhere.  And every church and neighborhood have a volleyball court and every night all the young people play volleyball or basketball and the kids play in the street.
Matson boxes that are all over the place
A nice building
a typical building...might be a store
A typical city house
A neighborhood

  The people also just have garbage everywhere.  They have a lot of old broken down cars and other metal things that have rusted that are just left laying there.   That's really sad for the people that they aren't interested in keeping things cleaned up. It may have something to do with their form of government, which is a republic but also involves the old Irroj system.  This is where the chiefs or the Irroj are the landowners and are very wealthy and they own all the land pretty much and get elected to the positions in the government.  People who live on the land can be kicked off by the Irroj.  In fact, someone told me about a man who went all round the island and picked up a lot of the old metal cars and junk and was going to have a ship pick it up and haul it away and recycle some of the parts etc.  Evidently he put it on some land waiting for the ship and the Irroj of that land told him it was his since it was on his land and so the man couldn't move it out and its still here.  There are lots of Matson line shipping boxes everywhere.  They are like big boxes that came over on ships about the size of a  train box car.  I guess they were unloaded and then people just kept them and use them for houses or stores or anything and they are all over the place looking really ugly.  The stores are the strangest thing.  You might have a store with a name like Office Mart in a trashed out old building.  Some of the stores have stuff straight from China or other places like that.  Most of the stores are very dark, dingy and hot.  Not the grocery store though.  Its better than that.   Anyway, a very interesting system.

Trash  At least there is a box here.  Its not like they pick it up though

Can you see these chickens running around by my house?

A City Street by a school (in the distance)

Kids hitching a ride on an unknowing truck

Tonight is Halloween and I wondered if the kids would come around.  Most of the senior missionaries were not here last year at the time so nobody knew for sure, except for Sister Hillborne who said the kids will come.  So, I got two bags of candy and thought that would be plenty.  There was only one store I saw that was carrying Halloween costumes and the people I doubt would be able to buy them anyway.  Anyway, I could hear children singing around 7pm.  I went to my door and there were probably 15 or more kids singing Happy Happy Halloween to the tune of London Bridges Falling Down.  Most of them were not in costume and most just held their hands out.  I gave away a whole bag of candy because more and more kids kept coming.  Then I gave away the second bag all in like 10 minutes.  Then the kids kept coming and coming and coming, singing their little song.  I swear they kept coming for like 2 hours.  Boy, next year I will be more prepared.  I felt so bad I didn't have any more candy and I just had to lock my door and not answer it.

These cute boys came around selling coconuts (green)

I have had a lot of kids and adults come to my door and want me to buy their shells or handicrafts.  I have bought some nice things from them.  I like to help the children especially, when they come to sell their necklaces or shells.  The handiwork they do here is beautiful....probably more  unique than other places I have seen.  There are lots of shells here..more than in Hawaii.  Some are very big and beautiful.

A Family cemetery along the ocean side in a residential area

The Marshallese celebrate Christmas by having what is called the Biit.  (Beat)  I guess that all the churches on the island participate and everyone practices for months in advance.  They announced last Sunday that the practices would begin for the Biit on Tuesday (yesterday)  The Sister Missionaries who live in my ward usually come to dinner at my house on Tuesday evenings, so we all decided we would go to the Biit practice and then come to dinner.  The missionaries can't come in to eat until 8:00 pm.  So we went and there were tons of kids there waiting to practice and no adults.  One of the Elders who is from the country of Nihue, down by Samoa taught all the kids a hawka type dance from Nihue.   The Marshallese don't seem to have many cultural type dances and songs and aren't very musically oriented it seems.  But, they do practice these line dances for Christmas and they all make dresses out of the same fabric.  (I think it comes out of the ward budget)  Christmas Day the whole stake will come to the Stake Center and each ward will present their songs and dances, many of which are the same.  Other churches will also come over to perform.  I guess it lasts all day and into the night and they serve food all day long.  It will be interesting to see.The Elders are going to do the Hawka and the sisters might do Nawaka, a dance I know from my Hawaii days that is also a Maori dance at the Biit.
Sister IeIe, Sister Tikiari, and Sister Barlow

Singing after the baptism
Elder Seru and some of the members singing

The missionary work is moving right along.  I have mentioned that we always have  many baptisms...every week   I always go to one of them.  Last Saturday evening there was one out in Laura.  I went with one of the Senior Couples and it was really neat.  After the baptism, everyone gathered around the auto-play piano and we all just sang hymns for a while.  It was fun.  I am keeping the missionaries healthy, or at least trying to.  I have to turn in a monthly report to the Medical Advisor in New Zealand and to my mission president.  I counted 32 notes that I had made about missionary health problems.  Some of them were on the same person, but no wonder I have been busy.  Luckily our Heavenly Father has been blessing us greatly and nobody has been really seriously ill.  I love my mission and the opportunity I have to serve my Heavenly Father in this way.  I hope and pray you are all doing well too. 

Missionaries watching general conference
Missionaries watching general conference

Bar Lo Koman (See you later)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Boats on the reef

The road that goes around the atoll goes through very beautiful places like this in Ajeltake
Iawake from the Marshall Islands

Yesterday some of the senior missionaries went on a P Day activity to see two boats that are abandoned that became stuck on the reef in the Lagoon.  We drove to a beautiful spot on the atoll known as Aljetake.  This is a strip of land about 15 miles long and is very narrow.  It is probably not any more than 100 yards wide.  On one side  is the ocean and on the other side is the lagoon.  There are little houses dispersed in the middle of beautiful palm trees, and lush vegetation.  Some of the homes are large and beautiful, like the one belonging to the former president of the RMI.  Others are just small little shacks.  The first boat we attempted to walk to, looked about 1/4 mile off shore and with it being low tide, we figured we could walk out with no trouble.  The problem was that the reef didn't go right out to the boat.  It was very patchy so as we got out there, we found the water was getting deeper and deeper.  We pursued it a bit, but finally decided to turn back.  The boat looked like it had been there for quite a while from what we could see.  It must have become stuck during the low tide and then be unable to get off the reef.  As we were walking out,  the water was as warm as a bathtub and there were lots of sea creatures such as sea cucumbers and little shells that moved.  It was very fun and interesting, even though we didn't make it all the way out.    After, we walked over to the ocean side and spent some time looking at the reef, the waves, and the little sea creatures. There is really no beach...just reef.   The waves breaking on the outside of the reef were big.  You can tell that there is a big drop off at the end of the reef.  Some say it is 100-200 feet and then it very quickly gets much deeper than that.  They say that is why a tsunami doesn't roll up onto the atoll like it would onto an island.  It kind of bumps up against the coral and that causes it to turn.
By my house.  Ocean side

Sister Woods, Me and Sister Hillborne

Sister Wayas, Sister Woods, Elder Woods and I going out to the boat stuck on the reef

On the ocean side at low tide

The second boat we saw, we could actually walk out to.  It looked like it had been there for quite a while.  There were plants growing on the deck and it was very old and rusty.  We tried to think of stories of what had happened to this boat and what kind it was.  It almost looked like the ropes had broken and maybe it had broken its moorings and floated away and got stuck. 

Sister Wayas on the boat
Me on the side of the boat

We also saw some very old rusted wreckage on the shore of the lagoon that one of the senior elders said looked like it might be from a WWII boat that soldiers came to shore on.

Our whole group

When we went to look at the second boat, we had to go across some people's land.  They were very nice.  It was kind of a typical scene.  Chickens running all over.  Children playing in a hammock and under the big banyan-type tree on the lagoon, open fires burning likely in preparation of food, women raking the ground to clean and make it nice, men sitting around, a dog running around, and an above grave right by the small little humble home.  It was obviously an extended family.  One of the men said his had died last week.  She was only 35.  They decorate caskets and keep them on their property. Most of the homes out on this side of the atoll have above ground caskets in their yard.

World War II Wreckage

I decided that these abandoned boats can give us some analogies to life. First of all, there are times in our lives when we all may get "stuck on the reef " in our testimonies or other aspects of our lives.  We all need each other's help  to get through life and so we must go to the rescue of those we love and help them get off the reef and back into the main channel.  Also we must realize that others are there to help us when we need them.  Sometimes we refuse the help of those who love us.  God is there to help us also as we need His help to get back to doing what we know we should.  Abandonment is not an option.

Kids at the church.  I gave them a cupcake and they loved posing for this picture

The little missionary house by the church.  There are three of them

Some of my grandchildren asked me about the animals on the atoll.  I was told that the pig is the largest animal in the Marshall Islands.  You can see some of them running around.  I was driving and saw one and tried to get a picture, but he was pretty fast.  The islanders use pork when there is a real celebration.  Our stake president lives on the beautiful side of the atoll and has some pigs.  He roasted one for the girls at girl's camp last summer.  Most of the regular people don't have pigs, but the rich and the irooj (landowners) do.  You can also see them in pens.  The next largest animal is the dog.  They are all over the place and kind of mangie.  When we go running they sometimes come after us.  The next animal is the cat, which there aren't tons of , but I have see a few.  Then there is the chicken.  There are tons of chickens just running loose all over the place. I am not sure how they tell which chicken belongs to them.  Maybe they just belong to everybody and when you want one you just go pick one out?  The next animal in size  would be the Pacific Rat, which people say is very large.  We thought we saw one running around on the coral yesterday.  Then there are the little bugs and of course Cockroaches, which are plentiful.  Of course there are also fish of every kind.  The Marshall Islands is a shark refuge and I understand you can't legally kill sharks here.  There are many out there I am told.  There are also whales, dolphins that we can sometimes see from our beach and all kinds of sea life.

Sunset by my house ocean side

 In case you think that all we do is play, I better add some baptism pictures.  I attended a baptism last night in our ward of three people (all teenagers)  There were also baptisms in at least 3 other wards on the atoll.  The missionaries baptize a lot here.  I read in an article that the LDS church is about the fastest growing church here on Majuro.  I played the piano for the baptism and for the sister missionaries who sang a song.  I have also been playing for primary while they practice for their program coming up in about a month.  They practice each Saturday.  Nobody gets there until about half hour after start time, but then a bunch of people show up.  The children are so adorable.  They sing so cute in English and their smiles just melt you.  I love to talk to them and ask them their names.  The mission president is only here about 40% of the time.  The rest of the time they spend in Kiribati, Katimati (Christmas Island), and Ebeye and traveling.  Its hard for them because in order for them to get to Kiribati or Katimati, they have to travel to Hawaii first and then to Fiji when they are going to Kiribati.  They have about 40 missionaries on the other half of the mission.  Here we have about 40 also, which includes three outer islands, and Ebeye, a very populated islet in the Kwajalein atoll.  We have three branches there.  There is an American military base across the lagoon from Ebeye and we have a branch there too.Kwajalein is the largest atoll in the Marshall Islands.


Kids playing by the lagoon

Just a few more comments.  There are 64 islets in the Majuro atoll.  We walked over to five a week or two ago during low tide.  The population of this whole atoll, including the little islets is about 19,664.  The land altogether makes about 3.75 square miles.  There are  about 113.92 square miles in the lagoon inside the Majuro Atoll. All in all, the Marshall Islands consist of 24 atolls and 5 islands. Making up each of the atolls are many small islets and islands.  Many of the atolls/islands are populated.  Some only have a few families and others have several hundred people.  Several are uninhabited.  Altogether there are about 1,150 islets and islands that form the different atolls and islands of the Marshall Islands.

me by the ocean side of the atoll
Chickens running around.  Can you see them?
I think I took this because there was a pig running around????
Elder and Sister Woods and Sister Hillborne

Today in church, we got to watch Sunday general conference.  It was really unique.  The CDs had arrived with the conference in Marshallese.  They had a big projector and were able to broadcast the whole thing in Marshallese.  They had a little TV in the primary room for anyone who wanted to watch it in English.  After the first session, they had prepared a little lunch for everyone.  It was really neat.  Each person and child had a big plate of rice and grilled chicken, vegetables, salad and drink.  Each plate was individually wrapped in foil and a grocery bag tied around it.  It was very cool.  Our Marshallese Bishopric is awesome.  They seem to be very hardworking, educated men.  You can tell the second generation men...some educated and some returned missionaries.  They really stand out in this community.  The mission is also having conference on Wed and Thurs of this week.  We will be watching the whole thing in English.  The senior missionaries are going to provide meals for both days.  It will be at the mission home.  I just want to end with my testimony of the gospel.   The gospel of Jesus Christ is going forth to the whole world.  I know the work is true and I am very humbled to be a small part of helping it to go forth.

Kids playing on the lagoon side
Sister Mahit and Sister Roota with those they taught
Elder Jensen in his baptismal lava lava along with the three who were baptised