Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coming Home!

To all our good friends and family,
We have just received official notification that our work here is almost done. We will be leaving the Islands of Yap at 2:30 in the morning on September 7th *(yes.. only 3 weeks from now!). We will be flying Yap > Guam > Osaka > Seattle > Vancouver > Nanaimo. I have to say, that I am terribly disappointed that Paris isn't included in our itinerary.
If all the flights connect properly and are on time, we "should" be home at 5:50PM on September 7th. It will be a full 40 hours after our initial departure, yet because of the International dateline thing, we will arrive only 16 hours after we leave. Needless to say, I doubt we will be ready for a big party on the night we arrive.
These final weeks will be an emotional time for us. As much as we are anxious to be home, we will be leaving behind huge pieces of our hearts and souls. Because the only two flights to and from Yap each week are in the middle of the night, we never get to see our little island from the air during daylight hours. So we will be saying goodbye to a few tiny lights in the darkness as we leave them behind, probably forever.
We've felt the entire spectrum of emotion at various times here. Though we've felt unappreciated, rejected, untalented, ignored, underutilized, fearful, depressed, anxious, frustrated, confused, uncharitable, and angry at times, our assignment has been an experience we will treasure forever. Though it has been a constant battle to feel like we might have made a difference here, we, ourselves, have grown a lot! We  have helped here and there. We have done what we do best, and that is to find success in seeing minor changes in the lives of individuals. We hope and pray that we will have helped a few come closer to their potential. Our weaknesses have become evident, but at the same time the experience has allowed us to discover our strengths and to put life in proper perspective.
I am certain that we will experience some culture shock as we try to integrate back into the speed, noise, lights, and pace of western civilization.  I know we will have a new appreciation for so many of the things we used to take for granted.
Our best to you all. We look forward to seeing you soon. Get ready for a zillion slideshows of life in Yap!
Leigh & Winona.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time Flies

I am amazed... two months have gone by since my last series of posts... and even harder to believe is that we have less than 4 months left before we are sent home! It seems incredible that our time here is running out so quickly. Seminary and Institute are over, and so we will be spending the next few months updating membership records, visiting people, documenting what we have been doing... and preparing things for our replacement.

We will soon be making note of our "last this" and "last that". We've just had our last District Conference, our last Mother's Day, about to have our last Father's Day, Winona's last birthday, our last Couple's Conference. We've said goodbye to our Mission President and his wife, who are heading home at the end of June.

Our connection to the Internet has actually gotten slower over the months. As the Telecom keeps adding new subscribers, it simply increases the bottleneck, and we get slower and slower. As a result, posting pictures on the blog has become increasingly difficult. It takes forever to do anything. Compounding the problem, it now thinks I am attaching to the internet through Thailand, and lots of things, including the login screen are in Thai characters.

So.. .I have about reached the limits of my patience for today, so I will post one picture and call it quits for now, but I will try to post a bit every day or two for the next few days, and catch up on things. They will be in no particular order... as that would just make the chaos look like it had some order to it.. but I promise that the context of the posting will at least explain what you are seeing.

So... today's photo... almost randomly chosen because I'm impatient and crabby...

Not satisfied with destroying buildings and furniture, this is what termites in this area do to scriptures, and hymnbooks. Something tells me termites won't be going to heaven!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To our followers on Facebook!

I have discovered that most of our visitors are actually reading our blog entries on Winona's Facebook site, because we have linked the blog to her site... as a result, your comments are not actually showing up on the blog... only on HER facebook!! Also, your visits are not being counted as visits to the blog, and I REALLY want to see your dot on my Map. We'd like to invite you all, to actually visit the blog at:

and please, leave a comment there.

Bugs in the Flour

Winona took this picture while I was baking cinnamon buns. She thinks I am a little eccentric when it comes to cooking... so she took this picture as proof for our posterity. Hey, when a recipe calls for me to divide a 12" inch roll of dough into 2" pieces, I take it very literally!

She also thought it was rather ironic that I would use a measuring tape to get things "just right", when I often make fun of how my dad used to measure wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, door frame to window, to make sure that when he hung a picture it was exactly the right height, perfectly centered with the objects in the room and placed in the exact spot so as to not throw the earth off its axis. Well, she was sure that he would be proud of me... his legacy lives on... it's hereditary!

I use the cinnamon buns as bribes to get students to class on time. Those who arrive early, get warm cinnamon buns before class.

Students who arrive late eat at the end of the class if there happens to be any left over. It worked very well... except that when I stopped making cinnamon buns, students stopped coming on time...

I also use the cinnamon buns as an object lesson to explain the creation. I show them the bag of flour, the cinnamon, the sugar, eggs, butter, salt and yeast.  The finished product looks nothing like the material it is made of. The students all agree that I am indeed the "creator" of the buns even though I didn't create them from nothing. I "created" the buns with the raw ingredients and formed them into a magnificent finished product. The parallels with the Creation of heaven and earth become very self-evident for them... God is indeed our Creator but he did not create the heavens and the earth from nothing.

My creation - with a small 'c'

Someone tries to throw me off by asking about the dinosaurs! Inspiration hits me -- not doctrinally verifiable, but a plausible explanation. I mention the bugs I found in the flour as I was preparing the dough...(not really, but it had the desired effect!)

Everyone stops eating and looks suspiciously at the bun they were enjoying.

"Has anyone ever seen a live dinosaur?" 
"Nope, all we have is bones, and fossils."
"So all we have is the skeletal remains of what used to be dinosaurs..."
"Are you going to see any live bugs in your buns?"
"I hope not" is the general response as the chewing stops.
"So all we have is the skeletal remains of what used to be bugs in the flour..." ???

The lights begin to go on... (but they're still looking suspiciously at the bun in their hand)

Is it possible that dinosaurs were just "bugs in the flour" that was used to form the earth?

I can't teach that, but I DO like baking cinnamon buns!

Tropical Skies

Yap Canoe Festival

Canoe Festival




Mangroves cover the shore


Guam - Sheraton Laguna Resort - view from our room


Mandatory Sunset Photo

Friday, March 18, 2011

Boathouse Construction

These two boathouses are being built between the main road and the lagoon. It is fascinating to watch the progress. This represents pretty typical Yapese architecture. Most homes, have a resting place that is constructed in a pretty similar fashion. They are built completely from local materials, tied or woven together to form a solid shelter from the sun and the rain.

Click for full-size image

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

We are so grateful to have been able to stay in touch with our kids via the internet. We really enjoy "chatting" and find we have much more in depth conversations with our kids via chat than we do during the occasional opportunity we get to "phone home".

Don't get me wrong, we love the opportunity to talk, and have even been able to use Skype on occasion to view each other.. We really look forward to those opportunities... but, my favorite is still chatting. We get the chance to talk for hours sometimes, making jokes, updating each other on news and happenings in our lives, and just enjoying the opportunity to visit. Plus, we talk about things we would never  talk about otherwise. We solve world problems, exchange recipes, send links to cool websites, and fill our chats with lots of emoticons.

Even this blog gives me in particular, the chance to keep a personal journal in a very public way... more public than I had anticipated actually. We are getting visitors and readers and comments from all over the world. I am amazed actually, and want to welcome you all. I am excited to see new dots show up on the Maploco app at the bottom of the blog and even recognize who some of the dots represent. I have a pretty good idea who it is that is checking us out from Africa, and from Pakistan, and from the Marshall Islands, and from Victoria BC, and Calgary, and from our hometown, and Montreal and Iceland. I recognize the visits from our daughter in Virginia, and our son in Washington State. I see hits from many of our fellow senior missionaries serving in other parts of the world, some of our former students from Taiwan, Beijing, Korea, and Japan. I know who you are and want to thank all of you for your visits.

There are hundreds of visitors from other areas of the world that I am fascinated by. From Moscow, and Germany, and Italy, and New Guinea. The South American visitors have me baffled, and France, and Saudi Arabia, and Burundi. Its all very exciting, and suddenly I realize that I have a responsibility to make your visits worthwhile. I guess this is what happens when your blog gets to the first page on Google. (if you happen to have searched for "Yap Days").  Please... leave a comment, introduce yourself, say hi!

Winona and I have now been here for 16 months. We have become accustomed to the ebb and flow of life on the Islands of Yap. The food items on our shelves come from two main sources. The first is from the local stores who are totally dependent upon deliveries from supply ships. Our shelves are generally well stocked with items so that we have eggs, and butter, and milk, and rice, and flour to make it through until the next supply ship comes in. We have learned actually, that when something runs out in one store, it runs out in ALL stores. If EMI is out of butter, generally so is YCA, and Pic 'n Save, and Ace's Mart... and we would simply have to adapt to not using butter for awhile.. except that we have learned what to stock up on.

In many ways, shopping here reminds us of shopping in Costco. If you see something you want, you buy it, because you may never see it again!

Our second source of items on our shelves is from "Care Packages" from our kids!! We LOVE our care packages... full of stuff we just can't get here. Nuts, and candies, and chocolate (although, it all melts by the time it gets to us!) and Adams Crunchy style Peanut Butter!! Oh, we can get peanut butter here... Skippy, and Best Yet, and Springfield, and Smuckers, and Goobers... but, I am sorry... nothing compares with Adam's Crunchy Style. (Even "Adams Smooth" isn't what it used to be since Smuckers bought them!)

We have survived without eggs for weeks, without milk, or butter, or flour... but now we have begun to suffer our worst drought... our peanut butter is gone... We got out the rubber spatula, used our fingers, whatever we could think of to get the last bits out of the jar, but alas.. the above is our last and final peanut butter sandwich.

Tsunami -- Outer Islands and Atolls in Micronesia

I have had several requests for further updates on the outer islands of Yap, and the atolls in Micronesia that would easily have been completely swept away in the wake of the tsunami from the earthquake in Japan had they been in the direct  path of the larger swells.

I have been in touch with several people from the outer islands of Yap, and have confirmed with them that the outer islands experienced what simply amounted to a "high tide". Same with Majuro and the hundreds of other islands in this area of the Pacific. I have had no reports of damage or injuries from any of the Micronesian Islands, including Guam.
I also received a report from associates in Japan, and have included excerpts here:

Thank you very much for your encouragements.

People in Tokyo area are fine.  All the S&I employees and their family were not impacted by the earthquake and the tsunami.  Trains system in Tokyo started to move today almost as usual but TV news keeps reporting about missing people in the stricken area and nuclear plant. 

Talking about Tohoku area, which is almost identical to the area covered by Sendai Mission, I hope things won’t get worse any more.  So many people were killed by Tsunami and many more are still missing.  More than 10,000 people were killed or missing.  Groups of people are still isolated from the other areas because road were destroyed by the disaster.  People are suffering from the shortage of water, food, kerosene, electricity, gasoline, medicines, and even the way to communicate with other area under the snowy countryside environment.  Cell phone doesn’t work at all since the facilities are also damaged.  Addition to that the trouble at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima seems getting worse. 

However, the Church members are helping each other in such stricken areas.  Some of them reported that they have been blessed by the benefit of the food storages.  PBAO has sent out people to the stricken area to organize the volunteers.

I think things are OK for now at least in other than Sendai Mission.  We keep our eyes on the situation of the nuclear plant and praying for people in the stricken area.

We too are praying for the people affected by this disaster. Our hearts go out to all of you. The bits of information we get have us greatly concerned as we see photographs, satellite images, and news clippings of the devastation, and begin to realize the impact this will have on the entire world. When I see photos of entire cities flattened and debris strewn for miles and miles, I am actually amazed that there weren't hundreds of thousands of people killed by this. We stand in awe at the resiliance of the Japanese people!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 11, 2011 - Tsunami Warning

At about 6:15PM local time, I got an email from our mission office that a Tsunami warning had been issued for the entire Pacific Basin, due to a massive M8.9 earthquake in Japan. As you can see from some of the previous pictures I have posted, many of the buildings, and villages in Yap are near the water.

We immediately called the younger Missionaries and learned that they were watching news of the earthquake and its resulting tsunami on TV at the Telecom office.  We suggested they continue to do that for awhile, as it was not expected to hit the area for at least another hour, so they could keep us updated.

I called the Branch Presidents, and anyone we knew who lived in low-lying areas, and then hopped into the truck to check on a few people we couldn't reach by phone. I stopped a few times to warn a few people who were walking or jogging around the lagoon and probably hadn't heard of the impending danger.

As I checked on local stores, most knew about the tsunami warning, but seemed unconcerned. Actually, as I approached some of the people that I had come to warn, I was given polite smiles, and heard a few chuckles as I departed. The locals obviously had a sixth sense about this, because sure enough, as has happened twice before since we've been here... nothing... 

Not complaining... definitely the better outcome. It was a non-event for this little island. On the other hand, the outer islands of Yap which range as far as 800 miles away, are much smaller, much flatter, much more susceptible to being swept over by a large Tsunami. I haven't heard any news of them, but am sure I would have if they had been hit.

So for my friends back home -- we are fine, unaffected actually. Life goes on as normal. As for the bits of news feeds we have seen of the destruction in Japan, our hearts go out to them, and to the families back home affected by the destruction. We know there is still danger with the nuclear reactors, and pray that they are able to be contained and a third disaster avoided.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yapese Architecture

Women's House

Men's House

Men's and Women's House :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Signs of the Times!

Yap doesn't have a professional sign painter. I am still trying to figure out if stores don't have signs because there is no graphic artist in Yap... or if there is no graphic artist in Yap because there are no signs! If there is a sign advertising a store, it is hand painted, and often with nothing more elaborate than a felt pen.

The only neon sign on the Island is one hanging in the window of EMI (local grocery/wholesale outlet) that says "CLOSE" in brightly lit red neon. As we pass it each night after closing time, I amuse myself by considering the sign's true meaning... is it a command that tells the staff to close, and close fast.. because, after all, its the only lit sign in Yap, and it's red!

Or, it could mean that I am getting close to something special enough to warrant a lit sign...but as I drive on and look back across the lagoon, I can still see its eery red image and it still says CLOSE... even tho' I am clearly by now, FAR from whatever it was I was once close to.

Stores and offices are immensely difficult to recognize, as most do not have signs, and they look just like any other house. It is assumed that you know it's a store, or if you don't, you'll ask someone "is that a store?" ...simple! Who needs a sign?

Streets aren't named either, presumably for the same reason... although it puts us back into the same conundrum... are the streets not named because they don't have signs, or are there no signs for the streets because they are not named? Again, the thought is.. if you really want to find someone, you'll simply head in the general direction, and ask "Where does Gubung live?" Everyone knows, and they'll point you in the general direction, and then you ask again as you get closer... here is where that neon sign might come in handy!

Then I found this!!! It's a rare sign to advise people that they should slow down. It reads "Please slow down your car cause our road is not real good". It was an understatement... and probably unnecessary since you couldn't possibly go fast on this road.

RATS!! I just noticed that this is going to publish under Winona's account! I have become totally technologically challenged  since I quit the industry. I have no idea how to twitter...  Facebook confuses me completely.. I don't twit, or tweet, or face, or wiki. I leave that to Winona entirely! Googling and blogging is about where I am at in the evolution of the personal computer. The blog is a nice way to share my journal, but the "editor" frustrates me no end. So, rather than try to fight it, I am just going to accept the fact that this post will say it is coming from Winona... I have the same dilemma with Google Talk (chat) ... my kids have gotten used to the fact that when it says "Winona says:" it is likely me... especially if it shows her as being online at 3am Yap time! Winona is NEVER on any time after 11pm or anytime prior to 7am. ... if it says she is.. its me! Same with this post... this post cannot be blamed on Winona.

Hmmm .. even more confusing.. the preview publishes as Winona... but the final copy came out as me! I am definitely showing signs of serious aging! (PS .. note the amount of grey showing up in my hair. Arrgh! Another sign of the times! )

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Being Bogged-down by Blog Bugs

First I want to apologize for the month-and-a-half long gap since my last post! (can I blame writer's block?). I really wanted to rectify the situation today, but as I began working on the blog, I hit a few bugs in the process.. I won't bore you with the details except to say that as I tried to fix it, things went from bad to worse. I ended up getting a "bX-rg6px" error message, which is really helpful!!

I thought, "bummer!, I've lost my blog!!"

... you will notice that I ended up with a changed background. Its not really the background I wanted, but at least the blog works, even if somewhat more difficult to read. I figured I'd better leave well enough alone for now. But with all the techno-troubles today I have run out of time to add any new posts... except this one... :-)

I'll try again another day.

Addendum: it's now another day, and the background has been changed to something I actually like, (using a different background provider ... is that what they are called?) Unfortunately not all of the background picture actually shows up on the screen... the prettiest portion is somewhere down below my available screen real-estate. Those of you with higher resolution monitors than mine may get a better picture than I can on my laptop.

I have also added a slideshow gizmo (gadget actually!) which we can update very readily using Picasa. We will be adding photos to the slide show in random fashion from time to time, but will provide captions that will hopefully make up for some of the "randomness". It will provide us an opportunity to give you lots of pictures of our mission experience thus far, without filling the blog with hundreds of photos to sift through.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to husk a coconut with a screwdriver.

These pictures were taken some time ago, but offer a glimpse into a talent I have yet to grasp. Getting to the coconut inside is a seemingly impossible task to us North Americans. Usually the islanders husk the coconuts on a sharp stick or pole firmly anchored into the ground. With those, I've seen them husk as many as five in 60 seconds but they have an inherent risk of being impaled through the chest with just one slip.

We often get the missionaries to husk one for us using a machete, which also works well but has the inherent risk of losing a hand or a foot... depending on which you use to hold the coconut in place while you chop it to pieces with the machete.

In this series of photographs, Alfred Nam demonstrates how to do it with a screwdriver... it takes longer, and more muscle power but it shows that it can be done. It has the inherent risk of breaking into buckets of sweat as you wrestle with these things.

Beginning to see results

This is the part where I break into a sweat.

That's a lot of husk for a little nut (I think he did a second one while I wasn't looking!) we still need to get to the actual coconut

ah... the machete comes in here!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Scripture Chase II

The Scripture Chase was divided into two parts. Part 1 was a written team test. A perfect score would have given them 25 points. They had exactly 10 minutes to complete the test.
So... rather than all of the students trying to remember all 25 scriptures, they decided that each one would concentrate on memorizing the references, clues, and content of only 5 scriptures, each one with a differenct set of 5. As the clues were given, they would recognize that the clue was for one of their 5, and they would lead the others to the correct scripture. The strategy worked well, but it had one flaw... because each one hadn't learned all 25 scriptures, there was some dispute about which scripture fit which clue, and so they ended up with the same scripture being used for two different clues
Seminary Class 24
Missionaries 25
Round 1 to the Missionaries

It was fun just to see the teamwork

Round 2 was the 'basketball' round:

While one team deciphered clues and hunted down the scripture, the other team shot baskets. We initially had the Missionaries shooting from the 3 point line, while the seminary students could shoot from anywhere... (hey, the missionaries are a lot taller!! and they are guys! It seemed only fair). The handicap was a little too much, ... I forgot, white men can't shoot... so we quickly let them shoot from the foul line.

As soon as the team hunting down scriptures had all found their scriptures, the scoring of baskets stopped. Even a ball that was in the air when the bell sounded was out of play at that point. So, if you weren't so good at Scripture Chase, but could shoot baskets you still had a fighting chance to win.

The Seminary Students were the clear winner of round 1 of the basketball portion... so we had them play round2 with the same rules as the missionaries... all shots from behind the foul line. The missionaries sqeaked by with a 1 point lead for round 2 of the basketball shootout.

Overall, however, the students ended up with more overall points... giving the missionaries a good workout! (playing basketball in white shirt and tie in 90 degree weather in the hot afternoon sun is a clear disadvantage.) and leaving the Seminary Class delighted with a great comback!

The ability to shoot pays off!

The Proud Graduates

Scripture Chase

Every year, the Seminary students are taught 25 "Scripture Mastery" scriptures. By knowing and understanding these scriptures, and knowing where to find them, the students are then able to draw upon those scriptures as they prepare lessons, or talks later in life. Many of these scriptures have deep personal meaning to the students as the principles taught begin to shape their lives.
At the end of the school year, we held a "Scripture Chase" with the full-time missionaries. In the demonstration match held with two of the missionaries vs. the seminary class, it became obvious that the missionaries were formidable opponents! The missionaries were given brand-new, unmarked scriptures... the students had marked their scriptures, crumpled their pages, color coded the edges of the pages, along with a few "cheat sheets", I'm sure... but were soundly defeated by the missionaries...
The students worked hard over the next few weeks to be in better shape for the live competition... (the theme song from Rocky has suddenly entered my head...)!
They also got together to work on a few strategies... mostly legal.. to give them an edge in the competition....
For the live event, we threw in a few twists to make it a little more competitive

Sister Sheppard explaining the rules...
Missionaries vs. Seminary Class

The most intense we'd seen them all year!

The missionaries seem more relaxed, don't you think?
Don't miss the exciting conclusion in my next post!!
Rocky II theme Music ...
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Thursday, June 10, 2010


Preparation for Canoe Races.... 156 days left!
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Grade 8 Graduation

At last we have DSL! We can upload pictures without worring about the cost or the amount of time it takes!

local warriors.

Bamboo Dance

hundreds of congratulatory leis
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Our Little Island

Sometimes, words are not enough!
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Mother Hen in the jungle

Anna Faltinag and I went to visit some of the branch members one Sunday and found ourselves adopted by four baby chickens. The place we stopped, unfortunately, had no one at home but the family's chickens greeted us as friends. We left a note to say we had been by and started to walk up the jungle path to the road where we had left the car. We had only made it a few yards before we realized that the baby chicks that had been running around our feet were now in hot pursuit! Anna realized they were expecting to be fed and from their vantage point we looked like the feeders! Anna made efforts to trick them into thinking the food was here or there by scratching the dirt and gathering them all into a circle, while she tried to step out and walk away. They would have none of that and quickly gathered at her feet again. We laughed and laughed as we made several more unsuccessful attempts to escape from the brood.

Anna finally succeeded when she found a coconut husk that still had bits of coconut left inside, and put it on the ground. The chicks immediately began pecking at it so Anna quickly ran up the path and got far enough away, fast enough, that the chicks stayed pecking and didn't notice she'd gone. Just another day in Yap.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Full Moon + Land Crabs = RoadKill

Full Moon tonight, and things get weird in Yap... I wrote about crabbing during a full moon a few months ago, but this month was just down-right Outer Limits weird. Even though the moon was hidden behind clouds tonight, somehow all the land crabs on Yap know that tonight is the night to go night-crawling. As we drive with high beams lighting the roadway ahead we can see creatures from TRON scurrying in front of us. We are driving slowly, so we swerve to try and avoid them, but they obviously have no idea that cars have 4 wheels and so they end up scurrying right under my back tires, and the resulting crunch is quite disturbing. As the night gets darker, the throng gets thicker and in some areas of the road they are so thick that we have little choice but to drive right over them. Roadkill is everywhere, as we are obviously not the first ones to travel the road tonight. Local citizens are all over the sides of the road scooping crabs into plastic bags. Winona is wearing flip-flops, so she is too afraid to get out and try to catch a few of these things... (she forgets that most of the locals are barefoot!!) ... as for me?? ... well, these things are just plain creepy and don't really taste all that good, so we decide that we are quite happy with the imitation Crab that is in our freezer. I am still not sure what the attraction of a full moon is to the crabs, nor how they tell, but someone should get the word out to them that its not safe out there!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ramblings... (part deux)

As you can tell from the last posting, we are settling in here. Winona is being extremely easy on me by loving what she is doing here. We are given lots of freedom to get involved in almost any sort of charitable work we want to and so we sort of stumbled into the ASL class at the high school one day. When we arrived in Yap, one of the first things we checked out was the local library. Yap actually had one, not all the smaller islands have libraries, so we were excited. However, we found the library to be poorly stocked and many of the books are old and musty smelling but we applied for a library card and Winona checked out a few books just so she could have an excuse to go back. The library consists of four or five shelves that are three levels high and some magazine racks...that's it. We also looked to find new books in the local stores but none of the stores carry books at all! We began to realize why even though most people speak pretty good English, few can read very well. Even sadder, they don't read Yapese either, because there are so few Yapese books in the world! Our church is one of the few organizations that is working hard to make all of its material available in all of the Micronesian languages.. Yapese, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Palauan, and Kosraean. (there is little use for these languages elsewhere in the world, and so most people (including ourselves) are amazed at the amount of money the church spends in translation efforts.

You'll appreciate the process they go through to make this happen. I am assisting with getting the Yapese translation team setup to work effectively in Yap. The translators consist of 5 high school and college aged kids who are good enough in English and Yapese written skills to be able to translate, plus one middle-aged lady who is a professional teacher, and approves and/or corrects the work of the young translators before it goes for final proofreading and publication. Telephone and Internet access are a problem here, so part of my job is trying to make the computer system work as efficiently as possible, and to make sure that other capable people are being trained in the procedures involved in translation so that we always have a supply of translators available. Remember, we are training locals to translate from English into Yapese... not the other way around! No one else is doing that! It feels good to be able to help even though I don't speak the language! We recently had General Conference (a series of about 6 hours of speeches) being broadcast from Salt Lake City that needed to be translated into Yapese live, during the broadcast! Speeches were prepared ahead of time in English by the presenters, and a transcript sent via Internet to the office in Guam and then to our team. They get the transcript in Microsoft Word and it has all kinds of special embedded codes in the documents that are used later in the process. The translators get to choose which job they want and get paid almost $10US per page .. the "page" is actually only about a half page because each page is split in two, half being the original English text. If the girls are good at their jobs, they can easily produce 2 pages per hour.. easily one of the best paying jobs in Yap! (College teachers with Masters degrees get paid $18,000 per year! .. that's another story!) If they could type like professional typists.. they'd be able to hit 4 pages per hour.

This is a poster that I made of the translation team in Yap. The girl in the top right and the woman in the middle do the bulk of the translation. The girl in the bottom left is a return missionary, and does some work as well. The others are "in training".

Once they finish the translation, it gets sent back to the translation office in Guam and gets sent out for correction and initial approval by anyone of a dozen or so former missionaries or Yapese natives living elsewhere. (They have to switch back and forth between native Yapese who speak English as a second language, and native English speakers who speak Yapese as a second language to ensure that the nuances of each language have been accounted for). From there it goes to a proofreader and then finally back to Salt Lake City where they have a team of interpreters who will read the final text synchronized with the live English presenter. The embedded codes are used at this point so that during the live presentations the speakers see English on the teleprompter, and the interpreters will get a synchronized version in Yapese (or whatever other language may be being interpreted).. all at the same time. Written text is handled pretty much the same way, except audio interpreters are not needed...the material goes to a publisher instead. Finally, the broadcast is sent back to Yap via DVD.. the differences in Time Zone make Satellite live broadcasts rather useless. By the time it gets to this point, thousands of dollars have been spent just to get the Yapese translation completed accurately and on time... and then 15 or 20 of the locals get to view the "broadcast"! This is clearly an investment meant to preserve the language for the future generations. I am absolutely amazed at the translation efforts that go on when you consider that there are only about 6500 people IN THE WORLD who speak Yapese! The young missionaries that are sent here become totally comfortable with the language in less than 6 months and always impress the locals when they are able to converse with them so well. Us old missionaries??? .. not so much!

Below are a few photos of a resident of the village of Gargey using her loom to weave a lava lava. (wrap-around) She is from the island of Woleai (one of the outer islands) and now living with her family in Yap. She is sitting on the concrete floor of her home. Note how she uses her toes to assist with getting the loom ready. They do the same thing when making flower laies and baskets. Using toes and feet is just as good as having 4 hands.

The strap across her back is attached to the board on her lap so she can use her legs to provide tension on the loom as she weaves. When she gets tired of weaving, she rolls up the thread with the boards, sticks and tubes used for the separations onto the part of the frame near her feet. The pegs sticking up on the frame keep the boards and material in place while she rests.

You can see part of the Lava Lava she is wearing (black with orange stripes) underneath the sheet she has put over her legs for modesty as she works. It is easy to recognize the outer islanders because they almost always wear these lava lavas and you will never see a Yapese person wearing them. They all learn to weave their own. They are all of a similar pattern, but vary in color and width of the stripes. They are all knee length and are really very attractive. You'll rarely see them in anything else, although a few have broken from tradition and will wear other styles of clothing. Most wear T-shirts of a matching or complementary color.. or are topless. Being bare-breasted is not considered immodest, but they are very careful to cover their thighs. You will never see any of the Outer Islanders, or the Yapese women, in shorts or mini-skirts.

Anyway, back to the library thing... Winona is having a wonderful time at the High School . She learned some ASL a few years ago from a deaf couple in Nanaimo. She never got good enough to be able to keep up with a normal conversation, but she could communicate well enough with a deaf person if they signed slowly for her. When the deaf couple moved back to Baltimore, a few years ago we thought we would never see them again and that the likelihood of her ever being able to use her ASL was pretty slim. Fortunately, we were able to find them while we travelled through Baltimore last summer and the spark was rekindled. She wants to add her own blog entry so she will tell you all about her ASL adventures in our next post.

As for me, I'm becoming well known for my cooking! Can I now claim to be internationally renowned? Let's just put it this way... there is a reason that you'll never find Yapese cuisine in the US or Canada. Bland, bland, and more bland. The favorite succulent dish is Turkey Tail. (That's what my mom used to call "The Pope's Nose"... although that sounds like it is likely a totally non-politically correct name for it! I'm not sure which Pope it was that inspired the name, I am sure that he wouldn't be hard to recognize if a portrait was available...) Lets just say, that one of us had to learn to take the locally available materials and turn them into something that actually had some flavor to it...We have been to few of the local restaurants, (which are actually very reasonably priced!) but soon learned that every restaurant in town has exactly the same menu... stir fried fish, pork, or chicken; curried fish, pork or chicken; sizzling fish, pork or chicken, fish, pork or chicken in coconut sauce (which is pretty good actually) or Ramen noodles and egg, OR the worst hamburgers you've ever eaten!..Winona was busy with ASL, Yapese, and Woleaian, so I jumped into the kitchen for survival!

I (along with Winona as sous-chef) have a continual supply of Sushi rice, sushi vinegar, wasabi and Nori, crab and tuna on hand for serving up Sushi in a flash. We make our own pickled ginger, and are two of the few on the Island that can use chopsticks. I've adapted a few recipes from a cooking class I took a couple of years ago, including Salad Wraps (which are tricky with the short supply of fresh veggies here!) with homemade Thai peanut sauce. I've made the usual Stir Fry but have learned to make Lemon Chicken and the best Coconut Shrimp I've ever eaten... (using my own fresh grated coconut). Oh, and coconuts are lying on the ground everywhere, so when you want one, you just pick one up, shake it to make sure it still has juice in it, and use a machete to remove the husk (or in our case we use a friend with a machete to remove the husk!).. Because coconut is free, I try to use it in a lot of recipes. I've tried coconut syrup on French Toast and coconut. I was using coconut milk smoothies, Virgin Chi-Chi's and coconut, banana and chocolate milkshakes on a regular basis (until the blender broke...) Out of desperation when we had nothing but onions in our house I made French Onion soup from scratch... it was phenomenal - as good as any we've had even at the Keg... so we have that every few days as well.

We had the Mission President and his wife over for dinner on their last visit to the Island. They liked it! and have appointed me to be the head chef for the Couple Conference coming up in Guam in July. It means we'll have to go over a few days early in order to get everything properly "prep'd" for the event :-)

In spite of the low wages here, groceries are ridiculously expensive, and expiry dates mean nothing. A quart of whipping cream is $8.50! So, I make my own French Dressing, Creamy Italian Dressing, Coleslaw dressing, and Thousand Island. I also make large batches of a stir-fry sauce that everyone raves about. I invented it on Christmas day when I did a stir fry and needed a sauce. I started with Soy Sauce, Sugar and Vinegar and then added anything else I could find that was either hot (Sambal Oelek, garlic, ginger), tangy (lime juice), or sweet (pineapple juice)... heated it up, added corn starch and suddenly everyone was wanting the recipe... It is great on Sushi as well.

Lately I've gotten into baking bread, (imported bread is $4.50 a loaf and is frozen) local bread is the same price but is "fresh"... but the the bread is very dense, has no stretch to it, and tastes like no bread I've ever eaten before. We were lucky enough to have a great Bread Machine in the apartment, so I started by making loaves of regular white bread and whole wheat bread. The flour is suspiciously old by the time it gets here, and the yeast is also of questionable quality, the only milk we can buy is in tetra-paks with a one year shelf-life, so I was concerned about that too... but the bread turned out great, so I was encouraged. I now make about 4 loaves a week. I've made French Bread and baguettes, Italian Bread, the most awesome cinnamon buns (look up clone of a Cinnabon on Google), and then I had a dream one night about how to make hamburger and hot dog buns! (I can't believe I told you that!.. who dreams about things to bake?). Believe it or not, I do actually do some work too... but without TV, movie theatres, motorcycles, or many other distractions, I tend to be able to spend a few minutes in the kitchen (or dreaming about hamburger buns!) without interferring too much with other responsibilities.

We do have one concern and that is that we don't have a bathroom scale...

Coconut Shrimp -- made with fresh coconut! Hmmm!