Friday, August 29, 2014

Fafa retreat

The end of January 2014 the Senior missionaries decided they needed a break and we took a much needed, and very fun trip to Fafa Island. Fafa is a resort on an island to the north of Nuku'alofa. It is about a 30-minute boat ride to get there. The beaches were lovely, the food was delicious, and the quiet and solitude were very much appreciated.
Elder and Sister Webb in front of one of the fale's

View as we were leaving the harbor

Giant clams for sale at the fish market at the wharf

Big eye (or yellow-eyed) snapper - this was our lunch :)

Boarding the boat to  Fafa - the LITTLE boat

That little boat is our ferry to Fafa, about 30 minutes outside of Nuku'alofa

Sister Mitchell

Downtown Nuku'alofa - the red spires left of center are the palace

Fafa Island

Look at all those senior missionaries!

Checking out the resort on Fafa

Elder Dassler

Elder Meyers napping

Sister Meyers (background), Garth, and Elder Meyers


Snack time

Sister Johnson

Sister Mitchell and Sister Webb

Heading home

Animal Adventures Continued

About two weeks before Gertie showed up on our doorstep, we had another visitor at our house. A very unwelcome visitor. The kind with a long, gray tail, beady eyes, twitchy whiskers, and very, very big!!! If you guessed win the big money. Yip. It was a RAT. Uggghhhh.

I became a little anxious and had suspicions we had an unwanted guest when I thought I heard noises coming from the ceiling in our bedroom. I couldn't tell if it was on the roof, or in the attic space. But, it was brief, and I didn't hear anything for several nights after that. So, I figured it must have been coming from the roof.  One morning a few days later, however, Garth was finishing his shower when I got up (we were having to use the shower down the hall from our bedroom because the shower in our bedroom was out of commission). He said, "I thought you must be up because I could hear you  moving around." Well....I didn't think I was being THAT noisy. I forgot about it....until I got in the shower and heard noises coming from the wall between the shower and the closet which is next to the shower. The noises were LOUD. And they DEFINITELY were NOT coming from the bedroom. Whatever was making that noise was CLOSE.

I decided to be sort of brave (I'm not very brave at all when it comes to bugs, rodents, get the picture) and I slowly, and cautiously opened the bottom part of the closet. There were some little pieces of sheet rock, but I attributed that to having happened when a new water heater had recently been installed. But, I wasn't brave enough to look in the top part of the closet.

Being the good husband and brave fellow he is, Garth looked into the top part of the closet AFTER I had departed the shower room and was far, far away in our bedroom. Good thing, too, that I was far, far away. Because what Garth saw in the top part of the closet did NOT make me very  happy. He opened the closet door just in time to see a gray behind and long tail disappearing into a hole in the wall, headed towards the bottom part of the closet. Apparently when the new water heater got installed, the gaping hole(s) were left open to the underneath of our house, and THAT is how we came to have this unwanted and uninvited guest.

We shut the closet tight, closed the bathroom door, and luckily for us the shower in our bedroom got fixed that very day, and we no longer needed to use the shower down the hall. We hoped if the rat could not get out of that part of the house, he would vacate the premises, and never be heard from again.

Unfortunately, we underestimated this rat's resolve to get INSIDE the apartment. A couple of nights later I was sitting up in bed reading, with only the reading lamp on, when I heard this bumping, chewing, pushing noise coming from the ceiling in Garth's closet - where the cover to the crawl space to the attic was. I woke Garth, turned on all the lights, and to my horror found a HOLE in the corner of the crawl space cover. YIKES!!! What do you do when you find a rat trying to get into your home in the middle of the night? Well....there's not much you CAN do. So, I did the only thing I could think of.

I found my flashlight, turned it on, propped it up so the light shone on the hole, thereby HOPEFULLY, scaring the rat away......and sat in my bed until I was too tired to stay awake.

Since things were busy in the office the next few days we were unable to get to town to buy rat traps. And the flashlight seemed to be working. No sounds coming from the ceiling for two nights in a row. Good news!!!

He must have been one brave rat, however. Again, I was sitting up reading in bed with only the reading lamp on, when I heard a soft thud come from the direction of Garth's closet. I looked up in time to see that little stinker briefly resting on the upper shelf of the closet before scurrying down Garth's shirts and hiding somewhere within the closet. He'd come through the hole!!! Flashlight on and everything!!! Garth responded quickly to the pounding on his back and my shrill shrieking. He got a stick and began hitting the luggage in the bottom of our closet, and moving the luggage around, hoping to drive the rat out so he could bring about it's swift demise, while I sat with my toes tucked up under me on the bed. And the covers not even CLOSE to touching the floor so that little weasel would have no possible (at least no EASY way) of climbing up onto my bed. I don't know where that rat went, but Garth couldn't find him in the closet. NOT something I wanted to hear. So, I spent another night sitting up in bed waiting for exhaustion to overtake me, but this time knowing that little vermin was somewhere IN my apartment.

The next day we closed up the office and went rat trap shopping. The choices were......a big, huge, mouse trap looking thing (I could just envision the awful mess that thing would cause if the rat got caught in it), or a sticky trap, which is basically a large piece of cardboard with a very, VERY sticky substance adhered to it. We opted for the sticky trap.  The problem with the sticky traps is that once you catch the rat, it cries and cries, and you have to be quick to kill it, because if it's a strong rat it can pull itself off. But, those were the only two options to us. I just knew that in the middle of the night we'd be wakened from a dead sleep to the pitiful cries of that stupid rat. That was definitely NOT something I wanted to do. But, my desire for NO rats was stronger than my compassion. So, we put those sticky traps everywhere.

In Garth's closet....

In the bathroom closet where the rat had first been seen....

In my pantry... (I envisioned our rat house guest singing and dancing Templeton-like - Templeton the rat from Charlotte's web - upon finding himself in a rat's paradise, and gorging himself on all of those chocolate chips, nuts, and candy bars we give to the missionaries for having their MQs clean, I had stored in my pantry).

After several days of avoiding our traps, we decided to get SERIOUS. Garth asked around, and found a place that sold rat poison. We were done messing around. No more Mister Nice Guy. That rat was soon to be a goner.

We put that rat poison in more places than we'd even put the sticky traps. And then we waited. Several days went by. Nothing. But, we did notice he was nibbling on the rat poison. YES!!! Now my worst fear was that he was going to die in a wall, or in the attic, and he was going to stink up the place.

Then one morning we woke up to a ruckus that sounded like it was coming from the kitchen. It sounded like things were getting pushed around, being dropped on the floor, being torn into. Oh, no!! Was that rat in my pantry? And if so, what in the heck was he doing? I cautiously made my way down the hall, peeked around the corner into the kitchen....and the noise was coming from outside. HUGE sigh of relief!!! But, what was making all that noise so early in the morning? I sneaked a peek between the window louvers.....well, you know the rest of THAT story.

Later that day Garth had to run home from the office for a few minutes. When he came back he said, "The things I do for you because I love you." Upon entering our bedroom he glanced towards the bathroom, and what did he find lying dead by the garbage can? YES!!!!!! That stinking rat. And Garth, being the nice guy he is, and because he loves me, and because he knows my aversion to all things creepy, crawly, skittery, slithery, knew I would not be able to handle the sight of that dead rat. So, he got some paper towels, picked it up, carried it ALL the way outside, and threw it in the garbage can.

Whewwww.....NO MORE RAT. Happy Day!!!

I did, however, have to go look at it in the garbage can. Make sure it really was dead. That thing was HUGE! The orange thing it's lying next to is a grocery sack. The body of the rat is nearly as long as the bottom of the grocery bag. And the tail was longer than the body. EEEEEWWWW!!!!!! Glad that thing is GONE!!!!!

We are Pleased to Announce.....

..........that we are the PROUD parents of.....a CHICKEN. That's right. We've adopted – or rather have been adopted by – a Tongan chicken. I've always WANTED chickens :)

Please meet Gertie (short for Gertrude). Say hello to all the nice people, Gertie.

Sorry. She's a bit of a huffy hen.

But she does tolerate, albeit a little begrudgingly, the occasional petting by nice boys.

Gertie has been with us now for about a month. We were getting ready for the office one morning and heard a terrible racket coming from the kitchen. We were afraid the noise was coming from ANOTHER visitor we had been entertaining (details in an upcoming post). I courageously peeked around the corner of the hallway into the kitchen and discovered the noise was not coming from INSIDE the kitchen, but OUTSIDE.

So, I gingerly peeked through the louvers in the window, and “what do my wondering eyes did appear” (roughly quoted – and although we're still a few months away from that lovely holiday, I love Christmas!!! So, you'll just have to deal with it!)....but a hen and a rooster sitting on top of my freezer in front of our house. The hen was sitting in a plastic basket/tray we had sitting there which held cleaning supplies we carry with us to wipe down kitchen counters when helping with lunches during zone conferences....and a green coconut.

I don't know if she thought the coconut was a very large egg, or what. But, for three days the rooster and hen showed up every morning for a couple of hours. The rooster stood in front of the hen while she sat in her basket, I assume guarding her? He stayed protectively by her side for three days...and then poof...gone, never to be seen again.

After sitting in the basket for a couple of hours the hen would leave. But, she would leave behind a lovely buff-colored egg.
First egg
Jackpot!! What a treat. My own, range-free, organic eggs!!!
And what a layer! Six days, six eggs. Then one day with no eggs. But then six more days and six more eggs!!!! WOW. Maybe I could sell some of the eggs and make a little pocket money. Twelve eggs in 13 days!

And then.....days 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.......21. NO eggs. And the hen's behavior changed. Instead of sitting on her “nest” for an hour or two, leaving a precious little gift behind, and then going about her usual business, she stayed...and stayed...and STAYED. She would only leave her “nest” for about 30 minutes, then come back and sit some more. I decided that if I was ever going to have access to my freezer again I'd better move the basket. So, I waited until I finally found the basket empty, and moved the basket to the patio floor across from our front door.
Even moving the basket didn't alter her new pattern of behavior. And still NO EGGS! She'd gone broody on me. After only 12 eggs. What kind of chicken does that? Especially when there are no eggs in the nest to even sit on?

So, I decided to try a few things to see if I could shake her up a little and get her laying again. First I removed the coconut from her nest.....nothing. So, I put it back hoping it might once again give her a goal to work toward....nothing. The coconut was going bad so I finally had to throw it away. Still nothing. One day when I came home for lunch Gertie was gone. Another experiment! I'd heard that putting an egg, or egg-like substitute in a nest will let chickens know “this is a good place to lay your eggs.” So, I took an egg from the fridge and put it in her basket. I know, I's COLD. I was hoping she'd be gone long enough that it would have a chance to warm up a bit. But, no.....she came back about 10 minutes after I put the egg in her “nest.” I wondered how she'd react to a cold egg. What I got was NOT what I expected, however.

Gertie came running towards her “nest” from the back of the patio, quietly cackling to herself as she came. When she got to her “nest” she stopped........dead. She froze. She STARED at the egg, not moving a muscle. She stared, and stared. Finally, she turned her head to the left, as if looking to see if anything was over there that could have left the egg. Then she stared again at the egg for several seconds. Then she turned her head to the right, again as if looking for the culprit who left this unexpected offering. Then she stared at the egg again. Not a muscle moved, nor a feather of her body quivered. Out of the blue she let out a loud squawk and began running all around the patio and onto the lawn, continuing to squawk as she ran. She ran for several minutes. Then back to the basket to stare at the egg once more.

She followed this routine several times until she finally got brave enough to step into the basket. Once IN the basket she moved the egg around with her beak, squawking all the while. Then it was back out of the basket, running in circles around the patio and the lawn again...returning once more to the basket to move the egg around with her beak. After doing THIS several times, she finally got back into her “nest,” scooted the egg underneath her and sat...and sat....AND SAT.

Finally after three days, worried that she might never leave the nest even to eat, and I'd have a rotten egg to deal with, I caught her off her “nest” and removed the egg to the garbage.

I've asked several locals for advice, and what I can expect from Gertie – whether she'll start laying again...or not. The findings are mixed. Some think that after the period of time it would have taken for the eggs she laid to hatch, her biological clock will start ticking again, and she'll start laying once more. Some think she's done laying......forever. We've got about a week or a little more before the first group of people think she'll start laying again. If after that time period comes and goes, and we still have no eggs, we're not sure what we'll do with Gertie. Garth keeps telling her since she's not a layer anymore, she must be a fryer. She doesn't like that very much, and bristles and hisses at him. Or, if she starts laying eggs again, should I take them again? Or should I let her brood and hatch them? It's a dilemma.

But, in the meantime Gertie is giving us lots and lots of entertainment!