Monday, March 28, 2016

Living Among the Flowers

When living on an island as beautiful as Samoa, we forget that we are living among what we in Utah and the west would consider houseplant flowers.  They don't grow in small little pots like we would use, but they blossom into large plants for everyone to see and enjoy as we walk about.

Look at the size of these blossoms that Sister Gillette and I are holding.  Then, you decorate your clothing with flowers.  I had this pulatasi made and the flower design is sewn onto the material.

Everyday, we pass a fale or home where someone has just planted a branch of a plant, a leaf cutting from a flower and banana-papaya-breadfruit-coconut-avocado from trees that absolutely surround them on all sides.  The home may be humble, but the surroundings are anything but!

It's difficult to describe all of these wonders and beauties, so we have to do it through pictures.

Pictures of homes surrounded by everything that is colorful, edible, and practical.  At one time, the large banana and other tree leaves were used for the roof of your home.

When you needs some decoration for a holiday, you pull down coconut fronds and weave them around pillars and even your gasoline pumps.  At weddings and funerals, coconut fronds are used for the majority of decoration.  Weaving these fronds not only for decoration but into baskets and food dishes.

Mats and other foliage are used for your horse's saddle.

There is not much that really goes to waste here, we drink the coconut juice, we eat the bananas, the leaves are used to cover the coals of the food fires (ovens or umu as they call it), the flowers are used to decorate graves and chapels and yards.  Enjoy our trip among the flowers and trees as we show you a little of the beauty of Samoa.

 Where else could you find a tree that spreads so fully and carries such beautiful pink flowers?

 The old coconut tree stumps are used as flower pots to decorate yards built on lava rock.  Some are carved in Samoan designs.  These would be equivalent to our decorative yard pots, but there is no soil used.  The leafy houseplant is just placed into the coconut pot and it magically grows.
 Almost every yard is hedged about with variegated leaf plants.  Miles of these hedges are planted to make the surroundings so much more beautiful for everyone.

 Adam and Eve had nothing on us.  These are fully cultivated green plants and hedges.

When you plant a stick into the ground and use it for a fence, it begins to grow into a tree.

When you dry the large leaves of a certain plant, not sure I know what it is, and then cut it into strips and make your sleeping mats, funeral mats, wedding mats and other household mats. We see leaves drying in yards all of the time.
 After the harvest of the coconuts, you simply bundle the husks together and use them to add to your umu fire or as an edge around a garden plot.  You have to have some mighty strong shoulders to carry a load like this.

 The men and boys do the cooking in the umu.  You start with the large wood at the bottom and layer food and large leaves until you get a nice 'pressure cooker'.
 I hope our grandchildren look at this picture and see that bananas grow upside down and are the branches of the banana tree.  Each banana tree produces one pod of bananas and then it is cut down and the root shots up next to it for the next tree and the next bunch of bananas.
 Breadfruit is always in season.  They pick the larger ones, put the whole fruit into a fire and cook it.  Then they peel off the burnt outer layer and a nice smokey flavor permeates the fruit.  The texture is like a potato; the flavor like the onions and garlic you cook it with.

 Coconuts are abundant.  Just today we saw a young man up in the top of the tree throwing the coconuts to the ground.  They take the large outer husk off and you are left with a nice young coconut that you drink the liquid.  Eat your hearts out as you buy your expensive bottle of coconut juice; we buy one every afternoon for 2 tala or about .80 cents.  They are fresh and not processed.  Don't know what we will do when we get home.

Below is the taro plant, the main dietary staple of Samoan people.  It's as tasteless as a piece of cardboard.  However, when you put enough coconut cream with it and onion, it is edible; but only in small amounts.  If you want a daily allotment of starch, just eat a 2 inch by 2 inch piece of taro. 

In the evening, the fronds, leaves and sun highlight the water and frame the sunset.  What a beautiful paradise.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March - Potpourri

Since moving back to Apia, we have been trying to get "back into things" and so we've been spending time getting organized and training sessions arranged.  There hasn't been any one thing that stands out right now to write in the blog, but there are several things, so, Potpourri message.

Last week we got an e-mail from Adrian that lit up our life.  We love to hear about the family and especially our grandsons who are attending the Temple and doing baptisms for the dead.  We can only hope that our missionary service inspires our family to continue on their eternal paths.  This picture of Taylor and Cameron at the Logan Temple brought smiles and warmth to our hearts.  Proud of you guys!  These are handsome young men.

Then, I begin to suffer through a toothache.  We are truly blessed to have retired American and Canadian dentists come and volunteer at the Pesega Dental Clinic.  Dr. Goodman and his wife are from Arizona and have been on several short missions doing dental work.  Most recently to Tonga and now Samoa.  They come out for 4-6 months paying their own way.  The dental clinic is free to everyone and on Tuesday's it is reserved for missionaries - both here serving and those preparing to go on a mission.  As my toothache wasn't on Tuesday, Dr. Goodman served on his day off (yes, he does go golfing on Wednesdays) and performed a root canal on one of my molars that had a filling and as he found was cracked.  Then the other problem was a top back tooth that was sensitive because of the receding gum (related to old age).  I haven't had this many dental problems in years.  Anyway, teeth are getting fixed by great dentists and I am so grateful for their service.  This is just a normal day at the clinic, they had a family in this day and the kids started massaging the backs of the dentist and assistant.  Although a kind gesture, it doesn't make for steady hands.

Brittney's uncle, Wayne Clayton came to Samoa along with another couple of engineers to install new fiber and upgrade the phone and internet system on the compound here in Pesega. Wayne also delivered a new video projector so we were excited to see him.   Wayne's father who had served a mission here in the late fifties also came and spent days traveling with two of his former companions that were also here.  Theron spent some time watching the guys install the new equipment but wasn't able to help much. Wayne wanted to go snorkeling and had several hours free one afternoon so Theron took him out to see the clams. We also took them to a 'fia fia' (happy, happy) dinner show at Traditions resort; An evening of traditional Samoan foods and dancing was great fun, and the nine year old fire dancer was amazing. I must admit that I also enjoyed being surrounded by young buff Samoan men after the show, even if they were so sweaty it felt like hugging a sponge.  BTW, the one on the right is in a bishopric, on the left if a temple worker, and the one kneeling is meeting with the missionaries. (church parties are more fun down here).

We always enjoy the interesting things we see on the road. The track hoe in the photo below wasn't tied down to the truck, but it was okay since they had a man riding back there (barefoot) to hold it in place. Then just a few blocks later was a car that had a floor jack which was replacing the right front wheel while three guys were pushing it down the road.

Our Marc and Brittney celebrated their 12th year wedding anniversary and we loved this picture they posted.  Have they even aged?  Twelve years, four children, building and remodeling a house, work and school and just plain life - looks really good on these two.  Love them!!!

A couple of weeks ago, Sister Ellsworth of the mission office asked us to give a 15-minute presentation on missionary preparation to a class of middle school students.  We finally settled on what to talk about and went to talk to Sister Ah Hoy about where we would be presenting.  Her reply was that we would be speaking in the Pesega Gym to all 400 of the Pesega Middle School students plus faculty.  Well, that changed everything.  We went in to full preparation mode now that we knew we were the keynote speakers for a Middle School Missionary Preparation Day.  Our presentation centered on a video from Elder Bednar exhorting us to "Become missionaries long before we are called as missionaries" and we used the song, "If the Savior Stood Beside Me." of which Theron sang a couple of verses while some of the kids roll-played the teachings from the music. Then we had all 400 sing all six verses of the song while looking at slides we had prepared.  We are so grateful for talented people who write and publish such inspirational music.  This is the only picture I was able to snap as we sat through the introductions. Notice that the students are wearing missionary clothes and many had missionary name tags.

Life here in Samoa goes on, each day is a new adventure and brings new opportunities.  We testify that this is the Lord's Church, the Lord's work and the Lord's way.  Love to all and happy to be serving.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Village's First Internet Connection

Today, March 1, was a fantastic day!  It was a once in a lifetime day!

Wireless Internet Repeater
If you were to look at a map of Upolu, you would notice that "The Road" that circumnavigates the island quite nearly follows the coast line.  That is except for an area on the North East where the island's highest mountains slope quickly into the sea.  Although most of this coast is without beach, there are four remote areas where there is enough river delta to provide a spot for a village, and true to mans nature, a village exists in each of the four spots.

Saletele Chapel
For the last two days, we had been looking online at the operation (or lack thereof) of the internet firewalls in all the chapels on Upolu.  Our investigation revealed that the internet in three of the four chapels associated with these villages was not working.  Chris told us that one of these chapels needed a new firewall and one chapel had never had internet service as there was no service available that far in the bush.  However, he had been working with BlueSky and they had just installed a new internet repeater for the village and our chapel would be the first connection.  So, yesterday we activated two new firewalls - a royal pain at best - and today we took the drive to visit the other side of heaven.

Saletele Chapel - how fun it would be to sit in an open fale looking out over the ocean for sacrament meeting.  We went into the clerk's office to install the new firewall; but, there was literally only one electrical outlet so there was no plug available for the firewall.  This will require another trip with a larger power/surge protector strip!

Uafato Chapel (well, open air fale with a small clerk building and an outhouse).  This village is on the far east end of Upolu.  It is literally over the rivers and through the banana and coconut trees.  The mountains are very high on one side with dozens of long waterfalls cascading down through the lush green foliage and the ocean on the other side with waves lapping up onto the sandy beaches.  It is truly a beautiful setting.

As we arrived at the Uafato Chapel one of the BlueSky technicians was just installing the antenna on the roof of the fale and when the connection was completed, he launched and played a church video.  Rather amazing to witness the preaching of the gospel in this corner of the world taking a giant leap forward.  FYI the second use of the internet was an e-mail to the FM (Facilities Management) telling them to install a cabinet for the firewall, and to kill the hornets living under the eves of the Bishop's office.  (First world technology creates first world attitudes)

 Theron is standing on the front entrance of the church fale.  This is the chapel, Sunday School room, primary room and all other rooms other than the bishop's office which is visible above in front of the BlueSky truck.

The bishop (seated in the foreground) and two other brethren from the church were there observing the installation,  When everything was completed, they, in true Samoan style, set-up a meal of canned corned beef and boiled bananas for the installers. We declined their offering, hopefully without offending them.

To illustrate a little of the village life, as we were driving down the mountain, we saw this man husking coconuts using a stick, a little later he and his heavily laden horse came to their home next to the church.  As we were waiting for the installation to be finished, he brought over a coconut (niu) for us to drink.