Sunday on the Liahona Campus

IMG_3577On our way to church on Sunday, October 29. No one mentioned anything about Halloween.

We walk across the campus to our meetinghouse, that is on the other side. It takes about 5 minutes.

The land is owned by the king, but the Church has a 99 year lease.  It’s an island within an island.

It was the Primary program today.

The singing in Church is amazing.

These two Elders are from the U.S.. The Pulangi is from Washington, and the Tongan from Provo!



Looking Back at our First Week

We’ve had a full and wonderful week here in Tonga. It has been a time of hard work, adjustment and happy new discoveries. I thought I would briefly let you know my impressions of things as I see them.


Tonga is much more primitive that I had imagined. The people are so poor and the infrastructure is not supportive of modern technology or economic growth. Most of the people here are just getting by and are living day to day. That being said, they are happy, friendly and loving people. If you say you like something they have, they are likely to give it to you. If you walk by their homes and say hello, it is said that they will invite you in and share a meal with you, insisting that you eat first and that you take home any leftovers. That is just the Tongan way.


Life moves slowly here and people are not impatient. In our clinic patients do not mind waiting all day to be seen. They are very, very grateful to have their work done and accept your best efforts as a gift. It quite literally breaks my heart seeing such levels of dental disease. Young patients come in with teeth rotten to the gums, and adults are missing many teeth. The attitude of the dentists previous to us has had to be that we take care of urgent needs and just let the more moderate problems go untreated. That is hard for Dad, but at weeks end, he is realizing that with so many needing care we will just have to prioritize and do what we can.


It is warm and humid here and the summer is just around the corner. I understand that by January it will feel like 110º. I think it is amusing to see youngsters wearing hoodies and jackets when it’s 85º outside. They love their American style clothing. Many families sell clothes, which hang on lines in front of their homes. Family will have sent them crates filled with things they can sell, and that’s how they make their living. They also sell any excess they have by spreading it out on tables along the roads. There are tables piled high with vegetables and fruits, and mounds of melons are everywhere. We buy them for about fifty cents to one dollar.

The children in the schools here all wear uniforms. I like that they do this because that way no one stands out as being more or less privileged than anyone else. Our schoolchildren here at the Liahona campus wear green and white. Other schools have their own colors – Some are red and white, some are dark gray and burgundy and others are brown or other colors. Most young men and boys wear the traditional tupeno(or skirt). It is more comfortable than pants in the heat. The children all look happy and well cared for. It is the rule that all the girls wear their hair in braids with a part down the middle. I have heard that many homes do not have hot water, and that is not unusual for children to shower buck naked outside when it rains. All the children wear flip flops or basic brown sandals.

In the schools nothing is provided for the students. I did not see books in the classes though I know there must be some. There are red and white journal type books that the kids bring with them to class and that is how they take notes. There is almost nothing we might consider normal in the classrooms. Just desks and a board in front. Pencils and pens are not in abundance. I think of my boxes of those at home and feel awful. I am glad I got a bunch and that they will be arriving soon so I can give them away.

I am grateful for the money that was given me to buy supplies and other things for the children here. I will distribute them happily when they come. I know that they will be received with great joy! When I see children playing, it is with a stick and a ball. I have not seen any with toys other than that. You do see some in the stores, but they are mostly things like buckets and shovels.

I am doing my laundry in the washer on the back porch. It is outside of our kitchen window and in front of the large cistern, which provides us our water. Dad is concerned we might have a dead cat or mouse in there so we are careful not to drink the water. Who knows? (We do have a three-part water filter by our kitchen sink. We use that water for drinking, cooking and such.) After the load is finished I clip the clothes to the line. When I washed our sheets yesterday it took them less than an hour to dry. They look pretty flapping in the wind. Next to the washer are the little baby kittens, which I am nurturing with lots of love and gentleness. They like cuddling in a pile with their backs up next to the water heater. Soon they will be venturing out with their mama, but for now they are still staying close to home.

We see a lot of pigs wherever we go. They are lean and mean and the meat is tough. I will probably not eat much of it. They are black or dark brown and just walk around unfenced most of the time. Cows are kept in check with a long rope tied to a tree or plant, and dogs run wild everywhere. They are all skin and bones.

We are getting the bugs – specifically the tiny ants under control. I made some boats of foil and put a wet cotton ball in them, which is dipped in borax powder. If you leave it out the bugs stay pretty much away. We are having a learning curve about putting dishes in the rack next to the sink…washed in soapy water and rinsed. If you leave them with anything on them, there is an instant feeding frenzy.

Rain comes without warning, is short lived and keeps things watered enough that there are no sprinklers here that I have seen. The air is fresh and clean except when people are burning their trash, or rubbish as it is called here



Dental Office in Nuku ‘alofa


We stopped by the dental office of Liani Hikila, in Nuku ‘alofa. She was trained in Fiji, and has a dental therapist (pictured) named David. He provides extractions and simple fillings.

IMG_3423We introduced ourselves and told David that we can give him supplies from our clinic (extra stuff that we don’t need or use). He was very excited about that.


IMG_3418No x-ray, but he did have a high speed handpiece, suction, and barrier protection.


IMG_2716(Who am I to criticize Dr. Hikila for not having an x-ray.  This is a photo of our x-ray “room.” Our patients sit on a bench. We have the x-ray unit mounted on the wall. Amazingly, they are able to hold their heads steady without a seat-back, or headrest.)


IMG_3413And this is a photo of the work area behind my chair, in our clinic. There is no-place to put anything, and there is absolutely no organization. I have bought about 50 trays for set-ups. I’m going to have shelving put in for the trays, so I can have everything at my fingertips. Right now, I have to get up half a dozen times during any given procedure, to go pawing through piles of supplies, to find what I need to complete the procedure.

The large tray organizer on the left side of the photo is my endo supplies. Of all the trays, I use three. The rest I can get rid of.



This is the “Darkroom” sign in our office. (We don’t have a darkroom – we use digital x-ray). I have no idea how long this sign has been dangling from the door, but I am amazed at its tenacity. I am going to leave it there and see how long it lasts before it flutters to the floor. (It’s like “The Last Leaf”).


IMG_3420Dr. Hikila has a satellite office on Vava’u, a large island to the north east. Our hope is that we can use her clinic when she is not there, to treat the local members and missionaries. (The Liahona clinic directors have done this in the past).  We just need to coordinate it with President Tiuone – who has indicated that we can fly there some time when he goes for zone conferences. (We don’t want to take the ferry – it is 24 hours over rough seas – first stopping at the Ha ‘apai Group of islands.


IMG_6722Unfortunately, this is the plane we would need to take to get to Vava’u.  (Not really, but almost as bad – the Church won’t allow us to go on many domestic flights, because the pilots and aircraft are not “certified.”  –  I don’t even know what “certified” means, but I am sure certification must be a good thing, that we would want to make sure our pilot and airship would have.)

Captain Cook Landing Site

‘I have made no very great discoveries, yet I have explored more of the Great South Sea, than all that have gone before.” (James Cook, 17 August 1771).


David Samwell, who sailed with Cook on Resolution, wrote of him: “He was a modest man, and rather bashful; of an agreeable lively conversation, sensible and intelligent. In temper he was somewhat hasty, but of a disposition the most friendly, benevolent and humane. His person was above six feet high: and, though a good looking man, he was plain both in dress and appearance. His face was full of expression: his nose extremely well shaped: his eyes which were small and of a brown cast, were quick and piercing; his eyebrows prominent, which gave his countenance altogether an air of austerity.”

Captain Cook came ashore in 1777, during the American Revolution. His voyages of discovery were so significant that he received a “free pass” to explore wherever he wanted, without fear of reprisal from the American “colonies” or any of her allies.


“Cook’s second voyage marked a successful employment of a marine chronogropher, which enabled Cook to calculate his longitude with great accuracy. Cook’s log was full of praise for this time-piece which he used to make charts of the southern Pacific Ocean that were so remarkably accurate that copies of them were still in use in the mid-20th century.”



End of Week One


Thursday I went out to a rural area where the church has a Middle School, and we taught four groups of 50 students each how to maintain a healthy smile.  In the first group only 1 child had ever seen a dentist.  In the other groups about 10-15%.  These children have such soft brown eyes and they are just so beautiful and happy. They are eager to learn.  Unfortunately they know nothing about caring for their mouths.  Despite what we did they will be fighting an uphill battle if things don’t change.  Their lifestyle is one where their families grow enough to feed themselves but there is little left for anything else.  The women often provide for the family and are the leaders in their homes and communities.  They are fierce protectors and want better lives for their children.  The reality is that there is not much here that would provide for a good future for the upcoming generations. I would hope in the next year I can come up with a good enough program for teaching these little ones so that perhaps a difference will have been made.  I will do my level best for them.
One of the teachers came to me and told me that she studied economics at the Church College of Hawaii.  She lives on the seond largest of the Tongan Islands and she will be teaching the sciences there when she leaves in a week.  Here she has taught math.  She is so pretty and obviously dreams of a good future.  She wanted to have her widsom teeth looked at.  What a project that turned into!  After lunch she came into the clinic to see Dad. Three teeth and 90 minutes later she was finished, but that Tongan bone which is so dense and hard, put up a really good fight.  Dad was patient and he got the job done, and I assisted (whaever that means since I’m not good at it).  Our equipment was substandard – we were working from the hygiene chair, and there were times I felt like it was just too much for him and for her.  I was SO glad when the job was done.
When we got home a sweet Tongan neighbor brought me fruit – a large papaya like thing with a skin that is rough like a prickly pear. Then another neighbor knew I needed flour so she brought me some (it comes in plastic sacks). Not much later another showed up with the delicious Tongan yogurt I had been searching for. What dear people they are!  Our plummer came and now we have a semi-adaquate shower instead of the dribble we’ve had before.  He told me the Tongan way is to put a bucket below the dripping faucet and let it fill up.  When it is full just dump it over your head.  The other way to shower here is to wait for a rainy day and just go outside…..I’m not kidding one bit!  I guess the little ones just strip down and run in the rain, and that’s their bath. Finding out our pipes are gravity fed partially explains our situation. Dad is somewhat concerned that our cistern might have a dead cat or rat in it so we will probably used filtered water when we need to drink or cook.

So our first week is finished and we have survived.  I actually love it here, ants, roaches, humidity and the whole of it. I love walking in the morning; I love the kindness of the people and I appreciate the unhurried pace of life.  I feel that we made the right decision to be here and know we will be blessed to discover what our contribution should be.  Everyone has a different purpose and we will find ours.

Going to The Bank


When you go to the bank, you take a number, and then take a seat. It’s like being at the DMV. We waited about 30 minutes before “our number was up.”

The longer story is that Dad was able to use the ATM without a problem.  He thinks it’s quite magical how the machines just keep giving out money, having never used one before.  My card, unlike his was not able to be processed and the machine gobbled it up.  To get it back we about had to get a character reference from the king (only kidding).  They made it SO hard.

You might already know that Tonga is almost 100% a cash country.  That is one of many reasons why it is not visited terribly often. People do not have the ability to process credit cards almost anywhere, and if they do, there is a surcharge.

In any case, we now are good to go, and we can get what we need without having to enter the bank again.  Sadly we have to go into town to get cash because the other ATMs nearer to our campus will not take chipped cards.


IMG_3369This is a dive-boat that takes visitors out to the reef. Not fancy, but it gets the job done.

IMG_3368This is the boat that takes the Tongan spearfishermen out to the reef (remember, it’s FIVE miles out), and FIVE people in the boat) to go after the day’s catch.  That they then sell to the public for about $2.00 a pound (U.S.). Which reminds me, I have to go in to town to get my Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna (all about $2.00 per pound).