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    Fiji 2017

    In July of 2017, my husband and I flew to Fiji with 12 others from our church to take part in a 12 day Mission trip. We all flew nonstop on-air Fiji from LAX to “Vitu Levu”, Fiji’s largest island, and the main airport in Fiji.

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    We had a second flight on a Fijian turbojet for 45 minutes to get to “Lombasa” on the second largest island ,”Vanua Levu” where the Mission was located. We looked down upon green, tropical beauty from our little turbo jet plane

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    After our flight we had a 2-hour ride bouncing along in 2 separate vans, piled with our group and luggage. The last leg of the ride was really bumpy, as there was no longer a paved highway. As we drove everything looked so tropical and lush!

    There were many dogs, chickens, and some pigs as we rode along the country dirt roads, now getting muddy from a light rain. The road became really slippery with the rain, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many animals lost their lives on this road. We saw many horses and cattle, but they were tethered to fences with ropes, thank God. We were really surprised to see some tall Pine trees in some areas! Everyone seemed so friendly as we passed, they would all wave and smile saying, “BULA”, their word for “Hello”.

    We stopped at a road side produce stand, as we wanted to purchase some of the beautiful produce and stretch our legs. We all got a kick out of the sign that read “Shopping Center” The papayas were so huge and lovely, I bought one as well as a large bunch of the “Sugar baby” bananas that were so sweet and flavorful! I also bought several large cucumbers, one of my favs in the vegetable family. I took the produce to the mission to share with the group during meal times.

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    We later stopped in “Savu-Savu” for a late lunch. It is the largest and closest city to the mission. We all enjoyed some tasty pizzas while overlooking a lovely little marina.

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    Loaded sugar cane truck – hard to pass

    The break felt good, and all too soon, we were piled back in the vans for the last hour’s ride. It felt very humid, especially when the rain started up! Our driver seemed to be in a bigger hurry than ever as he negotiated those curvy, slippery roads.

    At long last, we arrived at the Beautiful “Mission at Natuvu Creek” (photo) What a beautiful setting in the midst of a large Cocoanut palm plantation. It was sitting right on the coast, and talk about arriving in Paradise! We loved our accommodations, looking out at the ocean and hearing the waves. We were on the corner upstairs in “The Thompson House”. There were around 8-10 suites in this lovely building. We were thrilled to have our own room and bathroom, as we did not know what to expect when we booked this trip! For all we knew, we could be in a large dorm room. Our views from frontal and side windows was unforgettable and many of our photos were taken from our room! Being on the corner, it helped to give us more of a breeze, as there was no A/C. We did have a ceiling fan, which did help (until around 11 pm when the big generator was turned off for the mission) It would be turned on again around 6am. Thank God for lovely ocean breezes and trade winds! The winds also helped to fend off any mosquitos. After the first 2 days, the weather turned cooler, which was a big relief for us! It was the beginning of their winter (opposite of our seasons)

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    Dinner was at 6pm every night in the lovely, open dining room. There was a roof over the top, but the sides were open for the breezes and the view of the water and the nearby pool. The cooks lived up above the dining area, and our meals were always tasty and homemade! That first night of our arrival we had a huge pot of split pea soup, yummy potato salad, and tasty home made spinach rolls. After we chatted with fellow travelers and met many of the wonderful and friendly staff, we went back to our room and unpacked. I took a cool shower and then sat under the ceiling fan, and that felt great! We slept well, but awoke with the dawn and the birds singing. Don wanted to get early sunrise photos from our room, so he kept taking more photos in a sequence as it got lighter and lighter. He finally finished taking the photos around 7:30 am. Breakfast was always around 8am on weekends.

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    Outrigger at sunrise

    Sat. July 7, 2017

    Breakfast was oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, toast, and fruit (they served my delicious papaya and the bananas that I had purchased the previous day on our ride to the Mission) Most of the food served was vegetarian, with the exception of our big luau when we had fresh caught fish and some chicken. Many of us were “veggies”, and the food was wonderful!

    After “Breaky”, we all walked across the lovely, green grounds to the cute little white chapel where we would attend “Sabbath School” and church. This is a Seventh Day Adventist Mission, so we attended church on Saturday or “Sabbath”. The Fijians were walking from many directions to attend church and they all looked so nice in their “Sunday/Sabbath best! They carried their bibles and they Loved to sing! Their voices were so beautiful, as were their smiles and their love of God! Most have not been trained to sing, but come by it naturally! During the service, cute little 4-year-old “Sela” came and sat on my lap for a while. Then she sat on Don’s lap. She was such a cute little flirt!

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    I remember sitting in the church and looking out at the lovely and green pastoral site outside (windows were open), and it felt so peaceful and serene! A light rain was softly falling, even though the sun was shining, and everything looked so dewy and fresh. There was the nicest breeze coming through the open window. I will never forget that magical moment! We all had a lesson study and then joined in a circle to share just what coming to the mission and being with these Amazing people meant to each of us.

    For lunch, we had a wonderful salad with the lovely cucumbers that I had purchased, an Eggplant Pie that was quite tasty, even though neither Don nor I are Eggplant fans. It was served over yummy couscous. Dessert was Delicious homemade chocolate/banana ice cream, yum!

    Some of us decided to go snorkel in the nearby bay. Don and several others enjoyed it, and Don used his brand new underwater camera. Because of recent storms, the water was not as clear as usual, but they still saw sea anemone and beautiful bright blue starfish. I just sat nearby under the palms and journaled.

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    Blue star fish Fish among coral

    I later spotted some beautiful horses running through the trees, close to our room. I went to have a closer look so I could pet them and take some photos. They were so pretty and friendly! A mother and her filly, besides another young horse. After I quit petting the filly, she would nudge me for more petting!

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    The humidity was better towards evening when the breezed picked up. One of the Fijians named “Joe” shimmied up a tall cocoanut palm to cut down some cocoanuts for us. He slashed them open with his machete, and they were so good! It was fun just sitting out on the lawn relaxing with the “Locals”. Several of them had homes very close to our quarters.

    Dinner was yummy homemade Pizza, salad, soup, and a wonderful and moist chocolate cake. After playing some ping pong, we turned in around 10:30. The locals LOVE their ping pong, soccer, football, and any sports! They also love to play games with those of us visiting and willing to play!

    Sunday July 8, 2017

    Only slept till around daylight, around 5am again. We just love the birds who awaken us at the crack of dawn! Got up to use the potty, and semi slept until 6:30ish. We showered, and had our in-room coffee before joining “El Groupo” as I called the group. By the way, we always take a plug with us that I call a “Cattle Prod”. It has 2 metal prongs, and can fit into a mug nicely. When plugged into electricity, the mug filled with water, boils within a minute. Then we pour our powdered coffee or tea into it, and wella, there is your hot drink in the comfort of your room!

    After breakfast, the 14 of us boarded the “Mission Boat” for our20 minute ride to beautiful “Taveuni Island.” It is called the “Garden Isle”. The vans met us for the short ride to the natural water slide. It was raining lightly as we walked to the water slide and up the steep, slippery trail and rocks. Good thing we all wore our rubber water shoes, but even so, it was still very slippery! I wore my bathing suit with some old jeans over, to protect me from the rocks while sliding down the natural slide. Both Don and I hiked to the top of the slide, and then rode down the whole way. It was lots of fun! Some of the kids jumped off the high rocks above the waterslide and into the deepest pools.

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    For our second adventure of the day, we all packed back into the 2 vans for the 30-minute ride to our visit at “Gaiatree Organic Sanctuary”. After changing into dry clothes in their lovely changing rooms, we took part in their delightful appetizers before our tour of their fantastic gardens. There were three kinds of wonderful and natural juices. My favorite was Vanilla Chai. It’s run by a delightful couple from Canada named “Matthew and Natasha” who are fulfilling their dreams by running the tropical paradise Sanctuary. Matthew took us all on a great tour of the gardens while Natasha and her Fijian helpers cooked the most Magnificent Luncheon for us! It was an Amazing and Bio friendly place! We loved the “Bio-domes” they built for their home, for their kitchen, for their changing rooms and restrooms. They had several dogs, a cat, and many ducks and chickens.

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    The fantastic meal consisted of: Fritatta with egg, delightful spinach bread, green salad with everything in it, tiny falafel balls that were delish, curried potato salad, and marvelous homemade papaya sorbet served on top of chocolate cake and topped with Passionfruit butter on top. YUM!!! We were all so delighted with the whole beautiful experience, and the great food, and we were all Stuffed! Matthew and Natasha have made such a great life for themselves, as well as enriching the lives of those who visit! We all took photos together as we reluctantly said our “goodbyes” and our “thank yous”. To contact Matthew and Natasha, go to Bookings@gaiatreefiji.com

     

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    Then we were back on the vans for our ride back to the boat, and then to the Mission.

    I showered and washed my hair back at the room before dinner. I was still full from that luncheon at Gaitree, but did have some soup and a taste of the delicious empanadas with Basmati rice. The dessert was a wonderful banana cake.

    One of our Dentist friends, Cheryl, had just arrived at the mission for a week of helping out in the dental clinic. We met three “four” year dental students. “Neal” from Scotland, “Craig” from Ireland, and “Omer” from Turkey. They would stay for 12 days like us. We all chatted for a bit after dinner, then we hit the sac after such a long, fun filled day! We must be up by 6:30 tomorrow am (Monday) for our first day in the clinic.

    Monday, July 9, 2017

    Awoke at 5 am with the daylight and the birdies. Stayed in bed until 5:30 when we had our “In room” coffee. We got ready for our first day of work at the Mission. I wore my surgical “scrubs” that I wore when working in the Operating Room as an R.N. I retired 8 years ago from surgery. I had been wanting to do a Mission Trip since retiring, while I still had my nursing skills. Don and I decided to go together for our church Mission trip, to be used wherever they needed us. This would take the place of our “big trip” for 2017. We planned on helping at the mission for 12 days (the usual time allotment), and then flying to Brisbane, Australia to see our good friends “Dave and DI” for 5 days. It was only a 5-hour flight from Fiji, then a short flight from “Brizzy” to “Makay, where our friends lived. That would make the trip about 3 weeks, our usual.

    At 7am, we had a good breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit. By 7:30, we met with the mission staff for devotions and staff Briefing for the day. Each day a new person would lead out in the devotional, and it was very inspiring. One day I was asked to do the devotional, which I did. We would sing some hymns before dispersing for our day of work at 8am.

    I started out in the Medical clinic, and was disappointed to find that the surgeon and part of his staff were on vacation during the time we would be there! So, I kept my self-busy changing dressings, helping to stock the donated medical supplies, and rotating the stock of medicines.

    After lunch, the head of the dental clinic, next door, Dr. Dennis, asked me if I would help out in the Dental clinic, and I said I would be happy to. I was there to be of service, so when they recruited me, I was glad to stay busy! The Dental clinic was very busy and needed help organizing and assisting the 2 dentists, along with the three dental students. The dental hygienists, Dana and Mia, did many teeth cleanings, and I helped out with the fillings and extractions, along with Dana and Brooke. Many of the Fijians had not ever had any dental work. They came from near and far. The city busses brought many and returned them to their villages afterward.

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    There was a lot of organizing to do with the donated dental supplies, instruments, and equipment. A few of our students from our church helped to organize and to assist, as well as myself.

    Dennis, the dentist in charge of the clinic who lived in a lovely home on a hill there, helped Dr. Cheryl to find supplies, as well as the dental students and hygienists. I had helped with a small amount of dental surgery back in my O. R. Nursing days, so I knew some of the instruments and sterile technique, so I was a quick study. We worked a long day that Monday and saw many patients. At one point, I heard much laughing out in the waiting room, so I peeked around the corner to see what was going on. The waiting patients were watching an old episode of “The Three Stooges” and they were cracking up! It was a long day, and after 6pm when we closed up the clinic.

    I had fun being a “dental assistant, along with some of the youth from our church. Some of the students helped out on the grounds, and others helped out with the kid’s ministry with Tanya, our church youth pastor. Stephanie and Davon were our music coordinators, and who provided us with wonderful special music!

    Dinner was good! Pumpkin soup, quiche, homemade French fries, and a nice cucumber/ tomato salad.

    We chatted with the new dental students during dinner and after. Love their accents!

    The wind really picked up that night as we walked in the moonlight to our room around 10pm

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    Tuesday, July 10, 2017

    The wind really blew all night long! Alarm went off at 6am. We actually used the light blanket on our bed for the first-time last night, which felt good. Breakfast was delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, oatmeal and fruit. At our 7:30 am devotional service, we all introduced ourselves, and the staff did the same. Then they sang their national anthem to us, first in Fijian, then in English (their second language in school) We were then introduced to three more 4th year dental students, this time all lovely Indian girls from the U.K. Their names were Zahara, Nandika(Nan), and Natasha (Tasha).

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    Nan, Zahara, and Tasha on the boat

    Today was a nicer, more organized day in the dental clinic. I actually got to sit for a while assisting the dentists and students, as opposed to standing all day yesterday. I loved the delightful accents of these newest students as well, and it was fun to work with them! We were out of the clinic earlier that night, so we could all attend a special musical program put on by the children, and under the guise of Tanya, our youth pastor. Davon and Stephanie also helped out and sang with the children while Davon played his guitar. The children were so Adorable! Afterward, for dinner we enjoyed homemade tortillas and salsa, a great cucumber/veggie salad, and pea/corn soup. Our treat that night was popcorn!

    After our usual chats at dinner, we played ping pong. I was quite evenly matched with Curtis, one of our church members. Then about 6 of us played “Around the World” game of ping pong which was lots of fun and a good workout for us! We had all broken into a sweat within 30 minutes or so.
    “Sewa”, the leader of the Fijian people, was the undisputed king of Ping Pong! However, he and Don played neck to neck with each winning a game.

    Many of the group enjoyed playing a game called “Signs”, where everyone sits in a circle and tries to guess each other’s sign. I tried playing for a while, but it was difficult for me, so I later settled in for just watching.

    It had been a really nice day!

    Wednesday July 11

    After breakfast, during our devotion and briefing time, we were treated to beautiful music sung by a Fijian quartet. Perfect pitch and great harmony! Then Davon gave a nice message, followed by a lovely duet with he and Stephanie (our Opera student from our church)

    We only had a half day in clinic that day as following lunch, we again boarded the Mission boat for a 15” trip to another island. The villagers did some traditional dancing in their costumes and some singing. They were originally from Tivali, Polynesia. Fiji is part of Micronesia. These people moved her 70 years ago. The people gave us all fresh made flower leis for our hair.

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    Then we toured the village and some played volleyball (both Fijians and our group) Sports are such a big part of their lives (instead of electronics, cell phones, and T.V.) It was really refreshing to see people having time for one another! SO many kids were everywhere, and the dental students were all SO good with the kids! They were crawling all over them like ants!

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    The villagers were selling some of their homemade wares, so I bought several barrettes for my granddaughters, and Don purchased a large, lovely conch shell. How we would get that home in one piece was my concern, but we did it!

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    That night back on the Mission grounds, we watched the Fijians preparing the Feast for our “Luau”. (It had been cooking for several hours under the coals and banana leaves) (Photos 423-469)

    I changed into my full length wrap around sari (called a sulu in Fiji) for the special Luau and Fijian Program that evening. The Fijian men did some traditional dances in their costumes out on the lawn before our feast, and some were quite Fierce! At one time, they had been cannibals.

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    The dinner was Wonderful! Taro root(similar to a potato), fresh caught fish, chicken, yummy pumpkin stuffed with veggies, a luscious spinach dish, and chocolate torte for dessert! What a Great feast we all had!

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    We had dinner with a sweet newlywed couple named Michael and Layla. They were spending last 2days of their honeymoon with us because he had spent time during his training in the past at the dental clinic, and he wanted his new bride to see the beautiful Fijian scenery and people. They raised “Rag doll” cats, and we are cat lovers, so you can imagine what we talked about! In fact, once we arrived back home from this trip, we purchased 2 beautiful kittens! One is a gorgeous, lively Bengal kitty who looks like a miniature leopard (Which he is), and the other is a beautiful Balinese kitty who looks like a powder puff with seal point markings.” Bentley” is the male Bengal and” Petra” is our female princess.

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    Life is never dull around our home these days! The honeymooners enjoyed a special suite all adorned by the Fijian people with lovely flowers and tropical vines. The tropical flowers there are just so Gorgeous! Before the Clinic started, we had a most touching story for our Devotion time. It was about a crack addicted baby boy born to a heroin addicted mother and an alcoholic father. This child basically had no childhood, as he watched both parents die. Fortunately, he was raised by his Grandparents. It was such a miracle that he survived and did so well! Then we learned it was the story of Michael, the groom that was there with his new bride! There was not a dry eye in the room, so afterwards, we all embraced them both and thanked him for his inspiring story. We wished them both well and “Godspeed” as they were leaving later that am.

    It was special having all the staff eating with us tonight because of the special program! Stephanie and Davon sang a beautiful duet for the newlyweds, and then we were treated with some female and male hula dancing, we all loved it! We wished it would have lasted longer! We had a stunning sunset that night (photo1548), helping to contribute to a “Magical Night”!

    Thursday, July 12

    Don built a Soccer/Rugby field for the Fijians, and before it was even finished, they were playing on the field!

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    He also helped to “troubleshoot” for the dental clinic whenever equipment was not working. He is a Civil Engineer, so can figure out how to fix most anything. Curtis from our church also helped him. He is the husband of “Mia” one of two Dental Hygienists, and our resident “Character” of our church.

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    Dental equipment that doesn’t work

    Curtis and Mia are leaving and are spending a week in New Zealand before they returned home. We all missed them after they left!

    After lunch, we all hopped aboard the bus for the bumpy ride to a nearby village called “Buca Village”. This is where “Sewa” and several other Mission employees grew up. So we met more Fijian people and screened more patients for the dental clinic. The students and “Dana” our other Dental Hygienist, also taught the adults and children proper dental hygiene, and how to brush their teeth. (Photos) Dana had a huge set of plaster mold teeth and a large toothbrush for easy teaching.

    That evening, we sat out front of our room and chatted with our next door neighbor (Dana). All of a sudden, it was dark, so we three scurried to dinner, which was a wonderful pot of Split Pea soup, good homemade rolls, sliced cucumbers and beets, casaba (like a potato), and moist banana/coconut cake.

    I had been feeding 2 skinny cats every night who would show up at dinner time. They were feral and quite skittish, but would come up to me for food. Gradually, they let me pet them.

    Sure enough, they were waiting by our tables. All I had was some bread and casaba to give them, but they ate a bit of each. Their favorite food was fish of course, or the great potato/egg salad we had several times.

    We played some card games with the female dental students, and Davon and Dana. It was a fun evening! Went back to our room around 10pm, and it was nice to know we could sleep in a bit the next day(weekends), as breakfast was at 8am on sat and Sunday.

    Saturday July 15

    Awoke at 4am to noisy village dogs barking! I forgot to put in my earplugs that night wouldn’t you know? No sooner had I gotten back to sleep when I heard a large THUD! My hubby Don had fallen out of bed onto the hard, wooden floor in his sleep! I screamed “Are you okay”? He was still half asleep, but I managed to get him back into bed. We both finally fell back asleep for an hour or so.

    8am breakfast was a huge pot of Oatmeal (I missed it when we left), homemade scones, fruit, and always bread, peanut butter, jelly, and Nutella.

    Back at the little white church for church, where we were all touched by the beautiful music performed by Stephanie and Davon. I gave the devotion and both Don and I did the Prayer Requests. Then Tanya had us all sit in a circle and share what this Mission experience meant to us. There were many good stories, and many happy tears, as we all opened up. I got a bit “Choked up” when it was my turn, along with several others.

    I passed out sugarless gum to all the kids after church. Then I gave my color lip gloss to “Sela” the cute little 4-year-old.

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    She put some on her mother “Lena”. We took photos of the kids out on the lawn after church while waiting for lunch.

    Lunch was the yummy Potato salad, Pasta salad, tasty Lentil casserole, Eggplant casserole, and Coconut cookies.

    Later in the afternoon, Don and I walked up the steep hill to Dr. Dennis’s home, and what a view he had!

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    He was in charge of the clinic. We had a tour of his home, then sat out on his patio while chatting with other visitors. We all walked back down the steep hill in the dark (with help of our I phone lights) to dinner.

    We played more ping pong that night with the gang and found we were really improving after playing several times. We usually only play once in a blue moon.

    Sunday July 16

    Following breakfast, we sadly said “good bye” to Dr. Cheryl, the Dentist. She could only spend a week with us, but she did so much for the clinic, the students, and the patients!

    We took more photos of the grounds and coconut palms everywhere. One had to be careful when walking under these palms, as a coconut falling from that height could bring serious damage or death to a victim walking underneath.

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    Look out for falling coconuts

    Then our group packed up for the day’s events. We took dry clothes and towels as we were headed to “Bouma Falls” national park on the lovely garden isle of “Taveuni”. Much choppier boat ride today than our other trips to the islands. On the way over, we saw a beautiful, wide Rainbow

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    Then an hour’s drive on the bus to the Falls. Just as we arrived, the rain really started coming down! We had a long walk on a dirt path to get there, but it quickly turned to awful mud, so thick it resembled Gumbo or Quicksand! It was difficult to walk in it with our sandals. We should have been told to wear our tennis shoes! The dental student gals took off their sandals and went barefoot. Don and I both slipped twice in the sticky mud.

    We crossed the falls on the partly submerged bridge, then started hiking the steep trails. At least there were crude wooden steps, or we would have really slipped! As it was, it was dangerous, wet, and slippery. Then it began to POUR and we were really Drenched! How sad that this beautiful hike had to be in such a Downpour! Don and I slowed down, for fear of slipping off the steep trail! I didn’t want Don to injure his Titanium Knees, as 4 years ago, he had both knees replaced at the same time! He has done so well.

    It seemed forever before we reached the second set of falls.

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    Then I insisted that we start the long descent back to the first waterfall, as we were so wet and miserable. That 3rd waterfall just didn’t seem worth it in this downpour! Besides, it all looked alike in this torrential rain!

    An hour later, we were back down to the first waterfall. We crossed the bridge where we waited a good hour for the others. We were cold with drenched clothing and towels, so one of the Fijian guides, “Joe”, built a small fire for us in a little shelter with a roof. We had our sandwich and tried to warm up.

    Finally, we began our trek through the “mud flats” and back to the bus. This time, it was my turn to slip twice in that gumbo! You just could not help it, as your feet were out from under you before you even knew it! What a muddy, mangy mess I was! The mud was so thick, that it broke my sturdy rubber sandals. I sure wished we had brought warm jackets, though it was humid.

    We saw so many frogs everywhere, and when you stepped in the grass, you would step on a frog!

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    When finally, back at the Mission, the Hot Chocolate we had really hit the spot! So did my long shower!

    I had to wash out my lightweight pants three times before the mud came out! I was thinking about the next day (Monday), and the killer hike we signed up for climbing the “Volcano” (Highest mountain in our area) NO trails, just steep climbing straight up grabbing roots, trees, and rocks to pull oneself up.

    Dinner that night was so good! Tasty Spinach/fish squares, homemade chowder, rice with veggies, and ice cream. We watched kids play some games and played some ourselves. Then we played more ping pong. Don played 10 short games (only going to 11 points) with 10 different people, beating them all! He has a killer serve and spin that no one can return! Back to the room around 10:300 as we were tired.

    Monday July 17 (our last full day at the mission)

    Awoke at 6am to a Beautiful day! One of our prettiest days there in Fiji with sunshine, a light breeze, and a very blue ocean with small whitecaps. After breakfast, Neal, the Scottish dental student, did a nice job on his devotional covering Isaiah 43. Don and I went back to room afterwards so we could put on our hiking boots and get our day packs. We were to meet the small group at 8:30 for our hike to top of the Volcano. We waited until 8:55 when Sewa and 4 others joined us for our hike. It was about 1200 feet straight up to the top of the volcano, the highest point around us. The first 10-15 minutes was nice, then we started climbing up and up, and the hike became very steep with no trails, just trees and roots and vines to grab on the way up. Sewa threw a long vine to me more than once, so I could pull myself up in an especially challenging area. We soon became winded and sweaty, so we stopped for quick “breathing moments”. By this time, we were really gaining elevation and I was worried about my hubby Don with his Titanium knees. I didn’t want him getting hurt, and I knew from previous mountain climbing experience, that the toughest time was always on the descent. That’s when most the falls occur. So he stopped and waited on a log for the rest of us to make the summit and then meet up with him on the way down. I was relieved that he stopped, as the steps were just too large for his knees. We were about ¾ of the way to the top. I am so glad I did make it, as the panoramic view was beautiful!

    It was even tougher coming down than I had imagined! That vertical mountain was a challenge getting down! In a few bad areas, I just slid down on my behind (lucky I was wearing jeans) We even tried backing down in some bad areas, while trying to grab onto branches and roots. As we got lower, we would traverse across the loose rocks (Scree) I slipped once, scraping up my arm and leg on the rocks. Then we met up with Don for the descent down the rest of the way.

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    Rugged trail down from volcano View from top of volcano

    BY 10:30, we were at the summit, and back down to the Mission by 1pm for lunch. After lunch, we went back to the room and showered.

    Before walking along the beach, enjoying the balmy trade winds, we had a nice chat with Alex from our church. He is working hard to put together a video of our trip and is taking many photos.

    After dinner, Don and a bunch of others decided to go out on a night fishing excursion around 8:30. I decided to stay at mission and play some more “Around the World” ping pong with 6 others. It is lots of fun and some good exercise.

    The fishermen and women arrived back around midnight with no fish, but they all enjoyed the “experience” of gazing at the stars and clear sky while sitting on the boat.

    July 18, our last “half day” at the mission

    After breakfast of French Toast, Scrambled eggs, fresh Papaya, and always, Oatmeal, we enjoyed our last little Devotion in the room next to the mission. Sewa’s daughter led out, telling the Amazing story of Joseph, and how God used him. It is one of my very favorite stories of the bible. Then all the Fijians from the mission sang to us, “God be with you till we meet again”. It was so touching as they sang their hearts out in their traditional attire. There were many moist eyes in the room, including mine! They prayed for the remaining 9 of us still there to have safe flights home or to our next destinations. We finished packing for our flight on to Brisbane, Australia for the next 6 days, then took our last photos of the staff (1709-1768) We left a good sum of money for a tip to all of the staff. It would be given to them as a Christmas Bonus at the end of the year. We left some of our hats for Sewa and Lena, who run the mission.

    Davon and Alex were making a video of Fiji, as well as a music video. They asked me to do some dancing with Davon to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing”. I loved his music and could not sit still while it was playing (who could?) We danced a few minutes out front of our rooms on the patio, and even did a little “Moon Walk”, Lots of fun! I’ve yet to see this completed video, but sure want to!

    Then the 9 of us leaving the mission for the airport said our last “goodbyes”. The dental staff were breaking for lunch, so they could say goodbye to us as well.

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    Goodbye to the Mission at Natuvu Creek

    We rode back to the airport in 2 separate vans with all our luggage. It was a long (3-hour trip) and bumpy ride to the airport, as we each thought back on the last 12 days and how much we had packed in!

    Once there, we waited for 1 hour for our small flight back to the big Nadi Airport. Don and I bid the rest of the group “Bye and Godspeed” as they were all flying out later that night for LAX, while we were getting our luggage and boarding the shuttle for the short ride to “Hotel Gateway”, just a short distance from the airport. We could not get a connecting flight to Brisbane until early the next am, so we enjoyed our brief stay in this cute, Boutique hotel. It was quaint, open and airy like the hotels in Hawaii. We enjoyed a very nice dinner in the hotel courtyard at the restaurant, while being serenaded by two local Fijians. They were playing guitars and singing in their rich, melodic voices, and it was a lovely evening.

    We barely unpacked anything, as our flight leaving for Brisbane was very early the next am, so it was soon off to bed for us!

    July 19 On to Australia

    Up by 5am, and on the airport shuttle by 6am. We had breakfast at the cute little airport while waiting for our flight to “Brizzy” (Brisbane).

    When checking into our Virgin Australia flight, they asked about our “visas’. This was the first we had heard about needing visas for Australia! When we travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 with OAT, we did not need a visa! So we paid around $100. 00 U.S dollars to get them, right there on the spot! Thank God we could do it there! Also, that we had plenty of time, so no long lines, as it took around 30 extra minutes. We really had wonderful service! It was a nice 4.5-hour flight to Brisbane, and the winds were really strong, thus earning the name “Breezy Brizzy”! Then we had to go through customs. We did some last-minute shopping in that lovely, large airport! Then we boarded the shuttle for the Domestic flights in Australia. The ride seemed to take a good 10 minutes! We were flying from there to “Mackay”, where our Aussie friends live. We had an hour long wait and found a wonderful place for fresh salads. The small flight to Makay took 1 hour, 20 minutes. What a cute, tiny airport for this town of 130,000.

    We soon met our friends, “Dave ad Di”, and were off to their home about 10 minutes away.

    It was SO GOOD to see them as we enjoyed “Catching up” It had been 2-years since our trip to Australia and N. Zealand in 2015. They joined us in Fabulous Sydney for 2 days and we did the “Bridge Walk” together as well as other fun events. Their new home was just Beautiful and so spacious. They had just moved in 1 week prior! Talk about pressure to be ready for house guests! Of course, they had been delayed, “Murphy’s Law”! Ironically that is their last name.

    The house was so well planned with a beautiful built in Barbeque area (every Aussie loves their “Barby”)

    They also had a huge shed or storage area out behind the house and garage to house their motor home and boat. Other than some boxes in the garage and out in the shed, you would never have known they just moved in! Their house was built to withstand the high winds of a monsoon.

    DI made a lovely dinner of Roasted Chicken with a roasted vegetable medley of potatoes, yams, and pumpkin, and we loved it! Yummy garlic bread topped it off.

    The guys were So excited about their fishing trip planned for very early the next am! Dave had been working on this fishing trip for some time, they were like 2 kids in a candy shop! Di made several sandwiches for them and packed a lunch for them. We finally said” goodnight” around midnight.

    We were the first to stay in this lovely guest bedroom, or in the house period, and everything was so Special! We felt very honored.

    Thursday July 20

    The alarm went off at an UNGODLY time, or as I say, “Ugly O’ Clock”! It was 3 am, just 3 hours after we had gone to bed! Did I mention the fact that these guys are DIE HARD Fishermen? That is really an understatement concerning Dave, as he is the undisputed fishing Champion of Australia! I called him “The Fish Whisperer”. They left around 4am, after Di made them a nice breakfast.

    Dave Lives and Breathes Fishing! I thought Don was bad, but not near! Both Dave and DI have grown up in this area, so they know ALL the good fishing spots! They were gone until early evening, so Di and I had a nice day of catching up. They have the cutest and smartest Cockatiel bird named “Scruffy”. He was young and what a vocabulary he already had! I taught him the “Charge” tune and the “Wolf Whistle”, which he promptly picked up! Dave and Di call him their clever and “Cheeky” birdy.

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    Sharon teaching Scruffy a new song

    That night, the guys came home with around 60 fish, mostly “Whiting and Flathead”, and most caught by Dave! After dinner, they cleaned the fish and the boat out (

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    Don with a Whiting Dave Australian fishing champ for 5 years

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    Flathead a fish with spikes on side of head Be careful handling

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    Careful to look for Crocs. Slippery boat landing – careful to not slip in – Crocs

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    Fishing vehicle Set up for fishing gear and refrigerator

    Friday July 21

    After “Breaky” (Aussie nickname for breakfast), we went out for a nice drive seeing the sights of Mackay. We drove through some pretty countryside and stopped for “Tea” at the cutest Tea House called “Ye Olde Station Tea House”, situated on a lovely, large piece of property with a lake and large trees.

    We had coffee and delicious homemade Scones with Jam. The scones were similar to our biscuits. Then we shared a Yummy piece of Carrot cake, still warm from the oven!

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    Dave Don and Di

    We saw more local sights on our drive, ending up at a pretty Nature Preserve walking trail. It was good to get some exercise while enjoying nature! We passed a 1,000-year-old “Aboriginal Shell Middum”. It was a huge hill of Oyster shells, from Ancient Aborigines eating oysters and spitting out the shells!

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    “Aboriginal Shell Middum”

    Then we saw several Kangaroos (“Roos”) in the park with babies “(Joeys”) in their pouches. Mothers and babies were eating grass and it was so cute! The babies just stay in the pouch and can reach the grass.

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    Iron Ore is Australia’s biggest industry, followed by coal. We saw one of the world’s largest coal export ports.

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    Port of Hay Point 130 million tons per year

    Sugar Cane is also big there, with 85% being shipped out of the country.

    That night back at the house, Di cooked up some of the fresh caught fish. She lightly coated it in a baggie, then placed the fish in an electric skillet. Then she cut up more potatoes and sweet potatoes into thin strips. She sprinkled Italian Seasoning on them before baking them for 30 minutes. The fish was FABULOUS, as were the potato strips! I had never eaten so much fish in one sitting before, or since!

    Dinner was topped off with sweet watermelon.

    We went to bed around 10pm, as the alarm was again set for an ugly hour, so the guys could try their luck at another spot. I decided to join them this time, as they promised they would just be around a half day, and we all had dinner reservations that night.

    We left around 6am after breaky. This time we were fishing “Murray Creek”, where we launched the boat. We tried around 8 areas, depending on the everchanging tides. It’s Amazing how much these tides change – up to 15 feet, and one must really watch them or get into big trouble! Besides, I would not want to be stranded, as there are big Crocodiles in these waters!

    We kept catching Catfish (bottom feeders and sting rays, yuk!), so would just throw them back in.

    I was excited to catch 2 “Whiting” fish and several large “Grunters”. They make a loud grunting sound, as they eat and crush crustaceans. Dave caught the most fish as per usual. Poor Don, he kept having to send his back, as they were too small, so it was “Catch and Release”, his new nick name. My nick name was “The Grunter Hunter”, not so lovely sounding!

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    Sharon the Grunter Hunter Fish hawk in flight

    We saw several beautiful Herons and some Fish Hawks circling up in the sky. It was a beautiful day and I was so glad I did go along, it was fun! True to their promise, we left around 1:30, and got back home around 3:30. DI had a nice cup of coffee waiting for us. I showered and washed my hair to get ready for our 6:15 reservations at a nearby restaurant there, “The Ocean International”. It was a Fantastic Restaurant with great food and service! We really enjoyed our “Dining Experience” there! The presentation was perfect, as was the whole evening! No wonder the place was S0 Packed!

    I had the best Pumpkin Soup ever, and the salad and bread were superb! Di and I split the most wonderful drink called a “Mudslide”, and it helped to fill us up too soon, but So Good! I was so full, I canceled out on my “Risotto” entrée. For dessert we all shared a yummy Cocoanut Rice Pudding.

    What a Great night and meal! Dave and DI would not let us pay, as they did this for my soon coming birthday. What a great early Birthday Gift!

    We drove around the cute harbor a while, and then called it a day. Di and I soon went to bed, but the guys stayed up late. Can you just imagine what the topic of their conversation was? Yep, more FISH TALK!

    Sunday July 23

    We went to Brunch with Dave and Di to a cute place called “Oscars”. Dave and Di’s good friends “Liz and Grant” joined us. The six of us had a great meal and visit together. Later that day, we prepared for an “Aussie Barby”. Dave must have prepared fish for a good two hours while Don kept him company. I made fresh Guacamole. Peter and Karen (Dave’s brother and wife), joined us around 6pm. It was so good seeing them after 4 years. The six of us met 4 years ago on a Tauck Tour of Scotland. We had seen Dave and Di several times since then, but this was the first time to see Peter and Karen since meeting them. They both looked so good, and we all had a wonderful time reminiscing and enjoying the Delicious Barby and sharing in much laughter, so good for the soul!

    The Fish menu alone was; Coral Trout from the reef; the “Grunter” that Dave and I caught; and some “Sweet Lips” fish. All three fish were absolutely Fantastic! Add a wonderful salad and bread and some steak with cooked onions. We were all totally stuffed! All too soon, our fun evening came to a close around 11:30, as we bid one another “Goodnight”.

    Monday July 24, our last day in Mackay

    The time has sped by so fast! We awoke around 7am to find Di already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. We all shared some yogurt, cereal, and fruit before getting ready for our last day of outings.

    We’re heading out to see “The Sugar Shed”. A Beautiful drive there, and then a most interesting tour of the Sugar Cane Mill. Such a long process to obtain sugar! We also had some wine tastings and a short film. The tour showed us some large equipment from the early days. It is back breaking work and long hours. Di’s dad used to work in the sugar cane mill, and he was gone from sunup to sundown. The family mostly saw him on weekends.

    We saw more sights including a huge coal exporting facility. We had lunch overlooking the harbor at a place called “Hay Point”. We ladies both enjoyed a pumpkin/cheese and spinach filling in phyto dough along with a salad. Dave had curried pasta and Don had Stroganoff. All three dishes were really tasty!

    After lunch, we drove over to Karen and Peter’s lovely home on the river. It was a Beautiful place, much of it designed by Karen. We enjoyed a tour and a cup of tea with them before we were off to see the cute little Makay harbor before nightfall. This was their Winter, so it would be getting dark by 6pm. Sure wish we could have spent more time there! Guess we needed a good week, rather than 5 days with our friends. We really fit in a lot while there for the short time. Our dear Aussie hosts could not have been better!

    When we arrived back at Dave and Di’s, she had the loveliest crockpot of Chicken Stew cooking, and the house smelled wonderful, and the stew tasted the same! She served it with some good sour dough bread and salad, along with more of that delicious Moscato wine. We had the nicest evening together, taking some photos of each other. Wish we had remembered to take photos last night while Peter and Karen were with us!

    Around 9pm, Don and I excused ourselves to go pack for our big trip back home the next day. We were finished by 10pm. We said our “Goodbyes” and “thanks for everything” before going to bed, as we needed to be up by 4am the next day for our early flight. We were up by 4am on Tuesday am and ready by 5am. Di had coffee out with some fruit, so we joined them for 15 minutes before they took us to nearby airport.

    We told them we were counting on them coming to stay with us in Laguna Beach, Calif. As soon as they could, so we could “Return the Favor”! Before we left, I tucked a little “Thank You” on our bedside stand. Before we left the airport, we received a text from our Aussie pals telling us “they missed us already, and thanks for coming to see them.” We will stay in touch with them, as we do with several of our travel mates, who have become good friends!

    Had a nice, uneventful flight back home, and as always, it was good to get home to our own beds and our “Routines”.

    IN a few days, we will be adding to our family with two beautiful new Kittens. I wrote briefly about them and shared a photo in my recent story of Fiji. So, our busy lives will become even busier when we become “new parents” or should I say, “new grandparents” to 2 precious kitties.

     

     

    Fiji 2017

    In July of 2017, my husband and I flew to Fiji with 12 others from our church to take part in a 12 day Mission trip.  We all flew nonstop on-air Fiji from LAX to “Vitu Levu”, Fiji’s largest island, and the main airport in Fiji.

    We had a second flight on a Fijian turbojet for 45 minutes to get to “Lombasa” on the second largest island ,”Vanua Levu” where the Mission was located. We looked down upon green, tropical beauty from our little turbo jet plane

    After our flight we had a 2-hour ride bouncing along in 2 separate vans, piled with our group and luggage. The last leg of the ride was really bumpy, as there was no longer a paved highway.  As we drove everything looked so tropical and lush!

    There were many dogs, chickens, and some pigs as we rode along the country dirt roads, now getting muddy from a light rain. The road became really slippery with the rain, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many animals lost their lives on this road. We saw many horses and cattle, but they were tethered to fences with ropes, thank God. We were really surprised to see some tall Pine trees in some areas! Everyone seemed so friendly as we passed, they would all wave and smile saying, “BULA”, their word for “Hello”.

    We stopped at a road side produce stand, as we wanted to purchase some of the beautiful produce and stretch our legs. We all got a kick out of the sign that read “Shopping Center” The papayas were so huge and lovely, I bought one as well as a large bunch of the “Sugar baby” bananas that were so sweet and flavorful! I also bought several large cucumbers, one of my favs in the vegetable family. I took the produce to the mission to share with the group during meal times.

    We later stopped in “Savu-Savu” for a late lunch. It is the largest and closest city to the mission. We all enjoyed some tasty pizzas while overlooking a lovely little marina.

                                                                                    Loaded sugar cane truck – hard to pass

    The break felt good, and all too soon, we were piled back in the vans for the last hour’s ride. It felt very humid, especially when the rain started up! Our driver seemed to be in a bigger hurry than ever as he negotiated those curvy, slippery roads.

    At long last, we arrived at the Beautiful “Mission at Natuvu Creek” (photo) What a beautiful setting in the midst of a large Cocoanut palm plantation. It was sitting right on the coast, and talk about arriving in Paradise! We loved our accommodations, looking out at the ocean and hearing the waves. We were on the corner upstairs in “The Thompson House”. There were around 8-10 suites in this lovely building. We were thrilled to have our own room and bathroom, as we did not know what to expect when we booked this trip! For all we knew, we could be in a large dorm room. Our views from frontal and side windows was unforgettable and many of our photos were taken from our room! Being on the corner, it helped to give us more of a breeze, as there was no A/C. We did have a ceiling fan, which did help (until around 11 pm when the big generator was turned off for the mission) It would be turned on again around 6am. Thank God for lovely ocean breezes and trade winds! The winds also helped to fend off any mosquitos. After the first 2 days, the weather turned cooler, which was a big relief for us! It was the beginning of their winter (opposite of our seasons)

    Dinner was at 6pm every night in the lovely, open dining room. There was a roof over the top, but the sides were open for the breezes and the view of the water and the nearby pool.  The cooks lived up above the dining area, and our meals were always tasty and homemade! That first night of our arrival we had a huge pot of split pea soup, yummy potato salad, and tasty home made spinach rolls. After we chatted with fellow travelers and met many of the wonderful and friendly staff, we went back to our room and unpacked. I took a cool shower and then sat under the ceiling fan, and that felt great! We slept well, but awoke with the dawn and the birds singing. Don wanted to get early sunrise photos from our  room,   so he kept taking more photos in a sequence as it got lighter and lighter. He finally finished taking the photos around 7:30 am. Breakfast was always around 8am on weekends.

    Outrigger at sunrise

    Sat. July 7, 2017

    Breakfast was oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, toast, and fruit (they served my delicious papaya and the bananas that I had purchased the previous day on our ride to the Mission) Most of the food served was vegetarian, with the exception of our big luau when we had fresh caught fish and some chicken. Many of us were “veggies”, and the food was wonderful!

    After “Breaky”, we all walked across the lovely, green grounds to the cute little white chapel where we would attend “Sabbath School” and church. This is a Seventh Day Adventist Mission, so we attended church on Saturday or “Sabbath”.  The Fijians were walking from many directions to attend church and they all looked so nice in their “Sunday/Sabbath best! They carried their bibles and they Loved to sing! Their voices were so beautiful, as were their smiles and their love of God! Most have not been trained to sing, but come by it naturally! During the service, cute little 4-year-old “Sela” came and sat on my lap for a while. Then she sat on Don’s lap. She was such a cute little flirt!

    I remember sitting in the church and looking out at the lovely and green pastoral site outside (windows were open), and it felt so peaceful and serene! A light rain was softly falling, even though the sun was shining, and everything looked so dewy and fresh. There was the nicest breeze coming through the open window. I will never forget that magical moment! We all had a lesson study and then joined in a circle to share just what coming to the mission and being with these Amazing people meant to each of us.

    For lunch, we had a wonderful salad with the lovely cucumbers that I had purchased, an Eggplant Pie that was quite tasty, even though neither Don nor I are Eggplant fans. It was served over yummy couscous. Dessert was Delicious homemade chocolate/banana ice cream, yum!

    Some of us decided to go snorkel in the nearby bay. Don and several others enjoyed it, and Don used his brand new underwater camera. Because of recent storms, the water was not as clear as usual, but they still saw sea anemone and beautiful bright blue starfish. I just sat nearby under the palms and journaled.

    Blue star fish                                                             Fish among coral

    I later spotted some beautiful horses running through the trees, close to our room. I went to have a closer look so I could pet them and take some photos.  They were so pretty and friendly! A mother and her filly, besides another young horse. After I quit petting the filly, she would nudge me for more petting!

    The humidity was better towards evening when the breezed picked up. One of the Fijians named “Joe” shimmied up a tall cocoanut palm to cut down some cocoanuts for us. He slashed them open with his machete, and they were so good! It was fun just sitting out on the lawn relaxing with the “Locals”. Several of them had homes very close to our quarters.

    Dinner was yummy homemade Pizza, salad, soup, and a wonderful and moist chocolate cake. After playing some ping pong, we turned in around 10:30. The locals LOVE their ping pong, soccer, football, and any sports! They also love to play games with those of us visiting and willing to play!

    Sunday July 8, 2017

    Only slept till around daylight, around 5am again. We just love the birds who awaken us at the crack of dawn! Got up to use the potty, and semi slept until 6:30ish.  We showered, and had our in-room coffee before joining “El Groupo” as I called the group. By the way, we always take a plug with us that I call a “Cattle Prod”. It has 2 metal prongs, and can fit into a mug nicely. When plugged into electricity, the mug filled with water, boils within a minute. Then we pour our powdered coffee or tea into it, and wella, there is your hot drink in the comfort of your room!

    After breakfast, the 14 of us boarded the “Mission Boat” for our20 minute ride to beautiful “Taveuni Island.” It is called the “Garden Isle”. The vans met us for the short ride to the natural water slide. It was raining lightly as we walked to the water slide and up the steep, slippery trail and rocks. Good thing we all wore our rubber water shoes, but even so, it was still very slippery! I wore my bathing suit with some old jeans over, to protect me from the rocks while sliding down the natural slide.  Both Don and I hiked to the top of the slide, and then rode down the whole way. It was lots of fun! Some of the kids jumped off the high rocks above the waterslide and into the deepest pools.

    For our second adventure of the day, we all packed back into the 2 vans for the 30-minute ride to our visit at “Gaiatree Organic Sanctuary”.  After changing into dry clothes in their lovely changing rooms, we took part in their delightful appetizers before our tour of their fantastic gardens.  There were three kinds of wonderful and natural juices. My favorite was Vanilla Chai.  It’s run by a delightful couple from Canada named “Matthew and Natasha” who are fulfilling their dreams by running the tropical paradise Sanctuary. Matthew took us all on a great tour of the gardens while Natasha and her Fijian helpers cooked the most Magnificent Luncheon for us! It was an Amazing and Bio friendly place!  We loved the “Bio-domes” they built for their home, for their kitchen, for their changing rooms and restrooms. They had several dogs, a cat, and many ducks and chickens.

    The fantastic meal consisted of: Fritatta with egg, delightful spinach bread, green salad with everything in it, tiny falafel balls that were delish, curried potato salad, and marvelous homemade papaya sorbet served on top of chocolate cake and topped with Passionfruit butter on top. YUM!!! We were all so delighted with the whole beautiful experience, and the great food, and we were all Stuffed! Matthew and Natasha have made such a great life for themselves, as well as enriching the lives of those who visit! We all took photos together as we reluctantly said our “goodbyes” and our “thank yous”. To contact Matthew and Natasha, go to Bookings@gaiatreefiji.com

    Then we were back on the vans for our ride back to the boat, and then to the Mission.

    I showered and washed my hair back at the room before dinner. I was still full from that luncheon at Gaitree, but did have some soup and a taste of the delicious empanadas with Basmati rice. The dessert was a wonderful banana cake.

    One of our Dentist friends, Cheryl, had just arrived at the mission for a week of helping out in the dental clinic. We met three “four” year dental students. “Neal” from Scotland, “Craig” from Ireland, and “Omer” from Turkey. They would stay for 12 days like us. We all chatted for a bit after dinner, then we hit the sac after such a long, fun filled day! We must be up by 6:30 tomorrow am (Monday) for our first day in the clinic.

    Monday, July 9, 2017

    Awoke at 5 am with the daylight and the birdies. Stayed in bed until 5:30 when we had our “In room” coffee. We got ready for our first day of work at the Mission. I wore my surgical “scrubs” that I wore when working in the Operating Room as an R.N.  I retired 8 years ago from surgery. I had been wanting to do a Mission Trip since retiring, while I still had my nursing skills.  Don and I decided to go together for our church Mission trip, to be used wherever they needed us. This would take the place of our “big trip” for 2017. We planned on helping at the mission for 12 days (the usual time allotment), and then flying to Brisbane, Australia to see our good friends “Dave and DI” for 5 days. It was only a 5-hour flight from Fiji, then a short flight from “Brizzy” to “Makay, where our friends lived. That would make the trip about 3 weeks, our usual.

    At 7am, we had a good breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit. By 7:30, we met with the mission staff for devotions and staff Briefing for the day. Each day a new person would lead out in the devotional, and it was very inspiring. One day I was asked to do the devotional, which I did. We would sing some hymns before dispersing for our day of work at 8am.

    I started out in the Medical clinic, and was disappointed to find that the surgeon and part of his staff were on vacation during the time we would be there! So, I kept my self-busy changing dressings, helping to stock the donated medical supplies, and rotating the stock of medicines.

    After lunch, the head of the dental clinic, next door, Dr. Dennis, asked me if I would help out in the Dental clinic, and I said I would be happy to. I was there to be of service, so when they recruited me, I was glad to stay busy! The Dental clinic was very busy and needed help organizing and assisting the 2 dentists, along with the three dental students. The dental hygienists, Dana and Mia, did many teeth cleanings, and I helped out with the fillings and extractions, along with Dana and Brooke.  Many of the Fijians had not ever had any dental work. They came from near and far. The city busses brought many and returned them to their villages afterward.

    There was a lot of organizing to do with the donated dental supplies, instruments, and equipment. A few of our students from our church helped to organize and to assist, as well as myself.

    Dennis, the dentist in charge of the clinic who lived in a lovely home on a hill there, helped Dr. Cheryl to find supplies, as well as the dental students and hygienists. I had helped with a small amount of dental surgery back in my O. R. Nursing days, so I knew some of the instruments and sterile technique, so I was a quick study. We worked a long day that Monday and saw many patients. At one point, I heard much laughing out in the waiting room, so I peeked around the corner to see what was going on.  The waiting patients were watching an old episode of “The Three Stooges” and they were cracking up!  It was a long day, and after 6pm when we closed up the clinic.

    I had fun being a “dental assistant, along with some of the youth from our church. Some of the students helped out on the grounds, and others helped out with the kid’s ministry with Tanya, our church youth pastor. Stephanie and Davon were our music coordinators, and who provided us with wonderful special music!

    Dinner was good! Pumpkin soup, quiche, homemade French fries, and a nice cucumber/ tomato salad.

    We chatted with the new dental students during dinner and after. Love their accents!

    The wind really picked up that night as we walked in the moonlight to our room around 10pm

    ****************************************************************************************** more to come********************************************

    Tuesday, July 10, 2017

    The wind really blew all night long! Alarm went off at 6am. We actually used the light blanket on our bed for the first-time last night, which felt good. Breakfast was delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, oatmeal and fruit. At our 7:30 am devotional service, we all introduced ourselves, and the staff did the same. Then they sang their national anthem to us, first in Fijian, then in English (their second language in school) We were then introduced to three more 4th year dental students, this time all lovely Indian girls from the U.K. Their names were Zahara, Nandika(Nan), and Natasha (Tasha).

    Nan, Zahara, and Tasha on the boat

    Today was a nicer, more organized day in the dental clinic. I actually got to sit for a while assisting the dentists and students, as opposed to standing all day yesterday. I loved the delightful accents of these newest students as well, and it was fun to work with them! We were out of the clinic earlier that night, so we could all attend a special musical program put on by the children, and under the guise of Tanya, our youth pastor. Davon and Stephanie also helped out and sang with the children while Davon played his guitar. The children were so Adorable! Afterward, for dinner we enjoyed homemade tortillas and salsa, a great cucumber/veggie salad, and pea/corn soup. Our treat that night was popcorn!

    After our usual chats at dinner, we played ping pong. I was quite evenly matched with Curtis, one of our church members. Then about 6 of us played “Around the World” game of ping pong which was lots of fun and a good workout for us! We had all broken into a sweat within 30 minutes or so.
    “Sewa”, the leader of the Fijian people, was the undisputed king of Ping Pong! However, he and Don played neck to neck with each winning a game.

    Many of the group enjoyed playing a game called “Signs”, where everyone sits in a circle and tries to guess each other’s sign. I tried playing for a while, but it was difficult for me, so I later settled in for just watching.

    It had been a really nice day!

    Wednesday July 11

    After breakfast, during our devotion and briefing time, we were treated to beautiful music sung by a Fijian quartet. Perfect pitch and great harmony! Then Davon gave a nice message, followed by a lovely duet with he and Stephanie (our Opera student from our church)

    We only had a half day in clinic that day as following lunch, we again boarded the Mission boat for a 15” trip to another island. The villagers did some traditional dancing in their costumes and some singing. They were originally from Tivali, Polynesia. Fiji is part of Micronesia. These people moved her 70 years ago. The people gave us all fresh made flower leis for our hair.

     Then we toured the village and some played volleyball (both Fijians and our group) Sports are such a big part of their lives (instead of electronics, cell phones, and T.V.) It was really refreshing to see people having time for one another! SO many kids were everywhere, and the dental students were all SO good with the kids! They were crawling all over them like ants!

    The villagers were selling some of their homemade wares, so I bought several barrettes for my granddaughters, and Don purchased a large, lovely conch shell. How we would get that home in one piece was my concern, but we did it!

    That night back on the Mission grounds, we watched the Fijians preparing the Feast for our “Luau”. (It had been cooking for several hours under the coals and banana leaves) (Photos 423-469)

    I changed into my full length wrap around sari (called a sulu in Fiji) for the special Luau and Fijian Program that evening. The Fijian men did some traditional dances in their costumes out on the lawn before our feast, and some were quite Fierce! At one time, they had been cannibals.

    The dinner was Wonderful! Taro root(similar to a potato), fresh caught fish, chicken, yummy pumpkin stuffed with veggies, a luscious spinach dish, and chocolate torte for dessert! What a Great feast we all had!

    We had dinner with a sweet newlywed couple named Michael and Layla. They were spending last 2days of their honeymoon with us because he had spent time during his training in the past at the dental clinic, and he wanted his new bride to see the beautiful Fijian scenery and people.  They raised “Rag doll” cats, and we are cat lovers, so you can imagine what we talked about! In fact, once we arrived back home from this trip, we purchased 2 beautiful kittens! One is a gorgeous, lively Bengal kitty who looks like a miniature leopard (Which he is), and the other is a beautiful Balinese kitty who looks like a powder puff with seal point markings.” Bentley” is the male Bengal and” Petra” is our female princess.

    Life is never dull around our home these days!  The honeymooners enjoyed a special suite all adorned by the Fijian people with lovely flowers and tropical vines. The tropical flowers there are just so Gorgeous!  Before the Clinic started, we had a most touching story for our Devotion time. It was about a crack addicted baby boy born to a heroin addicted mother and an alcoholic father. This child basically had no childhood, as he watched both parents die. Fortunately, he was raised by his Grandparents. It was such a miracle that he survived and did so well! Then we learned it was the story of Michael, the groom that was there with his new bride! There was not a dry eye in the room, so afterwards, we all embraced them both and thanked him for his inspiring story. We wished them both well and “Godspeed” as they were leaving later that am.

    It was special having all the staff eating with us tonight because of the special program! Stephanie and Davon sang a beautiful duet for the newlyweds, and then we were treated with some female and male hula dancing, we all loved it! We wished it would have lasted longer! We had a stunning sunset that night (photo1548), helping to contribute to a “Magical Night”!

    Thursday, July 12

    Don built a Soccer/Rugby field for the Fijians, and before it was even finished, they were playing on the field!

    He also helped to “troubleshoot” for the dental clinic whenever equipment was not working. He is a Civil Engineer, so can figure out how to fix most anything. Curtis from our church also helped him. He is the husband of “Mia” one of two Dental Hygienists, and our resident “Character” of our church.

    Dental equipment that doesn’t work

    Curtis and Mia are leaving and are spending a week in New Zealand before they returned home. We all missed them after they left!

    After lunch, we all hopped aboard the bus for the bumpy ride to a nearby village called “Buca Village”. This is where “Sewa” and several other Mission employees grew up. So we met more Fijian people and screened more patients for the dental clinic. The students and “Dana” our other Dental Hygienist, also taught the adults and children proper dental hygiene, and how to brush their teeth. (Photos) Dana had a huge set of plaster mold teeth and a large toothbrush for easy teaching.

    That evening, we sat out front of our room and chatted with our next door neighbor (Dana). All of a sudden, it was dark, so we three scurried to dinner, which was a wonderful pot of Split Pea soup, good homemade rolls, sliced cucumbers and beets, casaba (like a potato), and moist banana/coconut cake.

    I had been feeding 2 skinny cats every night who would show up at dinner time.  They were feral and quite skittish, but would come up to me for food. Gradually, they let me pet them.

    Sure enough, they were waiting by our tables. All I had was some bread and casaba to give them, but they ate a bit of each. Their favorite food was fish of course, or the great potato/egg salad we had several times.

    We played some card games with the female dental students, and Davon and Dana. It was a fun evening! Went back to our room around 10pm, and it was nice to know we could sleep in a bit the next day(weekends), as breakfast was at 8am on sat and Sunday.

    Saturday July 15

    Awoke at 4am to noisy village dogs barking! I forgot to put in my earplugs that night wouldn’t you know? No sooner had I gotten back to sleep when I heard a large THUD! My hubby Don had fallen out of bed onto the hard, wooden floor in his sleep! I screamed “Are you okay”? He was still half asleep, but I managed to get him back into bed. We both finally fell back asleep for an hour or so.

    8am breakfast was a huge pot of Oatmeal (I missed it when we left), homemade scones, fruit, and always bread, peanut butter, jelly, and Nutella.

    Back at the little white church for church, where we were all touched by the beautiful music performed by Stephanie and Davon. I gave the devotion and both Don and I did the Prayer Requests. Then Tanya had us all sit in a circle and share what this Mission experience meant to us. There were many good stories, and many happy tears, as we all opened up. I got a bit “Choked up” when it was my turn, along with several others.

    I passed out sugarless gum to all the kids after church. Then I gave my color lip gloss to “Sela” the cute little 4-year-old.

    She put some on her mother “Lena”. We took photos of the kids out on the lawn after church while waiting for lunch.

    Lunch was the yummy Potato salad, Pasta salad, tasty Lentil casserole, Eggplant casserole, and Coconut cookies.

    Later in the afternoon, Don and I walked up the steep hill to Dr. Dennis’s home, and what a view he had!

    He was in charge of the clinic. We had a tour of his home, then sat out on his patio while chatting with other visitors. We all walked back down the steep hill in the dark (with help of our I phone lights) to dinner.

    We played more ping pong that night with the gang and found we were really improving after playing several times. We usually only play once in a blue moon.

    Sunday July 16

    Following breakfast, we sadly said “good bye” to Dr. Cheryl, the Dentist. She could only spend a week with us, but she did so much for the clinic, the students, and the patients!

    We took more photos of the grounds and coconut palms everywhere. One had to be careful when walking under these palms, as a coconut falling from that height could bring serious damage or death to a victim walking underneath.

    Look out for falling coconuts

    Then our group packed up for the day’s events. We took dry clothes and towels as we were headed to “Bouma Falls” national park on the lovely garden isle of “Taveuni”. Much choppier boat ride today than our other trips to the islands. On the way over, we saw a beautiful, wide Rainbow

    Then an hour’s drive on the bus to the Falls. Just as we arrived, the rain really started coming down! We had a long walk on a dirt path to get there, but it quickly turned to awful mud, so thick it resembled Gumbo or Quicksand! It was difficult to walk in it with our sandals. We should have been told to wear our tennis shoes! The dental student gals took off their sandals and went barefoot. Don and I both slipped twice in the sticky mud.

    We crossed the falls on the partly submerged bridge, then started hiking the steep trails. At least there were crude wooden steps, or we would have really slipped! As it was, it was dangerous, wet, and slippery. Then it began to POUR and we were really Drenched! How sad that this beautiful hike had to be in such a Downpour! Don and I slowed down, for fear of slipping off the steep trail! I didn’t want Don to injure his Titanium Knees, as 4 years ago, he had both knees replaced at the same time! He has done so well.

    It seemed forever before we reached the second set of falls.

    Then I insisted that we start the long descent back to the first waterfall, as we were so wet and miserable. That 3rd waterfall just didn’t seem worth it in this downpour! Besides, it all looked alike in this torrential rain!

    An hour later, we were back down to the first waterfall. We crossed the bridge where we waited a good hour for the others. We were cold with drenched clothing and towels, so one of the Fijian guides, “Joe”, built a small fire for us in a little shelter with a roof. We had our sandwich and tried to warm up.

    Finally, we began our trek through the “mud flats” and back to the bus. This time, it was my turn to slip twice in that gumbo! You just could not help it, as your feet were out from under you before you even knew it! What a muddy, mangy mess I was! The mud was so thick, that it broke my sturdy rubber sandals. I sure wished we had brought warm jackets, though it was humid.

    We saw so many frogs everywhere, and when you stepped in the grass, you would step on a frog!

    When finally, back at the Mission, the Hot Chocolate we had really hit the spot! So did my long shower!

    I had to wash out my lightweight pants three times before the mud came out! I was thinking about the next day (Monday), and the killer hike we signed up for climbing the “Volcano” (Highest mountain in our area) NO trails, just steep climbing straight up grabbing roots, trees, and rocks to pull oneself up.

    Dinner that night was so good! Tasty Spinach/fish squares, homemade chowder, rice with veggies, and ice cream.  We watched kids play some games and played some ourselves. Then we played more ping pong. Don played 10 short games (only going to 11 points) with 10 different people, beating them all! He has a killer serve and spin that no one can return!  Back to the room around 10:300 as we were tired.

    Monday July 17 (our last full day at the mission)

    Awoke at 6am to a Beautiful day! One of our prettiest days there in Fiji with sunshine, a light breeze, and a very blue ocean with small whitecaps.  After breakfast, Neal, the Scottish dental student, did a nice job on his devotional covering Isaiah 43. Don and I went back to room afterwards so we could put on our hiking boots and get our day packs. We were to meet the small group at 8:30 for our hike to top of the Volcano. We waited until 8:55 when Sewa and 4 others joined us for our hike. It was about 1200 feet straight up to the top of the volcano, the highest point around us. The first 10-15 minutes was nice, then we started climbing up and up, and the hike became very steep with no trails, just trees and roots and vines to grab on the way up. Sewa threw a long vine to me more than once, so I could pull myself up in an especially challenging area. We soon became winded and sweaty, so we stopped for quick “breathing moments”. By this time, we were really gaining elevation and I was worried about my hubby Don with his Titanium knees.  I didn’t want him getting hurt, and I knew from previous mountain climbing experience, that the toughest time was always on the descent. That’s when most the falls occur. So he stopped and waited on a log for the rest of us to make the summit and then meet up with him on the way down. I was relieved that he stopped, as the steps were just too large for his knees.  We were about ¾ of the way to the top. I am so glad I did make it, as the panoramic view was beautiful!

    It was even tougher coming down than I had imagined! That vertical mountain was a challenge getting down! In a few bad areas, I just slid down on my behind (lucky I was wearing jeans) We even tried backing down in some bad areas, while trying to grab onto branches and roots. As we got lower, we would traverse across the loose rocks (Scree) I slipped once, scraping up my arm and leg on the rocks. Then we met up with Don for the descent down the rest of the way.

    Rugged trail down from volcano                                    View from top of volcano

    BY 10:30, we were at the summit, and back down to the Mission by 1pm for lunch. After lunch, we went back to the room and showered.

    Before walking along the beach, enjoying the balmy trade winds, we had a nice chat with Alex from our church. He is working hard to put together a video of our trip and is taking many photos.

    After dinner, Don and a bunch of others decided to go out on a night fishing excursion around 8:30. I decided to stay at mission and play some more “Around the World” ping pong with 6 others. It is lots of fun and some good exercise.

    The fishermen and women arrived back around midnight with no fish, but they all enjoyed the “experience” of gazing at the stars and clear sky while sitting on the boat.

    July 18, our last “half day” at the mission

    After breakfast of French Toast, Scrambled eggs, fresh Papaya, and always, Oatmeal, we enjoyed our last little Devotion in the room next to the mission. Sewa’s daughter led out, telling the Amazing story of Joseph, and how God used him. It is one of my very favorite stories of the bible. Then all the Fijians from the mission sang to us, “God be with you till we meet again”. It was so touching as they sang their hearts out in their traditional attire. There were many moist eyes in the room, including mine! They prayed for the remaining 9 of us still there to have safe flights home or to our next destinations. We finished packing for our flight on to Brisbane, Australia for the next 6 days, then took our last photos of the staff (1709-1768) We left a good sum of money for a tip to all of the staff. It would be given to them as a Christmas Bonus at the end of the year. We left some of our hats for Sewa and Lena, who run the mission.

    Davon and Alex were making a video of Fiji, as well as a music video. They asked me to do some dancing with Davon to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing”. I loved his music and could not sit still while it was playing (who could?) We danced a few minutes out front of our rooms on the patio, and even did a little “Moon Walk”, Lots of fun! I’ve yet to see this completed video, but sure want to!

    Then the 9 of us leaving the mission for the airport said our last “goodbyes”. The dental staff were breaking for lunch, so they could say goodbye to us as well.

    Goodbye to the Mission at Natuvu Creek

    We rode back to the airport in 2 separate vans with all our luggage. It was a long (3-hour trip) and bumpy ride to the airport, as we each thought back on the last 12 days and how much we had packed in!

    Once there, we waited for 1 hour for our small flight back to the big Nadi Airport. Don and I bid the rest of the group “Bye and Godspeed” as they were all flying out later that night for LAX, while we were getting our luggage and boarding the shuttle for the short ride to “Hotel Gateway”, just a short distance from the airport. We could not get a connecting flight to Brisbane until early the next am, so we enjoyed our brief stay in this cute, Boutique hotel.  It was quaint, open and airy like the hotels in Hawaii. We enjoyed a very nice dinner in the hotel courtyard at the restaurant, while being serenaded by two local Fijians. They were playing guitars and singing in their rich, melodic voices, and it was a lovely evening.

    We barely unpacked anything, as our flight leaving for Brisbane was very early the next am, so it was soon off to bed for us!

    July 19 On to Australia

    Up by 5am, and on the airport shuttle by 6am. We had breakfast at the cute little airport while waiting for our flight to “Brizzy” (Brisbane).

    When checking into our Virgin Australia flight, they asked about our “visas’. This was the first we had heard about needing visas for Australia!  When we travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 with OAT, we did not need a visa!  So we paid around $100. 00 U.S dollars to get them, right there on the spot! Thank God we could do it there! Also, that we had plenty of time, so no long lines, as it took around 30 extra minutes. We really had wonderful service! It was a nice 4.5-hour flight to Brisbane, and the winds were really strong, thus earning the name “Breezy Brizzy”! Then we had to go through customs. We did some last-minute shopping in that lovely, large airport! Then we boarded the shuttle for the Domestic flights in Australia. The ride seemed to take a good 10 minutes! We were flying from there to “Mackay”, where our Aussie friends live. We had an hour long wait and found a wonderful place for fresh salads. The small flight to Makay took 1 hour, 20 minutes. What a cute, tiny airport for this town of 130,000.

    We soon met our friends, “Dave ad Di”, and were off to their home about 10 minutes away.

    It was SO GOOD to see them as we enjoyed “Catching up” It had been 2-years since our trip to Australia and N. Zealand in 2015.  They joined us in Fabulous Sydney for 2 days and we did the “Bridge Walk” together as well as other fun events.  Their new home was just Beautiful and so spacious. They had just moved in 1 week prior! Talk about pressure to be ready for house guests! Of course, they had been delayed, “Murphy’s Law”! Ironically that is their last name.

    The house was so well planned with a beautiful built in Barbeque area (every Aussie loves their “Barby”)

    They also had a huge shed or storage area out behind the house and garage to house their motor home and boat. Other than some boxes in the garage and out in the shed, you would never have known they just moved in!  Their house was built to withstand the high winds of a monsoon.

     DI made a lovely dinner of Roasted Chicken with a roasted vegetable medley of potatoes, yams, and pumpkin, and we loved it! Yummy garlic bread topped it off.

    The guys were So excited about their fishing trip planned for very early the next am! Dave had been working on this fishing trip for some time, they were like 2 kids in a candy shop! Di made several sandwiches for them and packed a lunch for them. We finally said” goodnight” around midnight.

    We were the first to stay in this lovely guest bedroom, or in the house period, and everything was so Special! We felt very honored.

    Thursday July 20

    The alarm went off at an UNGODLY time, or as I say, “Ugly O’ Clock”! It was 3 am, just 3 hours after we had gone to bed!  Did I mention the fact that these guys are DIE HARD Fishermen? That is really an understatement concerning Dave, as he is the undisputed fishing Champion of Australia! I called him “The Fish Whisperer”. They left around 4am, after Di made them a nice breakfast.

    Dave Lives and Breathes Fishing! I thought Don was bad, but not near! Both Dave and DI have grown up in this area, so they know ALL the good fishing spots! They were gone until early evening, so Di and I had a nice day of catching up.  They have the cutest and smartest Cockatiel bird named “Scruffy”. He was young and what a vocabulary he already had! I taught him the “Charge” tune and the “Wolf Whistle”, which he promptly picked up! Dave and Di call him their clever and “Cheeky” birdy.

    Sharon teaching Scruffy a new song

    That night, the guys came home with around 60 fish, mostly “Whiting and Flathead”, and most caught by Dave! After dinner, they cleaned the fish and the boat out (

    Don with a Whiting                                                    Dave Australian fishing champ for 5 years

    Flathead a fish with spikes on side of head                Be careful handling

    Careful to look for Crocs.                                          Slippery boat landing – careful to not slip in – Crocs

    Fishing vehicle                                                         Set up for fishing gear and refrigerator

    Friday July 21

    After “Breaky” (Aussie nickname for breakfast), we went out for a nice drive seeing the sights of Mackay. We drove through some pretty countryside and stopped for “Tea” at the cutest Tea House called “Ye Olde Station Tea House”, situated on a lovely, large piece of property with a lake and large trees.

    We had coffee and delicious homemade Scones with Jam. The scones were similar to our biscuits. Then we shared a Yummy piece of Carrot cake, still warm from the oven!

    Dave Don and Di

    We saw more local sights on our drive, ending up at a pretty Nature Preserve walking trail. It was good to get some exercise while enjoying nature! We passed a 1,000-year-old “Aboriginal Shell Middum”. It was a huge hill of Oyster shells, from Ancient Aborigines eating oysters and spitting out the shells!

    “Aboriginal Shell Middum”

    Then we saw several Kangaroos (“Roos”) in the park with babies “(Joeys”) in their pouches. Mothers and babies were eating grass and it was so cute! The babies just stay in the pouch and can reach the grass.

    Iron Ore is Australia’s biggest industry, followed by coal. We saw one of the world’s largest coal export ports.

    Port of Hay Point                                                     130 million tons per year

    Sugar Cane is also big there, with 85% being shipped out of the country.

    That night back at the house, Di cooked up some of the fresh caught fish. She lightly coated it in a baggie, then placed the fish in an electric skillet. Then she cut up more potatoes and sweet potatoes into thin strips.  She sprinkled Italian Seasoning on them before baking them for 30 minutes. The fish was FABULOUS, as were the potato strips! I had never eaten so much fish in one sitting before, or since!

    Dinner was topped off with sweet watermelon.

    We went to bed around 10pm, as the alarm was again set for an ugly hour, so the guys could try their luck at another spot. I decided to join them this time, as they promised they would just be around a half day, and we all had dinner reservations that night.

    We left around 6am after breaky. This time we were fishing “Murray Creek”, where we launched the boat. We tried around 8 areas, depending on the everchanging tides. It’s Amazing how much these tides change – up to 15 feet, and one must really watch them or get into big trouble! Besides, I would not want to be stranded, as there are big Crocodiles in these waters!

    We kept catching Catfish (bottom feeders and sting rays, yuk!), so would just throw them back in.

    I was excited to catch 2 “Whiting” fish and several large “Grunters”. They make a loud grunting sound, as they eat and crush crustaceans.  Dave caught the most fish as per usual. Poor Don, he kept having to send his back, as they were too small, so it was “Catch and Release”, his new nick name. My nick name was “The Grunter Hunter”, not so lovely sounding!

    Sharon the Grunter Hunter                                    Fish hawk in flight

    We saw several beautiful Herons and some Fish Hawks circling up in the sky. It was a beautiful day and I was so glad I did go along, it was fun! True to their promise, we left around 1:30, and got back home around 3:30. DI had a nice cup of coffee waiting for us. I showered and washed my hair to get ready for our 6:15 reservations at a nearby restaurant there, “The Ocean International”.  It was a Fantastic Restaurant with great food and service! We really enjoyed our “Dining Experience” there! The presentation was perfect, as was the whole evening! No wonder the place was S0 Packed!

    I had the best Pumpkin Soup ever, and the salad and bread were superb! Di and I split the most wonderful drink called a “Mudslide”, and it helped to fill us up too soon, but So Good! I was so full, I canceled out on my “Risotto” entrée.  For dessert we all shared a yummy Cocoanut Rice Pudding.

    What a Great night and meal! Dave and DI would not let us pay, as they did this for my soon coming birthday. What a great early Birthday Gift!

    We drove around the cute harbor a while, and then called it a day. Di and I soon went to bed, but the guys stayed up late. Can you just imagine what the topic of their conversation was? Yep, more FISH TALK!

    Sunday July 23

    We went to Brunch with Dave and Di to a cute place called “Oscars”. Dave and Di’s good friends “Liz and Grant” joined us. The six of us had a great meal and visit together. Later that day, we prepared for an “Aussie Barby”. Dave must have prepared fish for a good two hours while Don kept him company. I made fresh Guacamole. Peter and Karen (Dave’s brother and wife), joined us around 6pm. It was so good seeing them after 4 years. The six of us met 4 years ago on a Tauck Tour of Scotland. We had seen Dave and Di several times since then, but this was the first time to see Peter and Karen since meeting them. They both looked so good, and we all had a wonderful time reminiscing and enjoying the Delicious Barby and sharing in much laughter, so good for the soul!

    The Fish menu alone was; Coral Trout from the reef; the “Grunter” that Dave and I caught; and some “Sweet Lips” fish.  All three fish were absolutely Fantastic! Add a wonderful salad and bread and some steak with cooked onions. We were all totally stuffed! All too soon, our fun evening came to a close around 11:30, as we bid one another “Goodnight”.

    Monday July 24, our last day in Mackay

    The time has sped by so fast!  We awoke around 7am to find Di already in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  We all shared some yogurt, cereal, and fruit before getting ready for our last day of outings.

    We’re heading out to see “The Sugar Shed”. A Beautiful drive there, and then a most interesting tour of the Sugar Cane Mill. Such a long process to obtain sugar! We also had some wine tastings and a short film.  The tour showed us some large equipment from the early days. It is back breaking work and long hours. Di’s dad used to work in the sugar cane mill, and he was gone from sunup to sundown. The family mostly saw him on weekends.

    We saw more sights including a huge coal exporting facility. We had lunch overlooking the harbor at a place called “Hay Point”.  We ladies both enjoyed a pumpkin/cheese and spinach filling in phyto dough along with a salad. Dave had curried pasta and Don had Stroganoff. All three dishes were really tasty!

    After lunch, we drove over to Karen and Peter’s lovely home on the river. It was a Beautiful place, much of it designed by Karen. We enjoyed a tour and a cup of tea with them before we were off to see the cute little Makay harbor before nightfall. This was their Winter, so it would be getting dark by 6pm. Sure wish we could have spent more time there! Guess we needed a good week, rather than 5 days with our friends. We really fit in a lot while there for the short time. Our dear Aussie hosts could not have been better!

    When we arrived back at Dave and Di’s, she had the loveliest crockpot of Chicken Stew cooking, and the house smelled wonderful, and the stew tasted the same! She served it with some good sour dough bread and salad, along with more of that delicious Moscato wine. We had the nicest evening together, taking some photos of each other.   Wish we had remembered to take photos last night while Peter and Karen were with us!

    Around 9pm, Don and I excused ourselves to go pack for our big trip back home the next day. We were finished by 10pm. We said our “Goodbyes” and “thanks for everything” before going to bed, as we needed to be up by 4am the next day for our early flight. We were up by 4am on Tuesday am and ready by 5am.  Di had coffee out with some fruit, so we joined them for 15 minutes before they took us to nearby airport.

    We told them we were counting on them coming to stay with us in Laguna Beach, Calif. As soon as they could, so we could “Return the Favor”! Before we left, I tucked a little “Thank You” on our bedside stand. Before we left the airport, we received a text from our Aussie pals telling us “they missed us already, and thanks for coming to see them.”  We will stay in touch with them, as we do with several of our travel mates, who have become good friends!

    Had a nice, uneventful flight back home, and as always, it was good to get home to our own beds and our “Routines”.

    IN a few days, we will be adding to our family with two beautiful new Kittens. I wrote briefly about them and shared a photo in my recent story of Fiji. So, our busy lives will become even busier when we become “new parents” or should I say, “new grandparents” to 2 precious kitties.

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