Called to Serve

We have loved traveling and being with family for the past two years but we felt the call to serve another mission so here we are in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the next year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sea World Guam Style

Saturday we decided to check out the sea life in Guam. Our first stop was the Fish Eye. This is in an area named Piti. During World War II a bomb was dropped in this area. Most of the area is quite shallow but where the bomb landed there is a big pit and it has developed into quite a nice dive area.

Since we cannot do water sports, we took a hike out to the end of this long pier to experience the Fish Eye.

You enter into this little top knot and then descend 72 steps to an underwater chamber.
There are windows in a complete circle and you just watch the fish and the divers. The windows were a little dirty so it was hard to get good pictures. There was a lot of coral to see and dozens of different types of fish.

This is a butterfly fish. There were probably 6 different kinds of butterfly fish and they all looked different. The colors were gorgeous - blues, purples, oranges, etc.

When the divers came down you could tell where they were because the fish just swarmed around them.

When we went back up the stairs I had to take a break to get my breath back and Elder Clarke took that chance to talk to the lady taking tickets. He found out that her husband was baptized into the church when he was 14 but he does not go to church now. He is from Yap and his English is not real good. She is Catholic and she has tried to get him to attend her church but he says he is not comfortable there. Her understanding of the Mormon religion is somewhat limited and she seemed very eager to learn more. We got her name and number and passed it along to the missionaries. I hope they will be able to meet with them.

That same afternoon, we traveled up the coast (not very far though since this is a small island) and we went to the Underwater World. We forgot to get an outside picture but this is an aquarium that is in the middle of the busy, ritzy, tourist area. It is tucked in between hotels, the Hard Rock cafe and across the street from the Coach, Louis Vitton, etc. stores. We were not expecting a lot but we were pleasantly surprised. It was fantastic. Fresno should have something of this level.

After going through grotto like tunnels where you saw turtles and snakes you entered an underwater tunnel that was amazing. There was every type of fish imaginable.

You had sharks and manta rays swimming just above your head.

After the tunnels we went upstairs and they had several rooms full of tanks with different kinds of fish, lobsters, jelly fish, etc. We saw Nemo and all his friends.

At the end they had an area where you could touch starfish. I touched one of the blue starfish like we had seen in Palau to see if it was hard. It was. Wayne especially liked the shark jaw.

We find that when we go exploring we find lots of very friendly people. I think the name badges that we wear everywhere we go kind of makes people more open to talking with us. It is so nice that we have lots of other places still to explore. We will have to take a short break though because for the next week or so we will be moving . More of that later.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Survivor Palau

Palau was the last of our island tours. You may remember that Survivor took place in Palau several years ago. When we arrived I thought, okay, where did they film? This is the most advanced island of any that we had seen. They have good roads, stores, traffic lights, etc. Their airport actually looked like an airport with walls and air conditioning. We arrived late at night and so we really did not see much until the next day but even in the dark we knew that Palau was different.

Palau is made up of 343 islands. The area where most of the population is is Koror. This is where we stayed. The airport is located on the largest island, Babeldaob. This is the second largest island in Micronesia, only Guam is bigger, yet it is mainly unpopulated. They moved the capital to this island several years ago with the idea that developement would follow, but it did not.

We stayed in the Palasia Hotel, beautiful inside and out. When we went to breakfast the next morning we realized that they probably do business with mostly Asians. The breakfast buffet was full of Asian dishes. As we sat waiting for the Hansens to pick us up we watched all the Japanese tourists leaving on their tours.

View from our balcony. No matter which direction we looked the view was gorgeous.

Our purpose for these trips was to inspect missionary apartments and cars. This picture shows the apartment complex of one set of Elders and the Senior Missionaries. The Elders live on the first floor and the Seniors live on the second. I have to say I was totally jealous of Elder and Sister Hansens apartment. The entire end over the carport is their covered patio.

It has a ceiling fan and lights and a beautiful tile floor. I sat out there one evening just loving the sounds. They have jungle behind them and there were BIRDS. That is something we do not hear in Guam. The inside of the apartment is nice but it is the patio that makes it so wonderful.

This is the apartment complex where the other set of Elders lives. Which would you rather live in?

After inspecting the apartments and cars we had the afternoon to explore. We headed over the Japan-Palau Friendship bridge to the big island of Babeldaob.

We saw a lot of beautiful scenery but our goal was to hike to a waterfall on the northern end of the island. We finally found the place but when the lady who collects the money from those hiking down to the waterfall saw us she questioned if we actually were planning on going down. When we said yes she informed us that there was a river that had to be forded and it was at least knee deep. I think that our missionary attire threw her off. Well with that information and considering that it had been raining pretty hard we decided not to go. She did say that we could hike down a short way where we could see the waterfall from afar and she would not charge us.

These pictures are from the trail down. There were remains of a narrow guage railroad that the Japanese had used to get bauxite.

They supplied walking sticks at the beginning of the trail and so of course Elder Clarke took two.

Look hard and you can see the waterfall. This was taken with the lens zoomed way in.

We enjoyed several other spots on Babeldaob and then stopped at the Capitol building. It was quite a sight to see. The area around it is absolutely beautiful and I do not understand why their efforts to develop this island have not been successful.

Wayne went walking in the morning and took his camera along with him. He took too many pictures to post but I will put some of the more interesting shots in Koror. This first one shows what good stores there are. The best part was that they were neat and clean.

This is an example of the Man Houses on Palau. They are a lot more decorative than those we saw in Yap. These were probably not as old and used lumber in the construction so they had surfaces on which they could do the paintings.

The Elders in Guam told us that we HAD to get hamburgers from this little trailer so that is where we headed for lunch.

This statue is in front of a cultural/convention center. They also have several really nice museums.

Our second day in Palau was strictly for sightseeing and we had one thing we absolutely had to do. The east side of the giant lagoon created by the barrier reef is riddled with hundreds of tiny umbrella shaped islands called Rock Islands. These islands appear to float on a blue blue lagoon. The Hansens arranged for Eric Carlson, the Elders Quorum president, to take us out on a boat to see the Rock Islands.

Because we were leaving that night and there were a few other things we wanted to see, we told Bro. Carlson that we wanted to go out for just a couple of hours. He had planned on taking us out all day and said what about 3 hours. A 3 hour tour - sounds familiar! We really did need more than 3 hours but we saw some amazing sights in the time that we were with him.

The water was the most magnificent colors of blue.

The islands were made of limestone and the water had undercut them so they did appear to float.

We stopped at one island that had a small sandy beach and had lunch. Bro. Carlson took us trekking through the jungle on this island and we were able to see lots of vegetation and wildlife.

The crabs are coconut crabs and if you look closely you will see a snake in the picture below.

The video shows the type of vegetation we were walking through. I did not really see a trail but Bro. Carlson led us back into an area where there would have been a small native village many years ago. We saw broken shards of pottery that they had used. Ignore the wet pants. I sat on a log that was quite damp. You can also hear those wonderful jungle sounds. It was so cool and I could just imagine what the participants of Survivor Palau had felt like.

In the area of this island we saw all kinds of blue sealife. There were small bright blue fish swimming everywhere and we saw several Pacific Blue Starfish. The picture does not do justice to how pretty they were. It is really kind of hard to see them but you get the idea.

Bro. Carlson wanted to go fishing so bad that he dropped a line in the water as we headed back to Koror. This is the one that got away. The fish had gotten hooked on the side of his head instead of in his mouth and he broke loose just as he was being pulled in.

This is the one that Wayne caught! It was actually the line that got dropped on his side of the boat and he pulled it in until Bro. Carlson took over to haul it into the boat. This was taken in Bro. Carlsons backyard. The bat is his pet fruit bat. It is just a baby and I was surprised at how it looked close up. I never realized how hairy they are.

Brother Carlson really did treat us to an exceptional experience. He is trying to get a tourist business going and we would recommend him to anyone planning a trip to Palau.

When we got back to Koror we spent the rest of the afternoon looking for a story board. This is a craft which we were told the Palauans do best. We were advised to go to the prison gift shop to look because they had the best deals. Not so. The prices there were several hundred dollars. Our dear Brother Carlson gave us the name of a woodcarving shop and we ended up buying ours there. Storyboards are wonderful carvings that have a story to go with the picture. Our story is about birds who carried light to children and others who were in need of it. We have seen several of the boards that missionaries have gotten and we think the workmanship on ours is much better. The carving is deeper, the colors richer and we were really happy to get what we did.

In the process of shopping for story boards we went through one of the museums and we went to Ben Franklins and finally found an ice cream freezer, which we bought and then had to pack in our suit cases!!

We thank the Hansens for giving up so much of their time to show us the island of Palau. It was a wonderful experience and we hate to see an end to our travels in Micronesia.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where In The World Are We?

Get out your maps. We spent several days this past week in Yap. If you ask a travel agent where Yap is you probably will not get an answer. If you ask a serious diver where Yap is most likely they will be able to tell you. Yap is one of the smaller islands in the Micronesia Guam Mission but it is one of the prettiest too. Of course I have been saying that about most of the islands that we have visited.

We arrived at about 10:00pm and after going through immigration two young ladies presented us with the leis you see. Thank goodness they were wearing multiple leis of varying sizes since underneath the leis they wore nothing else. Yap is the only island that still has some very traditional residents. You can be walking down the street and see bare chested women of various ages. There are only a small number who continue this practice but it is pretty certain that you will see several throughout the day - just ask Elder Clarke. He seems to have seen a lot more than I did. Because it is a cultural thing, you tend to get used to it quickly and do not really notice it so much after a while. At least that is what the missionaries say.

We decided that we were up for adventure on this trip and so we booked a room at the Pathways Hotel. It is a series of thatched roof cottages on the side of a hill. There are wooden paths that lead from one to another.

Our room was at the top of the hill and Wayne informed me that it was 65 steps to get there. There was air conditioning but since the room was not sealed real good it was still quite humid in the room.

We had a really nice balcony on the front and the view was fantastic. It was just a shame that we did not have more time to enjoy it. We arrived late at night, left at 8am the next morning and did not get back until late that night. The morning we left it was raining heavily but we were able to enjoy the sound of the rain on the roof.

This is Elder and Sister Shepherd. They are from Canada and know Erynn Nelson from when she was young. The Shepherds are the reason we stayed at the Pathways. They had gone there for there anniversary and posted it on their blog. We thought it looked really neat and since our anniversary was the week after our trip we decided that we would count that as our anniversary trip. It was quite an adventure and I know a few of my friends that I would not recommend it to.

While Elder Shepherd attended a computer class at the local college, Sister Shepherd took us on a great sight seeing trip. Yap is well known (for those who know where Yap is) for its stone money. Most of the stones come from Palau and the value of the money was determined by where it came from and the difficulty of getting it to Yap. As you can see, they are not easily moved. I believe that while ownership can change the stones actually remain in the same place. The stones along the pathway are in what is referred to as a stone bank. There are several areas like this on the island.

You can see that some of the stones are really quite large while others are smaller. The larger size does not necessarily mean it is worth more. Again, it is the location where the stone came from and how difficult it was to get it to Yap.

I threw this in just because I was amazed at the apartment that one set of Elders were living in. This if the view from their living room. The apartment was huge and they have a balcony on two sides which gives them a beautiful ocean view. Believe it or not, the rent here is only about $600 a month.

The chapel is very nice and even has landscaping around it. We were able to attend an afternoon Seminary class with about 7 or 8 students. The kids were somewhat quiet but when they were doing Scripture Mastery before class they were really into it. You can find that competitive nature no matter where in the world you go.

Anyone interested in a nice little houseboat?

Another thing that Yap is known for is its stone paths. I believe these are quite old and they connect the villages to each other. There are many of them throughout the island. They seemed to be very well maintained and if it was not so humid it would have been a really nice walk. There were coconut palms and mango trees all along the way and some really pretty flowering shrubs and trees.

This is a community meeting house. These can be found in the middle of the villages and are used for gathering for special events. We looked very carefully at the roof and were very impressed with the workmanship. You can see the stone money around the perimeter.

The road signs were really cute. At least they have signs. Many places you go in the area do not have anything to show you where you are.

Every once in a while we would see these small cemetery plots. They are usually very colorful.

You cannot really tell what the objects on these graves are but they are all beer bottles turned upside down. We figured these people still have friends who like to have an occasional drink with them.

Elder Shepherd just started taking roads to see where they would lead. We ended up in an area with a beautiful sandy beach and a small grouping of buildings. It turned out that the area was a dive area and had a small "resort". We ate lunch in this restaurant called the MoonRize Cafe. It was run by a Filipino and his wife. We asked why she was in Yap and she said her husband came to work. She had been there for 3 years and hopes to go back home soon. She did not appear to really like it in Yap.

Farther down the beach we found several houses like this up on stilts. They looked like they would be fun little beach houses.

After all the sightseeing, the Shepherds fixed us a great meal. Elder Shepherd is shredding coconut the local way. He is sitting on a little stool that has a metal piece at the end that you scrape the coconut on. He made coconut shrimp with it and Sister Shepherd made tuna sushi. Before anyone can ask, yes I ate it. The sushi was not made with raw fish and it was doctored up enough that you did not taste the fish.

This last bit should have been up with the Pathways pictures but I am afraid to move it - the first time I tried I lost the video.

Check back in another day or so and I should have the second half of the trip posted.