Thursday, February 28, 2013

Random Information

First of all, yesterday we did experience our first Vanuatu earthquake.  The epicenter was 62 miles due west of us here in Port Vila.  It registered in at 6.1!  We felt the furniture move, but there was no damage that we are aware of.  Everyone here just takes it in stride.  The funny thing was that we were in the middle of skyping with Laurie Ann and Connor.  Connor told us to be careful that it was an earthquake that destroyed the dinosaurs!!!
Next something about the prices, they are high.  As an example, we bought a rice cooker for $63 and a blender for $74 American.  They were low end on the quality scale - the blender has only one speed.  Chicken breasts are $17 a kilo.  Two oranges cost $5.35.  Gasoline for the car is $7.34 a gallon - of course you buy it by the liter.  We got our Vanuatu driver's licenses for $111 a piece.

Now commercial construction, it is all cinderblock or corrogated steel.  This includes good residential properties.  Many of the people live in tin and tarp shanties.  They cook outside and are lucky, if they have any kind of outhouse facility.  Port Vila is the capital city and seems to be straight out of the 1950's.  The streets are narrow and full of people.  The little shops are crowded - not much space to move around. 

Shopping is also interesting.  There are many little stores that we have not ventured into.  There is also a Walmart equivalent.  Well, I say that loosely.  They have all of the kind of things a Walmart might have, but there is much, much less variety.  The best store, the one foreigners like to go to, is about the size of two Emigration Markets.  And - be sure to shop early in the month.  The cargo ships come in at the first of the month.  The shelves are really stocked well.  By the end of the month, there is much less to offer.  For example, they ran out of potatoes on the 19th of February.  And - if you see something that you like, stock up.  The Chynoweth's told us that one time they found good canned peanuts, but they have never seen them again.  Bakeries have only bread - no cookies or other dessert items.  And - no really good chocolate!!!!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Drive Around the Island

 On Saturday, we decided to drive all the way around the island.  We finished with an appointment at Black Sands Branch and just headed out.  It is practically impossible to get lost as there is only one paved road around the island.  It was beautiful.  The jungle is very dense.  All the people have machetes.  They carry them as they walk along the road.  If you venture off of the road, it is essential to get anywhere.  This is looking into the Coral Sea from a high spot on the island.                                      


This is a little house that we passed on the way.  The living conditions are so poor, but they are a happy people.  There are many much worse that this.  We will get pictures when we can.  I do not like to take pictures of the houses with the people right there.  It seems very rude to me.

This is an inactive volcano.  The islands are volcanic and coral around the shores.  There are some sandy beach areas here and there.  It doesn't appear that there are mudslides.  The top soil is only so deep and then everything is volcanic/clay like beds.  They excavate right into the hill side and don't need to put in any supporting structures.

Elder and Sister Hinton

This is Elder and Sister Hinton.  They are humanitarian missionaries here - and our next door neighbors. They lived in St. George for a long while and then in Utah County.  He is a horticulturalist, and she is a nurse.  We have shared veggies and advice and concerns.  They suggested that we get a blender and a rice cooker.  We did!  Here we are sharing a pizza.  It was very good but expensive.  It was $23 American at a very nice tourist hotel.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Better N-Van Housing

On Friday, I went out to a families house with a couple of the other Senior Elders to take some materials to make a rain gutter catch system.  That is how these people in the outskirts of town get their drinking and bathing water.  The plastic tarps in the front of this picture is where they used to live.  The house in the back is where they now live.  That house in the back was built by some Australians and cost them $1,000,000 VUT or about $11,100 USD. That is a lot of money for them. 

This is the view from the other side.  The house in the back is about 6 meters x 6 meters.  A family of 4 live there.  That's a small family.  The tarp looking house in front houses the man's uncle.

Out back is the kitchen where they cook and eat. They have fire pits to cook on. Kind of like camping out in the back yard. All they really need is some protection from the rain, and it can really rain here at times.
Of course you have to have an out house.

This is the new house that Elder Wallace is going to put the rain gutters on to drain the water into a cinderblock tank. The family is very fortunate to have a car.  Most do not.  Elder Wallace is helping this man with his water system even though they are not members of the church.  We just helped get the materials there, and Elder Wallace came back later and built the system with the man.  I'll get some pictures from Elder Wallace of the finished product.
This is the swing set the kids play on.
Thought I would throw in the banana tree in his back yard.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Planning for Success

We  have already taught three classes of Planning for Sucess at various branches.  The Planning for Success Workshop takes four weeks and is the prerequisite for any of the church grants or the PEF program.  The responce has been great.  These young people have been waiting for us to arrive.  Apparently, they have had their questions put on hold until the Larsen's came.  There are many eager kids.  On friday night we did a presentation at a young adult activity and thirty five to forty young adults showed up.  Many are single, but not all of them are.

We are also searching out the school options here.  There is the University of the South Pacific with campuses in many of the island countries.  In Vanuatu, the USP campas concentrates on accounting and law.  We do not think that this is a law school for lawyers.  It is some sort of undergraduate degree - we are not sure what the curriculum includes.  There is also a teachers college. 

The Chamber of Commerce here offers some courses.  And - there are some trade/technical schools.  We are having a difficult time coming up with a list of schools.  All we want is a list, and then we will personally visit each place.  We want to see the school, to know what they offer in the way of degrees, to understand the tuition and fees required, to be clear about their certification, etc.  The church needs to qualify each school.  Nothing could be worse than for a young Vanuatuan to complete a program and find that it is not legitimate.

The ultimate goal is always the same - a good job and self-reliance!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

President and Sister Brewer

 This is Elder Larsen and President Brewer overlooking the bay and islands.

Sister Larsen and Sister Brewer are so very happy to see each other again.  We went to high school together and have not seen each other in all these years.  It really was a wonderful reunion.  We both had many memories to share.

Now - a little more about Vanuatu - this is a beautiful country.  There is a lot of tropical jungle.  The civilized areas tend to be the perimeter of the islands.  On our island which has the captial city of Port Vila, there is one paved road that goes all the way around the island.  There are some additional paved roads in the capital.  However, many of the roads are dirt and/or mud. Two other islands have short sections of paved roads.  The work horse vehicle is the land cruiser that can cross rivers, etc.  The missionaries must have these to do their work.  We had one for one day!
Our car is due the first of  March.  We will not have a cruiser or a truck, because we should be staying in the capital city area.
The people here are warm and friendly.  However, they are very shy.  They speak very softly.  We are truly enjoying getting to know them.  Their English is OK for the most part.  We just need to speak slowly and make sure that they understand our words.  Of course, it is like in the Spanish branch, the young people speak more English.  They are very humble people.  They have very little of the things we consider standard.  However, the Sabbath day and the church mean everything to them.  The sisters all have a dress and the brothers all have a white shirt, dark slacks, and a tie.  It is a small miracle that they can keep a shirt white.
We are already very busy.  We are teaching classes every day - sometimes two  day.  We are teaching the Plan for Success program.  This is the course the young people all must have to progress with any educational plans.  We are finding that each of these young people have very interesting life experiences.  We are so very grateful for all of our blessings!!!!!

Open Market

These are some pictures of the open market downtown.  Farmers and Ni-Vans (native Vanuatu's) bring vegetables, fruits, and other items from the jungle or their gardens to sell.  We even saw a couple of dead bats for sale.  Don't ask me what that was all about.

These are huge bananas.  They only use them for cooking.  It makes a kind of mushy substance.  I am quessing it must be like a squash.


The market is huge - stall after stall tightly crammed togetheer.  The woman (usually grandmothers with the small children) stay in the stall all week.  They sleep there, too.  The men and older children bring in more produce to the stalls all week.  Each family pays a rental fee for their stall space each week.

On Saturday evening, the market is completely vacated and hosed down.  Sunday the market is closed.  Monday is starts all over again.

This is Sister Wallace, the mission nurse.  She is holding a bunch of fresh peanuts.            

Downtown Port Vila

 These pictures are from down town.  The buildings look like they were built in the 50's.  We'll post more down town pictures later.  The artwork on these two  buildings was interesting.

You saw what it looked out like from our balcony, well this is what it looks like from our front porch.  These are buildings that got started a few years ago, but when the economy went South, they couldn't afford to do any more on the buildings, so they are falling apart and will someday be torn down.                                         

Out where you see the ocean, there really isn't any beach sand.  There is a coral reef that you have to wear Teva's or something on your feet if you walk out into the water or your feet will get cut up.  There are other places down the beach a ways that have nice sand, but not out from us here.  It would be fun to snorkel out on the reef, but I don't have the equipment.  Maybe I'll have to go buy a snorkel.  They will let us do that, or go fishing if we want and have time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

 The plane ride to Vanuatu took three hours.  We were so glad to arrive.  This will be our home for the next two years.

This is the view of the Coral Sea from our balcony.  It truly is beautiful.  There were children playing in the lagoon all afternoon. 

This housing is very temporary - we will enjoy it while it lasts!!!

Auckland, New Zealand

Here we are in Auckland, New Zealand.  We had just arrived and Sister Waka was taking us siteseeing.  We did not know that the Maori  people had totems, too.  New Zealand is beautiful and green.  We certainly enjoyed our three days there.  The training was incredible and intensive.  Now if wee can just remember half of it.



Friday, February 8, 2013

Clyde and Connie Jeanne in the MTC

We just spent a wonderful two weeks at the MTC and church headquarters getting trained for our mission in Vanuatu.  We will provide more updates as time permits.  So excited!