Saturday, January 30, 2016


When serving on his first mission in California, Theron developed a 'tie' fashion statement.  A color, a design, a different knot, or something to distinguish him from other missionaries. He has kept this fashion statement for all of our 41 years together.  Whenever he would travel, he would buy a tie as a souvenir- a plaid from Antarctica, a kiwi design from New Zealand, a 4th of July tie, and so forth. A few days after we arrived in Samoa, he started looking for a tapa tie and a woven tie.  There are no such ties, so he went to work inventing them.  He is now the proud owner of I think the only tapa tie in all of Samoa and perhaps the world.

Tapa cloth is made from the bark of a young mulberry tree.  The bark is split and then removed from the young tree stem.The inner bark is separated from the green outer bark and is smoothed then beaten with a wooden mallet to stretch it and make it thin. It is very labor intensive and requires a lot of time and skill to pound the tree fiber to make it expand into a piece of "cloth". Several layers of the paper-like material are laid together to cover any holes where the branches were or other imperfections and to achieve the desired width and length of fabric. It is then dried after which a design is imprinted on it.  The tapa is a very light tan color after it is dried.  The design is stamped into the tapa using a coconut stencil usually cut and formed into geometric designs as shown in the picture below of the wood carver.  The traditional brown color is from the koko bean.

The young girl is filling in some of the color of a stamped pattern while her grandmother is cutting off the bark.

Tapa was once used for clothing on the islands and today is used for decorations or room dividers.  Tapa is given as a present at weddings and other occasions.  So a tapa tie would be a marvelous gift and a definite traditional fashion statement.

The best tapa in Samoa is made on Savai'i.  We bought some pieces there, but want to bring them home for a wall decoration.  So, I wasn't going to give them up for the tie.

Theron had been thinking about how to accomplish his desire and had Adrian send us some zipper ties. His idea was to have the tie made around the form of the zipper tie because you couldn't tie and untie the tapa material it is just too rigid and fragile.  Our time in Tutuila was coming to an end I was having a pulatasi (dress) made and we had just found a long narrow piece of tapa at a store in the airport - we spent a lot of time at the airport so this became an easy shopping place.  The day I went to pick-up my pulatasi, Theron approached the male seamstress about making his tapa tie.  He explained what he wanted and we brought the material to him.  He seemed quite interested in creating the item.  Just a few days before we left, we were able to pick up the ties (he was able to make two from the cloth).

They are beautiful.  The picture doesn't do them justice so you will have to wait to touch them and see them.  He wore the tie to Church the following Sunday and to Elder Christofferson's missionary meeting this past week.  We predict a new business will be born from this idea - no one had ever seen a tapa tie, all the missionaries want one and the locals kept saying, "I've never thought of that!".  Elder Ellsworth has talked to him at length about how to get one.  The controller in Tutuila took pictures of front and back and has a seamstress that she is going to have make some.  It was fun to see the excitement that has come from a tapa tie.  Now he just has to find the right person to make a "fine mat" woven tie.

McGyver is at still at work and going strong!  How fun to see his imagination at work.

A Drive Across Tutuila - American Samoa - Pago Pago

The past 4.5 months have been a delight for us, being the only senior couple on the island of Tutuila, providing love and support to 36 missionaries and traveling to each ward building to install and upgrade the technology there.  We made new friends and strengthened our testimonies by association with the saints on this island.  We know many of you will never get to see this island so we thought we would take you on a tour.

Tutuila is the Samoan name, it is an island in the Pacific that is an American territory and the large deep water bay was fortified to protected US ships during World War II is called Pago Pago; thus, all three names are used to reference this island.  We'll stick with Tutuila to be traditional.

This is a rather small island just 50 miles from east to west or west to east as there is only one main road that runs along the south side of the island.  The north side is cliffs and mountains-there is no way to travel completely around the island in a car.

We used US dollars, ate at McDonalds (of which there are two) and Carl's Jr. and when the show changed at the one theater, we enjoyed popcorn and a movie.  On a good day, we only traveled one direction; most days we traveled both directions on the main road of which the speed limit varies between a top speed limit of 25 mph and a low speed limit of 15 mph the average being 20 mph.  If you want to buy a good used car, buy one from Tutuila they have never been driven over 35 mph unless the owner was arrested for breaking the speed limit.  Needless to say, it takes a long time to drive anywhere, so you really get to know the sights and sounds of the island.

If you look at the map of Tutuila above, you see that the one road hugs the coast so there are very few points along the way that you are not looking at ocean or the view of the back of a bus.  The center part of the island is tall mountains and cliffs with lush, lush foliage.

Throughout Samoa, it is tradition to put the graves of the most prominent ancestors in the front yard.  We especially liked this ones decorated for Christmas.
Elder Schaefermeyer is sitting on the ocean wall barricade in Tulao, a small village on the far east end.  He is looking at the island of Aunu'u which is a 35 minute boat ride from Tutuila.  Notice the cragginess of the shore, most of Tutuila shores are volcanic rock.  There are few sandy beaches.
Traveling west from Tulao you take one of the three roads that go to the north side of the island.  Notice how the cliffs rise out of the ocean.  This is a picture at 'growling rocks' at the far end of the village of Viatia.
This is a very typical village scene.  There is not much flat ground so homes are built onto the mountain side.

The large EFKS (London Missionary Society) churches are ever present in both color and prominence.

The large white house on the hill top is the governor's mansion.  It overlooks Pago Pago harbor.

If you live on an island, everything you have, except coconuts, bananas, papaya and a few vegetables, is shipped in.  It is amazing to see all the buildings, the furniture inside, the many little things like pen and paper and printer ink cartridges all come to the island in shipping containers.  Pago Pago harbor is always busy.  Everyone knows when a new shipment comes in because the stores replenish their stock.

If you travel by cruise ship, this is where you disembark.  This is the main entrance of Pago Pago harbor.

The Post Office became our main stopping point on Mondays and Tuesdays.  The cargo plane bringing the mail came in on Friday evening.  The mail would be sorted on Saturday and Sunday and available for pickup on Monday afternoons.  This is the main greeting point for everyone because everyone receives mail.  There is no house-to-house mail delivery.  A family has a post office box.

As you get further out on the west end, the road begins to narrow and get rather full of pot holes.  This is just typical.

There are always plenty of fantastic views all along the way.

Every evening there is always cricket, rugby and volleyball being played.  This is a cricket match and when a car needs to go by, they stop the game and wait for you to pass.
This is the way we would travel to Aunu'u to visit the missionaries.

During Cyclone Victor, the ocean came up on the road and brought with it coral, sand and all sorts of garbage that had been thrown or washed into the ocean.  The village members would just grab a shovel and come and clean up.  It's island life; pitch in and do what needs to be done.

There are so many switchbacks along the island road that you are always looking at the village across the bay as your next destination.  These two pictures show our constant view of the village across the harbor.
And, there are always beautiful evening views of sunsets far out on the ocean.

Thanks for traveling with us on a quick tour of island life on Tutuila.  We left Tutuila on January 24, 2016 and will spend the rest of our time on Upolu and Savai'i.  Keep joining us as we serve in Samoa.

Curt at 38

January 11, 2016, Curt celebrated his 38th birthday.  What a birthday treat for this year - an enlarged family of five!  Curt, how wonderful to see your maturing growth over the past few years from a new husband, a new job responsibility, and now a new father.

You are so talented and such an industrious worker.  Your acts of unselfishness are never unnoticed by us your parents, even though at times others may not say how much they appreciate you, know that we certainly do! Keep up the good work.

We have loved watching you (from afar) show pride in those three little babies you and Melanee have been blessed with.  We look forward to hugging you again and enjoying your laughter.

Hope you got an extra hour of sleep as a birthday present.  Always remember how tiny the babies were - below is Curt and Lauren.

Happy Birthday Son!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The dog

Samoa, like many third world nations seems to have an abundance of dogs.  The dogs run free and seem to populate freely as well.  Although there is some variety in breeds, the majority appear as the ever familiar yellow mongrel.  The dogs often seem to be associated with a house, but they are seldom properly taken care of and will usually be covered with open wounds, large patches of missing hair to the point that some even appear to be sunburned.  Their general attitude in the morning as they stand in the road seems to range from, "Just hit me now." to, "I'll never spend another night like that", as they appear to be hung-over from the previous nights activities.
As the day progresses they seem to forget that attitude and begin to gang-up in the afternoons as they prepare for yet another night of howling, barking and roaming.  The poor little bitches could all use a good support bra as their glands hang down and flop from side to side as they walk.  I thought I could create a doggy bra business but just don't have the time.

The irony to the number of dogs that freely roam on the island is the fact that we have security people at the airport and the post office that wear K-9 patrol on their uniforms but they don't have a dog!

When we arrived at our home in Tutuila there was a young, male, yellow, dog sleeping on our front porch.  I yelled at him and he quickly ran off to the back side of the house.  Over the next few days I would see him sleeping at the back of the house or occasionally on the front porch when we drove in, but when he would see me he would put his tail down and run out of the fenced yard.  He was definitely not the alpha male.  It seemed that he liked the protection from other dogs that our yard afforded him since the gate was secured at night and the porch kept him dry during the rains.  He was small enough that he could wiggle under the gate so he could come and go at will but the larger, aggressive dogs could not.

I realized that he was becoming "our" dog and since I didn't want the neighbors to think that we didn't take care of our animals, and I didn't want a sickly animal hanging around our house, I began to feed him table scraps which then progressed to buying canned dog food (yes, there were comments about this by Sister Schaefermeyer).

After having yelled at the dog, it took a long time for him to realize that I wan't his enemy.  He would eat the food but wouldn't allow me to get near him.  I would bring the food dish up to him while he was sleeping and put it in front of him but he would awake and run.  One day, I physically caught him when he was running out the gate and held him and petted him and he then decided we could be friends.

 It specifically says in the white mission handbook that pets are not permitted.  I figured that he wasn't a pet, just a non-electrical garbage disposal. I didn't purchase him, or the several hens and baby chicks that seemed to also like the protection of our yard.

The dog quickly moved from the front porch to the back porch and was there to greet us every time we opened the back door.  He went on a few walks with me but would get attacked by some of the other dogs and would run home for protection.  He was young and again not much of a fighter. He loved to run around the yard with me and chase sticks and jump up to grab my hand in his mouth.  He quickly learned to fetch and as every good missionary dog should, he learned to shake hands.

Like most feral dogs, he had a real doggy smell so I decided to give him a bath.  This was not too successful as it had to be done outside, but some water and soap was applied before he got away from me.  I later took him for a ride to the ocean and carried him in to have a bath which helped some with his hygiene but it took a lot of persuasion to get him to get back in the van to come home.  I bought some flea spray to help control his itching but he would have none of that either.  I found that spraying where he layed took care of the flea problem.

He was a friend to all of the missionaries and allowed free entry to the yard, but he was becoming protective of the yard and would bark and occasionally chase after people walking down the street.  I tried to correct the behavior but he had learned from other dogs just how a proper Samoan dog should act.

As we were coming to the end of our time in Tutuilla, I was beginning to wonder what to do with the animal.  I decided to wait until Elder and Sister Jordan arrived to make a decision.  Unsurprisingly, they said they didn't want to care for the critter.  I then thought about finding a good home for him but quickly ruled that out as everyone had all the dogs available that they could possibly want.  So my thought was to stop feeding him and lock him out of our yard (he was now too big to crawl under the gate) where he would join the ranks of the unfed, diseased, vicious animals that roam the streets. but I thought that would be too cruel.  So the only other option I could think of was to find a vet and pay to have him put down. As sad as that seemed, it still seemed more humane than the alternative.

However, I did come up with yet one more option.  The Elders covering the Tongan Ward introduced me to a Tongan family that would love to have a nice, young, healthy, dog . . . . . . . . . . . . for dinner.  I decided that would be the best solution as it was certainly no different than us eating the prize winning cow we purchased at the state fair that was raised by the young woman for her FFA project.

Decision made.  On Saturday the Tongan Elders came over and we fed the dog the last can of dog food and I  carried him down the street to the home of the Tongan family that gratefully accepted my offering.

Problem solved - Dog gone and family fed.

Coming home that evening to the absence of an outside watering bowl and not having anyone to greet us at the door, was a little sad. I heard dogs barking later that night and had to step outside to make sure he hadn't escaped and returned home.  We flew back to Upolu on Sunday at noon.  If our flight had been later in the day, I think I would have suggested hot dogs for lunch in honor of "the dog".

Transportation and the lack thereof

The people of Samoa and the missionaries that serve here, employ a variety of transportation modes to facilitate their movement within and between the islands of the pacific.

This blog is about Elder Jacob Anderson and our efforts to transport a small package over to him on the island of Ofu.  Ofu and Ta'u are known as the islands of Manu'a and are located about 70 miles East of Tutuila where we live.

Traditionally we picture missionaries doing a lot of walking which is certainly true of the missionaries of Samoa.  I've included a picture of Elder Anderson's shoes to help prove that point.  But to be honest, missionaries also take advantage of the buses, member vehicles and occasionally even the taxis that operate on the island, and since our elders have not been too successful at walking on water they travel between the islands either by plane or ferry boat.  Since this is a blog about transportation, or the lack thereof, you might think that it was Elder Anderson's shoes that gave-out on him but this is not the case.  Actually it was his left leg.

January 4, Monday:
We receive a phone call from Elder Anderson, who is serving on the island of Ofu - the smallest of the Manu'a islands, population 200 or so,  He has a large boil on his left leg.  It is red, stuff is oozing out, and his ankle is becoming quite swollen.  We advise him to pour hydrogen peroxide on it and apply hot water to draw the infection.  We notify Dr/Elder Olsen, the area doctor in New Zealand, who tells us that this kind of infection in the leg can turn gangrenous very rapidly and we need to get him started on antibiotics as quickly as possible.  
Back to transportation.
The M.V. Sili ferry travels the 70 miles / 8 hours  from our island of Tutuilla to the larger island of Ta'u and then to Ofu where it then returns to Tutuilla. However, there are no set days and times.  Our understanding, from the ship's operators, is that the boat goes only when there is enough demand and only after the ship's mechanic deems it able to make the voyage and then only after the Coast Guard declares it seaworthy!

Polynesian Air flies to Ta'u three days a week but only flies to Ofu (Elder Anderson's island) on Thursday.

The Manu'a islands have few roads and even fewer vehicles and no buses.  Although people with vehicles are generous in offering rides,  there just aren't that many driving around Manu'a.  The pickup shown below is quite typical of the way people travel around the island.  As I recall, we too traveled in the back of a pickup when we were here in 2007.

On with the story.
Elder Anderson says there is a small clinic on the island so we tell him to walk/limp the 45 minutes there on Tuesday.  We also learn that the M.V. Sili is sailing on Tuesday night and the Church's Facilities Management Group (FM) is sending a worker along with building supplies to repair a mission house on Ta'u (perfect).

Since we have a supply of the prescribed antibiotic we arrange to send a box of pills along with requested foods and other supplies with the FM on Tuesday night's sailing.  We go to the wharf and put all of the supplies on pallets in preparation for the sailing.  We leave the wharf early in the evening only to find the supplies and the FM worker sitting at the Church office the next morning. The ship had been chartered by the Power company and they had taken all of the space so our shipment would not go until the next sailing. The antibiotics could have been given to a passenger but thinking outside the box is not the mentality of many of the island people.

Tuesday afternoon Elder Anderson calls and says the clinic wasn't open but would be open on Wednesday.  Okay, make the hike again tomorrow.

The following day, Wednesday, we spoke with the nurse at the clinic and she prescribes the same antibiotic that Dr Olsen recommended.  However, she only has enough pills for two days! (welcome to island life)  I informed her that we were sending the full regimen of pills on the plane on Thursday, so that should work well.

Thursday morning we arrive at the airport and recognize a couple of young schoolteachers we had met at the wharf while preparing their boxes of school food to go on the ship the previous day (their supplies didn't go either).  They said the Elders volunteered at the school and they knew them very well and would deliver the antibiotics to them (success!). We notified Elder Anderson to meet them at the airstrip.

Yup, Elder Anderson calls back and said that the plane didn't arrive.  Polynesian Air confirmed that the winds were too strong to land so the plane returned to Tutuilla (this is becoming serious).

We are now informed that the M.V. Sili will be making a second voyage on Friday because of the amount of supplies that are sitting at the wharf (wonderful!).  However, our last box of antibiotics are wandering around the island of Tutuilla in the hands of a school teacher. We drive to the pharmacy at the hospital and talk our way into the inner sanctum to speak with the pharmacist.  Although very sympathetic and working hard to help, she finds that Elder Anderson has not been registered in the America Samoa medical system so there is no way she can dispense anything for him.  We leave and call Sister Lematu who is on the same drug and has half of her prescription left. (she can get more from the pharmacy).

On this voyage, the FM supplies are loaded in our mission van which is being transferred to Manu'a in preparation for a new senior couple.  We load the packages of food and supplies and the half regime of antibiotic that we got from Sister Lematu and instruct the FM to put these items back on the ship to go to Ofu when he off-loads the van in Ta'u (no problem).  We assume the schoolteacher will deliver the full dose of drugs when the plane goes.

Friday evening Elder Anderson calls to say that there are no packages on the boat.  We call and confirm that the FM didn't take the boxes out of the van and put them back on the boat. (unbelievable!)  The boat will spend the night on Ofu so we tell Elder Anderson and companion to be at the wharf early on Saturday to come to Tutuilla for treatment. DO NOT LET THE BOAT LEAVE WITHOUT YOU ON IT!  We arrange and pay for their trip with the people in Tutuila.

No, your wrong, they DID make it on the boat and we got him to the hospital on Saturday evening where he was given two pills by the E. R. Doctor to last until the pharmacy opened on Sunday morning.  Elder Anderson and companion spent a couple of nights with us where we put them to work harvesting and juicing lemons from our tree.  They then worked with other missionaries until we could get them on a plane the next Thursday.  Oh, at the airport we met the schoolteachers who were happy to give the antibiotics to Elder Anderson.

One other note about Elder Anderson,  The photo is of Elder Anderson standing in front of the painting depicting his great grandfather Joseph Dean's arrival in Samoa as the first mission president.  Oh, we took Elder Anderson to the store where he bought new shoes, but he refused to part with his old ones as we wanted to take them home as a keepsake.

Because of Cyclone Victor at the end of the week that Elder Anderson was with us, neither the plane nor the boat traveled to Manu'a.  He spent almost two weeks on Tutuila before we could get him a flight to Of'u.  Welcome to island life.  His leg is healing and he is back in good missionary form.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Special Farewell to Paws

Paws started out as Curt's cat and over the years, ended up as Theron's cat and friend.  She loved to see Theron come home from a trip and ignored him just long enough to say 'you are punished for leaving me' and would immediately climb on his lap and purr contentedly.

She lived outdoors and indoors and preferred to lay in the bushes by the back stairs to survey her kingdom.  She was a friend to our deer and often slept with these large companions in the evenings.  Never would she go across the street because she had seen her sister leave and never come back from doing just that.  She endured our mission to Jamaica, our many trips and even staying with Neala for a time.  She endured riding in the car from time to time.  However, stress was not her friend and she often lost hair in the process.  She also had to endure many things that were humiliating at best when Theron would shave her for the summer.

When we left for Samoa, we knew Paws was getting older and hoped that she would be around when we returned.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Perhaps it was the adjustment of living with Melanee's cat, or the change from the upstairs litter box to the downstairs litter box, or the winter weather, or the three new babies.  Whatever the cause, Paws lost her appetite and wouldn't eat.

Melanee dubbed this photo "A man and his cat."

Curt had to take her to the vet for last rights the first week in January 2016.

Theron is very sad that he won't have a companion that snuggles with him, runs purrs at his presence when he comes him when he whistles,

We will see you Paws on the other side.

This was the last picture of Paws as she was laying next to Lauren.  She was making friends with the new little ones.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Birthday for Marc - 36 Years and Counting

Our baby, our last child, our second son, a light to our family - that would be Marc, celebrated birthday number 36 on Christmas Day.  Wow, where did time go.

It's been special for us to see his vlog of their house remodel.  It's been enlightening to see his work in the woodshop. It's been special to see his playtime with his children. How creative he is building Mason's Lego bench, the kids craft desk, shelves and wooden birthday cards.  It's been wonderful to see his love for his wife.  Marc, you are truly special and we love, love, love you.

Here's some pictures of Marc in his shop and with his family.