Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week Two in Kosrae

 Monday the Elders took us along on a hike up Mt. Mutante, at 1,923 feet, the third highest peak on Kosrae .    We thought we were in for a 2 to 3 hour walk but it ended up being a seven hour ordeal, straight up and straight down.  The scenery was well worth the pain, however.

The day was beautiful and we hiked in the shade of the jungle most of the way which kept us cool.  Here we are taking a much needed break with Elders Ferguson, Blackwell, Conk, Amato, Johnson and Gibb.

As we neared the summit we began to get glimpses of the densely forested hills and coastline below.

Our guide, Ned, although barefoot, set a brisk pace.  The Elders were kind enough to slacken it a bit for us.  It was still an aerobic challenge to keep scrambling up and up.  The trail was barely discernible and followed narrow ridges, climbed steep, muddy hillsides and passed through the roots of giant trees.  It looked and felt like an enchanted forest from Middle Earth.

From the top we could see much of the north and east of the 43 square mile island.  The population is concentrated in villages along the coast.  The main road runs part way around the island but there are no roads into the interior which is covered by dense jungle and uninhabited.  Beyond the beaches, a shallow reef rings the island. Beyond the reef, where the surf was breaking, we could see a school of large fish churning up the sea.

At the top we rested on a narrow ridge, cushioned by thick moss covered with ferns.  We were too tired to make the final push to the summit as it involved using a rope and we weren't sure we could trust our legs at that point.  We enjoyed watching the Elders who, as you can see behind Grant, did make it to the very top.  As we rested, a cloud formed around us, cooling us with its moisture.

The trip down was treacherous.  Gravity and tired muscles made it hard to control our descent and by the time we reached the bottom, we were straining to put one foot in front of the other.  Again, the young Elders were very kind to slacken the pace for our sakes.  Although it took several days to work out the aches and pains, the hike was well worth it.  We are now reputed to be the oldest people to have ever climbed Mt. Mutante!

Tuesday we bid farewell to Elder Ferguson at the Kosrae Interanational Airport.  His departure brought the number of Elders on Kosrae down to five. (Elders Amato, Gibb, Conk, Ferguson, Balckwell and Johnson)

On Friday night the Lelu Branch had a farewell party for Elder Blackwell who will leave next Tuesday.  Some of the Branch members sang "The Spirit of God" in beautiful unaccompanied harmony.  The Kosraeans are the best singers in all of Microneisa.

Saturday afternoon we participated in a service activity with the Elders and helped clean the Utwe chapel.  Here Elders Conk and Johnson wipe down the glass louvers.  They and Elder Amato and Milson Albert, President George and his daughter Sina also helped.

After several months of hard work, Grant was able to record the spoken part of the soundtrack for the Book of Mormon pageant on Sunday afternoon after Church--something of a miracle in our estimation.  These members from the Utwe and Lelu Branches each had a part.  

Here is Grant with Brother Kosmaru Jonathan our "sound engineer."  Brother Jonathan works at the local radio station where we had hoped to be able to do the recording but the sound booth has been eaten up by termites.  Never to be deterred, Grant created this recording studio in the district President's office using a bedspread and sofa covers from the Senior Missionaries house.

Monday, May 25, 2015

First Week in Kosrae!

In anticipation of the Book of Mormon celebration in Kosrae, we had Sepe Charley, a member of the Barrigada Ward, translate the script that Elder Hurst, the Hardys  and President Zarbock have been working so hard on.  

Sepe spent two entire days in our office and time at home completing the translation.

The day before we left, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the mission home with the the Zarbocks and the Guam missionaries, thankful that we were spared the full impact of Typhoon Dolphin.  

More great missionaries from the Guam Zone.

We left Monday morning for Kosrae.  That evening we joined President Zarbock and the Kosrae Zone missionaries for dinner.  We are excited to be assigned to Kosrae to help the members here plan and present a celebration of the Book of Mormon which has just been translated into their language.  This beautiful island is 43 square miles in size and has a population of about 6,650 people which is about what it was before European and American whalers arrived ca. 1824.  When American Board Missionaries arrived and established the Congregationalist Church on the island in 1852 the population was in a freefall.  By 1880 disease had reduced the number of Kosraeans to under 200.  The demographic crisis plus the success of the missionaries undermined the chiefly cast system and destroyed the indigenous culture. This is the smallest island in the mission and the most remote.  There are now six (soon to be only four) elders serving in two branches here.

Gas is distributed like this all over the island.  Needless to say, it is expensive, like everything else that has to be brought here by boat.  Luckily, we don't have far to drive.

Kosrae is a "high" Micronesian island.  The rugged interior is uninhabited and covered with dense jungle.  This is the famous "Sleep Lady" of Kosrae, as seen from the Lelu dock.  Her head is on the right

This little boy is about 4 or 5 and lives with his parents and two brothers across the street from our house.  We see the boys pass by our front door nearly every day on their way to the ocean.  Noticing him collecting something out on the reef at low tide one day, we stopped him to see what it was.  He had a bucket of sea cucumbers.  Some people eat them and others use them for fertilizer. 

The children here find interesting things to play with.  This little guy has a collection of hermit crabs, some in the blue box to the right and others scattered on the steps below him.  

We have enjoyed getting to know the six missionaries on the island.  The zone leaders, Elders Gibb (above) and Blackwell (below), live just down the street from us.  We found them one morning while on our walk, working out on the beach.

Elder Blackwell leaves next week to return to Alberta, Canada.  He will be missed!

We hold district meetings at our house on Thursdays which include a meal.  Its a challenge to figure out what to fix with what is available.  The selection at the little ACE grocery store depends on how recently the last boat arrived and the local produce is limited to what happens to be on hand the day you stop by the stands.

These large land crabs are everywhere at night.  We found this fellow on our doorstep one evening. They are supposed to be pretty good to eat too.

The chapel in Lelu will be the site of our celebration.  It is one of the nicest buildings on the island but like everything else here, requires a tremendous amount of upkeep.  Some minor repairs and renovations are underway which we hope will be completed by July 25.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

To the most amazing Palau and back to beautiful Guam and Typhoon Dolphin!

We had a wonderful trip to Palau where we met some incredible members and saw some of the most beautiful spots on Earth:  Rock Islands, Jellyfish Lake, Giant Clams, Milky Way and WWII wrecks, including a downed Japanese Zero still sitting in the lagoon.  Unfortunately we weren't able to get photos of all of these - Jellyfish Lake (underwater swarming jelly fish with no sting) and the most amazing - giant clams the size of a small bathtub.  This is a must see place!

Palau traditional pig roast and entertainment at the market in Koror.

Family History Consultant extraordinaire, Clint Freese, and patron in the Koror Branch.
Great hosts and wonderful company, Elder and Sister Proffit showed us a terrific time in Palau.

Young Single Adult group - Institute class at Palau Community College.  We enjoyed hearing their stories about their grandmas.

 Rock Islands tour - on way to Jelly Fish Lake.  We were able to arrange to go on one of  Rebluud Kesolei's boats with three other couples:  Elder/Sister Proffit (Larry & Pat) the senior missionary couple on Palau; Evan Robbins (Sister Robbins had left to return to SLC for birth of a grandchild) - he is an attorney working in the office of the Palau Attorney General; and Herm and Sister Olsen from Logan who are in Palau on a seven-week legal mission (through the Church) to teach the local attorneys how to conduct jury trials.

 Sunken ship - snorkeling spot in the Rock Islands

 Among the Rock Islands

 Wonderful soft coral snorkeling through this natural arch.

Jellyfish Lake - amazing gentle creatures!

Us, Evan Robbins, Elder/Sister Proffit (left front) and Brother/Sister Olsen taking a lunch break between Jellyfish Lake and the giant clams.

Some of these clams were 3-4 feet across.

 Jeanette at the "Milky Way" a protected cove in the Rock Islands with incredibly soft white mud that is reputed to have beautifying effects.  She looked five years younger after a dip and facial mask.  While in Palau we were also able to meet with officials at the National Archives, Supreme Court and Bureau of Lands and Surveys to identify records of genealogical value and discuss the possibility of having FamilySearch digitize them.  


Micronesian, mostly Chuukese, group learning about family history in preparation for the Micronesian Fair where FamilySearch will have a booth.  This was scheduled for last weekend but was postponed due to Typhoon Dolphin.

Wonderful walk in the lagoon, along the reef at very low tide - Tagachang Beach on Pacific Coast of Guam

Tagachang Beach lagoon looking north.

Typhoon Dolphin arrived on Friday May 15th but fortunately we didn't take a direct hit.  We had winds on the north part of the island approaching 100 mph but near our apartment probably only about 60.  There was significant damage around the island but we were burrowed into our apartment with the typhoon shutters closed.  We did loose electricity for around 12 hours and water has been on and off - mostly off for nearly 24 hours.  We filled the bathtub and all available containers before the storm and after the water went out filled containers from the rain runoff from the apartment roof.