Thursday, September 4, 2014

24th of July Pioneer Day on Kwajalein!

Thursday, July 24, 2014
What?  Pioneer Day in the Marshall Islands?  I know, crazy!

Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the U.S. State of Utah. In addition, there are some celebrations in regions of the surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers. It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States of America.
Balloons, crepe paper, butcher paper tableclothes, and markers for drawing

Alison Sok, a member of the Kwajalein Branch, wanted to have some kind of commemoration of that day, so we told her if she wanted to head it up, then we would support her efforts. So, a big thanks to Alison for all her efforts!  Decorations were gathered (a limited resource!), the large pavilion was reserved, materials for crafts were purchased, and food was prepared for our one-of-a-kind 24th of July Celebration in the Marshall Islands. 
Having fun visiting while we wait to eat!
Diane Elliott, and the Tippetts

Not everyone has what we would term "pioneer stock" in their family, or should I say, members of their family that immigrated across the plains in the mid 1800's.  But in one way or another, we all have pioneers in our family heritage.  So we wanted to put out a salute to everyone in our lives who persevered and worked hard to pave the way for each and every one of us.  Toward that end, everyone was asked to bring food items that represented their family ancestry.  We ended up with a nice ethnic blend of food, ranging from Swedish meatballs and danish cookies to Chili and cornbread.

Parkers and Dr. Skinner dishing up some food

"Happy Pioneer Day" sign at the food bar

Jon Sok making donuts!  Yum!
Elder Becker used to teach the Virginia Reel when he taught 5th grade, so we offered our services to teach everyone how to square dance. We downloaded some suitable music, did a quick review of the dance steps, and we were ready to go!  The Virginia Reel is a pretty easy dance to teach and learn, so even the young children were able to follow along.  A good number of us, young and old alike, tried out our skills for the fun event.  We worked up a good sweat in the humid pacific air!  And everyone did a wonderful job at following along.

instructions from Elder Becker, all dressed for the part in jeans and a button down shirt

Greeting our partner

all a blur as we swing. I was able to find a red handkerchief that I tied around my neck for the occasion.

here we come as the lead couple!

Swinging! (sorry it's all a blur, my iPad can't handle the action shots!)

a little do-si-do around your partner and back
even the little girls got to lead the group

We also had a crafts table to occupy the kids, big and little.  There was a game with mason jars and clothespins to see how many clothespins you could drop from your nose into the jars.  And for crafts, there were little stick dolls, made with coffee filters, sticks, and markers.  Even the boys got involved!
Alison helping at the craft table

rapt attention at the craft table
voila, the finished product!  cute little stick doll

and of course, at the end of a fun night there is always the clean up. thanks guys!
We thought our night was going to end there, but we had ONE MORE adventure in store for us that night.  We headed back to the Sok's house after the party and were visiting away.  Next thing we know is we get a call from the Dock Security Checkpoint asking where we were.  What?  We were right here visiting, of course!  Long story short - we mis-read the ferry schedule and we missed the LAST ferry of the night back to Ebeye!  Yikes!  My heart dropped and I was sick to my stomach!  I was so afraid that our privileges for coming onto Kwajalein Army base were over.  Argggggh. I couldn't believe it! This was the first time we had come over to Kwaj on a week night (Thursday) and we had not taken into account the different schedule.  One the weekend there is a 10pm ferry, but we now know very well, the last boat during the week is at 9:15pm.  Since it is an Army Base, in order for us to get onto the base we have to have a sponsor check us in and out.  So those times are very precious to us.  We can stay no more than 12 hours, and have to be off the base at the end of the day.  There is no spending the night, at least for our type of sponsorship.  So, we headed back to the dock, and profusely apologized to the security people.  They were very kind and tried to find us a water taxi, but to no avail.  So, to end the story, we ended up spending the night in the ferry terminal!   Yes, you heard me right!  We couldn't stay on base, so that was our only option.  We settled in for the night and waited for the next boat, which left at 4:20 am the next morning.  We had our iPads for reading, two blankets that were loaned to us, and a couple of desk chairs for comfort (security took pity on us and didn't make us sit on the hard benches for 6 hours).  And we waited, and waited, and read, and read, and read.  I tried to sleep a little, too. At 4am we jumped up eager to board the ferry home.

camping out in the ferry terminal for the night!
Whew!  What a crazy ending to the night!