Saturday, December 28, 2013

Walk to Biketawa

A great way to spend a  P-Day. We were invited to join the Moroni Ward on a campout on the island of Biketawa (where we went last May for the husband-wife retreat).  We had no desire to lie on the ground all night fighting the mosquitoes, but we did want walk there and enjoy the day.  At 6:00 this morning we went with Elder Youngberg and Elder Robison and drove to Buota where we parked the car and began our journey.  We walked across the channel to Abatao as the tide was low and the water was only knee deep.  On the other side of Abatao, instead of crossing the ‘Broken Bridge,’ we walked to the east of the island where tide was still low enough that we were able to walk across to Tabituea without the elders changing their shoes.  I had just worn my Tevas so I didn’t bother to change every time we came to water.  This was the longest of the islands and we found another broken bridge which we did cross to the next island of Nebeina.  On the other side of Nebeina we walked across the channel that again was only knee deep to the island of Kainaeba. It is a very small island and only took us about 15 minutes to cross. 

Top left: The island of Biketawa, Lower left: Rich swimming
Right: Walking across to Biketawa
Now we could see Biketawa, our island destination on the other side of that channel. However, the tide was coming in the water was quite deep crossing over to Biketawa.  The path Rich and Elder Robison took found them both swimming and I didn’t want to get my camera wet.  Elder Youngberg found a shallower path so I followed him.  I still stopped and put my camera and i-phone in a plastic bag and wrapped them in my hat. Holding my backpack and hat over my head I walked across.  The water came up to my chin with me on my tip toes but my camera and
i-phone are still good.  According to google earth we estimated it was about a 5 mile walk but it took us three hours by the time we stopped for pictures, let the Elders change shoes, and make it across five channels of water. I was grateful for a coconut frond mat in the maneabwa for a cool rest out of the sun.  After a short nap we went swimming in the beautiful, blue, crystal clear water, but the current was so strong we didn’t stay out long.  Rich retrieved water from the well so I could use the toilet and shower.  Sister Tune prepared us a great meal of rice with chicken curry and mild soy sauce chicken.  After lunch Brother Tune brought us back to Moroni on his boat, arriving at home at 3:00 pm.  As we walked through the villages of grass huts and bouias along a dirt trail surrounded by coconut palms and pandanus trees with a blue sky over head and the amazingly blue ocean, I am truly humbled at the creations of our Heavenly Father.  What a beautiful world we live in.  I was also surprised at the large number of people living on the island of Tabiteuea.  Brother Tune says there are some who are members there and they have their own gathering on Sunday. They are members of the Buota Branch but that would be a couple hours walk one way just to get to church.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


E & S Robison, Sis. Youngberg, E & S Wall, E & S Rasmussen,
Sis. Talataina, Sis. Ucunibaravi

On Dec. 23 we met with the other seniors to enjoy Christmas treats, a short video, “Christmas Mission,” and exchange gifts. It was a delightful evening. The rain was coming down hard and when Elder and Sister Wall arrived a few minutes late, they blamed it on the winter snow storm and how slow the traffic was because no one knows how to drive in the snow. We all enjoyed a laugh.

Christmas Eve was spent baking six dozen rolls for the next day’s dinner and orange rolls to take to Titeebwa’s family party. Titeebwa came around 6:00 and she treated us to dinner at the Chinese Pacific restaurant.  We then went to her family’s maneabwa in Temaiku. It was supposed to start at 6:00 but Kiribati time it started around 8:30. Her family consisted of three of her sisters and her older brother and their families. Little ones were tired and were falling asleep on their parent’s lap. They had a Christmas tree, which was really a branch cut from a tree and put in a large ten can filled with rocks. It was decorated with a string of battery operated lights, a few ornaments, and purple balloons. There were a few small gifts under the tree wrapped in plain type paper, newspaper, or aluminum foil.

Titeebwa with two grandchildren (The girl in the pink is our
 All of Titeebwa’s family belong to the Kiribati Protestant Church.  After singing a couple of their songs, we were asked to introduce ourselves.  It was a great opportunity to tell non-members who we were and what our calling was as well as to share our testimony of the birth of the Savior, His life and teachings, and His atoning sacrifice.  I love experiences like that. One brother-in-law in the family who is a deacon in the KPC spoke but of course it was in Kiribati and we didn’t understand him. We were then asked to pass out the presents as one of the sisters took the presents from under the tree and called our their name. Some were hesitant to take a gift from an I-Matong, but most were excited and eagerly came forth.  About half way through, the sister, told the kids they needed to dance for their gift.  Some did a little dance but there were a couple that really put on some moves to the delight of everyone. It was Dad’s turn when the name of one little girl around four years old was called out.  She stood, put her hands on her hips, cocked her head and eyes to one side and slowly moved towards Dad with all the hip movement she could make. It was the show of the night as we laughed and laughed. As I watched the children eagerly open their presents, I realized they all had small bag of chips and were thoroughly pleased.  I then passed around the bag of Starburst which they enjoyed.  It was truly an enjoyable evening and I felt honored that Titeebwa invited us.

Getting ready for the big meal. 

Enjoying the feast. 
 Christmas Day was busier than ever. It started with an 8:00 am baptism of five sisters which they termed as White Christmas. Then we had the great opportunity of Skyping with the family as they had all gathered at Angie’s.  We were able to see them open their presents and we opened the ones they sent to us. We then hustled to finish preparing dinner for the missionaries.  I cooked a 25 lb. ham which barely fit into our oven, made 6 doz. rolls, and 12 boxes of Stove Top Dressing.  After a great dinner of ham, potatoes, rice, dressing, gravy, salad, banana pie, pumpkin pie, and lemon bars we spread a table cloth over the leftover food.  The Elders and Sisters enjoyed a couple of movies, and then came back and ate ALL of the leftovers. We had 47 in attendance including the Seniors.  It was another great fulfilling day.

Sis. Tauteoli, Sis. Temau, Reerei, Terouta, Anna, Elder Risk, Elder Tarati

Rabangaki, Sis. Tauteoli, Tiakana, Nikaua, Sis. Temau

Sister enjoying a Christmas feast

Elders turn to eat

Getting ready to burn the Yule Log sent to us from Janine. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bishop's Garden

Elder Rasmussen, Elder Youngberg: Building the Teaching Mwaneaba
On Sat. Sept. 28 we joined the Eita 2nd ward in their walk-a-thon. We thought it started at 7am but come to find out they actually began at 6am. So we had Elder Bush take us down to the Bishop’s Garden where we met up with them. It’s about a 15 min. drive by car. Remember the road is bad so it really wasn’t that far; maybe 6 kilometers.  Elder Youngberg has been working extremely hard to complete the structures in the garden before they are released in April. The first building was the shade house, then they built a teaching mwaneaba.  Next will be a composting bin, bathrooms with composting toliets, and finally a large mwaneaba as a meeting place.  They were able to use the wood from the old Temwaiku chapel to construct the teaching mwaneaba. 

Tioramia showing how to sew on the thatched roof
made of pandanus leaves. 
Once we had all gathered we cleaned around the area where some construction is going on. It didn’t take long when you have that many people working together. Many hands make light work. When finished we began our walk back to the high school. It took us about an hour and forty minutes. The bishop made sure we had plenty of water because even at that early hour it was getting hot. With all the smells of wood burning for their meals and all the beautiful foliage it did remind us of a camping trip.

Clean up
Every little boy loves a pile of dirt!

Moving the wood pile

Walk back: Highest point on the island; 4 ft elevation
By the time we made it back we were soaked with sweat. However, it was fun to be with the saints of the Eita 2nd ward. This ward makes sure there is always some activity planned or in progress.

Next Week: Teaching mwaneaba complete
Cutting some cabbage

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Moroni High School Graduation

Preparing the pig

President and Sister Weir

The academic graduation for Moroni High School was held on Fri. Nov. 22.  President and Sister Weir were the guest speakers. He made an interesting comment, “The Lord will be constrained by the things we do not learn.” The more we learn and are able to serve, the more he will be able to bless us.  After the ceremony, we were served a nice lunch in the mwaineaba. Tonight there will be a banquet with a pit roasted pig and all the trimmings, dancing, singing, and then the graduates will have a dance to who knows how late. 

Form 7 (Yr 13) Graduates

Roasted pig

Taraia, head secretary and her son, John

Mary, Turian, Bwebwenang

Titeebwa & Gloria

Monday, November 18, 2013

President's Dinner Invite

President Beretitenti Anote Tong
On November 18, we were invited to attend a ceremony with the President of The Republic of Kiribati, Beretitenti Anote Tong, and the First Lady, Bernadette Meme Tong to meet and have a dinner with the Ambassadors of Brazil, Taiwan, and Morocco. All the senior couples and several missionaries were invited along with several American citizens who were to attend a ceremony honoring their fallen comrades during the bloody battle of Tarawa during the 2nd world war. The entertainment was fine and the food was ok. It was fun to watch the missionaries eat and eat and down about 2 cases of Coke. They couldn't get enough of it. Had it not been for all the missionaries who attended the event,  there would have been very few there.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

North Tarawa

North end of North Tarawa
Students throughout the islands that have never attended Moroni need to take an intake test or an entrance exam. The teachers have been so overwhelmed scoring the end of year exams that Rich and I volunteered to help with the intake test on North Tarawa.  There were four of us who went, Taraia (head secretary), Taua (substitute), Rich and I.  I’m sure they could have done it on their own, but we were grateful for the experience. We were up at 3:30 am and Sister Cassita took us to Brother Tune’s home at 4:00 am.  By 4:30 we were loaded with our buckets, which protected our food and the tests,  

and headed out across the lagoon. It was a full moon and the stars were amazing. There were so many of them.  It was incredible.  The further we go out to sea the stars became brighter and the Milky Way was as bright as I’ve ever seen it. The water was very calm which made an enjoyable ride.  It took us an hour to get to the south end of North Tarawa, where we let Taua and Dad off and then we rode for another hour to the north end of North Tarawa.  Brother Tune dropped Taraia and I close to the chapel and the Elders' flat.  We borrowed the elders’ bicycles and started down the road (they call it the 
bush) to find the Branch President.  

Branch President and wife
We stopped at a couple of small villages for Tairaia to let them know the testing would begin at 9:00. Upon arriving at the Branch President’s home he prepared a moi moto (fresh coconut water) for us and some salt fish.  I’ve learned to really like the coconut, but the salt fish is too much.  They preserve their fish here in salt much like they did in biblical days.  It’s like sucking on a salt cube with a fishy taste. By the time we got back to the chapel, set up for the test and the kids arrived it was 10:00.  It’s an hour timed test and a couple of girls came about a half hour into it.  They were both Form 3 and we had used all of our Form 3 tests.  One girl 

said she just wanted to repeat Form 3 again next year, which I find not unusual for kids to repeat a grade here so Tairaia said we could just get her transcript from her previous school.  The other girl needed to take the test.  As soon as the first group of kids finished the tests we hand copied the test on the back of some application papers so she could take the test.  After the testing was complete the Branch President’s wife prepared rice and fried breadfruit for us.  By that time the tide was back in and President Tune was back to pick us up.  

  Now it is hot, the sun is high in the sky and the sea is very rough. It took us 2 ½ hours to get back including picking up Rich and Taua.  When I put in my application to serve a mission I remember distinctly checking the box stating that I could walk 3-6 miles. Never did I see a box that stated you must be able to ride in a 12 foot wooden fishing boat for 2 ½ hours on rough seas. I held on for dear life and bounced all the way back. We were soaked completely through and my bottom was sore.  Brother Tune doesn’t go into the water without dropping a couple of fishing lines. They don’t use poles; they just hang onto the line with their hands.  Rich was holding his line when he said, I’ve got one.  We slowed down enough to pull in a nice Travoli, a beautiful white fish.  We’ve been told not to eat the fish in the lagoon so Dad just gave it to the Bishop when we returned.   Between us we tested  23  kids today some of whom are not members of the church.  It was a great day and we came home very tired and sunburned, even though we used sunscreen.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Good-Bye Again

On Oct. 24 we said good-bye to Elder and Sister Edwards.  Their three month stay went by way to fast.  Elder Edwards accomplished a lot in the time they were here working diligently with the Seminary and Institute program and training the teachers. Sister Edwards worked closely with Marinoa and cataloging new books that had been donated to the library.  She also worked with Mary, the school counselor and interviewed most of the Form 7 students for their exit SSEOP. 

A week later on Oct. 31 we said good-bye to Elder and Sister Bush.  It was hard to see them go, but exciting for them knowing they have completed an honorable mission with a job well done.  The night we all had dinner together, I told them how impressed I was at how they interacted with the local members so well and the people truly came to love them.  Both the Buota and the Temwaiku wards gave them a “botaki” (party). They mentioned how leaving here is harder than leaving home.  When we leave home it’s only for 18 months.  When we leave here, we don’t know that we’ll ever                                                                                             see these people again in this life. 

A week later, on Nov. 8, we welcomed Elder and Sister Wall from Payson, UT.  He is a retired high school math teacher and she taught Kindergarten and third grade.  They will be working closely with the Robisons in ward and member support. They do not have the luxury of living on campus, but will be living in a two bedroom flat in Nanikai.  I truly admire their courage as they have no hot water and no internet.  The flat is only about 8 feet from our one crazy road, so they get a lot of dust and noise. The local neighbors around them are only a few feet away as well. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trip to the Dentist

Sept. 18, 2013: A few of weeks ago I was flossing my teeth and I felt the crown on my back tooth lift slightly, and then I couldn’t get the floss out.  I pulled it through and for several days after that I couldn’t get the floss to go in between the teeth.  During that time, I developed a toothache that was becoming annoying.  Not bad, just annoying.  Rich went to the nurse’s room and got one of the dental tools and I was able to clean between the teeth which allowed the floss to go through after that, but the toothache continued.  I started taking some Echinacea since that is the only type of antibiotic we had. Last week a slight swelling and tenderness started under my jaw.  Rich and Elder Youngberg gave me a blessing and the swelling and tenderness subsided the very next day. By the third week, I decided to go to the local dentist which was an experience. (I wish I'd had my camera.) The dentist’s name is Sam.  He spent five years in Fiji going to dental school and has been practicing in Kiribati for five years so he may be in his mid-thirties. He was very friendly and seemed very competent and apologized for the lack of dental resources available in Kiribati.  After a very nostalgic, antique x-ray, he determined that the crown had indeed lifted causing just enough gap between the tooth and the crown to allow a leakage of bacteria to get into the tooth and root canal. He suggested we go to New Zealand to get a new crown where the services are quick and superior. Soooo….. much to our dismay our mission will once again be interrupted by a trip off the island.  When the dentist there checked my crown and took some x-rays, he said the crown was great but the tooth was infected which resulted in root canal.  Lucky me, the tooth has four roots instead of the typical two or three.  It took him an hour on Mon. and another hour and 2o minutes on Tues. to get the job done.  I must be a total boob for pain because it was intense.  He gave me a few shots trying to deaden it but it was not enough. I was so tense and just laid in the chair and cried.  He finally said I’d just have to get through the pain threshold.  It wasn’t until he drilled through the crown and was able to get some anesthetic into the roots that I was finally able to relax. We're grateful to be back in Kiribati with warm weather and hope that's an experience we never have to repeat. Besides, who's ever heard of traveling  3000 miles just to see the dentist.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life in Kiribati

Carrying a log for a new maneaba (open meeting place)

The simple life of Tarawa never ceases to amaze me. Here are a few pictures of everyday life in Kiribati.

Saturday bath time

Best way to repair a broken mirror!

Laundry Day

Trimming the grass with scissors

Need a new house?

This little piggy won't run away.
 (All pigs are tethered
to a tree.) 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Elder Arrington and Elder Bobu

Elder Arrington, Elder Bobu
Elder Arrington, our grandson, has been called to serve in the Philippians, Urdeneta Mission.  He was in the same language class with Elder Bobu from Kiribati. 

Open Day

Wearing of the cultural tibuta (sibuta or blouse)
Friday, Aug. 30 (Yes, I'm behind in blogging.) was the last day of the second term and it is customary to have a huge celebration.  The students showed their parents around the campus and in the cultural hall students and teachers danced and performed some skits.  They also auctioned some of the items the students had made in Kiribati studies like fish nets, hammocks, and woven baskets.  After lunch each house team (Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, etc.) marched and sang for everyone.  They had sack races, coconut husking and shredding contests, tug-a-war, and wrestling contests, and of course the displaying of the local foods.  It was a fun day.  I love watching the faculty and kids have so much fun with such simple pleasures of life.

Cultural dances and singing

Auctioning a student made fish net

Sack races