Sunday, October 14, 2012

Missionary life in the Marshall Islands

Emman ke am mour? (Is your life good)  emman ao mour (my life is good)

My life is very good.  I am getting used to my missionary life in the Marshall Islands.  It is very hot and humid, but our apartments are nicely air conditioned.  My schedule is usually to get up by 6:30 am and go running or walking with some of the other senior missionaries here.  We walk or run about three miles or more each morning.  By the time we are home I am as wet as if I had been in a pool, but I still enjoy the exercise.  When I get home, its breakfast of oatmeal or cereal with boxed milk, usually.  I did get some frozen waffles that I am going to try for a break.  Then its getting ready, personal study and language study for me.  I try to get over to the mission office by 9 or 9:30 am to see what is going on there.  I carry a cell phone so I am on call 24/7 in case a missionary becomes sick.  I haven't had any midnight calls yet or early early morning ones, but I did decide I better bring my cell when I am out running, since I have gotten a few that time of morning.  I carry my key and my cell in my document container that I wear around my neck.  It works good.

Sister Hillborne and me  The Hillborne/s are from New Zealand

  I usually spend time in the office, checking E-mails and updating medical records from the previous evening or from that morning.  If its Monday, it is usually buzzing at the office and there are lots of little aches and pains that I see missionaries for.  Some of the missionaries from other islands aren't used to taking medicine or swallowing pills and so its a learning experience for them to take some ibuprofen or Tylenol.  Some mornings, I take missionaries to the hospital to run labs or to the Filipino Doctor who will write orders for us to have labs, x-rays, and will see missionaries that I have questions about.  He is very nice and I feel he is a good doctor.  He doesn't work at the hospital though.  He is kind of semi retired and so he just sees patients at his office and sends them to the hospital if they need more care.  The rest of my day is spent in whatever comes up.  Some days it is traveling out to Laura (on the outer most end of the atoll...takes about an hour to get there) to see a missionary who is sick, or to take some Gatorade out to a sick missionary.   I find plenty to keep me busy.  In the evenings we either get together with the senior missionaries or get ready for a new day.  The little payless market is right by my house.  If I really feel hungry, I will go buy some expensive ice cream and enjoy it.  I can't say I have really gotten into the food.  There aren't too many choices and everything is really expensive so I have just gone really light...soup and sandwich works for me.  Many of the senior missionaries have had me over to dinner and so now I will start to have some of them over and will really need to start making some meals.

View from one of the missionary apartments
 It is also my job to inspect missionary apartments for cleanliness and safety and health issues.  The first visit this month, I went when they were home, so I could be sure I was at the right apartment and to meet the missionaries.  Its been really fun.  Some of the missionary apartments are really nice and others...not so much.  I guess it depends on where you are serving.  All of the missionaries have a little air conditioning unit so they can cool down when they are in the apartment.  My first visit with some of the elders, two of the apartments were having trouble with their toilets being unable to flush.  They said they had reported it but their landlords never would fix it.  Anyway, there is a new Senior couple here and the husband is over the missionary apartments.  He looked into it and found out that the reason the toilets won't flush is because they are salt water toilets.  When the tide is in, there is enough water for the toilets to flush but when it isn't in, there isn't.  One sister told me how she had seen a crab come up her toilet so you know many of them are straight to the ocean water.  I know that mine isn't like that.  They are going to try to get regular toilets for the missionaries.  It is interesting that the Sisters usually  take better care of their apartments than the Elders do.I have to make a few suggestions or a lot to most of the Elders.  We are going to have contests to see who gets the highest grade in apartment cleanliness in my next visits during the end of Oct.I will be going when they aren't there and will surprise them.  I guess they do that all the time so that the missionaries have to be ready at any time.  (In Connecticut we would always call and make an appointment to come)  Whoever gets an A on their apartment will get some fruit.  Those with the highest grade A+ get a big bowl of fruit.  Then we make a poster and put their picture on it for the big winners.  One set of Elders had a really gross floor and they have started to scrub it and have half of it done...Wow, what a difference it makes.  They will finish the other half on this next P Day. (I bet their floor hadn't been scrubbed in years)
The view from one of the missionary apartments with a salt water toilet
 The senior missionaries get together a lot.  Sometimes it is for Family Home Evening (Mondays) and sometimes we will get together for movie night (Friday)  Baptisms are usually on  Saturday evenings and we always go.  Sometimes on Saturdays, when the work is done, we get together to go on outings.  Last Saturday, we hiked over on the reef during low tide to 5 different little islets that are past the main connected atoll.  The first one you come to is called Demon Island.  It is called this because it is where the bodies of Marshallese, Americans, and Japanese were buried in a big mass grave at the end of World War II.  Nobody lives on this islet.  Then there is another small islet followed by Ejit Island, which is where many of those who had resettled Bikini Atoll after they had been previously evacuated, were taken because they realized it was still not safe on Bikini atoll.  There are lots of houses, a school, a little hospital and the children are adorable.  See the pictures below.  Also if you want to see some interesting videos of the Marshall Islands look on U-tube under Majuro Atoll B737 landing and Majuro Trip 2008. 

Sister Wayas and Sister Barlow walking over to Ejit Island

Elder Wayas

We made it past Ejit Island to two more little islets and had lunch and then turned around and walked back before the tide began to come in.  During high tide these islands are accessible only by boat.  There were some houses on one of the other little islets.  I guess the islets go on and on .  You can see some of them in these pictures.  Some of them are inhabited and some are not.  When we walked over to the islets, the water came up to my thighs in a few places.  We found many shells and sand biscuits. There were star fish and eels.  One of the senior missionary Elders brought his snorkel and fins and was able to do a lot of snorkeling in the lagoon.

Children playing in Ejit

 A Crab trying to make its home in a bottle top

Deamon Island

A girl named Sarah from Ejit

Sister Hillborne and I on one of the islands

Pandana Juice (BOT)
Yesterday, the Marshall Islands Republic was celebrating the pandana tree and called it They called it Bot Festival.   They use the pandana tree for fruit, juice, and the leaves for weaving.  The fruit is pulled off and chewed and the juice is good.  The fruit comes sort of stringy but everyone loves to chew it. All big Marshall Island  celebrations are held in a big field by the lagoon across from the big payless super market.  It was fun to go.  They had lots of contests between the children including racing, tug-o-war,playing with square balls made out of pandana leaves, and catching using mits made out of cereal boxes.  The women had a weaving contest and it was fun to watch them work.  There was singing by some school children and a band playing.  I guess we missed the parade.  We bought some pandana juice in a bottle.  It was really a weird and different flavor.  I can't say I loved it.  I was told you need to mix it with something to really get to enjoy it more.

Sister Barlow and I at the Ejit Hospital

I have been helping play piano and organ for my ward.  The girl who usually plays is the wife of a man who works for the US embassy.  They are from Utah, but they were gone for three weeks and will be completing their service here and heading to another place soon.  Anyway, last week they asked me to play for Sacrament meeting.  They have one of these digital organs that you can set to play hymns and prelude music.  The first Sunday I was here, they just used that and it was OK but they sang at a different speed than the organ was playing.  It was kind of funny.  I guess they like it better when someone can actually play.  I am happy to do it.  I am  also going to help them with playing music for primary.  They are practicing for their primary program.  They are going to be really good since they practice each Saturday morning from 10-12 and every Sunday during the whole opening exercises and sharing and singing time.  Its so funny because everything in church is done in Marshallese except the children sing their Primary songs in English.  It makes me so happy to hear them sing.  I had been the chorister for my ward in St George and so I know all the songs.  They sing them so well and many of them don't speak English at home.  I think they do teach it in the schools.  I am still working on my Marshallese.  Its spoken so fast.  I am going to go and study with some of the young single sister missionaries this week.  Maybe that will help me.  I also like having them over to eat.  One is from Vanuatu, (She came over with me from the MTC) and the other is from Kirabati.  They are awesome.

Sister Roota, and Sister Mahit and me

I now have internet at my house.  Its quite slow, especially in the evenings.  I am also getting Magic Jack so I can also call and talk to my family without paying anything extra.  I hope to keep skyping too.  I love being on my mission and I love the people here.  I am learning so much and truly know that the gospel is true.  I miss you all my wonderful family and friends.

Kids playing with a square ball made of pandana

Children playing on Ejit

Elder and Sister Wayas (He used to be our neighbor in Hawaii)

The Lagoon side at the Bott Festival

The Bot Festival

Ladies in a weaving contest at the Bot Festival

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