Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Going Away Beach Party

All of the senior missionaries know how much we have enjoyed the beach time here in Samoa so for our going away party, they had a beach party.  We loaded up three vans and a couple of cars, tables, chairs, barbecued chicken, food and more food, the "hub grill" and all our snorkel gear and traveled to Vaovai Beach (better known by some as mermaid beach).

All the way there it rained, but no way were we going to let the rain ruin our party, we knew it would stop and it did about a half-hour after we arrived.  This is a beautiful spot for a beach party, there is a little cove to swim and snorkel then on the other side there is a huge sandy beach to walk, collect shells, and just enjoy the sun. Sister Best, who was born in Samoa, says she is grateful that we have shown her all of the beautiful areas of her island.

The water at the back of the cove was shallow and as you can see the sisters had a nice water chat.  We stayed init till we were all wrinkled - okay maybe we were that way when we got in.

 No one went hungry and everyone could enjoy something.

The day wasn't complete without Sister Ellsworth calling for a "roast" of the Schaefermeyers.  It was actually the most kind and loving funeral we have ever attended.  In all seriousness, we so thank all the senior missionaries for their kind compliments, well wishes and testimonies.  This is an awesome group of seniors.  Just so we can remember, I'm going to try and list each one and their assignments.

Elder and Sister Gillette - Vtep (vocational education at Pesega)
Elder and Sister Ellsworth - Mission Office and Finance
Elder and Sister Foley - Itep (instructor preparation professor) at Sauniatu
Elder and Sister Starke - Itep (instructor preparation professor) at Pesega
Elder and Sister Callahan - Itep (instructor preparation professor) at Vaiola
Elder and Sister Spencer - Dentist
Brother and Sister Davies - Dentist
Elder and Sister Best - Self-Reliance
Elder and Sister Vellinga - Humanitarian
Sister Anderson - Mission Office
Sister Barnes - Mission Nurse
Elder and Sister McBride - Mission Housing
Sister Hanamann - Mission Mom

It truly was a beautiful day with fantastic people, in a wonderful place, and a great way to begin our week of 'lasts' in Samoa.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Act of Love and Charity

We know that Lord has told us let not the right hand know what the left hand do, but we have to write about last experience.  We write not to brag or be puffed up in pride, but for us to remember the thoughts and feelings of our hearts.

We brought two laptops with us, one for each, because we don't know how to share.  Shanna's laptop's battery, about halfway through the mission, decided it couldn't hold a charge for more than a few miutes; so, we had to keep it plugged in.  We decided that she could have a new computer when we got home (a rather easy decision for us as our children will attest).  What to do with the old computer?  It was still a very good computer, so we decided to give it away.  As we thought about who to give it to, we asked some of the senior couples if they had someone, we considered someone in the ICS Department that we had worked with, and we started to think about people we had met.  After visiting President Kofe's humble home (see the climbing coconuts blog) and we have worked with him for several months, the decision just seemed right to give it to his family.

We began the preparation of the computer for his family.  We wanted to make it more than just a word processor, we wanted it to be an educational tool - carrying forward our mission theme- Using Technology to Bless the Lives of the Members.

We loaded tux math, typing tutor, a learning English program, the 200 gig of Church videos we had installed on all the unit computers, the gospel library, and left the Microsoft Office that was licensed to that machine.  We changed all the intro screens to read 'Kofe Family'.  We knew they didn't have internet service and probably never would, but we left Chrome so President Kofe could take it to the Stake Center from time to time and use it - hopefully for family history and his calling.

This is our last week in the mission and so we decided Tuesday would be the day.  We drove to Saleilua, the humble fale home of President Kofe, and he led us into the fale chapel that is in the front of their home.  When we told him what our visit was for, his eyes teared (now if you know anything about Samoan culture, they do not cry easily nor do men show this type of emotion) and he became speechless.  Our hearts were so touched we became emotional, also.  We could literally feel the love and appreciation.  His wife came in with two cups of cocoa Samoa for us and we pulled out a folding table and sat president and his wife and their six year old son down at chairs and proceeded to show them how to use the computer.

We started with the Church videos and Sister Kofe's eyes just lit up when we showed them the children videos.  President knew what a treasure these were because he had watched many of them on the stake computer.

We then went to tux math.  Now, this is a family who has never played a video game and that's the format of this math tutor program.  You shoot down the math combinations as they fall from the sky.  We opened the addition option and math problems started to fall, we showed them how to type the number and then press 'enter' to shoot.  President was rather slow at catching on, but Sister Kofe quickly took over and she was pressing numbers and shooting and just smiling from ear to ear!  Theron told president his dinner was going to be late from now on - she was hooked.  Such a simple program, but one she knows can be of benefit to teach her children!

For us this was such a simple thing to do; we truly have been given much.  Our hope is that for this family it will bless them, it will help with their education, it will assist them in strengthening their testimonies.  Charity is such a powerful tool to help overcome selfishness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's Great to be 8

Wow, it seems like only yesterday that Mason was crawling around, then he started to run, learn to ride a bike, started pre-school, and now, he's 8 years old.

What a wonderful little man you are Mason.  We love how you are so creative with your legos and working with your father.  We love that long time toothless smile.  We love how you are so kind to others.  We love that you are obedient (for the most part) with things your parents ask you to do.  We love that you have chosen to be baptized.  We love that you are the first Schaefermeyer namesake grandson.  We are so proud of you.

The scout uniform is our traditional 8 year old birthday gift and how handsome you look wearing your uniform.  Scouting is a great program; learn lots and have fun participating in all the activities.

Happy 8th Birthday Mason!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We'll be home in time to see you baptized.  Wow!  What a great time to be 8 years old!!!

Grandma and Grandpa Schaefermeyer

Friday, September 16, 2016

Climbing a Coconut Tree

When you say 'stake president' there is an image that is conjured up in your mind - well at least in my mind - of a mature man dressed in a suit and tie.  We have met a lot of stake presidents in our time and in various places and the majority of them are the traditional type as I described.

Now, envision a stake president who lives in a small, remote village in the hills of Samoa.  His home is a lean-to on the back of a fale with only one electrical outlet in the traditional family gathering room.  His wife cooks in a umu (outdoor cook shack) and the kitchen sink is mounted on four wood poles and braced with a few sticks of wood plank and is located outside, about 40 feet from the living quarters, with a loose stone floor.  The open fale area in the front of the home has been set aside as a chapel for the branch  to have Sunday meetings.  He farms for a living growing taro, bananas, and coconuts.  He's well over six feet tall, solidly built, and most importantly, he has a smile and a warm  handshake whenever you meet him.  This is a truly remarkable stake president -- meet President Kofe of the Upolu Samoa Saleilua Stake.

We met him about five months ago during our technology training for his stake, we promised him that within the next few months we would be installing all new computer throughout his stake - as his was one of the only stakes that did not receive even one of the last installments of new computers.  We fulfilled our promise and today, September 14, we installed the last new computer in Vaovai Ward.

The Vaovai Ward also meets in an open fale, for now, because their building is being remodeled to become the new Saleilua Stake Center.  The clerk and bishop cannot use the office because of the construction and so the clerk takes the computer to his home during the week.  We didn't know where he lived, so President Kofe had us drive to his house, pick him up, drive him to the clerk's home and then to the stake center.  You have to realize, President Kofe doesn't have a car, he lives about a mile up a dirt road in a little village, and his home is 4 villages away (maybe 10 miles) from the current stake center.  So, we have no problem in providing transportation to have him assist us.  Since he is a farmer he can leave his work to go and help anytime he is needed.

That said, we took the data from the old computer, put it on the new computer, showed the clerk all the new programs and features and then drove President Kofe back to his home.  On the way, Elder Schaefermeyer started to ask lots of questions about Samoan life, his farm and what he grows and if he could climb a coconut tree.  President smiled and said yes; okay, he was on the hook to prove it.

When we arrived at his home, he changed his shirt (from a clean yellow one to a less clean purple one), grabbed a long rag from a little pile of dirty clothes and we trekked along the muddy path, through the weeds to the right coconut tree.  He tightened his lavalava around his waist, wrapped the cloth around his feet, grabbed onto the tree, gave a short hop and up he went.  The tree he chose to climb was among some of the tallest we have seen and when he reached the top, down came several coconuts which his kids gathered up.  His 15 year old son, found a stick (about 3 feet long) shoved one end in the ground, cut the top of the stick to a 45 degree angle, and started to husk the coconuts.  I had to divert my eyes as the President shimmied down the tree in his lavalava as there are parts of a stake president I didn't want to see.  It was definitely exercise and he beamed with pride that he could still do this; he commented that it had been about a year since he had climbed a tree.  He has children for that now.

Elder Schaefermeyer had to try his hand at husking the coconut.  We would starve if we had to live like this.  Not only can't Theron climb the tree, he can't even get the husk down to the point of where you can cut the top off and drink it.

All was done is the spirit of fun, friendship, and with a lot of frivolity.  We went away with a great appreciation for President Kofe, his family and his circumstances.  What humble leaders we have in the Church and it just goes to show the Lord doesn't look on your livelihood or circumstances; if you have what the Lord needs, you are called to the work.

Thank you for your example President Kofe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top 10 Things We Will NOT Miss About Samoa

When you make a list of all the things you will miss; you have to also make a list of all the things you will NOT miss.  There has to be opposition in all things.  Now presenting - The top 10 things we will NOT miss about Samoa:

#10 - We will not miss "metered internet" - The Church buys 2 Tb of data for all Church use (meetinghouses, family history centers, Temple, PBO service center, 3 schools, self-reliance and senior missionaries).  For example, each ward is allowed 7 Gb, each stake is allowed 14 Gb, we are allowed 7 Gb.  Now, you may think this is fine, but on a good month it keeps us going for about two weeks and that's without any FaceTime with the kids.

#9 - We will not miss "shopping in hot stores, especially grocery stores" - There is no air conditioning in stores and from the minute you walk in until you leave, you sweat!  I kind of know where the things are that I need to buy and so you quickly go get what you need and leave.  That is until you have to search for something you found last time you were there and have to ask a clerk to get the answer "finished".  Meaning no more until the ship comes in and then it's a maybe.

#8 - We will not miss "raised crosswalks" - We just get up to speed (or slightly over)and then there's a raised crosswalk so we have to slow down.  Now we are only going about 25 miles an hour, but if you hit these too hard you get thrown all over and it puts your head on the ceiling and your butt lands ever so roughly back into the seat.

#7 - We will not miss the "5:30 a.m. rooster alarm" - Enough said.  In Jamaica I asked for a BB-gun; here I've really wanted one, also.  Dang rooster!

#6 - We will not miss "all night dog barking parties" - Starting about 10 p.m. the dogs form into gangs and go looking for a female dog in heat.  When they find one it's a barking, howling, fighting good time- for them.  For us, it's hide your head under your pillow time.  Along with this, just dogs in general.  Most of the dogs are strays, under-nourished, mean and just plain everywhere you walk, drive, eat, and live.

#5 - We will not miss "gecko poop" - In every clerk office on every island there is a resident gecko. They seem to like the additional warmth inside our internet cabinets in the clerk's offices.  There have been so many times that we open the clerk office door and the gecko falls down in front of you - scares you out of your lavalava!  Then we have to test the printer and scoop gecko poop off the sheets of paper before letting it prints a page.  After each office visit we use a 'Handiwipe' or two.  Not going to miss these fellows one bit.

#4 - We will not miss "dealing in cash" - Our VISA card gets used about three times a month when we go to the ATM.  We are restricted to a cash withdrawal of $1200 tala (about $480 USD); the service fee for Samoa is $15 tala and the service fee for foreign currency exchange is $1.50 USD.  However, the ATM usually gives us $100 tala bills, which no one except the hot grocery store can change.  What we really need are $10 tala bills; everything around here when you ask the price is $10 tala - beach parking because the family owns the beach, a pumpkin (squash), a lavalava from a street vendor, etc.  Wow, looking forward to third-degree plastic burn, my hands are healed.

#3 - We will not miss "driving 25 mph" - Give us a good old freeway, 80 mph, and we will be in heaven.  As I said in #8, you just get up to speed and then you slow down for the raised crosswalk or a pig, or chicken.  One day we decided to keep track of how far we drove.  We were going from Apia to the East side of the island.  Total miles driven about 40, total hours of driving time about 6 hours.  No one builds up enough speed to get rid of the carbon in the engine - we breath all that when the bus in front of us backfires.

#2 - We will not miss "filthy, cluttered clerk offices" - This is where we do a lot of our work on a daily basis.  We work among the collections of 1995 Relief Society manuals and every other year in between for every other organization, the chapel keyboard, the sacrament cloth and trays, at least 2 suit coats (they leave them here and wear them on Sunday - it doesn't matter whether you wear a blue ea and a black suit coat or a green ea and a dark blue coat), soggy paper, donation receipts from who-knows-how long ago, membership record printouts, some left-over food or bags of welfare food from time to time - large bags of rice, garbage, ants, fleas, and termite dust.  Sometimes I just want a good scoop shovel.  Last week we installed a new computer in a clerk office and the clerk was there.  I disassembled the old one and took it off the desk; then I told the clerk to go get a wet and dry paper towel.  He looked at me like - what?  I then said I clean off the desk before I put the new computer back on.  He caught on, got the paper towel, held the cardboard box garbage container for me to scrape the gecko poop into and then he (on his own) went and retrieved a broom and swept the floor.  Oh, how I wanted to get a big garbage container and show him where he could really put all the other things in the office.

Now, the #1 thing we will not miss is "Taxis" - I'm going to let Theron write this one.  I have heard 17 months of how he hates taxis!  It's not good listening material.  Here you go Theron -

I've traveled in 50-60 countries in this world and have ridden in quite a few taxis.  I've been tailgated by taxis, passed by taxis, and intimidated by taxis.  I've seen my wife terrified by the speed and daring exhibited by taxi drivers getting us to our destination.  I've followed taxis as they have helped to move the traffic out of my way as I hurried to many airports. . . . .  but not it Samoa.

In Samoa, taxis have an entirely different mindset - a mindset that is not just indicative of the relaxed tempo of life on a Pacific island, but its basis!  Taxis in Samoa travel VERY slowly down the road when they are empty as they are looking for a prospective passenger.  Okay, maybe I can understand this as it saves them in fuel, and you wouldn't want them to miss a fare.  But the problem is that when they have a fare they travel just as slowly IF NOT SLOWER!  This would make sense if they charged by the amount of time customers spent in the taxi, but they don't, they charge by the mile or kilometer!

Okay, maybe they try to give the customer the smoothest ride possible.  However, those bumps and dips in the road seem a lot smoother when I travel fast enough to let the car's suspension do its job.  The only other rationale I can come up with is, "its a conspiracy against me".  I don't buy into many conspiracy theories but I have no other explanation for their behavior.  I know as soon as I leave the island the taxi drivers will align with the rest of the world's liverymen and drive like mad, or at lease like any self respective taxi should.

More Things We Are Going to Miss in Samoa

As we sit to write some "lasts" and reflect on other things we will miss, we begin to reflect on what a great experience this has been and what lasting memories we have made.  When we first arrived 17 months 1 week ago, we met Elder and Sister Jacobs who saved us.  They could laugh and they understood Theron's humor.  Thank you Jacobs, we love you.  Then Elder and Sister Gillette arrived and we were able to show them a little of the routine and we have now served with them 16 months (give or take a few days).  We love the Gillettes and hope to be able to see the Idaho farm up close and personal one of these days.  Shortly after this, Elder and Sister Ellsworth arrived to take over the mission office duties.  Sister Ellsworth is in command and that is exactly what is needed when running this mission office.  Elder Ellsworth has just learned a new skill - making neckties - we love you Ellsworths.

There are other senior couples who have come and gone, but these are dear to our hearts and seem more like kindred spirits.  No matter where we have served, we are always impressed with the senior couples who come to serve.  They have so many skills, lifetime experiences and love of the Lord; we will miss all the senior missionaries.

I'm trying to use the last of the food supply in the refrigerator and freezer, so I probably won't be going to Lucky's and King Arthur's again.  Meal planning will consist of eating out the last couple of weeks and just grabbing some leftover thing in the refrigerator.  We will always need a fresh loaf of bread and perhaps another jar of peanut butter, but for the most part, we are finished buying groceries.

We will still buy our fresh niu to drink each day (that's young coconuts).  Stella's stand will be one of the last places we will visit on our last day, September 30.

I have always loved buying fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside stands and especially Taufusi Market's drive through vegetable stand.  We will have to go back one last time for some misiliki - the small bananas that are sooooooooooo goooooood.  I am truly going to miss these!!!!

Right now is mango season so we will be buying fresh mango and if we can spot one or two we may buy a fresh pineapple that vine ripened.  None of that stuff you import green and wait to ripen.

We were able to see the Brookie, Jesse and Lauren today sitting in their new high chairs.

 We also saw Kacy today and she had food all over her face.  Tyce was a chatterbox with new glasses that are brown instead of blue;
Ali was in a happy mood because of the birds on the patio and she has started Kindergarten; and Mason just turned 8 years old.
So with all the good stuff that is here and all around us, I'm not going to miss watching these kids grow up through FaceTime.
Just three more weeks and we'll be home to see them in person and share pictures and stories of our time here and the things we miss about Samoa.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Things We Are Going To Miss In Samoa

Missions are as much about making memories and living among different cultures as they are about doing the Lord's work.  Some of our favorite memories and things we are going to miss:

Flowers - Every day there is a new tree blossoming or a new shrub that blooms.  There are red flowers, orange flowers, white flowers, purple flowers.  There are large blooming flowers and small intricate ones.  They are everywhere.  Each Sunday someone signs up to bring the flowers for the pulpit and we are in awe at how beautiful these floral arrangements are and how they invite the spirit to the meeting.  Women stop along the side of the street and pick a flower from the tree and put it in their hair.  The contrast of the flower's color against their black hair is such a wonderful site.

Beaches/Snorkeling - Almost every weekend we have been able to travel to a beach and enjoy snorkeling.  Our favorite spot is Clam Beach in Savaia where we swim, sometimes with a turtle, and float over the giant clams and enjoy their beauty.  Other favorites are Nu'umau, Sanddollar, Saleloga Sands, To Sua Trench, and Palolo Deep.  Theron and I have both been amazed at how comfortable I am snorkeling.  It actually has been soothing to the soul to float in the water and observe fish, turtles, clams, octopus (only Theron), star fish, sea cucumbers, coral and all kinds of other under-the-sea critters.  We will miss these weekend activities.  We have posted lots of pictures of us snorkeling.

Elder Schaefermeyer wearing his 'ie' (pronounced e-a) - He looks so Samoan in his skirt or 'ie Faitaga' which directly translated means, "cloth with pockets".  This is traditional clothing for men and all the men wear these rather than shorts or long pants.

Sandals and Flip-Flops - Neither Theron nor I have had a pair of 'complete closed-in toe' shoes on or socks for as long as we have been here.  Theron often tells me that it feels weird to go into the Temple wearing sandals and have to put on socks and shoes.

Kids in school uniforms - Every school has school colors and the student uniforms - dresses for the girls and lava-lava and matching shirt for the boys - are what is required.  We see blue and white, red and white, blue and gold/yellow, pink and green, gray and white, and others each school day.  There is no fashion statement to be made here; every student complies with the school dress code and colors.  We are going to miss seeing these students each day as they happily play and live.  Where life isn't about the latest shoe fashion, pant or short fashion and definitely not about skinny jeans, faded jeans or whatever is in today.

Seat belts and car seats don't matter - I remember the time when our kids were free in the car to jump over seats, run around, pick up their own bottles and stick their heads and hands out the windows.  The times when we could jump in the back of a pick-up truck and load up the neighborhood to go to the ball game or just enjoy a ride.  Well, Samoans can still do this.  We love to see whole families sitting in the back of the pickup truck traveling to Church or kids sitting on a parent's lap in the front seat.

Cars adorned with multi-color flashing lights - When we drive at night we love to see the color changing LED lights illuminating the wheels of some of the cars.  There are quite a few with flashing LEDs along the bottom of the car that change colors.  Some have lights of different colors on their front bumpers.  Denzil would love to live here so he could have lights galore all over his car and truck.  We also can't forget the buses of multi-colors and varying capacities!

Watching neighborhoods outside playing rugby, volleyball, soccer or cricket!  This is amazing.  Where our neighborhoods go inside and keep to themselves, the Samoan families come outside and organize a sporting event of some kind nearly every evening except Sunday.  Many times the women will be sitting on the ground weaving mats and baskets and the little kids will be watching and even playing in the same game with the older kids or adults.  Life is happening here-outside.

The 'no tipping' policy - How I love that everything - taxes, cost, and service fees - are all figured into the price.

Different shades of blue and green of the ocean - As we drive each day, we pass some part of the ocean, after all this is an island.  Depending on the color of the sky and the sunlight upon the water, we see varying hues of green, turquoise, brillant blue, subdued bluegray, white, and a myriad of other colors blending together.  We will miss these scenes.

The Samoan People - these are
generous, loving and happy people.  One day I was watching a woman teach her pre-school and on the table was a bag of mangos.  I asked where she had gotten these because mango season was just starting and we hadn't found any for sale yet.  Without hesitation, she handed me the bag and said you have these.  I declined and told her we would continue to look for some in the market (which many times hurt their feelings) and just a half-hour later saw her cutting these same mangos into pieces to feed to the preschool children for their lunch.  She was willing to give me their lunch.  During our time here we have learned not to admire something too long because they will end want to give it to you.  Yes, we will definitely miss the people the most!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Gilligan's Island Samoa Style

What do you get when you put two dentists, a retired university professor, a CPA, a civil engineer, several teachers, a former mayor, McGyver, a welder, an accountant, a former secretary, some self-reliance folks and a former softball player together on one small island?

Sixteen senior missionaries on a tropical adventure and a good time that is had by all.

From our first trip around the island 16 months ago, we have had the desire to stay over night on Namau Island.  This is a small private island on the far southeast corner of the Upolu.  There is a pristine sandy beach, beach fales and beautiful island greenery.  We put the word out to the senior missionaries that we were making the trip on Friday, August 25.  We thought maybe one or two couples would attend, but low and behold we had all but three senior couples.  Trips like this always require a happy, adventurous look before and then the okay it's time to go home look after.  Here we are -- rip roaring ready to go.
I should also mention that senior missionaries (probably old people in general) over pack.   Total trip time was to leave Apia at 8:30 a.m., drive about 2 hours to the boat dock, take a 20-30 minute boat ride to the island, get situated into our fales, eat lunch, play games, snorkel hike, eat dinner, have a bonfire, sing, talk, sleep, have breakfast, snorkel, pack up, have lunch, and leave.  In other words, a simple overnight stay.  You can see by the trunks that we had much more clothing and supplies than we really needed.

Because we had so much stuff and so many people, the boat had to make three trips.  And, as you can see, it's not a very big boat.  But lots of fun since we all got to see several large turtles swimming around on the ride over.

Living and sleeping accommodations were beach fales (fall-ees), a 4-inch foam mat and a mosquito net.  There is no electricity on the island.  All meals are prepared by the family that owns the island.  One whole night without electronics - we survived.  Theron supercharged the drone to make sure he could get a little flying time in.

It really is quiet and enough space for everyone to spread out and do their own thing.  Elder Vellinga pulled up a beach chair and was content to read a book, some of the guys hiked to the top of the hill to look at the fruit bats and the cliffs on the other side of the island, others of us took a little afternoon nap and played a few games of cards.  Now, this is the way life is supposed to be.
This picture is a view of the shore and our Upolu East Stake Center that is right across the bay from Namau.  Below, Theron is tree hugging in front of our fale.

These views are from the top of the hill looking out over the ocean.
Caught a Fruit Bat / Flying Fox out during the day.
This little star fish are found all over the islands.  They are blue and look like they are made from rubber.  Notice the water is so clear and shallow in spots that you can just go around snapping pictures!

Rusty and Cindy Gillette found a nice log to just relax.  This is a long way from Idaho, but it's what they do almost every weekend.
Now this was fun to have a bonfire on the beach.  We brought some marshmallows, Hershey bars, graham crackers and a ukulele.  Well, it was a great bonfire, but I smelled like smoke all night long!
Isn't this idyllic?  Just a relaxing time to walk on the beach, talk with friends and enjoy nature.  We didn't even need the Captain or Gilligan to help us settle in.  However, if we do this again, I will make sure that our fale is not under a coconut tree.  The wind blew most of the night and the palm fronds drug back and forth across the fale roof all night long.

This one is now off the bucket list!  The list is getting smaller as our time grows shorter.