Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our Journey to Fiji and Day One in the land of "No Worries"

A little background info...last year in April my parents received their mission call to the Suva, Fiji Mission for eighteen months for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  All of us kids started jumping for joy at the lucky (you do not pick your mission call but rather the Lord inspires the call) mission call -- it took my parents a little longer to accept that they were going to leave their beloved family, friends, hometown, and America.  In our minds they were leaving America for paradise to serve the Lord and the good people of Fiji -- after doing some research and now having spent six months (they arrived in Fiji early October 2011) we are all realizing that most of Fiji is not resorts but a poverty stricken yet beautiful country.  Mosquitoes, geckos, two floods since January, dirty water, lack of meats and vegetables, mice, living without power and electricity on a regular basis, terrible roads, unrelenting heat, no air conditioning, language barriers, different customs, missing grand kids and children...are just a few of the things they have endured since arriving in Fiji.  That might all sound a bit pessimistic but it is reality and they have hit Fiji running -- my mom and dad are in love with the Fijian people and in return the Fijians LOVE them!!!!  They are serving the Lord with all their heart and making such a positive difference.

So about Christmas time Birch and I started getting serious about a visit to Fiji.  Neither of us have flown international for a long time so we started early with getting new passports and trying to figure out which lucky family member(s) and friends might be so daring to watch our kids while we were gone.  That is no easy task when we have really benefited from my mom being willing to watch the kids while we have been gone for an annual trip without the chillins'.  By January we had bought our plane tickets (buy one, get one half off = $2,057/two round trip tickets to Fiji with a two day layover in New Zealand). 

Next on the docket was filling our suitcases with all sorts of loot.  It was so fun for my parents to send their wish lists over the months and then for Birch and I to work on fulfilling them on our weekend dates.  All of my siblings and many people from our church also helped by donating items that we wanted to take with us.  A close friend to my parents sent some money which helped cover the costs for the extra weight of our baggage.  We spent days weighing each of our suitcases to find the lightest bag and then filling our carry-on luggage with just the bare essentials that Birch and I would personally need.  We were only allowed fifteen pounds in our carry-on luggage and a total of 100 pounds for our check on luggage.  It cost $5/2.2 pounds over 100 pounds so each item we brought was carefully selected.  I took most items out of their packaging and put EVERYTHING that I could in a zip lock bag.  I did this not only for the hope that everything would arrive in tack but also because my parents needed zip lock bags.  The kids started saying to me "Do we get to keep that or is that for the Fiji kids?"  We had a scare a week and a half before we flew out because Fiji was once again hit with a terrible flood.  The Nadi Airport was closed for several days as we sat on pins and needles about our upcoming trip. 

The blessed babysitters...

You should have seen the family schedule for while we were gone.  Not only did these wonderful family members watch the kids but also a handful of friends helped transport the kids from cub scouts, gymnastics, activity days, and baseball plus keep them for part of several random days were we were short our family help.  This trip was a team effort and Birch and I are SO grateful to all those that made it possible.  Not only did our family keep our kids in line but they also ended up dealing with several unforeseen problems (ie. computer that went out in fridge/freezer and caused defrosting and a huge mess in kitchen (resulting in damaged wood floor and needing to install new computer in fridge), internet modem that went out, dead car battery, and igniter on gas cook-top that wouldn't turn off).  Sheez...

Okay, now for the trip.  We left from our home town airport at 10:55 am Thursday, April 12th and took the long way to LAX.  We finally arrive in LAX around 7:30 pm and went through all the international shebang to finally load our HUGE 747 plane at 11:30 pm Thursday night.

 Lucky me got a Kindle Fire just before leaving so I could read my heart out.  It was so fun having in the airport and I took full advantage of this awesome little machine to check email, facebook, watch netflix movies,...and yeah, and read.
 I was lucky and get to stretch out on two seats for our overnight flight to Nadi, Fiji.  I took a benedryl and hour before flying out of LAX and by the time we boarded I felt like I was foaming at the mouth and went to sleep before we even took off the ground.  I wouldn't say I slept like a baby...but I did get several hours of rest in. 
We arrived in Nadi, Fiji on Saturday, April 14th at 5:30 am (so lucky that we skipped Friday the 13th all together).  Check out that huge airplane behind us!
We were greeted in the Nadi Airport with live Fijian music and a lot excitement. After going through all sorts of intentional hoop-DE-la we got our bags.  Nervously we went through the baggage scanner.  Fiji has a HUGE list of things you cannot bring into Fiji and it seemed that just about everything we wanted to take with us was on that list.  We went through the baggage scanner with a prayer (I packed all the questionable stuff in Birch's bag : )  The customs lady took Birch aside after our bags were scanned and started going through them.  I'm sure she was in total shock as she went through 137 pounds of random stuff all in zip lock bags.  She kept asking Birch "what is this?"  In the end she took our two delicious bags of Costco jerky and three pounds of black beans and gave him a warning for future trips to Fiji.  Phew...I was nervous we might spend our trip in the Fijian police station instead a beautiful beach. 

 What was in all our bags?

·        1  baseball style cap
·        10 shoulder bags
·        23 clips would need to be very small or on headbands
·        1 box for tithing envelopes
·        6 packages of jello
·        2 pkg sunflower seeds
·        19 pairs of #2's magnification glasses-(plastic – wide frame, and metal)
·        20% creme bleach and then a packet of powder from Sally’s
·        30 Matchbox size cars
·        1 manual ceramic knife sharpener
·        7 spiral drawing pads
·        1 bottle of Hersheys chocolate syrup
·        6 led small compact flash lights
·        2 bread loaf pans
·        Poppy seeds
·        2 pkg Beef Jerky
·        1 Costco pkg of Almonds
·        3 lbs Black beans
·        gallon size zip lock bags
·        poultry seasoning
·        measuring cups
·        hot tamales
·        cinnamon bears 
·        chocolate covered orange sticks
·        chocolate covered almonds
·        Costco box of individual wrapped corn nuts
·        sage
·        cumin
·        Costco bottle of taco seasoning
·        3 bottles of mapeline,
·        almond extract
·        walnuts
·        3 pkg strawberry Twizzlers
·        small dry mustard
·        #10 can of powdered cream of mushroom soup
·        1 pound powdered Alfredo sauce mix 
·        paprika
·        Parsley
·        2 lb brown rice pilaf 
·        6 pkg powdered ranch dressing
·        poppy seeds
·        cornmeal
·        5 cornbread mixes,
·        2 cake mixes
·        smarties or other kid candies
·        7 brownie mixes
·        500 Ibuprofen
·        7 chocolate candy bars (milky way, snickers, kit kat, butterfinger, etc)
·        calcium pills
·        2 Frisbees
·        23 White Earrings sets
·        25 Baby Toys
·        18 Punch Balls Cover & balloons to go in them
·        2 Footballs
·        25 Ties
·        6 Temple Recommend Holder
·        Screw drivers
·        2' level
·        screw driver bits
·        chalk line
·        2 tie downs
·        1 metal level
·        2 muffin mixes
·        100 mini candy canes
·        1 vanilla
·        1 mac to TV adapter
·        10 consecrated oil vials
·        2 lawn mower wheels
·        3 crest toothpaste
·        2 sonicare replacement toothbrush heads
·        1 tongue cleaner
·        1 bottle mint oil
·        1 chapstick
·        1 Costco pkg Acai Dark Chocolate Berries
·        1 Costco pkg Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nut Turtles
·        3 Macaroni Grill kits
·        1 pkg Peanut M&M’s
·        2 200 yard dental floss
·        2 pkg pudding
·        1 toy dinosaur
·        2 mini skateboards
·        Fabric cloth banner for primary
·        3 Women’s shirts
·        2 beef n’ broccoli packet
·        4 books
·        15 DVDs
·        Pkg Reisens
·        Pkg Gummy Bears
·        Skirt
·        Redken Conditioner
·        Singles to Go drink packets
·        2 boxes of Matches
·        2 men’s shirts
·        2 Cadbury Eggs
·        1 roll of Packing Tape
·        2 cds
·        35 “I am a child” Silicone bracelets
·        Letters from BYU FHE group
·        2 Friend Magazines
·        Famous Plastic Flowers from Ramptons

**My parents want me to put a disclaimer that they did not ask for all of these things or the large quantity of what we brought; though they are grateful for each and every item.

What a joy it was to see my parents behind that security wall!!!  It was so wonderful to be embraces by Elder and Sister Sherry!!!

 One of my favorite memories is when we loaded in my parent's truck at the airport and Birch pulls out a king size Snickers bar and gives it to my mom and dad.  My dad's moaning and groaning over his first bites of the chocolate made all that packing totally worth it!!!

 We went to straight from the airport to Denarau Island about 25 minutes from the Nadi airport.  This little man-made island is full of resorts.  We went to the Westin Resort to make a reservation for later in the week and enjoyed a dip in the ocean and pool.  It was kind of crazy to be swimming at 7:30 am but what a way to start off a busy day!!!
From Denarau Island we started heading to toward Ba stopping along the way at several outdoor markets.  Each vendor basically had the same items for sale for the same price.  My parents try to spread their purchases with different sellers to financially help out a variety of families.  We recognized many of the fruits for sale (there are little veggies to buy in Fiji) -- many coconuts, banana, lady finger bananas, flowers, very light orange tomatoes, apples (from New Zealand), Kava root, squash, cassava, pommel, green tangerines, limes, pears, fish, pineapple, papaya, etc...  Most items are bought in a heap -- like One Fijian Dollar for a heap of bananas (probably 15 bananas).  One Fijian Dollar=.56 cents US money.
The kava dealers were every where -- what a nasty looking drink!

The fish market was right next to the fruit/veggie market -- WOW, I've never seen so many varieties of fish and such brilliant colors.
This blue fish was amazing!
Elder and Sister Sherry checking out some of the beautiful flowers to buy.
We then went to my parents favorite meat shop to buy some fish for dinner.  This is the Wahoo fish -- heads and all.  We actually ended up going to several fish markets because the chucks were pretty bloody looking.  Finally we found a satisfactory chuck that my dad prepared that night -- it was very tasty!
Just as we entered Ba we stopped at some of my parents favorite family's house -- sisters Olivia and Tuli and their family.  They had prepared a feast for us to nibble on -- which was so sweet and a financially such a gift.  They had several Indian sweets (about 70% of Ba is made up of Fijian-Indians), ice cream (which is a REAL treat in Fiji), corn on the cob (real chewy), pineapple with salt, pears, and orange pop.  Olivia also sent us home with our first taste of Roti (similar to a flour tortilla).  Their family just embraced us and made us feel so special.  It was wonderful to see my parents interact so comfortably with their family.
Several of the extended families live right next to each other and they all came over when they heard we were coming.
Olivia was amazing as she hacked up this fresh green coconut so we could taste the coconut water.  She used that sugar cane knife with skill!
Then we all passed around the coconut and had a swig -- pretty tasty!

Tuli has become a dear friend to my parents.  She was one of the first people they met when first arriving in Ba and shopping for a stove.  Tuli starting learning about the gospel last October and was just baptized this past March by my dad. 
After bidding farewell to Olivia and Tuli we headed to the church.  The church was terribly flooded back in January and filled with mud and debris brought in by the flood waters.  After months of cleaning, painting, and hauling junk the church was finally going to be able to be used again by the church members of Ba.  Two days later the March flood hit Ba and once again brought terrible destruction to the church and its' grounds.  Since January the church members have been meeting in a garage and most recently a rented room in a Catholic church.  It's been a sacrifice for the church members for sure!
Next we were off to find the young missionaries to help in a service project.  We were able to spend quite a bit of time with these two Elders over the next two days and loved to see them love the people.

After picking up the Elders we headed back to the church to haul this huge metal car port (not sure what it actually was since most people don't have cars).  These huge and heavy metal thing has literally washed into the church grounds and was just laying there.  My parents flagged down a man with a truck and offered to pay him to help haul this metal structure to a family's house that leaks everything it rains.  It took some big Fijian muscles but they got it all lifted on the truck.  A tender mercy moment...a woman from church had donated some tie-downs for us to take to Fiji.  Not even one day into our trip we were able to pull out this gift and put them to good use.  The Lord truly is mindful of all his children!

The final destination was the home of Nairoqo Family who's father has been working in Suva where he can earn more money for his family.  They have been saving money for a long time so they can go as a family to be sealed in the Suva Temple in a couple of weeks.  Their home leaks water every time it rains and so when my parent's saw what had washed into the church grounds they decided to turn a lemon into lemonade.
The Nairoqo family kitchen and outhouse.  It was a very common site to see clothing and other things laying on the roof tops to try and dry them out after the flood.
While driving on these CRAZY "roads" -- more a dirt trench used for horses to help in harvesting the sugar cane we came upon several groups of beautiful Fijian-Indians returning home after a wedding party.  

Another miracle...both my parent's truck and this red truck made it to the final destination.  This family did not know we were coming and bringing this gift -- boy were they happy.      

Heading home -- wild and beautiful terrain.
You can see the land slides on the mountain in the back.  The flood has affected these families in so many ways -- loss of jobs, homes, food and water, and electricity.

Birch and I were just eating up each moment!
On the way home we stopped again at another market.  There were many ladies selling these live black crabs that live in the murky Ba river.  We thought it was so cool the way they wrapped up the crabs with the reeds to keep them from walking away.

We all got a kick out of this young boy selling these ducks.  We thought they were pretty expensive.

That was all day can imagine when we got to my parents home we were ready to collapse.  My dad and mom made a delicious dinner of Wahoo fish, orzo, and peas while Birch and I got ready to present Christmas to my parents.  I can only imagine how wonderful Santa must feel each year -- it was such a treat to unload our 137# of loot and present each thing to my parents.  They were TOTALLY overwhelmed and kept saying "It's too much."  It almost brought me to tears after all the hard work of collecting and packaging each item.  They were so grateful and felt guilty to have so many good things to eat in their home.  They commented that they no longer needed to be worried about someone breaking in their home for their computer but for their food!  We decided not to put away the food since the mice have been a real problem since the flood.  Instead we packed it all back up again in the suitcases while they search for some kind of tupperware to keep out the unwanted pests.

Birch and I collapsed in bed to the sounds of a neighboring Indian family having a celebration.  What a glorious day!

1 comment:

Matt said...

What a great post! Can't wait for day 2.