The people of Kiritibati are so proud of their country. We may have had 203 more years to practice celebrating our independence from the British than they have had, but they sure know how to make up for lost time! We all love, and deserve, to be free.
People with Kiritibati ancestors and those from Kiritibati who now live in Suva came together for their yearly independence celebration on Saturday. Even though it was a national celebration, it was definitely also a religious event.
Tetika invited us to attend the celebration, which included a speech from the Kiritibati Ambassador to Fiji and several honored clergymen. We sang the national anthem, watched as each island group marched before the honored guests, listened to each group sing, enjoyed a morning tea of sandwiches & juice or water, then watched some of the best dance performances we have seen while in Fiji. Later a huge lunch was served, complete with roast pig. Our U.S. ambassador and other officials were invited to go to the island of Kiritibati to celebrate there.
We tried to be inconspicuous (kind of hard when you are the only two polgis in hundreds of beautiful islanders), but were invited to sit in front next to the ambassador. Not because we are pologis, or missionaries…but because we are old! It’s true! All the “ancients” in attendance were the honored guests. It was way better than getting a senior discount somewhere at home!
We loved seeing our YSAs Ulima, Akeena, Lupe, and Tetika and their family members participate.
Skirts were made from polished green grass, boiled black grass, brown dried grass, or woven. Brightly colored specially made sulus identified the different island groups.
These little kids were absolutely darling — and actually knew some of the dance.
Before each dance, women sprayed perfume on the dancers to show their approval and
appreciation. The ambassador told us that they didn’t do that originally, but it may be an adaptation of the way Fijians now tuck money in dancer’s costumes and candies in mouths while dancers are performing.
Another of this week’s highlights was helping Rachel print out temple ordinance request cards for her family. It is so hard for those of Indian descent to trace their family history. Rachel, Sumeet and I read together about the ship Leonides bringing girmitiyas, or indentured laborers, from India to Fiji in 1879. What a hard life those laborers had. But, oh, how excited Rachel is to now be able to perform a service for them.
This week was full of all kinds of celebrations: Farewells for Liahona, and more 40th anniversary events for the LDS Church college. Lini and Jeanette were among those who modeled fashions created by students or alumni. There were two dances, and all kinds of fun. Which meant we had a pretty empty institute this week, but we knew they were all in a good place having a great time. During some quiet hours I was able to find some of our family names to take to the temple, too. Yay! We love performing baptisms each Wednesday in the temple with our YSAs.
Today we attended church in the Tamavua 2nd ward. As Sister Fuji offered the Relief society prayer in Japanese, I felt the sweetest spirit witnessing to me that we are all — every nationality, everyone of us — children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. We will try to reflect that love as we serve here.