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!


Stone Money Bank... Still used as part of the "dowry" described below

Gosh, it is hard to believe that it was a year ago that we left our house behind and headed for the open road... and we have now been living on an Island in the middle of the South Pacific for six months of that! We can't believe how time has flown by, I apologize for not updating the blog for so long. I could blame it on being busy, having poor internet connections, etc.. but the reality is that time has just slipped away!

We are truly loving it here! We have become very comfortable with the customs, and the lifestyle; Surprisingly, we don't really miss the motorcycle. There are lots of places on the Island where a motorcycle would be fun to have, but the heat, the humidity, the rain and the salty air turns anything made of metal.. especially chrome... into a pile of rust in a matter of months... and besides... the island is only 15 miles long... 27 by road .. and worse yet, the speed limit is 15mph in the villages, with a top speed of 25mph on the open road! What good would a motorcycle that can travel 120mph do? I can tell you, I miss 75mph much more than I miss my motorcycle. So, to get from one end of the island to the other is about an hour and a half trip because of the twists and turns in the road and the 25mph max speed!

We've been here long enough now that we have become recognized in the community. Winona is helping with the ASL (American Sign Language) class at the High School three days a week and it constantly amazes me that she can communicate so well with these deaf kids. Education is not looked upon as being particularly important here, so there are many kids in their late teens and twenties who are still attending high school. People wave at us whereever we go, but that is so common, that we don't know if it is because we know them, or if they are just being friendly. We wave back enthusiastically, and then look at each other to ask,"do we know that person?"... and now we have the same problem as we walk around the High School and College campuses!

Though there are some aspects of the lifestyle here that are attractive, there is a general complacency about life in general that can be frustrating. The general philosophy is that there is no sense in planning because something could come up that will interrupt the plan! So it is tough to get people to make appointments ... because they might not be able to keep the appointment! A refusal to commit because they might not be able to keep the commitment. No sense in planning, because they might not be here tomorrow! .

Marriages are interesting... no dating. If a boy takes an interest in a girl, it is kept secret. Parents do not know about the 'relationships' that develop, nor do they want to. At some point the boy will approach the girls parents with a shell, and dowry of some nature and negotiate for the daughter. If the girls parents accept the shell, they are "married". If at any time the husband decides he doesn't want the responsibilities of his family any longer, he can take his wife back to her parents, get his shell back and the "marriage" is over. Women don't have that luxury, nor do they have much say in what transpires. (Not much need for divorce lawyers down here!) Kids are raised by cousins, uncles, grandparents, whoever is handy. The church rightfully insists on proof of a legally binding marriage before a couple, or either one of the couple, can join. The lack of contractual obligation to each other causes a lot of heartache in families. Legal marriages are available, but an expensive wedding is "expected" as part of the celebration, so many cannot afford that. The Church provides free weddings, which makes it a much more attractive and affordable option.

Not surprisingly, everyone knows everyone. There are no street names or addresses. This truly is jungle living although in most cases, homes do have electricity and some have telephones. Suprisingly, cell phones are horrendously expensive, but are extremely popular. When you want to tell someone where you live you just give the name of the person next door, and there will be a nod of recognition. Taxis, Police, Ambulances, utility companies, repairmen, couriers, all find you by knowing who you live beside, or who your landlord is. It is truly amazing. We had to help the young missionaries get the utility bill for their water redirected to a new apartment the other day. After nearly two weeks of trying to get in touch with the Greater Tamil Water Commission to make arrangements, they told us that we had to come out to their office where they would talk to us about the switch. We drove to the North end of the Island (that 1 and 1/2 hour trip I mentioned earlier!) where after checking with a few locals for direction, (when we ask for directions, we get a familiar nod of the chin in the general direction of where we need to head) and we ended up next to a house at the end of a long and winding dirt road. There are no signs indicating that this is an office, but as we approached the house to knock, the door opened and the fellow confirmed that this was indeed the Greater Tamil Water Commission. We didn't have to tell him who we were or what we wanted.. he recognized us. It truly felt like we were the only people to ever arrange a switch.. He knew the house that was being vacated, and was familiar with the house they were moving into, so he just confirmed the name of the landlord at the new premises and said "OK, we'll look after that!"

We had to ask ourselves.... "so we travelled all the way out there, because??...". There was no papers to fill out, no signatures... very strange. But, someone showed up the next day to read the meter and we assume that money will now come out of the correct account.

Last night, the internet went down... and I was unable to check my stocks. It was 4am, but since I was up anyway, and the NYSE closes at 6am Yap time, I thought I should head down to the FSMTC (Telecommunications office) and see if I could get internet access there. (they are "open" 24 hours). The door was open and the lights were on, so I walked in the office but no one was around. I was about to sit down and start using one of the two computers they have there for public use, when a very sleepy lady in her late 50's rose from beneath one of the desks where she had been sleeping. I apologized for waking her up, and informed her that the internet wasn't working. She shrugged and said that the technical person would be in at 8am. I left and I am pretty certain that she curled up and went back to sleep. Sure enough however, at 8am, the internet came back, and I was back online!

Food is another issue.. but I think I'll make that a future blog entry. We really are having a great time. This is a place where we truly feel we can do some good! We have met so many wonderful people. It is good to be here. Several topics I have brought up here will make good blog entries of their own.. I'll work on it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yap Days

Every year on the first Monday and Tuesday in March, Yap celebrates its culture with a colorful and very sensory display of BBQ, costume, dance, music, crafts, and culture. All the costumes, the ropes, the booths, even the restrooms are made or fashioned from local plants. Even the dyes used to color the costumes are produced from the flowers and plants.

Spear throwing -- perfect trajectory!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympics - Yap Style

Well, its Monday morning in Yap, (Sunday afternoon in Vancouver) and the excitement in Vancouver is being felt half way across the world to this little island in the Pacific... at least it has reached into our apartment. Outside, things are pretty normal... most Yapese haven't a clue what the Olympic games are, let alone where they are, or that the medal count is now ended. Life goes on as normal, oblivious to the tension I was feeling as I tried to follow the game on super slow speed internet... no video, no TV... just updates as the seconds ticked by! I have to admit, it was every bit as exciting to follow vicariously in my mind, as it would have been sitting in front of a high definition big screen TV.

I couldn't help but imagine my now American kids trying to keep their Canadian loyalties somewhat subdued as their fully American spouses and their families were screaming when the USA scored a tying goal in the last few seconds of the third period....

I imagined the excitement going on in the homes of my friends in Nanaimo, as they slouched, sat, stood and screamed as the tension grew to unbearable levels...

... then came the decisive goal in Overtime... I was there (in my mind) and very proud of what my home has accomplished in the last 17 days! Good job, Canada

It's amazing how close we felt to these games being hosted so close to our former home, in spite of the fact that we were unable to watch a single event, nor find anyone in Yap who really cared what was happening! We cared, and we loved it! It was as good as being there in person!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

on getting older ...

A few days ago, I left 60 behind forever! I have to say that 60 has been a good year... not as good as 26 but as far as years go, this has been a great one. May I take a few moments to highlight the highlights. :-)

It all began with a bunch of friends and family showing up for my 60th b'day party, with all the mandatory rude gifts to remind me that I was no longer in my 20's. Janaya had contacted a bunch of my friends and put together a book, with photos from my past, and memoirs and well wishes from many of them. A few days ago, I re-read that book from front to back and re-lived many cherished moments... including the overwhelming feelings I had when I first received the book itself almost a year ago. Thanks to everyone who took the time to say a few words and special thanks to Janaya for the huge amount of work it took to coordinate it all.

A year ago, our house had been up for sale for 4 months without a bite, but finally, in May, after 10 garage sales, countless trips to the recycle, restore, storage unit, and the dump, we completed the sale of our home and nearly everything we have ever owned. We handed our keys to the new owners and drove out of the driveway with barely a glance back. We loved our home, but it was now time for a new chapter in our life story. We were headed into unknown territory. The "adventure" potential invigorated me... Winona? Well not so much...

For the first time in our lives, we were "homeless". I'm sure Winona was worried about what life on the street living in a cardboard box would be like, but gratefully our friends and family pulled through. We had "booked" enough timeshare time with gaps being filled-in by friends who kindly opened their homes to us, that we were all set... at least for the next few weeks and at least as far east as Salt Lake City.

(oh, yeah.. .this was supposed to be just the highlights... I'll try to keep this short...!)

OK. The highlights...

Since June 2nd, 2010:

Nanaimo, BC - John & Susan Russell
West Vancouver BC - Jon & Mary Elton
Vancouver, WA - Richard & Kathy Krikava (visited with David, Shamaine, & **Hayden**)
Orem, UT - John & Linda Livingston
Salt Lake City, UT - Lived across the street from Temple Square and the Tabernacle Choir for a week!
Vail, Colorado.
Lunch in Leadville CO. Highest point ever in our car.. nearly 11,000 feet

drove across Kansas to:
Branson, Missouri - our first ever experience at 105 degree F temperatures and 87% humidity! (except in a Sauna!)
JUN 27 - arrived at Janaya's house in Springfield Virginia.

Thank heaven for our GPS that navigated us across the USA and through Washington DC turnpikes and to our daughter's front door with our marriage intact!

JUL 4 - Independence Day celebrations in Washington DC... how cool is that!
Baltimore, MD
NEW YORK CITY - The Big Apple - guided through New York's rail and subway system by an "angel" who carried a guitar and worked for Microsoft. World Trade Center/Ground Zero. Fell in love with Central Park, Supper on Times Square, Statton Island Ferry, Times Square again.. this time at night, Broadway, got back to Hotel at 2AM
Cape Cod
Martha's Vineyard

JUL 17 - Winona's Birthday - Received our Mission Call to Micronesia, leaving in November

Plymouth Plantation - Lobster Dinner at Isaac's, Plymouth Rock, Mayflower
Boston, MA
Stowe, Vermont - von Trapp family chateau (Yes, "the Sound of Music" von Trapps!)
Montreal, QC (Corinne & Kurt's Cottage, actually)
Montreal - renewed our Passports (picked them up two hours later!)
Quebec City. Loved Quebec City. No need to take Winona to France now! Suddenly like being "beamed" into Europe. (Discovered the value of Priceline - "Name Your Own Price!")
B&B in Fredericton NB... Winona's first area on her first mission. Ran out of gas across the street from a gas station that refused to help us. Bought a gas can and enough gas to get us to the next station! (oh yeah, "highlights!")
Cardigan, Prince Edward Island - Fred & Mary deVries... best Lobster dinner ever! Got to operate an excavator! Ripped a tree out by its roots! (I meant to do that!)
Philip River, NS. Near Amherst Nova Scotia - Janice and Dean Tolley.
Visited Halifax, Tatamagooch, New Glasgow, and Stellarton

began our return west:

St Johns, NB
Freeport, Maine
Back to Boston, MA
Hartford, Connecticut
Washington, DC - to the top of the Washington Monument.
Springfield, VA
Williamsburg, VA
Massanuttan Resort, Harrisonburg, VA (3 weeks -- longest time in one place since we became homeless :-)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dayton, Ohio
Nauvoo, Illinois
North Platte
Snowbird, UT
Benton City, WA (David & Shamaine had moved here since we began this trek)
OCT 8th... back in Nanaimo (Parksville actually) at Pacific Shores
OCT 31 ... Orem, Utah (John & Linda, Drew & Joanne Cahoon, Randy & Nancy Miller)
NOV 2nd - Mission Training Center, Provo, Utah

And I became truly "amazed" this year as we became intimately involved with the workings of our GPS. Not only did take us directly to our destinations, it told us where to find the nearest buffet restaurants (oooh ... bad idea on an extended car trip), the nearest gas stations, rest stops etc, as well as keeping us out of high traffic areas, toll roads, and toll bridges, it also told us where to find the nearest LDS Churches, gave us contact numbers and called them for us so we could get meeting times. As we travelled across the continent, we read (actually the GPS read to us)... the following audiobooks: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", "Huckleberry Finn", "Amish Grace", "Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent", "Confessions of an Economic Hitman", "Catch Me if You Can". I have NEVER before read 6 books in one year in my life. This was a new record for me... 25,000 kilometers and 6 books in 5 months.

I kept saying to Winona how much my Dad would have LOVED a GPS! I loved it... and the technology never ceased to amaze me.

So essentially, I've travelled more, and read more this year than ever before.

George Carlin's views on aging:

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions. "How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. "How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!

And then the greatest day of your life! You BECOME 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!! But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling.

What's wrong? What's changed? You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40, Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50, and your dreams are gone... But! wait!! ! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50, and MAKE IT to 60... You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70!

After that, it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday! You get into your 80's, and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch, you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I was JUST 90".

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
- courtesy of Jon' Gems (Jon Elton)

Suddenly, I'm 61 and feeling young again!
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Week in Guam

View from our room at the Hilton Hotel in Guam
Missions weren't like this when I was 19!

We were in Guam Jan 17th -23rd for couples conference. What a great experience with all the other couples. We loved it! But, we actually experienced a little culture shock going back to Guam, because the pace of life is much more hurried, the drivers are not as courteous as they are in Yap, and many of the skirts in Guam are ridiculously short. I hadn't realized how modestly the girls here in Yap actually dress until we were in Guam and saw so many that were obviously trying to draw attention to themselves... something you just don't experience in Yap. Inspite of the few who dress "traditionally", they certainly don't do it to draw attention to themselves, and no one wears skirts with hemlines above the knees and no one wears short shorts.

While in Guam we ate like kings. We thought we were in heaven until Winona made the mistake of weighing herself and she had gained 5 lbs in just the first few days. Personally, I couldn't bring myself to climb onto the scale... It was obviously defective, and I was too busy trying to decide which restaurant to try next. Actually, we settled on Ruby Tuesday most often, because the prices were good, and they had a great salad bar. Favorite dessert of the week had to be the one pictured below at the Jamaica Grill... Most everyone else in the group had an entree that included a small plate of fruit for dessert. However mine didn't... so as the waitress listed the available desserts for me, a "roasted banana" sounded like an innocent enough treat. However, as the dessert made its way toward my table, I noticed that people stopped talking and turned to see this monster pass them by. Cameras were flashing, and an audible buzz filled the restaurant. People were obviously anxious to discover who had had the nerve to order this thing! I had no idea it would feed a family... but hey! What could I do? I am so glad they snapped this picture quickly, because it looks to me like Winona was ready to dive in head first!

Roasted Banana
Hey, it sounded healthy!

We can tell that we are beginning to adjust to the humidity and heat, but have to admit that the hot showers, and cool breezes in Guam felt awfully good. However, Yap is feeling like home. We do use the air conditioning, but have raised the temperature for them to only kick in above 25 degrees Celsius. Yesterday, we tried going all day without the A/C, and were successful until we got back in the evening and couldn't bring ourselves to climb into a damp bed. Some things are worth paying extra for... so the A/C came on so we could get a comfortable sleep.

The people here are so pleasant, everyone waves, everyone is willing to talk with us, tho' no one is willing to say much. The members are beginning to laugh at my jokes, and the branch president (President Bamlul) makes an easy target for me to abuse in all my talks... :-). He and his wife were over last night for a visit, and as customary in Yapese homes, they sat on the tile floor in our living room as we visited for a couple of hours. Smoothies are new to them, so I made them a chocolate banana and coconut smoothie, which was a big hit. I love making smoothies here, because the coconut milk makes them nice and thick.. without the need for ice cream.

We are having a lot of fun. We have figured out which stores carry what, at the best price... when the ships come in, and which cashiers smile at us, and which don't. We have made a project of trying to get a smile out of every cashier, and that helps make shopping a lot of fun.

Saturday night was a full moon... I know, it happens every month, and it happens all over the world!.. but in Yap, when the full moon comes out, so do the land crabs! We had heard about this event, but hadn't yet participated... nor were we sure quite what to expect. All we knew was... "free crab!" We had heard you needed a stick, a flashlight and a sack... I figured the stick was to whack the crabs as they tried to chop your toes off, the sack was for gathering up body parts that got nipped off in any ensuing battles, and the flashlight was so you could find fingers and toes in the dark. This sounded way more fun than simply dropping a crab trap in the ocean and waiting for an hour or two, so off we went into the moonlight ready for a new adventure.

We had heard that at certain times of the year, the crabs come out in such numbers that you can literally drive down the road in the dark and scoop them into a bucket as you drive. Well, we drove for miles and are disappointed to report that this is not the time of the year for that... However, we finally ended up outside the Elder's apartment in Thol near the North end of the Island. We got there just in time to see them and some of the locals coming back from their crabbing adventure with a couple of buckets of crabs. They proudly showed us their catch, and we got totally grossed out as the locals showed us how to prep them for cooking. I know we have a few vegetarian readers on our blog, so I'll leave out the graphic details, but lets just say that tossing a live crab into a bucket of boiling water seems much more humaine than what goes on down here.

Once in a while a crab would escape from their grasp as the "cooks" were trying to rip their legs off (oops.. sorry, did I say that?) and would cause a mad scramble as the loose crab would scurry around our feet. Nothing slow moving about these guys, and they do have nasty pincers...

We were lamenting the fact that we had essentially missed the party and were going to be heading home without having captured any crabs of our own.. or even seeing someone else do it... However, the moon was shining brightly and I decided to get a look at the moonlight sparkling across the ocean. It was a very romantic thought...

As I walked toward the shore from the place where everyone had gathered, I suddenly sensed the rapid movement of spider like creatures the size of a 'roasted banana' dessert plate scurrying across my path. I hollered, "I've got one!"... which was I lie. I wasn't anywhere near actually "getting" one! I had no idea what to do except to take frequent inventory of how many fingers were still on my hand.

Luckily, a 12 year old boy name "TJ" heard me holler, and came to my rescue he came to help me capture one! TJ was amazing, within seconds, he had cornered one for me, and we headed back to the gathering place to proudly show our capture. We then headed back the same direction and captured two more. By now, we had the interest of another 12 year old, who had developed his own hunting style and was apparently an expert at capturing "Mangrove" crabs... which truly will chop your fingers off. It was a sight to behold. TJ felt we were waisting our time running back and forth to the cooler, so he decided to go get the cooler and bring it to where the crabs were. Minutes later he showed up carrying our full sized Coleman cooler on his back, and began ripping legs off our captured crabs and tossing them into our cooler. I offered to help carry the cooler as we continued our hunt, but he insisted on carrying the cooler on his own... So here we have this little 12 year old boy (not much more than 3' tall and certainly not any more than 60 lbs) carrying a cooler that is almost as big as he is, and is easily large enough to carry 50 crabs ... running through the jungle lit only by the moonlight, barefoot, tossing crab parts into a cooler that he is carrying on his head sometimes, and on his back others... and Winona and I following along with our flashlights feeling quite safe with these two twelve-year olds there to 'protect' us.

We got home that night quite satisfied that we had had an adventure that few others would ever experience... and we do look forward to that time of year when you literally can't drive down the road during a full moon without running over herds of these things! We stayed up until 1:00am cooking our catch. Tonight, we are making sushi... with real crabmeat...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More Pics

Well, here it is mid-January and I still don't have all the Christmas pictures posted. So .. in no particular order... (I can never figure out what order the blogspot editor is going to post these things, but if it seems like these pictures are in the wrong order, just turn you screen upside down and look at them in a mirror... once you stand on your head, everything should look just fine... )

So here they are.. with sporatic comments here and there.

Man House

on the way to the Man House.

Christmas Dinner
(on Boxing Day - Christmas Day in North America)

Turtle, Fish and Coconut Milk

Getting ready for the Christmas Pageant
I love the halo!
...and I still can't figure out how the wings were attached.

Shepherds getting ready to watch their flocks!
(while the Sheppards were getting ready to watch the show...)

The audience waited partiently...
(as long as the suckers lasted)

Sister Pikula and some of the kids
(no snow to play in)