Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Typical Week in Samoa

I thought this week that I would run through how a typical week looks to us.

Back of Rack - Mess of Wires
This Monday, we walked to the chapel next door to our home, Lotopa, (lo-toe-pa) to work on the satellite rack.  Theron and Chris (the ICS Manager) want to standardize these racks at all the stake centers, so we are beginning that project.  I look at the wiring diagram and Theron pulls and unplugs, untangles and winds up wires.  There are about three pieces of equipment not needed so we take these back to the Service Center.  Because we are in a small room, with only a fan and a few window slats to open, we sweat - I mean, we sweat.

We usually leave for the service center (where our office is located, which is right behind the Temple) about 8:30 a.m.  We start with e-mail and see where the problems are this week.  Sister Tolman alerted us that the missionaries at Solosolo haven't had e-mail capability for the last two weeks, which means that the ward clerk hasn't had internet either, so the donation information hasn't been transmitted.

If there are no crises then we settle in and keep on writing the Samoa STS Training Book.  At noon, we come home for lunch and stop at the coconut stand across from the apartment and buy our daily coconuts.  It's 2 tala (80 cents) for a cold coconut.  Theron drops me off, Stella our coconut stand girl chops the top off the coconut and digs a hole in the top for a straw and I walk them across for us to drink.  Sometimes, we buy one for the guard who controls the gate at our compound.  After lunch, we return to the office until about 4:00 afiafi (early evening).

Mission attire for the afternoon
This week we had a chance to travel with Elder and Sister Jacobs to the east side of the island where we "needed" to check out the beach for the senior couples beach party on Saturday.  It's rough duty but sacrifice.  We received two fales (fall-ees) for Saturday and well, we had to check out the water and make sure it was in good shape.

This put us driving back to Apia at dusk.  Every village about 6:30 or 7:00 afiafi ring a gong and all of the people in the village need to be off the streets and at the public or family fale for prayers.  If you stop your car in a village during prayer time, some of the men will come and will not let you start it to drive on until after prayer.  The streets are always packed with people walking to the village fales at dusk so it makes driving a bit hazardous on the narrow roads.

We worked in the office in the morning and then traveled about hour away to Solosolo to check out the internet problem.  We saw the missionaries on the street to the church so they rode with us to the chapel.  It didn't take us long to diagnosis the problem, there was no firewall router in the cabinet and the modem was not working - it was an ISP problem.  We called Maaie (a worker in the ICS department) and asked him to call this in to BlueSky the internet provider.

On the way home, we needed to stop and get some tala (money) and some groceries.  I wanted to buy a lava lava for the beach so Theron dropped me off at a corner and he went to the bank.  I found two right away.  You have to buy the very stiff ones because these are hand painted and then wash them a couple of times to get the sizing out.  These are usually just two colors and are the prettier ones anyway.

We then went to the Lucky Foods where we can get a better selection of American foods.  We also needed some bananas and I wanted to buy a squash so we stopped by the outdoor food bazaar.  We found some pulsami and breadfruit - I was excited, so we got that also.  Now, lest you think you do this quickly, this took us about an hour and a half to go to three places and we are only about 15 minutes from our house in downtown Apia.  With traffic and needing to go to different streets, it takes a long time to get around.

Theron wanted to work with the DVD/DVR in the satellite rack so we could write the instructions for use. So he stayed home to play with it and I went into the office to get some files, write some e-mail and schedule a training meeting for the coming week.  Yes, I drive and it's easier here than Jamaica.

It's the start of a 4-day holiday here as Monday and Tuesday are Independence Day celebrations.  People were scarce at the office.  At noon, I went home and we spent the rest of the day writing how to use the DVD player.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings at 6:15 is the English session at the Temple and we try to go once a week.  We went to the Temple Friday this week.  Now the week is over.

This is senior beach day.  We wanted to go early so we left at 10:30 a.m. and the drive is about 1.5 hours to get to the east beaches on the south side of the island.  It was raining when we left but that's typical weather.  It stops.  We drove our car and Elder and Sister Mangum (the dentist) followed.  Dr. Orchard, the other dentist rode with us.  They had been to the Togitogiga Waterfalls on the South side, so we stopped and took a look for future outings.

Notice the size of the fronds 

The rest is beach day.  We had six couples and Dr Orchard who is a widower and the mission nurse Sister Cassita,  Sister Cassita brought a family from Kiribati who were going to the temple in Samoa.

Church is at 9:00 a.m and the 5.8 earthquake was at 6:00 a.m.. The quake didn't last very long but it definitely woke us up.  We haven't heard of any damage, however BYU TV is off the air so maybe it moved the dish!  We attend the English speaking ward Pesega (pronounced Pe-sen-ga [reminds me of Sheldon's word Bazinga on Big Bang]).  All six of the sacrament talks were from one family and all were about family history and were wonderful talks!.  This was a fifth Sunday and the bishop's message was about family history.  The Area Presidency has a goal for everyone to do "15 in 15."  Counting you, your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents there are 15 names in your family chart.  They want everyone to finish this much research this year.  The bishop wants a ward picture in a month or so of everyone holding their charts.  They are really great here and enthused about this project.

When most of you read this, it will be your Sunday, we are just finishing our Sunday and getting ready for the next week.  We have a new mission duty on the first and third Mondays of each month.  We will be delivering water, money and mail to missionaries on the east side of the island. 

 Tomorrow we will travel with Elder and Sister Hammond to learn the route.  They will be leaving in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Theron - The big 64

Theron celebrated his birthday two days, it's the 21st here before it is in Utah.  He knows how to take advantage of this time difference.  But, that's okay - Happy Birthday Honey!!!

This was a work week, we have almost finished writing the training materials and look forward to our first training perhaps this coming week.

We spent the day on Saturday exploring downtown Apia -- the flea market, the shopping mall and some of the side streets.  This is a very safe area and the people don't beg like in other parts of the world.  There is a lot of respect for work and if you don't have a job, you can always go to the village you grew up in and work the plantation.  Most families live along the coast and then the village land goes inland to the mountains (this is what they call the plantation).

Today at Church, a newly returned missionary, who served in the Philippines, opened his talk with a comment similar to this, 'the people in the Philippines have so little and are so poor.'  Now, that puts things in perspective.  It makes me reconsider what is "poor" and what does it mean to have "so little".

The big event this week was that Theron learned how to break a coconut into halves.  A new talent.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our First Trip to Sua Trench

After our meeting on Saturday, Theron wanted to go to Sua Trench with Elder and Sister Jacobs and his nurses from BYU.  Sua Trench is on the opposite side of the island about 30 miles from our home or about an hour and half drive.  So off we went on another adventure.

Sua Trench is a wonderful cavern for swimming surrounded by lush gardens and black rock blow holes.  I'm sure this won't be the only time we go to this lush spot of paradise.  Enjoy these pictures.

This will be one the highlights of your vacation when you come to visit.

A Man of Great Faith

Yesterday, we were privileged to attend a Stake President's Council conducted by Elder Fata of the Seventy.  Elder Fata is the Welfare Manager in Samoa and an area seventy.  We were introduced to the stake presidents because we will be working closely with them to identify and call technology specialists.

We attended this meeting with Denny Afualo, the Service Center Manager - he lives across the street from us and he's the guy that oversees the care of all the Church's facilities in Samoa.  On the way home from the meeting, he told us this story about one of the Savai'i's (the second island here) stake presidents we had just met.  I will not mention his name because of respect.

The Church was not accepted on Savai'i among many of the villages.  The families are organized into villages with the head of the village called the Matai (chief).  This now stake president, accepted the gospel and his family was quite high up in the village.  When the village council told him that he must denounce the gospel, he simply told them no.  Several times they tried to force him to leave the Church, but each time he told them no he would not.  Then they tried to get him to leave the community, but again he would not.

The village fathers could no longer take this man's insolence and non-conformance of the village requirements and they bound him with cords and started a big fire to burn him.  He held fast to his testimony and told them he would not deny his faith.  As they brought him to the fire, a heavy rain came over the very spot where the fire was and put the fire out.

As the people witnessed this miracle, their hearts became softened and many of them began learning about the gospel.  This man went on to become the first branch president, then district president, bishop and is now serving as the stake president in the Pu'apu'a Stake, one of the five stakes on Savai'i.

This is only one story of the great faith of the Samoan people.  God is aware of everyone and as we stand firm in our testimonies, he will put out the fires of contention that surround us.  We witness this faith.

Some Samoan Culture

This week, we took a few hours and attended the Samoan Cultural Village.  It's good for us to learn about the culture and learn how to communicate and learn respect for this wonderful people and their culture.

When we arrived, we sat down and made our dinner plates.  They are made from palm fronds that you weave together.  Note the woven leaf baskets.

After the plates are ready, the men prepare the food that we will eat.  They have prepared river rocks and lit a fire under them so they are extremely hot.  Then, they start making the palusami (pal- u-sam-e) which is taro leaves wrapped and tied to form a ball filled with coconut milk.  You can't imagine how good this is until you eat it.  Then, they clean the taro root (this is their main starch and it is rather dry and plain tasting.)
Making the pulusami

Forming the pulusami ball

Next, the fish is wrapped in woven palm fronds.  All of this is placed on the river rocks then covered with layers of banana leaves and left to cook for about an hour.

While the food is cooking, we enjoyed learning about traditional singing and dancing, tapa cloth making (pictures made on special tree bark).

We then move to watch a man getting a traditional Samoa tattoo.  I must say he looked rather pale after getting up from being tattooed.  It is a very painful process which is pretty evident from watching the procedure and looking the the condition of the young man under the needles.  The tattoo is created by holding a stick with a bone "comb" (attached to the side of the the stick) being tapped by a second stick to drive the ink covered comb into the skin.

Then, we watched some traditional wood carving and finally, we go back to eat.  The taro, fish, and pulsami are placed on a leaf laying in our woven bowls. There are no utensils, we eat with our fingers.  It was fresh tuna and it tasted very much like salmon.  A great meal.

The taro is the white, the palusami is green and the fish is at the top.

Samoa lesson #2 - How you doing?

I found a great treat that I ate all the time in Jamaica, the finger bananas.  We buy them in a big bunch, they are about three to four inches and the absolutely best banana to eat.  You can use this word for bananas --
misi luki (Mi see lu key) = banana

Every family has a falioo, what we call a pavilion, in the front of their home.  Some homes have several - one for cooking, one for sleeping and family meetings.
falioo - (Fa lee) = pavilion
Here we are in a fali at the Culture Center

These are words the grandkids can use every day:
Ioe (Ee-oh-e) = Yes

Leai (Le-ai) = No

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Samoan Language Lesson for the Grandchildren

We are just learning some of the language and thought it would be fun for all of you to teach a couple of words to the grandchildren.  Here's a first go:

Hello ------- TALOFA ----(pronounced Tah-lo-fah) -- the 'o' is long
     add LAVA to the end and it means "Hello very much"

Goodbye ------- TOFA ---- (pronounced Toh-fah)

Thank You ------- FA'AFETAI ---- (pronounced Fa-ah-feh-tie)
     pronounce each syllable just as it is.

Week of May 9, 2015 - A Flavor of Samoa

We are settling into our house, our mission assignment and our island.  This is our first full week in Samoa and we have been processed - received our Samoa driver's license.  We spent the better part of one day at the driver's license bureau showing the workers our Utah licenses, paying a rather large fee and posing for a nice picture.  We set-up our office in the Service Center which is a former hallway but being close lets us see each others work.

Next week there will be a multi-stake conference with the area presidency that is broadcast over the church's satellite system from New Zealand. We spent two days traveling to various stake centers and found equipment in various stages of usability. How many satellite dishes have you seen that point straight up and are guarded by a chicken?  Theron climbed the hill behind the Church to take this picture; could you pay attention in Sunday School if the waves were breaking outside your class window?  This is the small island Theron gave me for Mother's Day.

Per President Websters request, no pantyhose.

They are big into celebrating Mother's Day and the men had lunch brought in for everyone on Friday - Friday is island wear day we are told, so we will have to get some island wear; oh, wait, we did find a minute to shop and Theron purchased his first lava-lava.  Theron says, "Let the women wear pants to priesthood, I'm wearing a skit to church on Mother's Day".  It required him to learn a new sitting posture.  There are two kinds of lava-lava; a print material that is for casual wear and a formal dress one that everyone wears to work and church.  Pretty much all of the men and Aaronic Priesthood wear them and they are part of the school uniform..  A young man could pretty much wear the same Lava Lava through all his Aaronic Priesthood career.
Sometimes, you have to have food explained to you.

Everyone here keeps telling us that we are at the end of the rainy season and that the island has been in a drought for the last three years.  But, it rains several time everyday, but the showers are short and warm.  Maybe Utah should be in such a drought, but the island is beautiful. The Samoan's must think that leaving the Garden of Eden was no big deal!

It doesn't take long to fall in love with the people.  They are all very nice; however, it's going to take a lllllllloooooonnnnnggggg time for us to remember their names and pronounce them correctly.

We live less than five minutes (walking) from the Temple and were able to attend our first session there last Friday.  They have English sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, but we weren't able to attend these, so we attended a Samoan session and wore headphones.  You know, it's the same feeling and covenants, and we were surrounded by warmth and kindness.

This fellow is mowing the grass, Curt, you need to get a bigger weed eater.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Talofa Samoa

On Saturday afternoon, our plane landed on the tarmac at the Samoa Airport.  We were "processed" and presented passports, visas, opened luggage (they were really concerned about our pillows which Theron had sucked all the air out of them and they were rather compact), and finally were able to load all of the luggage on a cart and head for the outside.

What a welcome site to see President and Sister Tolman.  When you get into the car with the Mission President you know you have arrived.  The temperature was hot, humid and wonderful!!!

Tolman's drove us to our house in the upper village, #41b.  We then met them for dinner at what is billed as the best restaurant in Samoa - Scalini's.  By the time dinner was over, I was beat and ready for sleep.

Elder and Sister Jacobs who are assistant area auditors and senior missionary district leaders left me the best gift that could be given -- small bananas that we called 'bumps' in Jamaica and I'll learn the name here, but they are delicious!!!!  Home sweet home for the next 18 months.

Today is Sunday and we attended the English speaking ward on the Church compound.  The mission nurse was leaving and at the end of Relief Society, the sisters all stood and sung the traditional Samoan farewell song (wow -- was that wonderful).

This young man, Kvans Pauga, was one of Bill Schaefermeyer's missionaries and recognized our name immediately.  What a small, small world is the Church.

New Zealand - MTC and Training

From Tuesday to Friday, we received ICS training from the Area ICS Department personnel and learned our duties.  We come to this assignment with ideas, but as Elder Holland so pleasantly put it, at a video in the MTC - ..." it's not about you, get over it."  We really do want to serve the people and leave them with the skills they need.

On Tuesday in New Zealand, we had the opportunity to visit the New Zealand MTC.  There were about 50 elders and sisters being trained and at the meeting we attended, Elder Haleck and his wife spoke.  What a wonderful experience to have a general authority speak to them and then greet each one after.  These are missionaries called from the Pacific Area islands and countries who will be serving in the Pacific Areas.

As we greeted the missionaries each wanted to shake our hands and one elder stood out to me.  One was from Vanuatu (they just had the destructive cyclone there) and he was wearing a suit that was two sizes too big one that I knew had been donated to the MTC for such missionaries.  I asked how his family was and he said they were safe.  Now, before someone goes out and buys suits for these missionaries, remember, they only wear these in the MTC and to and from their missions.  They probably have never worn a suit in their life and feel as uncomfortable in it as they look.

Auckland, New Zealand skyline from our apartment.
I then reflect on the sons of Helaman.  There mothers taught them and then sent them on their way to fight.  They probably didn't have all the right equipment -- swords, shields, etc.  Moroni had to outfit this group and probably there were many who did look a little "rag tag".  They main message is that they were going to serve with all their hearts, might, minds and strength not with their looks, suits, ties and shoes.  I admire this elder's commitment to the gospel and to the Lord.

The rest of the week was spent in getting to know Paul Benallack and his team.  What great men they are and what a commitment to watch over the Church's equipment and resources. Paul is the person on the right on the back row.

Leaving Home

We left the MTC on Friday, April 24 and went home to pack our suitcases, rest and wash clothing on Saturday.  On Sunday, April 26, we attended Sacrament meeting to hear Carol and John Padilla report on their mission to Peru.  After the meeting, the family and extended family gathered at Joe Junior and Jen's home to celebrate Carol's 80th birthday.

After celebrating until 2:00 p.m., we left to gather our suitcases and leave for the airport.  Getting all our luggage and carry-on bags into the airport was a challenge, but once they were checked, it was clear sailing.
This is just a little bit of luggage!

We left Salt Lake at 9:15 p.m. on Sunday and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 28.  These pictures were taken in the New Zealand Airport.

Here's a few pictures of Carol's 80th birthday:

 Kendall, Carol, Theron, and Neala - we missed Elynn.

Wrapping Up the MTC

As much as we did not want to attend the MTC again, we have to admit it was a wonderful experience.  We (I especially) learned so much from the role playing and we had wonderful instructors.  Sister Smith and Brother Taylor were both returned missionaries and students at BYU and wow, how powerful their teaching and testimonies were.

We had a great group of senior missionaries in our district as well - (far right) Elder and Sister Hanson, from Canada who are going to serve in Nauvoo Illinois doing restoration and visitor center; (second from right) Elder and Sister Moeller, from Arizona (former SLC mission president) going to serve in Australia as member/leader support; (far left)
Elder and Sister Hatfield, from Montreal Canada going to serve in the office.

I don't bear my testimony as much as I should, so this was a really great chance for me to dig down deep inside and validate my testimony.  May all who read this know that I am so grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation that I chose in the pre-earth life.  I hope and pray that I can always keep my covenants to return to live with them.

These are some of the missionaries we trained with at the MTC.