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.