First Morning at Liahona Campus

Hi everyone from Mom,
We still do not have internet, so our nice neighbors, the husband who is an internet wiz, are letting us use their signal, which in the middle of the night is stronger so we can kind of poach it.  The Kaaps have taken us under their wing and are such great people, as are all the missionary couples here.  So it is 4 a.m. here right now and we’re on their signal.  Sending data is free between midnight and 6 a.m.  Since I’m still a bit jet-lagged this works out just fine for me.
Yesterday morning we got up rather early and went for a walk around the campus.  The road circling the campus, is all on the property and is fenced.  It’s a beautiful one kilometer loop.  The schools (the middle and high school) are in the center and on either side (the east and west) are homes..  They are neat as a pin, almost identical houses that are used by senior missionaries, teachers at the schools and their families, and area employees of the church. Most of the homes on our side are one bedroom, but ours is larger having a second bedroom which is used as an office or guest quarters.

It’s nice to have it as storage both for our suitcases and also for some clinic related things. We have a washer, but no dryer, and that is out on our back porch.  There is also a protected area for hanging things to dry.  We’ll see how that goes…so far, so good. I guess the house was cleaned before we came, but three of the sister missionaries came in and did a fine tuning. I think they worked their hearts out making it nice for us.  We found things perfect and that was just so nice!
Each of the homes is maintained by the church and is just as tidy as can be, and all we have to do is keep things picked up and swept.  I hosed things off yesterday which made everything look fresh and nice.  While doing my laundry I became aware I was being watched.  It turns out we have a resident mama kitty who has three little babies.  They make their home on a ledge above the washer, and I could see her sweet little face staring at me as I moved around.  Soon her babies were peeking over the edge.  They are just darling.  From what I understand, the cats make themselves comfortable on the campus because of the fencing.  It keeps out the dogs which are sometimes kind of mean (as well as being hungry).  People who go off site to run usually take large sticks with them to bonk them if there’s a problem, but our friends say that for some reason when they see the black missionary tags they often don’t pose a problem.  We shall see. The Liahona Campus as it is called belongs to the King, but is leased to the church for 99 years.  I don’t know how large it is, but would guess that it’s about 80-100 acres.  All of it is green and beautiful – a little oasis in the midst of the poor and less maintained homes surrounding it.  There are lots of trees and everyone shares the fruit that grows on them.  We have a huge avocado tree in our back yard and someone told the groundskeepers to trim it a few weeks back.  Poor tree – It got a massive pruning, and everyone is so sad.  It had been covered with hundreds of avocados, and now is reduced to a stumpy thing which will take about a generation to grow back.
Back to the walk.  It turns out many of the couples exercise in the morning, so what should have been a short jaunt took an hour or so.  Everyone is so friendly and wanted to say hello.  I felt like it was a great meet and greet.  Dad is really getting along famously with everyone and all the women are wonderful.  I originally thought the group was older, but it turns out we’re all about the same age, plus or minus a bit.  It’s going to be great fun getting to know everyone.
The dentist working at the clinic has been here for two weeks.  They leave a week from today, and Dad is so relieved he is here.  It turns out he lived in Heleman Halls when we were in school and they knew each other.  He and his wife are great, and I love hearing the guys chatting away like long lost friends.  It turns out the clinic is in need of a bit of an overhaul. I do believe the Johns who were here for two years did a fabulous job running things, and they certainly were loved, however having a few interim volunteers who didn’t know the ropes, and were just desirous of providing the best care they could, in a short  amount of time, left us with some work to be done. Elder Gardner (Randy) who was here for three weeks is the most kind and wonderful man, and he really did a great job.  He was also very good with his patients and has a very relaxed personality.

There are piles of stuff everywhere and it is not as clean as it might be.  OSHA would shut the place down, that’s for sure. (Reflecting back as I read this two weeks later, I am much less worried about things than I was at first.  We’re just happy to be doing the best we can, and we keep things in order and clean as we have the ability to. That’s just how it will have to be)It has been a bit of a challenge for Dad, so guess what he’s going to do?  Get plastic bins of course!  So Randy and JoAnn will be going over with us some time today and we will start to purge the place.  There are two treatment areas, and if we’re lucky we will get one put back into order as our first project..  Just becoming familiar with where things are and having like things in one place will make us feel more in control.  Some things will not be of any use to us since there is no lab.  Those will be thrown away.  It will be interesting to see how things go.
Yesterday we went out and about, getting semi familiar with the lay of the land.  The Kaaps drove (We both have Hyundai sedans – right hand drive).  As she is the mission nurse she is out and around every day.  Her husband is her driver, and so she does phone consultations as they go from appointment to appointment.  The tour of Nuku’alofa is full of random buildings and tiny shops.  You get bread at one place, meat at another, general supplies elsewhere.  There is a CostLess which carries some COSTCO products (maybe 100 or so, and people think that’s amazing.  In the next months there will be a larger version going in.  People think that’s the best thing ever.
So we spent the day going here and there.  It took about five minutes to get our drivers licenses.  All they want is your money.  They don’t care much if you are really a menace on the road or have had multiple accident.s  Basically if you have the $ for the license and are not wanted for a crime in the US that’s all that counts.  We also got our sim cards so we can call each other locally.  Next up is the internet.  Driving around the island it became apparent that people here live an extremely humble and simple life.  Homes are small and most families grow much of what they eat.  Cars are pretty old and traffic in town is busy.  It was nice when we’d run our errands to head back to our open spaces. I found out really quickly that internet is a luxury and even our I T guy on campus doesn’t have that at his home.  Nor does he have running water!  Our maintenance man and his wife live on the other side of campus, and they do their cooking outside on a propane stove.
Oh, and by the way, the school children are all dressed in uniforms.  They each have their own colors and styles.  I love seeing them and how unique they are.  One school of elementary aged kids wears red and white.  The girls are in jumpers and the boys have red shirts.  Another school had dark gray with brown skirts and fringed embellishments.  Those were really nice looking.  The Liahona campus uniforms are bright green and white.
I’m sure Dad will fill in the blanks about things, but I’m good at the day to day updates.
When we came home with our supplies we relaxed a bit and then got ready for dinner.  The students in the Culinary arts program for their final project had all the missionaries for dinner.  It was a massive undertaking for them and they looked so proud of their work.  There were about thirty students and they were all dressed in the Liahona colors of kelly green, white and black.  They wear waist sashes which are satin and bright green, white shirts and black skirts or pants.  The meal was delicious, especially the fish dishes. One was lemon swordfish, and another a kind of raw ceviche type recipe.  It was fabulous.  When fish is this fresh it is just the best.  Dad went back about three times and was like a kid in a candy shop.
Once again when it turned 8:30 I was ready for bed.  It will probably take a couple more days to feel like our Internal clocks are reset.
So that pretty much sums up our first full day here.  We’re doing great and are having so much fun.  It will be a huge adjustment for us, but we’re excited about it and for this great opportunity to be of service.  The need is overwhelming….quite beyond what we’d anticipated.

Lots of love to you all,

IMG_3149Dental Clinic

IMG_3160Our home.

IMG_3156Liahona Campus sports fields.

IMG_3194Liahona High School Dance





Travels in Fiji

IMG_3084Great trip from LAX – except for the 2.5 hour we spent at the gate (on the plane) offloading baggage.


fullsizeoutput_4f51Tonga is another 500 miles south of Nadi, Fiji.

IMG_3107.jpgI am embarrassed to say that until this afternoon I didn’t realize that we are actually on an Island. It is called Denarau.

We are walking distance from the little village and the marina which is full of all sorts of power and sail boats. It was a treat to see them up close. One can only imagine how much work it takes to maintain them! One boat dad estimated probably has a crew of 30-40. Every inch was being scrubbed and polished. You could almost see your reflection on the hull, and the bumpers on the side were the size of a large Fijian man. The Harbor Master says the boats, or ships I should say, come into port for a couple of months at a time before heading out to sea and another destination. It must be quite the life! I’m sure Dad will send some of the pictures he took when we were there.

IMG_3107On our walk from the hotel to the harbor at Denaru Island.

I went for a walk and dipped my toes in the ocean which was warm enough to bathe a baby in. The air is perfect in the early evening, with a break from the humidity of the day. I just saw a handsome Fijian man and his little son (about 3) walking down the beach in their native grass skirts with a bamboo pole in hand. They are walking around the resort and lighting the torches. It couldn’t be prettier! We have some dark clouds over us now, but the sun is making them a beautiful pink. (sadly my camera doesn’t catch the colors well so I am snagging a picture from google) This picture is down from our room a bit and is for adults only.

IMG_3114Denaru Island Yacht Harbor

After a couple hour nap, we got up for the buffet dinner at the resort.  Sampled everything – very good, and then watched a polynesian show.  Actually, I think Fiji is part of Melanesia (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia in the South Pacific).
Our name badges attract some attention and we sat next to a honeymooning couple from Bountiful. They are driving to Suva tomorrow to go to the temple – a four hour round trip.  The couple we spent time with in the MTC who had served in Fiji said the roads were not good (she didn’t drive during the two years they were here.)  They lived in Suva.
Our waiter this evening lived in Tonga for two years.  He said the pace of life there is very slow.  He said if we want to buy anything to wait and get it in Tonga.  Less expensive.  Actually cheaper might be a better word because things are not expensive in Tonga, he told us. He said don’t expect it to be touristy.  He was very familiar with the Liahona Campus – largest school in Tonga.
Everyone in Fiji has a smile on their face, but it’s very hit-and-miss as far as teeth are concerned. 🙂  ON the twenty minute drive from the airport through Nadi to the resort, I didn’t see any dental offices or professional buildings.  They are still recovering from the cyclone that hit when the Oldhams were here. It doesn’t look like there are strict building codes here. But the resort is something that you would see in Hawaii – open architecture and bright and fresh.
We commented to each other that we feel like we are in a foreign country – we hear lots of languages spoken and the staff all speak English but they are hard to understand.  I think they think they are speaking well, but I pick up a word every now and then, that sounds familiar, and ask them to clarify a lot.
They say “Bula!” a lot – it’s like hello but serves a wide variety of purposes.  Kind of like Booyah! that Navy Seals say.
Our air-conditioned room (19 degrees C) felt great – slept under covers. I’m really looking forward to wearing a skirt, and definitely NO socks for the foreseeable future. I have seen NO ONE wearing socks and shoes.  Totally sandals.
I was the only person on the flight, I think, who had Customs in Fiji take them into a separate room to open one of my bags – the ones with the lasers in it.  I told him they were physical therapy instruments, and that I was going to Tonga in two days to work at the Liahona Clinic, and he was satisfied.
We still feel like we haven’t slept in two days, which is technically true, since we crossed the international date line.  I think we will arrive in Tonga feeling acclimatized and rested – and then after a day we have the weekend.  So things are good.
Just a quick p.s.  I am sending this on the public computer from the lobby of the hotel – haven’t figured out the internet thing and wireless this-and-that.  So, if I missed someone in the “Hudson Family” group, please forward. Nate said that in Fiji his parents paid for data, and that seems to be the case here.  I have taken a few videos, and photos that I will send after we get to Tonga, to the real world,  and figure things out.  May try to face-time tomorrow from Fiji.


IMG_3104Near the hotel.

Fiji – It ‘s like a south pacific version of Puerto Vallarta. And
they drive on the left. Very friendly people, lots of sugar cane and
fruit stands. And cows roaming around. The Sofitel resort is very
nice – like a Hawaii resort. Nice staff. Humidity isn’t too bad,
slight breeze. We are pretty tired – mom told you our plane was 3
hours late getting in, so (since we sat on the plane at the gate for
close to 3 hours) it was like a 14 hour flight instead of 11 hours.
Such is life. I was definitely the only person wearing a white shirt
and tie. 🙂 It is 10:30 a.m. and we can check into our room in a
couple of hours. We will probably go have lunch first – they said we
could lounge by the pool, but all of our stuff is in our suitcases.

I think they “resolved” the autoclave gasket issue – they are going to
use a rice-cooker until they can get a replacement part. Innovative.

Indian New Year is Thursday – big celebrations going on all week, but
we are leaving Thursday afternoon before all the fireworks. About 50%
Indian heritage in Fiji.

They are going through a dry spell here – hasn’t rained significantly
for weeks – and the golf course at the Sofitel is quite brown. So I
cancelled my T time. (LOL).

So far the people we’ve interacted with on the plane and Fiji Terminal
have treated us somewhat “transparently.” They seem to look right
through us. When we do talk to people we tell them we are
missionaries and what our assignment is, and that seems well received.
The flight attendants (who may be more accustomed to missionaries)
asked about our mission, specifically. They were very nice.

IMG_3105Near the hotel.



IMG_3136Sofitel, Denaru Island, Nadi, Fiji