Friday, March 4, 2016

A Visit to Marakei

This is the first excursion we've made to the outer islands.  Actually, we've been to North Tarawa twice and I even rode the Church launch out to Abaiang once but to fly to another island and stay for several days is a new experience.  There was a project that was begun in Marakei about four years ago and it has never been followed up or even inspected since its inception.  We needed to go out and see where it was, progress wise, and also inspect the chapel and Elders' quarters

We bought round trip tickets and flew out on a Friday in this twin prop commuter.  It carried about 15 passengers and the flight was about 20 minutes

Here is the cabin with some of the passengers.  We had Kamatoa and his wife as well as Peter Eria along with us.  Kamatoa was there to do the audit for the branch and Peter was with us.  He is the country welfare manager and takes much of the responsibility for welfare work in Kiribati
 The windows in the cabin were so dirty we could hardly see out much less take a picture but we did get this one to show the atoll.  It is a complete circle with a lagoon in the middle--kind of like if you held two horse shoes end to end.  There are bridges to connect the two places where the land masses meet and what seems like a river running between them as the tide moves in and out.

We took a picture of a map in the "hotel" so we could see what the whole island looked like.  It is pronounced Meh rah kay.
This is the airport terminal.  I am standing with Peter and the Elders assigned to this branch.  These two young men, the Sr companion has only been out since September, are alone on this island doing great missionary work.  They arranged for transport and a meeting of the Church priesthood holders so we could chat about the project and their humanitarian needs.

We enjoyed the shuttle from the airport to the Island Council Accommodations.

At the Island Council campus we were greeted by this building which is the accommodations for guests coming to Marakei
I am sitting at the buffet table plugged into the only working outlet in the building.  This is the lobby, which was fairly comfortable and where we took all our meals.  They prepared three meals a day for us and really went out of their way to make it as nice as possible.  On the left table you can see a tray and selection of drinks which included hot chocolate and a sort of orange juice concentrate you could mix up to make a juice drink.  We brought our filters and filtered anything we drank because water was straight out of the rain tank.  The meals were fairly good, too.  For breakfast we had pancakes with grated coconut, bread and butter and hot chocolate.  For lunch; fish and rice.  For supper; rice and fish; both served with squash--they call it pumpkin. They served a little corned beef as well, alternatively in kind of a stew.  Once they served crab.  I tried the legs and they were quite good.
Our room was a  commodious 10x10 with a view of the beach, good cross ventilation and a mosquito net.  Though, when it rained, we had to close the drapes to keep the water out which occluded the ventilation somewhat.

Security included locks on the doors and two keys.

The restroom facility, though community, was spacious, well ventilated and included a shower.  The door locked nicely with a bent nail that turned freely.  Everyone was discrete and polite, knocking first before coming in.  Though the seating was not exactly comfortable (owing to the missing seat/lid), the toilet did flush.  There was a string on which to hang the towel.  What more do you need?
These are the tanks that provided the water for the "hotel."  The larger of the tanks is connected to the roof by PVC guttering which collects the rainwater.  The rainwater is pumped to the upper tank so that the tap, toilet, and shower (all singular) can be fed by gravity.  

Having checked in, it was customary for new guests to circumnavigate the atoll and pay homage to the four Goddesses before any business could be transacted.  So we rented three motorcycles and took off on this interesting journey.  I haven't ridden a motorcycle in 35 years and it was touch and go at best.  Sis Waldron opted, wisely so, to not ride with me on my bike.  She might never had made it back alive.  I fared better than I thought considering terrible roads, often no more than game trails.  I did lay it down once while negotiating some deep, dry sand.  

This is one of the four Goddesses with our guide (pictured right).  I didn't think to bring anything but our guide did and broke a piece of candy off at each altar.  As we pulled away I chanced to look over my shoulder at the altar and saw the children converge on the candy left behind.  I assume the Goddesses were pleased as we made it around the island without incident.

 These three pictures are the kitchen facility at the hotel.  This young lady, who happened to be one of Peter's former English students, cooked three meals a day for us.  
 The kitchen conveniences included two sinks with running water, and a two (2) burner kerosene stove

There was no electricity therefore no refrigeration.  All food is stored in what the islanders call a food safe.  These two larders are typical of that storage.

Above is the view of the beach from the hotel.  It was very nice.  There were several Kiakias here that one could sleep on if desired but we stayed in the room as all were occupied this weekend.

These wild flowers grow everywhere and are beautiful.  They presented a fun picture with the trunk of a coconut tree in the background.  Fun texture and color.

By and large the properties were clean, tidy and partitioned off.

This property had several garden spots with cabbage and other vegetables growing.  I complimented them on the great labor on their property.  It looked very impressive.  

We met with the Elders of the Branch and discussed their needs with respect to garden supplies, tools and water.  The water system not only for their gardens but for the community for drinking and cooking as well.  

Before leaving, we took a long walk around the island and saw some fun things.  This is a hand shoveled causeway.

This is one of the kiakias we saw that had split limbs for siding.  Haven't seen that much.  Peter is seen here doing some family history work with one of his cousins in this village.  

This was an absolutely gorgeous tree.  We couldn't pass without taking a picture of it.  

This last one is just to show you that the roads are bad and worse depending how long ago it rained.
A final shot of the accommodations from the beach looking back.  This was a short visit, so we were unable to visit the members as we would have liked.  We did attend Sacrament Meeting but had to leave immediately after in order to make the flight.  There were funds available from a prior project so we were able to take care of much of their needs immediately.  We thought this was a great trip.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Key Hole Gardening in Tarawa

One of our guests this last week was Sam Williams, the Area Ag. Specialist.  He had our Stake Garden Specialist and the Country Welfare Manager over to the Learning Garden to give them some training on how to create a Key Hole Garden.  They solicited a couple of helpers from the neighboring village to help them and set to work with working/training and building these unique plots on which to grow vegetables.

 You first make a circle about six feet in diameter and line it with something to contain the dirt.  In this case they used cinder blocks because they had some in the garden.  The general shape is round but with a notch on one edge to allow you to step in and reach the center easily.  After making the shape, put a layer of dirt on the floor to cover all the grass, weeds, etc.

 See them here with the bottom all filled with dirt and now tearing up pasteboard boxes.  The paste board is placed all over the floor of the garden and has three purposes: First, it keeps the weeds down.  Second, as it rots it becomes good compost for the soil.  Finally it creates a basin to contain the water so that it doesn't just dissipate into the ground.  Sand has a bad habit of letting the water just go through.  The longer you can keep the moisture in contact with the roots, the better.  Also, when I say dirt, I mean sand.  There is no dirt here.
They are doing a nice job creating that barrier layer in preparation for the next layer.

 This next step is critical.  You make a basket sort of tube with chicken wire or some such fencing material.  This one is about 48 inches high and maybe 8 inches in diameter.  Place it right in the middle of the keyhole and start filling the next layer of composting material around it.  It should be shaped higher in the middle around the basket and sloping down to the sides.  Fill it as full as you can with compost so it can create a really hot layer of rotting material

Now, get a jag of good topsoil, or in our case, we pepped up some sand with chicken manure and any kind of organic material we could find to make the sand be as fertile as possible.  Start shoveling the sand/dirt on top of the compost material and fill it up to about 18-24 inches high, again with the tallest part in the center and sloping down to the edges.  These fellows are tearing the fiberous matter out of the coconut husks (cocopeat) to fill the bottom of the basket to act as a sponge for when you water.

 Shovel it on plenty thick and stack it up around the basket.

Here is the finished product.  This one uses coconut husks instead of cinder blocks.  It is the poor man's version because there are all kinds of coconut husks around.  Cinder blocks, on the other hand, are $1.70 a pop and the one above took 21 blocks.  That is about 35 bucks and is a daunting figure for folks in these parts.  Notice the basket is where you put all your organic table scraps.  Also any kind of fertilizer you may need to add.  When you water it, put the water down the basket as well.  It washes the nutrients down the center of the garden and spreads them out evenly to the edges "under" the sand layer on top.  The roots will grow down to the water level that is contained by the compost material and the pan created by the pasteboard.  When you harvest your vegetables, put the leaves back in the basket and they become compost as well.  The basket also serves as a standard for tomatoes, beans or what ever grows on vines.  When you get done with a cycle, just put the left-overs
in the basket and plant it again.  Here you get several growing cycles per year.  Utah?  Not so much.  It conserves space, water, regenerates soil--pretty nifty idea.

Pictured above are from left; E Waldron, Turian, Pres. Tune, Pres. Sam, Peter, laborer, Tioromaea, and Sam Williams.  Two great days at the garden and they created three or four of these plots.  You can plant them immediately.  He says the second crop is better than the first and so on because of the recycling of the plant matter for compost.  It rejuvenates the soil.  Any of you who are gardeners at home might try this.  They go up really easily.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Day hike to Abatao

We left late and had to catch up with the rest of the seniors.  They rode the motorized canoe across the portage but missing it, we had to wade.  The tide was up to my chest (Sis Waldron's chin) but the current wasn't overwhelming so we made it in fair time.
These kids were cute and greeted us warmly.  They even sang a few bars of I am a Child of God. 
We have seen several of these kind of  statues near the Catholic Mwaniebwas.  They are kind of fun with their primitive coral rock shells and the Madonna standing inside.

This is a typical homestead with the thatch roof and about 30 inches off the ground.  Primitive but very tidy.  We loved seeing it.  

Here was one beautiful beach, undefiled by the pollution of people and tide.  With the tide in, this would be a great place for a beach outing.  You can see the water mark on me about chest high from the crossing.  I held the bag over my head with the car keys in my hat.  Sis Waldron was nearly up to her chin.  Tricky wading.

We saw a fun picture of the young missionaries attempting to capture them as if they were all jumping off the bridge.  Trying to duplicate it was lost either on the enthusiasm or inclination of the seniors.  

A picture of all of us on the "Broken Bridge," a landmark in the area.  Nothing tourist about this crowd.  

There was this nifty piece of driftwood sitting there and I thought the picture would  be complete with Sis Waldron sitting on it. This is all under water at high tide.

I picked up a tiny fiddler crab as it skittered along and had Sis Waldron take a picture of it in my hand.  See those tiny little legs in there.

We found a larger cousin of the Fiddler crab and tried to take a video of it but it was too fast.  It was gone in the blink of an eye.

This is a Pandana tree.  It grows the most amazing root structure.  Also the roots are protected with some vicious thorns.  You don't want to brush by one of these puppies.  

This is the fruit of the Pandana.  They are shaped like Halloween dragons' teeth and colored with this green on the outside and yellow on the inside. 

For size comparison see the tree behind and the fruit in my hand.  Eating them is like trying to chew the raw kernels off a cob of corn except much tougher.  Similar taste but a tad sweeter.  I wasn't inclined to risk my incisors on the fruit--too far from a dentist.

The canoe already having left and the Olsons wanting to try the wade accross, we took off back to the main island and the village of Buota.  This time the tide was only up to our thighs.  A much quicker crossing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

West Stake R/S Christmas Party

These R/S parties are the greatest.  The sisters love to get up and dance and are completely uninhibited.  They learn dances, coordinate their costumes, and just have a ball.
This is one of the sister missionaries dancing with her ward relief society.  This is Betio 3rd ward.

Yet another ward led by a recently returned missionary who served here in her own stake.  Her home ward is Betio 1st and she was serving in Teaoraereke 1st (same stake) when we arrived in Tarawa.  How would some of you home towners like to serve in the Davis Co. North Mission?

This group is Teaoraereke 2nd ward.  We lived in this ward until a couple of weeks ago.  They are joined by Sis Waldron in the movie clip below. 

Sis Waldron is seated among the sisters of 2nd ward, all attending the stake function.  They do love her.

This is Teaoraereke 1st ward.  They brought dinner and ate together in the mwaniebwa after the program.

I was sitting there enjoying watching everything, including Sis Waldron, when Sister Olson turned to me and asked, "Aren't you photographing your wife?"  I hurried and grabbed the camera out and started filming the dance but was only able to catch the last few seconds.