Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Village Life

Oi le what an action packed week. So much has happened. 
Monday, after I finished emailing we went FISHING! In the ocean.  I was bummed that I was sick and had no strength but it was quite the experience.  I was imagining sitting in a chair on a dock somewhere.  Nope. I should have known better.  Instead the sisters caught crabs for live bait then attached them to their coke bottle fishing poles and waded out in the water to fish.  Sister Bechu and I were pretty pathetic and didn't catch anything (probably because we didn't wade in the ocean), but we had a blast watching the other sisters (both like 50 or 60 yrs. old) jump in with full on sweats and catch the fish.  So funny.  It just made me LOVE these people even more. They are so genuine.
I'm adjusting well to Village life. I think. One of the hardest things to get used to is all of the village rules. Here are a few.......
  • No eating while walking past/through the village
  • No umbrellas
  • Always say Tilou when passing someone
  • No hats
  • No putting your hands on your hips (I REALLY have a hard time with this one.)
  • No wearing bags when the chief is in sight
  • You must wear a sulu or a skirt when in or near the village. No shorts or pants.
  • And many more that I can't think of at the moment.
I'm starting to feel like part of the village.  Everyone is related and knows each other.  And everyone is a dalo farmer.  One of the villages we visit is called Nabaluni.  It's takes us over an hour to walk there and another hour or so back. This week we took one of the YW who is preparing for a mission with us. We had a blast and counted the dead frogs on the side of the road.  92.  For only half of the way there.  E levu na boto mate eke. When we got to the top, I don't think I've ever been that drenched in all of my life. But it's BEAUTIFUL. It's easy to see why they call it the Garden Island. We also did a few OYM's on the way back and got new investigators.  Everyone here is so nice and so receptive. 
One of the families we OYMed was a couple living in this shack. We started teaching them and I kept staring at the big, scary, dead fish eyes and teeth stored in the oven.  At the end of the lesson guess what they did. Yep.  They pulled out the very same fish.  And insisted we eat it.  Of course Sister Bechu gave me the big one. Oi le. Cold, dead slimy fish.  And no silverware. Just my hands.  But I dug in with a big smile on my face and didn't think about all the guts and skins and bones I was eating. And the flies? Holy crap.  I couldn't even think straight.  They were EVERYWHERE. But I lived, and the fish itself wasn't too bad.  :) 

There was also a prominent funeral this week. And that was a really neat cultural experience.  It's SOO different here.  I kept thinking back to The Other Side of Heaven.  And how that lady pops the plugs out of the nose then asks where the food is.  That's kind of how it is. Just a little more modern. For the days leading to the funeral I swear the entire village comes to the house. It turns into this huge ward/village/stake party and the family does the cooking and hosting and such.  Everyone comes to eat.  Man, in my funny American way of thinking, it seems like a silly thing to do and such a crappy deal for the family.  But it's just life here and they love the support.  

You'll NEVER believe what we did for service this week.  We made Coconut Oil. So exciting.  I think it was the highlight of my whole life. I swear I will never, never, EVER waste a precious drop of that oil again in my whole life. It is SO not overpriced like I thought. It took three of us 5 hours and a LOT of sweat and energy to make about 2 cups. Here are the steps.
  1. Plant a coconut tree.
  2. Wait 10 years for tree to produce Coconuts
  3. Collect Coconuts
  4. Husk Coconuts (Super hard work)
  5. Crack coconuts and drink juice if desired
  6. Shred coconut meat on this special tool. 
  7. Squeeze milk out of meat and strain.
  8. Build a fire, because there is no stove on the plantation.
  9. Cook for an hour, stirring constantly. And add wood.
  10. When its curdled and the oil comes to the top and smells good, take off heat.
  11. Carefully strain oil through cloth (preferably clean, but any will do)
  12. Enjoy oil.    
So there you go.  Just in case you want to make your own Coconut Oil. That's how it's done.  (Mom, Sister Ranama said you can come make your own someday.) But that's not the end of the story.  The chief has been really sick. Apparently some superstitious witchcraft stuff going on in the village. Who knows.  But he received a blessing from Elder McFadden and is doing SO much better.  When nothing else helped, the Priesthood healed him. And now he is using our coconut oil to heal his leg. Yep. Maybe we'll go visit him this week. So don't be surprised if we convert the Chief this week.  And the rest of the Village.
But seriously, Hearts are truly being prepared here. I had my first baptism yesterday.  His name is Aca.  He's 12 and such a stud.  He's SOO much more ready this week and was so excited to be baptized.
Vuli is one of my very favorites.  She is our golden investigator.  She is getting baptized this week. She is a complete crack up.  We were filling out her papers and had NO idea what year she was born or her son or her parents.  So different from the U.S. Things like that just don't matter in the bush life. If you are alive, you are alive. Anyways, we had an incredible lesson with her this week.  I have never seen anyone so truly converted and excited to be baptized.  Her eyes just light up.  She told us she's gonna hike up to this village today and climb the Wi (a kind of fruit) tree and then sell them to the kids for 10 cents each to earn money for a new baptism dress. She also fasted and prayed and studied all night so she could pass her baptismal interview. She passed.  I've never seen someone so happy.  I'm sad that she'll be moving to Sydney after she is baptized.  So if Amanda is reading this..... look out for her! Ofa Hei Vuli from Fiji. She's such a blessing to my life.  We're best friends.  Someday I'll go visit in Australia and go to the temple with her.
We also taught a new lady named Mere this week. We taught her at a member's home by candlelight. And it was probably the single most incredible lesson of my mission so far. She is SO prepared. She was asking questions and sharing about her life the whole time.  Towards the end, the spirit was SO strong.  Everyone was crying. Me too, even though I could hardly understand what they were saying. I swear, she's gonna be YW President real soon. We're hoping she and her sons will be baptized in March. She is a testimony to me that this is truly the Lord's work.  He prepares the hearts and leads the way.
Another family that I feel a particularly close connection with is Alipate and his family.  They are STRONG catholics.  And they are hard to teach.  But something keeps drawing us back.  In our last lesson, the thought came to me that sometimes the hardest people to convert are the ones who will be the strongest pillars in the church. And to not give up.  I know they know how much I love them though.  There is truly power in sending missionaries so far from home. I feel the spirit so strong and tear up everytime I bear testimony that I KNOW this Gospel is true.  And that there is no way I would leave my school, my work, my family, my friends, my culture, and my entire life to come live in a shack in Fiji if I didn't absolutely know it is true.  And if I didn't absolutely LOVE these people. I pray everyday that they will be able to see my love for them.  There is also something special about struggling through the language.  Because it's so hard for me to speak in Fijian, people listen.  I am humbled and they are humbled.  It's all part of God's plan. And I'm so grateful that they are loving and patient with me.
It's hot here.  Real hot. Last night our flat was 92 degrees when we went to sleep at10:30 pm. And I killed a VERY large cockroach last night. I was so proud.  It was like 8 inches long.  It was more like an animal than an insect and I killed it! I felt like a true villager. I also get eaten alive every day.  And I eat leaves for pretty much every meal.  And there are hard parts of every. single. day.  Times when I am so exhausted and hot and tired and itchy and uncomfortable and frustrated.  But it is those times, when I see the blessings.  It's those times that I realize how lucky I am.  Missions are hard. Real hard.  But they are SO WORTH IT.  It's all about Love. I love these people and want with all my heart for them to be happy.  And I know that the Gospel is what they need. I love this work.
I'm sure there are a bazillion things I'm forgetting, but this will have to do.  It's already a novel.  So I'm sorry about that. Besides, I have a mat to go weave! That's what we're doing for P-day today and I'm STOKED.

Loloma Levu,
Sister Matheson :)

Fishing :)

The beautiful land of Fiji

Village kids

Breakfast before we started, then scraping and opening the coconuts, then the finished product: coconut oil!

The beautiful view from one of the members homes.  Sunsets here are gorgeous.  And I swear their property would be worth buckets back home.

The Fish. What an experience.

Aca - our first baptism  

One of our Cockroach friends