Sunday, July 25, 2010

Give Blood! Play Rugby!!!

We went to our FIRST Rugby game!!!

Rugby is huge over here! The season had just ended when we arrived last August. In fact, one of our first cultural events we attended in this country was an end of season, Saints rugby team party but at that time we didn't know any of the team members let along anything about the game of Rugby. So we have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the next season which started several weeks ago. But we hadn't been available to make it to a game until just a week ago.

This is the SAINTS Rugby team.

It is composed of young men from various Wards and Branches of the Church around the Suva area. In fact, George Koroivanuve who is sitting in the middle of this group shot (facing forward, holding the blue bottle) works with us in the MSR Department in the Service Center.

The Saints belong to a league made up of teams from this Province (like a county). The other teams are from particular villages. Ours is the only team not made up of villagers. The other teams practice every day in their village while the Saints only get together for practice twice a week because Monday night is Family Home Evening and Wednesday night is Institute.
At "kick off" the opposing team of this game was ranked in first place of the league. The Saints were in 5th place.

We stood right on the sideline almost next to this guy who began the game with his throw in... good view! Actually, there weren't very many spectators. I don't know why there weren't more fans... I actually believe the women get pretty tired of non-stop Rugby games.

That's George being lifted up to catch the throw in and the guy with #1 on his red shirt is Bro. Ramasimi. We have spent a lot of time with him in his church calling as the Nausori Stake IT (computer) specialist so we were excited to see him in ACTION on the field. He is a really strong, tough player!

Off and running! NON STOP!

Seriously, even when someone goes down the game keeps on going! This is one intense, rough, no-protective-gear game. When players are smashed to the ground, it made me wince and quiver but don't worry, they just jump up and keep on going!

And of course, it just wouldn't be Rugby without the SCRUM! So brutal!
They all put their heads down and together and then start pushing straight forward as someone throws the ball in the middle beneath all the players. Somehow it gets in the hands of some player and everyone is off again.
Their coach, Bro. Maiwiriwiri stood right next to us during the game and "tried" to explain the game but I'm sure he wondered what planet we came from -- no, he knows we are American and only understand football. He did tell us that this opponent team was doing whatever they could to avoid having to get into a scrum with the Saints.

The games are divided in two periods of 30 minutes each. If a ball is kicked over the goal post, the team gets 3 points. If it is carried across the goal line, they get 5 points and they get to try to kick the ball over for an extra 2 points.
During the whole game the only points were made by 2 kicks from the Other Guys (as we called them) so it was 6 - 0 up ...

until the last minute when the Saints ran the ball over the goal line and then...

kicked it over for the extra 2 points (you can barely see the ball straight above the yellow truck in the center of the photo) and the Saints pulled it off:
Saints 7! Other guys 6
They were stoked and we were thrilled! The coach was even kind enough to give us the credit for their win because of our attendance!

So now I can confess that we are Rugby fans!!!! Which, as it turns out, is really lucky since our grandkids, Colton and Cory, have become rugby players and our son-in-law, Eric has become their rugby coach and a cerfified Rugby official! I think we have lots more rugby games in our future!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ahoy Matey!

Even before we came to Fiji we had heard about a really exciting adventure outing. This last week we finally got to experience it and it was every bit as great as we had been told!
This is the "Sigatoka River Safari".
The brochure touts that it is "simply unforgettable" and they weren't kidding!

We got on board a custom made jet boat that seats 20 passengers. This boat is very comfortable with padded seating and a very competent Captain. Maybe you have heard of him....

"Captain Jack Sparrow"
(that's what he likes to be called on the boat. He goes by Josh off the boat.)

He was really entertaining and kept us laughing and safe all at the same time. He also shared lots of historical information about the Fijian traditions and customs of village life from days gone by as well as village living today. Lots of things are still the same. The Fijians are very proud of their traditions and their villages and are happy and anxious to share this unique lifestyle. This company has arranged with 24 villages to bring these tours through regularly. They rotate between 12 different villages for 6 months and then switch to another 12 villages for the next 6 months. These villages use this as a mean of earning income that otherwise they would have no other means of acquiring.

Here is the loading dock. There were 2 boats in our group and each boat held 20 passengers. The boats absolutely rip along the top of the water. We guessed we were traveling about 40 miles an hour. They can smoothly travel in as low a level of water as 6 inches which in some places we could tell we were that close. Other places the water was quite deep. It is a very wide river and when it is the rainy season, it can flood and raise up 25 feet.

Traveling up the river felt just like cruising the main channel at Lake Powell!
There are a lot of villages that are situated along the banks and we passed lots of people and animals in and out of the river just living their normal, daily lives.

The scenery was spectacular... lush, green, mountainous along with lots of farming and plantations on both sides. Fijians are about the most friendliest people anywhere so every person we passed waved and everyone on the boat waved back.

There are very strict village standards that anyone and everyone must observe and respect whenever entering a village anywhere. First off, all women must wear a skirt or a sarong as they call them here. The tour provided sarongs for all women on our tour. No women in any Fijian village EVER wears pants and never wears anything that would show anything above her knees. Next, no HATS are allowed to be worn in a village. Only the village Chief can wear a hat. Everyone else is "below" the chief and so to show respect, no one wears a hat.
Our villager guide, the man in the red floral shirt, was helping show the guests how to put on their sarongs.

Here is the Welcome to our Village sign for our hosting village of NAVEYAGO VILLAGE.

We were directed into the Community Center where the locals had prepared a Kava ceremony, a feast and dancing. I counted 22 men, 8 women and about 9 beautiful young children. These sweet kids were really enjoying the festivities. Aren't they just beautiful!

Another longstanding tradition here in Fiji is KAVA drinking. It is the high point of any event in the village. As guests, our group brought a gift of a bundle of kava plants (that was provided by the tour company) that the villagers beat into a dust-like powder, mixed it with water (by hand) and then shared it with anyone that wanted to give it a try using one coconut shell cup. NO THANKS. We passed. Kava drinking is actually quite a problem over here. It honestly looks like dirty water and that is exactly what some of the other guests commented as well. I also heard one person say it felt like having gone to the dentist and gotten a novacaine shot.

Then the feast began!
Another tradition lots of Fijian live by is sitting on the floor so that was continued for this meal. Paul & I have eaten in other villages before and so we were more than willing to let the other guests have the bulk of the dishes. People seemed to really enjoy the dishes. I enjoyed the watermelon and the cucumbers!

After lunch, they cleared up the feast leftovers and dishes and everyone got dancing! It is really fun to go to dances because EVERYONE dances... young, old and in between!
After about 2 hours of visiting, eating, dancing and sharing village customs, we boarded the boat and jetted back down the river.
Captain Jack made sure this would be a memorable experience by doing about 5 or 6 360 degree rotations that ended up drenching all of us in water!
All in all it was a really fun "P" day outing!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Girls come to town

Ok.... so this post is WAY BEHIND TIMES but I'm going with the mindset of "better late than never"!

We had the most amazing reunion with Heidi and Katie that last week of April. Katie spent 7 days with us and Heidi squeezed in 4 but we made the MOST of every second we had together!

I'm going to also leave most of the narration up to "pictures speak louder than words"...

here is my report:

Katie, Paul and I had spent 4 days on an outer island and then flew back to Nadi Airport where Heidi was patiently waiting for us... we enjoyed several hours at this airport cafe snacking on hot chocolate, carrot cake and catching up with each other's lives.

The girls were quite impressed with the beautiful view from the balcony at our apartment.

The Suva weather decided to give us a break from the rainy season and treated us to a gorgeous sunny, blue sky couple of days. Here we were on our way to a session at the Temple... it felt like "heaven on earth"!

We had to show off downtown Suva and took the girls to the traditional handicraft market where everyone, including Paul found some impressive souveniors! Paul's is a Fijian warrior head banger!

Turns out they were very useful just a short time later!
(this is the local Fijian warrior that turns up downtown whenever a big cruise ship comes to town)

Paul had lots to choose from... luckily he didn't choose any of those masks.

The girls loved seeing the guard at the Fiji Prime Ministers compound. I love these uniforms.

Turns out what we really needed was some R & R time so we went to this hidden resort that Paul & I had never been to before but looked really nice when we checked it out on the internet.

Here are our rooms: K & H on the left and P & me on the right.

I think K & H were happy with our choice!
Inside and out.....

Unfortunately, these reunions never last long enough!
Thanks for making the effort to come! It was just what we needed!

PS: any one else like to come on over?


Paul and our tour guide, Celina arriving at the edge of the volcano about the same time it began to rain

Mt. Yasur, the non stop, active volcano on the island of Tanna as we approached from the ash covered side... looked very similar to the Bonneville salt flats only gray. We had to drive along this ash plane to access the road to the crater which is on the other side of the mountain.

A sample of what the debris that gets regularly blown up and out of the crater look like...seriously, you wouldn't want to be attacked by one of those stones!

Beautiful clouds of gas, ash and red-hot lava shards! All were accompanied with tremendous earth-shaking, ear-deafening explosions! Very attention getting!

You can't really say that you have been to Tanna if you don't go and see the volcano! We were really hoping that we would get to have this adventure but we weren't quite sure since we would only be on the island for about 28 hours.
We arrived around noon and found out that our training meeting had been scheduled for the next day so we found a driver and a tour guide and headed off to check out this amazing hot spot!
We didn't really know what to expect for this tour and it turned out to be much more than we expected. First of all, it takes about 2 hours (each way) to drive to the volcano along a very rough dirt road. Second, it had rained the day before and if the road wasn't bumpy and rough, it was muddy and had mini swamps to drive through.
But as this road was also a "main road" through many villages, there was a lot of everyday life happening along the route.
We were so surprised when we came across this group standing by the side of the road waiting for us! We were invited out of the truck and warmly welcomed to their village and then treated to 4 beautiful songs by these dear women and children. Islanders have the most amazing voices and harmony! Then they gave us ALL those bouquets of flowers -- beautiful, fresh and very fragrant! I so wished that I had come prepared with some kind of gift in return. After we thanked them profusely and got back in the truck and started down the road again, all the young kids chased after the truck laughing and waving! So cute!

Here are a few more people we passed along the way

This group of boys were walking home from school and loved seeing our white faces!
Thumbs Up!!!

The next day we had a really great and productive training meeting with all the Branch leaders from this whole island. There are about 30,000 people that live on this island of which there are about 400 Church members within 4 Branches and 2 Anexes (units that are much smaller than a Branch).
After the training meeting, we brought everyone back to the place we were staying and enjoyed a delicious lunch together. I'm pretty sure that most of these dear men had NEVER eaten at a restaurant like this before.
See the man in the plaid shirt, standing up on the right side... turns out he is the resort manager and from Australia and he knew my father from back in 1977-1980 when my father was a mission president in Adelaide, Australia. Quite AMAZING! Another "small world" connection!

Thought you might enjoy seeing the "chapels" for the 2 annexes...
very humble meetinghouses.

Life on Tanna is very simple but quite the ADVENTURE!