Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015, American Samoa

4 turkeys, 25 pounds of potatoes, 1/2 case of green beans, 4 large bags of carrots, 1 gallon of gravy, 10 plus dozen cornbread muffins, 10 packages of StoveTop stuffing, 1 super size container of butter, 7 pumpkin pies, 2.5 gallons ice cream, 32 missionaries, 4 adults.

We started cooking the turkeys on Sunday while our two sister missionaries (Sister Aspinall and Sister Poche) who are being transferred to Manua - an isolated island with less than a thousand people - were living with us for a few days.  I was cooking one turkey every day until Wednesday.

In the interim leading up to Thursday, we sent Elder Sparks home.  He had a stomach issue that we had watched and gone to the hospital with for several weeks.  The decision was to finally send him home.  Elder Sparks is the second from the left.  Elder Smith on the right, was transferred to Manua this week, also.

Early Thursday (7 a.m.) we got the typical phone call - you know, the one that changes everything you have planned-- rush down to the airport to pick up Elder Haleck.  On the way to the airport, Theron got a call that pulled him off because Elder Haleck's daughter was picking him up.  Oops, another communication error :)  This capped our week - we took the sisters to catch their plane to Manua on Tuesday morning and picking them up an hour and half later because, due to weather, the plane couldn't land in Manua.  Wednesday morning we took the sisters back to the plane and away they went.

Back to Thursday.  Sister Lesa (her husband, Ropeti, is the counselor in the mission presidency) came over early to help prepare the potatoes, vegetables, etc.  She also decorated the hall.  The dinner was set for noon.  We made it and everyone had plenty to eat and we had plenty of leftovers (3 turkeys would have been plenty).
The decorations were very nice.  I walked into the hall and saw a head table decorated and set away from the 30+ chairs set up for the missionaries.  I was shocked, but told by Sister Lesa that, that was the Samoan way.  I was disappointed; I had wanted the missionaries to sit at tables and enjoy a nice sit down dinner.  Our cultural differences were noted; the decorations stayed, but they didn't work, the English missionaries started pulling out tables and setting them up after they filled their plates.  No Samoan traditions for them.
 Sisters Esau and Nemia

The Small Cultural Center of the Malaeimi Stake Building (It has two chapels also)

It was a great time.  As I wrote on Facebook, the missionaries had been practicing some songs they are going to sing at a Christmas devotional.  They invited us to stand up front and they proceeded to sing "Consider the Lilies of the Field."  As they sang, I looked into the face of each elder and sister; I saw the light of God there and I felt the words.  I could not hold back the tears.  What a beautiful way to start Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pago Weekly Update - Week Ending November 28 - The Cyclone

We didn't post last week, not because we were in a cyclone but because things got hectic.  Then, the cyclone came and all Samoan Islands were under a storm warning for category 1 cyclone TUNI.  All week it rained, the winds were about 30-40 mph and oh, did I mention it rained.  We are talking sheets of rain and flash floods and landslides were the fear of the day.  Our mission conference on November 28 with Elder Haleck (1st Counselor in Pacific Area Presidency) was cut short because we wanted to get the missionaries to their homes before another big wave of rain hit that was officially part of the actual cyclone.

Today was the first time we have seen the sun in a couple of weeks.  It was so nice to wake up and see the rays of sunshine come through the windows.  A great way to start the Sabbath.

We had been watching two bunches of bananas grow and ripen on our banana trees.  On Thursday, Ropeti Lesa, Facilities Management manager here, was helping with Thanksgiving preparations and showed us how to cut them down and ripen them.  Between Thursday night and Saturday morning, both banana trees blew down.  The one we had already cut and the other the banana bunch was laying on the lawn.  Across the street a portion of a breadfruit tree split and fell down (bottom picture). Other than these minor injuries to plants and trees, no humans were hurt in our yard; no missionaries were lost.

These are our two bunches of bananas, who's going to eat all of these?  They are like zucchini.  You cut them off the tree where they grow up, you hang them down and cover them with a cloth.  They will still be green when we uncover and begin to use and will rapidly turn yellow.

While all of this was happening, the main characters of our life were growing.  How fun to watch this happen.  Thanks for letting us FaceTime and interrupt your lives.  Also, it looks like Marc and Brittney's addition to their house is done enough that they can start moving in their addition to the family.  This week will be the final part of the build.  It looks like a great addition to their home.
 The three sleeping peacefully.
 The girls and the cat.  I think the cat is jealous.
Jesse in full view.
 The sisters enjoying a look at each other.
Tyce, Mason, Ali and Kacy.

Sorry, no recent pictures of Taylor and Cameron.  Adrian and Todd need a new camera!
Love, Mom and Dad

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Some Oddities of Living in the Pacific

Yesterday our ICS Manager Chris, flew in from Upolu, to re-negotiate the internet provider contract for our island of Tutuila.  He is a Samoan citizen thus needs a US Visa to be admitted into the country.  We watched him walk off the plane at 8:30 a.m. and after waiting for about a half-hour, an airport customs official comes out and tells us that he is being held because he doesn't have proper visa information.  We call the PBO, get a number for the visa, Theron walks it back through the arrival area and gives it to the immigration folks and a few minutes later Chris comes up the walkway.
  • Oddity #1:  How many airports would take our word for a Visa number and release a non-US citizen just on our word alone?  Just like the time we put one of our elders on the plane to fly to Upolu without a ticket.  It happens here.
To finish this story.  We took Chris back to the airport to catch the 4:30 p.m. flight - the last one for the day.  About 20 minutes later, we get a call to come and get him because he couldn't get on the plane.  We go back, he gets into the car, and tells us that the plane was overweight and he and two other passengers couldn't get on and will have to fly out tomorrow morning.  Let me explain the process:  To travel with Polynesian Air from Pago to Upolu and visa versa you fly in a small 17 passenger airplane.  You are allowed one bag with a 50 pound limit.  After they weigh the bag then they ask you with your carry-on to get on the scales and then they assign you a seat - based on your weight; and from what we've observed, the more you weigh, the closer you sit to the wing.  Chris was one of the last passengers to cue for the flight and even though he had a ticket, the plane was already too heavy, so he was assigned another flight.  Yes, there are some big people that fly on this airplane!
  • Oddity #2:  When was the last time you were weighed at the airport before boarding and denied a seat because the people already checked in took up all the weight?
That event prompted this blog.  Now, just to mention a few other oddities that we deal with on a regular basis.  It makes for an interesting experience and a most delightful time living in a third world country.
  • Oddity #3:  In the Pacific, we receive all electronic equipment - computers, printers, copiers - from New Zealand.  This means that all the plugs have a 220V connector,  however, American Samoa has 110V Power and US type outlets.   We have to buy new plugs for all our electronics.
  • Oddity #4:  There is a car ferry that runs from Pago to Upolu that was designed to carry cars.  However, in 2009 Upolu and Savaii converted to right-hand drive cars to be like New Zealand.  Here in Pago, we have left-hand drives like the U.S.  So, you can't transport vehicles from one island to another.
  • Oddity #5:  Driving in Pago is really challenging.  The top speed limit on the one east-west road on the island is 25 mph and in most places it's 20 mph.  You can't even use your cruise because it doesn't work at speeds below 30 mph.  That's right, we have one, two-lane road to drive on no matter which way we go and it only goes on one side of the island. 
  • Oddity #6:  One of the nice things, even though it's a bit odd, is that you can go into the yard and pick a pineapple or a bunch of bananas or a papaya and lots of lemons. We also have an abundance of flowers.
  • Oddity #7:  When we arrived it was winter and it was dry.  Everything was turning brown and looked like it was dying.  We are now entering summer and it rains every day.  Everything is growing again, flowering again and looking rather lush.  Go figure, where we have lived in Utah it's wet in winter and dry in summer.
  • Oddity #8:  Samoa is over-run with dogs which is not much of an oddity for many third world countries.  The oddity is that at the post office and at the airport there are men wearing K-9 Unit uniforms but none of them have a dog.  I've wondered if they have an exceptional sense of smell and don't need a dog or, if they suspect a package do they just step outside and bring in a stray to smell the package?
  • Extreme Oddity #8  We have a dog!  When we arrived, there was a young, yellow, dog, hanging around our house.  He was afraid of us but was pretty docile.  I figured the neighbors would think he was our dog and that we LDS missionaries weren't taking proper care of him, So I started feeding him.  It took several weeks to convince him that we could be friends but now he is "our" dog and loves to go for walks, lick Shanna's legs and carry off the missionary's shoes when they visit.  
We love the challenge and the oddities of life that surround us at this moment.

Monday, November 9, 2015

BYUTV Back On-The-Air

I guess we were both "Voted off the Island" this past week.  Both of us needed a little time with the other senior missionaries in Upolu, and lucky for us it corresponded well with a planned trip to work on the BYUTV broadcast equipment on the other island.

 The over-the-air broadcast of BYUTV has not been working for the past two months so there were two engineers flying in from Provo and a contractor coming from Brisbane to work on it.  Since I had done some troubleshooting on the problem, they wanted me to join them. A request with which we were very happy to comply.  So, on Tuesday, after a last minute trip to the Post office to pick up the last box of equipment they had sent for the trip, We flew from Pago Pago and met Brandon Smith and Mike Grover.  Mike lives in NSL and knows many of our friends on Cobblecreek.  Brandon knows my brother Ken from when he drove for BYU.

I spent my time with the ICS and BYU engineers and Shanna worked with the office couple to resolve some of the issues we have with getting missionaries into the USA legally.  Oh, she also went shopping and out to lunch with some of the other sisters.

The BYUTV signal is picked-up by a satellite dish located behind the temple and then broadcast on channel 44 toward the mountains.  Our antennae on the mountain pick-up the signal and then re-broadcasts it on channel 48 to most of the island.  We had to re-align the satellite dish, change out the satellite signal receiver/decoder, change the transmitted and re-transmitted channel frequencies and talk and laugh a bunch.  Actually we took care of the talk and laugh part and the engineer from Australia did most of the work.  I figured they got what they payed for.

We spent most of Friday at the tower on top of the mountain so a couple of us climbed up and checked on the antennas.  It was a pretty clear day so I got a few pictures.  The picture above with the red dot is Shanna standing in the road in front of our Upolu summer house.

I took the photo below to show a little of our world in Upolu.  The satellite dish is just above the "U" in the BYUTV label and the antenna that sends it up the mountain is on the building above the "L" in the Pesega School label.  Our office is located in the Service Center just under the "C".

On Friday evening all of the senior couples had dinner at Aggie Gray's Resort to say good-bye to the Jacobs as they were leaving the next morning.  The Jacobs have children in China so they're traveling West before returning to King City, California.

On Saturday 12 of the seniors and the two BYU engineers went snorkeling at the marine preserve on the far side of the island.  Brandon saw a large turtle but I didn't get a picture; the stationery clams were much easier to photograph.  I was very amazed at the beautiful colors of the clams and how large they are.  The biggest are about three feet long and about one and a half wide when they are open.