Well I am in Tuvalu! First off, it's 660 or so miles closer to the equator, which means 660 or so times hotter. I have been dying. I thought Fiji was hot, but it doesn't touch Tuvalu. Holy crap!
It was a bit of an adventure this last week getting here. We missed our flight on Wednesday. We pulled into the parking lot just in time to watch the plane take off. So we tried to go on Thursday, then had problems getting into the country with work permits and return flights and things, so we spent some time caught between security and boarding (we were leaving the country and going to a new one so the weight limits and security and everything were way tight). Then President Ostler called and said to just keep us back so we could be a part of the training on Tuesday. So we got off the plane after finally getting on, just in time to find out that the next available flight is in October. So we had to go get back on. It was a pain. We got here and no one knew we were coming, luckily after standing around looking for somewhere to go, a member recognized us and helped us out. Then we had to run around to like ten different places trying to get work permits but didn't have all we needed. So until literally an hour ago, we were illegal immigrants. But after a lot of sweating and running from place to place, we figured it out.
Our flat is pretty nice. It is like a dormitory type thing. We have our own room and bathroom but shared kitchen, sitting room and washing machine. It is ok though. The island is so unbelievably skinny! It is literally twenty yards wide in some places, but really really long which mean lots and lots of walking. Yup just a myth- no mopeds for this guy. President Ostler knows I would enjoy that way too much. But seriously EVERYONE else on the island has some motorcycle, moped or other, that they cruise around on. I love it! I have seen lots of XR's XL's and even a few KLX 450's that just call my name. But mostly just a bunch of Chinese mopeds and things. I am going to ask if we can at least get pedal bikes since we walk so much. Maybe we can talk him into some mopeds.
The island is so small that we don't have rivers or lakes for fresh water, so the rain water from the roofs gather in tanks and that is our water. So if it doesn't rain, we have no water. So far we have been good though. We have electricity which I am very grateful for. I can barely sleep with a fan, without it I would die for sure. There is not very much land (the coral outnumbers the land about 100 square feet to 1), so everything is packed together really really tight; houses are just one after another after another. I haven't seen any sandy beaches yet. They said it used to be covered with beaches but the hurricane washed away all the sand and left the rocks. The water is amazingly beautiful though. There are o many different shades of blue! I have heard that the other islands close by still have really nice beaches though.
Oh! The island I stay on is called Fanafuti. The soil here is just sand so other than coconut trees, there aren't not any farms. We have eaten rice and fish nonstop since arriving here. Everything is imported, so it's very expensive and in Australian dollars, so even more expensive. The Language is crazy.
My companion can definitely understand way more than I can because it is similar to Samoan, but still we're basically communicationally handicapped right now. We have been studying hard and it is slowly coming. We only have one tiny crappily written book to learn, so our resources are very limited. The members have been helping a lot though. There is no Book of Mormon in Tuvaluan yet and they cannot understand the Samoan here, so they just use the English version(i don't think they understand that one either but they try). The younger kids and some of the older members speak really good English though, so that helps a lot.
The branch is surprisingly strong seeing as they have been on their own for almost three years now. The Branch President is awesome and has been president since 1989. He has kept the church alive all these years through some rough times. He is great! We had 67 people at church, which is better than most branches in Fiji. A huge portion of them were nonmembers as well. So we should be busy teaching and baptizing the active nonmembers.
I have found a few Fijians on the island and have enjoyed being able to freely communicate. One of them, we picked up as an investigator and had a pretty good lesson. My companion Elder Key, is from Western Samoa. He is good and we are having good times so far. Well I think that wraps it up for this week. I hope all is well and that everyone is doing great. Love you all..Tofa.
Quick story I forgot from last week: Saturday before I left Taveuni, we had funeral for a member that died. It was huge! I don't know if she was from the chiefly family or what, but it was HUGE! They did they old traditional ceremonies and exchanged tabuas (whale's tooth) and gave big speeches with chanting and clapping. It was especially cool cause they spoke pure unmodernized Fijian in their dialect and I was still able to understand what they were saying. It was really cool to get to see!
They presented tons and tons of mats (ibe) and bark pounded designed cloth (masi) it was really cool. Then when the district president gave the church part of the ceremony, he announced that I would be dedicating the grave. I was super nervous and trying to cram as fast as I could how on to dedicate a grave in Fijian and then trying to rack my brain to speak pure Fijian and not modernized. It went really well though and I think I did a really good job. I was nervous because funerals are huge in the Fijian culture, so that was a great honor. After we had a huge feast and I ate way too much. So all in all it was a really fun and interesting last Saturday in Taveuni. Love you all..