Author: admin
• Sunday, March 13th, 2016

copied from ‘Good News Blog’ March 5, 2016

Julie:

Some of you might have heard about Cyclone Winston, which hit Fiji a couple of weeks ago.

One article stated:

Tens of thousands of people in Fiji are living in evacuation centres after Cyclone Winston tore across the South Pacific country last week, the United Nations Children’s Fund has said.

The total number of people forced from their homes in the archipelago nation of more than 300 islands is expected to be much higher as many fled to relatives and are not included in the data.

Cyclone Winston, the worst storm recorded in the southern hemisphere, left 42 people dead, according to Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office. The category-five storm also left many without water and it could be weeks before electricity is restored in some areas.—The Guardian

We wrote Peter and Susan, our faithful, long-time missionaries that have been serving in Fiji, to see how they’ve been faring since the cyclone hit.

Here’s what they said:


By Peter and Susan, Fiji

Cyclone Winston is the worst cyclone in Fiji’s recent history, with many dead and so much physical destruction. However, our charity center was mostly untouched, except for minor damage in our garden. Damage to our friends’ homes has also been very minimal.

Please pray for those who have lost their homes and personal belongings…

We need restoration of water and electricity, and sunny weather to dry up the mess left after the heavy rains and floods so that cleaning and restoration can get underway.

Please also pray for a new shipment of educational material coming from Australia. There have been many logistical problems involved at every step, so we need a miracle to help it to come through.

We’d appreciate your prayers for the distribution of material that we already have on hand. These books will be a big blessing to the village schools and outer islands that have lost everything.


Thank you for your prayers for Fiji during this time, and especially for praying for Peter and Susan and the big job they have to do in the midst of so much devastation.

If you’d like to send a donation to Peter and Susan, to assist in the work that they’re doing, you can send your gifts via  PayPal to marieangegouy@yahoo.fr.

Thanks again for your support and prayers.

Father of nine Patemosi Basaga lost his wife and all his crops. (Photo: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children)

One of the Basaga children after the devastation of Cyclone Winston. (Photo: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children)

Fijian woman Kalisi holds her son Tuvosa, 3, as she sits on a bed in the remnants of her home damaged by Cyclone Winston in the Rakiraki District of Fiji's Ra province, February 24, 2016. (Reuters/UNICEF-Sokhin)

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Author: admin
• Monday, January 04th, 2016

posted Jan 4th 2016

colourful tuktuk

From Berastagi, the ‘volcano town’, we took a bus & tuktuk to Lake Toba where we planned to spend the next few weeks. It’s the largest volcanic lake in the world & is supposed to be one of the most scenic places in Sumatra with little fishing villages, ferries criss-crossing the lake & a beautiful backdrop of huge hills all around.

 

Instead the whole experience was severely compromised by Indonesian HAZE from nearby forest fires that obscured any chance of seeing any noteworthy views. We hoped that during the 3 weeks we would spend in the area, the grey sky might turn to blue, but it never did!

In fact this is a yearly phenomenon caused by slash-&-burn farming methods to quickly cut down rain forests & replace them with quick-profit palm oil plantations. This year the problem was worse than ever, leading to 6 Indonesian provinces declaring a state of emergency & 180,000 people being affected by respiratory illnesses. However, that’s just Indonesia! The problem also spread over the rest of South East Asia during 4 months, reducing visibility in 7 countries & causing school & airport closures in 3 of them. Every year the Indonesian government promises to tackle the problem, but apparently the problem is way out of control, & even foreign fire-fighting teams from Singapore & Russia failed to make much of a dent.

typical traditional Batak houses

The best part of visiting Lake Toba, was meeting the Batak people, who are the main inhabitants in the area. They are indigenous tribes that are ethnically completely different from the rest of the country. Mostly Christian, they are famous for their amazing traditional houses, as well as elaborate & highly-decorated tombs that can be seen throughout the rice fields. They also make a potent type of rice beer called ‘tuak’, that’s of course frowned upon by the majority Muslim population!

Peter joining in on a traditional Batak dance!

 

Some other observations from the Lake Toba area:

*Buses & minibuses don’t issue tickets so you have to find out the price first & pay if it sounds about right! Similarly with many shops & restaurants: prices are seldom displayed.

*Hardly any car or bus drivers use seat belts!

*There doesn’t seem to be any lower age limit for those driving scooters, with some drivers appearing to be as young as 12.

*Hardly any motorbike or scooter drivers wear helmets.

*We hardly saw any computers or video games. Instead we were pleasantly surprised to see many people playing cards or board games to amuse themselves.

Would we recommend a visit to Sumatra? – yes, but just make sure you check the long-term weather forecast first & don’t go during the haze season!

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Author: admin
• Tuesday, December 01st, 2015

Posted Dec 1st

We were happy to get out of Medan & take a local bus to Berastagi — a scenic 3 hour bus journey up through jungle-covered slopes & little villages. The town is situated at an altitude of 1300 metres & is ‘blessed’ to have 2 live volcanoes right on its doorstep!

Mt Sinabung

 


One of them — Mt Sinabung — became very active a few years ago & has been out of bounds to visitors ever since. It was easy to understand why as on our first day in the area, the volcano put on a ‘welcoming ceremony’ by emitting a lot of ash that then came down like rain. Our clothes became covered with little grey spots & as time went on, everything became covered with a thin layer of grey ash.


Luckily the other volcano, Mt Sibayak, can still be visited. We went to the tourist information office & were quoted some exorbitant fees for a guided visit to the summit. Along with this, the official pointed to a notice behind him, listing various unfortunate foreign tourists who had unwisely attempted to circumvent the guided tour & make the climb on their own. Some were found dazed & dehydrated days later, after getting lost in the jungle. Others had apparently completely disappeared without trace, never to be seen again!

At the summit of Mt Sibayak!

 


Fortunately, our couch surfing host told us that these were ‘scare tactics’ to generate more business for the guides & that actually the path up & down the mountain was very safe & well-signposted!


We found this to be the case: after a minibus taxi half way up the mountain, it was a moderately steep 2 hour hike up to the summit, (height 2057m), passing first through lush vegetation & then volcanic ash residue. As we got closer to the top, we began to hear a lot of hissing sounds, a bit like many pressure cookers going off at the same time! The noise came from fumaroles — steam vents that could be seen all around the summit. An amazing sight!

our cabbage truck lift!

 


Coming down was quite different. After starting off on the same path, we later took the turn off to Hot Springs — a 5km narrow tarmac road to a place where the geothermally heated water had given rise to a string of ramshackle tourist resorts & guest houses with hot pools to soak in. We walked half way, before getting a ride on a cabbage truck the rest of the way — much more exciting, (not to mention cheaper), than the guided tour!


Next post: Lake Toba…..

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Author: admin
• Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

posted October 27th

Lonely Planet puts it well:  Don’t come here looking for a holiday –that’s Bali. Sumatra is an adventure; the kind of demanding ride that requires a dusty knapsack & tough traveling skin…


The adventures started as soon as we exited Medan airport. Our accommodation host had told us in advance that the correct taxi fare was IDR150,000, (about $10). The taxi desk at the airport agreed with this & gave us a written invoice showing that this was the amount to pay on arrival.  We showed our exact address to the taxi driver, along with a phone number to call, in case he needed any clarification. All appeared to be well, except that the journey was apparently longer than the driver expected, & he needed to phone 2 times to ask directions….  By the time we arrived at our destination, the taxi driver had evidently decided that the agreed price was too low & forcefully demanded a tip! We explained in English that it was a fixed price & he argued in Indonesian that we have to give a tip! He saw that we weren’t going to  back down & so ended up by swearing at us & driving off in a huff! Welcome to Indonesia.


We found that our AirBnB accommodation was so-so but not really as expected. Usually AirBnB means you’re staying with a local family in their home; however this place was nothing other than a cheap hostel pretending to be a family home. On top of that, it was located quite far away from the centre.  Restaurant options in the area were very limited & despite our explaining in broken Indonesian that we needed to eat ‘tanpa pedas, tanpa sanbal’ (no chillies & other hot spices!), every meal we had burned our mouths & stomachs. Fortunately we would only be in this place 2 days.

Medan's impressive Grand Mosque

The next day, we managed to find a crowded & very local minibus, (called ‘Mr X’!), to get us into town, where we could visit the main sites: the Grand Mosque & Maimun Palace. We arrived at Mesjid Raya, Medan’s oldest & grandest mosque, just after several sheep had been butchered right next to the main entrance. Full-scale skinning & meat cutting was going on, right in front of a crowd of visitors, (& with the poor sheep still slightly alive, according to halal tradition!), as apparently we had arrived on a public holiday & the meat was later on going to be donated to the poor.

 

halal butchery

 

photo shoot at Maimun Palace!

Leaving the rather gory scene, we moved on to Maimun Palace where we encountered many local families, all dressed up in beautiful matching outfits for Hari Raya — one of Islam’s main festivals. Amazingly, we found that as foreigners we had a kind of ‘celebrity status’ as a lot of the locals wanted to have their photo taken with us! For the next half hour we posed with different families as they took a variety of photos with different mobile phones & cameras. It grew to be quite a lengthy process as there were group photos to be taken, photos with the children, photos with females only, photos with males only, standing photos, sitting photos….

the Hari Raya photo-shoot continues!

 

 

Eventually the photo-shoot came to an end & we proceeded to the last item on our list of things to do in downtown Medan: find a money changer. It was a half-hour walk to the place, through a nice area with good hotels & embassies. However, as we were crossing a small road, a scooter with 2 young teenagers came towards us. It looked like they were going to pass behind us, but then they changed their minds & decided to pass right in front of us, almost colliding with us in the process. They came to a halt & just as I was about to shout at them for their bad driving, one of the boys reached out & grabbed Sue’s silver necklace! The scooter shot off with the boy on the back of the scooter triumphantly laughing & showing off the stolen asset! We were shocked as although we’d heard about drive-by robberies, we’d never experienced one before.

We left Medan the next day, happy to move on to the volcano town of Berastagi, which we liked a lot better….more about Berastagi in part 2!

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Author: admin
• Thursday, August 27th, 2015

posted Aug 27th

Greetings from Penang, Malaysia where Susan & I are spending most of 2015 before returning to Fiji next year!  This past month, Samantha from Webwava fixed our website, taking off the visitor counter & map that had crashed, & sorting out various other problems. We’re happy to say that the site is now
running well.

As I’m writing this, Susan is in the process of sending out free inspirational monthly power points to 1200 people around the world — a ministry that has generated a lot of positive reactions. This month’s power points are entitled, ‘Stunted growth’ & ‘A beautiful life’. If you’d like to receive these power points by email or if you’d like friends to receive them, please pass on your email addresses to susaninpacific@yahoo.fr

This past month we made a trip to the city of Kota Baru, on Malaysia’s east coast, as well as to the beautiful Perhentian islands, see photos below. One amusing incident was when we visited a historic mosque & the ladies there wanted to convert Susan to Islam! She wasn’t quite ready to take this step but was happy to try on the veil in order to look around the mosque…

Next month we hope to get involved with some local charity projects so look forward to writing about that next time….

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