Monday, September 16, 2013

New missionaries galore

Wow. Two weeks have passed. The time seems to be flying by. We have now been in Tonga three weeks. Pres. Nau, who was just released a few months ago as a stake president here in Tonga, said we should count days instead of makes it sound like we've been here longer. So.....we've been here 23 days. We've been so busy I have to stop and think about what we did the last two weeks. Let's see....

Thomas and Jesse
We did get to play a little bit. Two weeks ago we went to a lovely beach, one that I had never been to before. The land is owned by Pres. Nau. Pres. Nau served as a missionary here in Tonga when Pres. Groberg was the mission president. His father served as a counselor to Pres. Groberg at the same time. How would you like to have your dad in the mission presidency while you were a missionary? Pres. Nau is a lovely man. The beach is three miles of beautiful sand. There's lots of coral in the water, so it looks like a great snorkeling beach, too. And the break is far enough out so the water close in to shore is very calm. We went with the Tupou's. Thomas and Jesse played in the water the entire time, while Garth and Pres. Tupou visited about something....I don't know what, becuase I wasn't paying attention. Lori and I were busy looking for shells. We found some pretty sea glass, as well. I need to get Garth out snorkeling to see what large shells he can find under water. We found some fragments of shells that look like they come from beautiful larger shells.
Pres Nau's beach
Pres. Nau, Pres. Tupou, Garth, discussing "things"
 Then a couple of days later we went back to the same beach and met Pres. Nau there. He and Pres. Tupou and Garth talked about some plans Pres. Nau has for the beach. We learned that King Taufa'Ahau Tupou IV owned the property (there is still a royal residence just up the hill from the beach) but gave it to Pres. Nau. Pres. Nau is a cousin to King Taufa'Ahau Tupou IV. We also learned that Elder Nelson visited the beach and played a little bit during the time he was here for the rededication of the Tongan temple in 2007. The beach has been the site of baptisms, as well.

We also went back to the beach this past Saturday, Sept 14, early in the morning because the tide was out and we wanted to go out to the break and gather a shell called an 'elili. It's a snail. The tide recedes all the way back to the break. There are only little tide pools left. It was great fun walking all the way to the break and watching the waves crash against the break, but be safe and dry.

The interesting thing about this snail is that it makes a little door that it closes when threatened. As the snail gets bigger, it discards the "door" and builds a new one. We'd found these "doors" on the beach, but wanted to see what they looked like in the shell. You can also eat them. So, we were at the beach by 7:30 a.m. Saturday. We did find some of the snails. I love their little doors. We didn't eat any of the snails, yet. I brought a couple of home with the
turbin sea snail surrounced by calcareous operculum (little door)
intention of cooking them, but we had to go shopping before we got home, and they were in a jar of water in the back of the car, and it was an extremely hot day (27 degrees C., which is only 80 degrees - but we were assured this was an extremely hot day. It sure felt hot to us). Needless to say, the poor critters were pretty much boiled by the time we got home. So, next time we go we'll collect some and cook them right away. I heard they're very good. We'll see.........

Saturday is P-Day and both Sept 7 and the 14th we went downtown to the market and the bakery, and then went to the "fea" (fair). There are two fairs, one on the way into Nuku'alofa, and one on the wharf. We, of course, chose the one on the wharf. It's a bit like a swap meet. There were people selling new things from New Zealand and the US (lots of dish soap, shampoo, perfume and electronic appliances), a few with Tongan T-shirts, and lots with used clothing and shoes. And there were a few selling food. The shave ice looked tempting, but not knowing the water source, we stayed away from that. But, one place did have a large popcorn maker, and being a popcorn lover, Garth had to buy a bag for one pa'anga (That's about 60 cents). I also bought a crock pot that is powered for 220...Yeah!!!
The "fea"

We had a late lunch this past Saturday (14th) and went to a Chinese place recommended to us by Elder Riddle, who is teaching discussions in Chinese. We went with Elder and Sister Stephen and Bonnie Meyers (cousin to Evan Meyers, and also from Sugar City). The food was delicious. I had chicken in ginger and green onion sauce (SOOOO good), Garth had beef curry (also excellent), Sister Meyers had chicken curry (delicious), and Elder Meyers had sweet and sour chicken (the chicken was deep fried tempura style - so delicate and delicious - I might get that next time). And yes, there will absolutely be a next time. The food was amazing.

Saturday night (Sept 7) and Sunday (Sept 8) were stake conference in our stake. Elder Peter Meurs of the Seventy was our visiting authority. It was a wonderful conference. The choir was amazing!! They sang both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I tried to inconspicuously record them Sunday, because they were so wonderful, and because the session was not being held in a chapel. The Sunday session was not in the stake center, but was held instead in the gym at Liahona high school because the stake center would not hold all the people in attendance. There were 1500 people at the Sunday morning session. There are 2000 members in the entire stake. That's a 75% attendance. The stake president has great goals for his stake. He wants each member of the stake to work two hours a week doing family history work, and two hours a week attending the temple. His goal is to have every young man serve a mission, every couple and family sealed in the temple, and every man be ordained to the Melchizadek Priesthood. With the numbers attending stake conference, I would not be surprised if the Liahona stake achieves this goal. It was a great stake conference.

Then after conference we were invited to eat with Elder Meurs, the stake presidency, and several invited guests. We had a traditional Tongan meal - lupulu (YUM) which is corned beef and onions wrapped in "lu" (big green leaves that get all soft when they're cooked) and then coconut milk (fresh - just like they make it at the Polynesian Culture Center) poured over top, the leaves wrapped and tied, then the whole thing wrapped in foil and baked in the umu (underground oven). One of my favorite things to eat. There was also faikekai, which is little bread dumplings cooked in a coconut brown sugar mixture (also yummy). There was baked chicken, pieces of chicken breaded and deep fried, and in a delicious sort of sweet and sour sauce, turkey and dressing (yes, really), pork skin (of course - which I don't really appreciate like I probably should - so I didn't eat any of that) cooked fish, raw fish mixed with onions, tomatoes and coconut milk (I forget what it's called, but it's really good),  fresh fruit, coconut cake, banana cake, and I'm forgetting a whole bunch of other stuff. It was delicious. I could hardly move afterwards. We even took a little bit home for dinner Monday night.
Our departing missionaries

Monday, Sep 9, we said good-bye to 11 missionaries - six who live here in Tonga, and five who live in the states. It was sad. Elder Toki, who we got to know well because he was an assistant to Pres. Tupou, went home. It was a sad day for all of us. But, on Tuesday, Sep 10, we said hello to  22 missionaries from the states, and 10 from the Pacific Islands (7 of those are visa waiters who will eventually go to their assigned missions in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Australia). That's a lot of

Meeting 22 missionaries from the US. Look at all those missionaries!

Some of the arriving missionaries from New Zealand MTC.
Arriving missionaries and their companions at orientation
missionaries!!! About 10 of the new missionaries will start their mission out by going to some very small islands in the Vava'u group. They call it the "Groberg experience." They'll have quite an experience, I know.
Missionaries going to Vava'u

Wednesday, Sep 11 was training for the new missionaries. So, that was another busy day. After orientation the new missionaries went with their zone leaders to purchase their "Tongan missionary uniform." Tonga, I believe, is the only mission where the missionaries wear what has become known as a traditional native missionary uniform. The elders wear a white shirt and tie, a tupenu (lavalava) and the ta'ovala (the waist mat) held on by the kafa (a rope wrapped around the waist a couple of times to hold the ta'ovala on). AND they get to wear sandals!!! The sisters wear a combination of a tupeno and a pule taha. A pule taha is a long skirt and blouse, but the top and bottom match. The sisters wear a colored top, but a ankle-length tupenu along with the waist mat. They are easily recognized walking down the streets of Tonga.

Our container - on the back of Lupeni's truck. Now empty except for Jesse and Thomas :)

AND.....our container arrived!! It was like Christmas. We now have some food storage things so we don't need to go to the store as often (except the bakery, because I LOVE the bakery here). The best thing to arrive, however, was our pillows. Ahhhhh...... I missed my pillow. Now I can truly be happy :)

Still loving Tonga!!!

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