Hello from Tonga, March 6, 2013
I think I must be settling in because all the things I wrote about in my last letter don’t seem as strange as they did those first few days. I went with another senior missionary couple to visit the Blow Holes here in Tonga. They aren’t too far from our home and they are pretty amazing, every wave creates a spectacular show. It reminds me of watching a fire that you can watch for hours because it continues to be different and mesmerizing. I’ll attach a picture. On our way to the blow holes a group of kids were in the narrow street playing when a small child of about 4 walked down the road to play with the other kids, he was swinging a big machete. I guess it was just another toy. I continue to be amazed by the difficult circumstances that surround me. The roads here are unbelievable; they are very narrow and have big potholes. Because it rains every day they are always filled with water. I’m told that they just keep filling them in with dirt but as soon as it rains a few times they are back the same as before. I’m still struggling with driving on the wrong side of the road and in the wrong side of the car and turning my blinker on which is on the right of the steering wheel and the wipers are on the left side. There are quite a few round-a-bouts here, in the middle there are three cement poles and as you make the turn the person to the right has the right of way. The person to the right always has the right of way when turning. There are no street signs so people use markers to tell people where to find something. Someone might say “go to the Chinese store and turn left, then go to the green church after the bakery and turn right, etc.” Because the shops are so run down, everything to me looks the same. There are always people walking on the side of the roads so it’s tricky to go around them because the streets are narrow and cars tend to drive down the middle of the road. I will say that the scenery is pretty amazing. Everything is green and tropical. There are no snakes here…Yay!!! But, there are lots of bugs. There are so many ants, when I wake up in the morning there are probably 100 crawling over my kitchen counters; I just spray with Permetherin (an insecticide) I think I might die from insecticide poisoning by the time I leave. I feel like I look at the floors at night and they seem to come alive. Needless to say, every morning I have another bite so my legs are kind of polka dot. There is a type of centipede here called a Molokau, it grows 6” or longer and the head has pinchers. The bite is very painful and can cause redness and swelling for about 15 hours. They move very fast so the best way to kill them is a direct hit with something hard and flat like a 2x4 and then cut them in half with a butcher knife. We are told to always wear our sandals when walking around the house, even at night. I’m not looking forward to my first encounter with one of them.
I was asking one of the missionaries what he enjoyed eating here the best and he said it was raw fish. On one of the islands where he was sent for a few months, it was a staple. He said the members would just cut up a fish and put it into a bowl and they would just eat it. It doesn’t sound too appetizing to me and I hope never to try it. Then we got started talking about eating dog. There are dogs everywhere; they aren’t cute like they are back home. He told of a time when he went to a member’s home to eat and they had cooked a dog in the ground, when he sat down to eat they had just cut the dog up and the head was still attached. Sorry Laura. I haven’t tried Tongan food yet mainly because I don’t know how to prepare it and the other senior couples said it’s not very good or flavorful. The common root crops they eat are Kumala (sweet potato), Ufi (Yam), Manioke (Tapioka), Taro (Talo). They are all staples and contain a lot of starch. You can find many American food products here but they are very expensive. I’ve been eating Oatmeal, peanut butter sandwiches, and Ramen. I know, it’s not very healthy. I did make a stir-fry of vegetables with chicken. The senior couples get together about once a week to eat together so I’m sure I’ll learn to cook better meals.
My head is very full this week because I’ve been asked to take the assignment of mission secretary. I’m just not the secretary type and especially since I’ve gotten older, I have a hard time doing too many things at once and remembering them. I’m definitely going to need the Lord’s help. In the mission office there are two office assistants (elders), the President has assigned two more elders there, one of them will be doing the flight schedules(there are a lot of them) and entering the expenditures of the missionaries. So that will be taken from me as one of my responsibilities. I will be still doing all of the pre-mission paperwork, the arriving elder paperwork, and the returning elder paperwork. As well as answering phones and questions and many other assignments. I’m replacing a wonderful couple who are returning home so there will be big shoes to fill. The elders are so good to work with; they have such a strong testimony of the gospel and bring such a beautiful spirit to the office; that will be one of the pleasures of working in the office because I will get to know all of the missionaries quite well.
I love the work here, I love being busy and feeling like I’m helping the work of the Lord move forward. The members have such love for each other; they are such a kind and gentle people. I know that God lives, that He loves all of His children and that He is aware of them no matter where they are and no matter what they are going through. I send each of you my love.