Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog #13 – November 6, 2010

Hi everybody. I had the text of most of this blog completed when I sent Blog #12, but when I realized how much time would be taken up to add all the pictures I had ready, I decided to split the blog up a little and send the second part of that blog a little later,a part of which you are getting now as Blog #13. I say 'part' because it was still too long with all of the pictures. I'm learning more and more what my limitations are where this laptop is concerned and so, for your sake and mine, the blog entries must be shorter each time. Good News, Right?????

While we were working last month in Saasa’ai we had the opportunity to attend the local primary Halloween party. Now, they don’t really celebrate Halloween much in Samoa, but I appears to be catching on a little. Tasi Segi, a ward missionary in that ward, introduced us to her sister who is the primary president. They had scheduled a Halloween party, but she didn’t know anything about Halloween and asked us for some information about how it is celebrated in America. We happened to have our photo calendar in the car where we have a photo of several of the grandkids dressed up for Halloween several years ago. We showed her the picture of how they all get dressed up in costumes and go trick or treating. She couldn’t understand what we meant by “trick or treat”, so we explained how the kids go from door to door in their costumes and get treats. The “trick” part of the phrase is an old practice from decades ago where the kids would create mischief if they didn’t get the treat. I explained that it’s been decades since any tricks have been played, because most everyone gives a treat. The trick or treating would not be a realistic activity here in the village neighborhoods, so we explained how the wards back home would have trunk or treat, or other activities at the church. Sooooo…. we went to this party and they did a pretty good job of trying out Halloween for the first time. Some of the costumes were nothing more than a painted face, because they understood that the church doesn’t encourage masked parties.
In order to simulate the door to door trick or treating, they set up booths all over different parts of the church grounds and the kids visited each one, carrying their universal plastic grocery bags, and collected treats from each booth.

These are some of the costumes that showed up that night.

This was my personal favorite—several adults dressed up as Mormon Missionaries, complete with their own missionary tags from previous missions.

These two pictures are of Tasi with several of her nieces and cousins. Tasi is one of about 10 children, and her mother is one of 16, so she has relatives absolutely everywhere. The party was a great success and I’m guessing there’ll be more and bigger Halloween celebrations as the years go by and the stores discover how to merchandise all the candy and costumes. We see none of it at this point.

We had another treat this past weekend and went back up to Visaula for some more snorkeling with Elder and Sister Squire. They had come over from Pesega for some special classes at Vaiola and had to stay over until Monday, so we all left Friday afternoon and came back Saturday afternoon. It turned out to be cold and rainy on Friday and also Saturday morning. Sister Squire ended up being a little under the weather, so she stayed in on Friday, and when I started into the water, I decided to be lazy myself. The guys went ahead and braved the elements without us. I went back to our room, grabbed my book and perused it until I closed my eyes and had a lovely little snooze (what could be better?), until John came back a couple of hours later shivering like crazy. He jumped into the shower, which turned out not to be very hot because the water is heated by the sun and we didn’t see the sun that day. We spent some time that afternoon playing some games with the Squires, then went over to the dining room for a leisurely dinner before we all turned in for the night. We planned to get up early to catch the low tide, but when we looked out on our balcony, we saw the Squires on their adjoining balcony taking pictures of several boats circling around out by the reef. We had heard that the palolo were running this week, and these folks had been out catching them all night long with flashlights and lanterns. (John explains that Palolo is a worm-shaped reproductive segment of an annelid or sea worm. It is greenish-brown, worm-like, about 2 inches long and about the thickness of Raman noodles. Once a year, around the end of October or the first of November, and corresponding to a full moon, these reproductive segments come to the surface of the water out near the reef. They are highly sought for, and quite a delicacy.) John has eaten them before and quite liked them, saying they are about like the taste of caviar. Right now I really am just going to have to take his word for it, because they don’t sound that appetizing to me. The people go out with all kinds of fine nets, almost like butterfly nets and scoop them up from the sea and collect them in all sorts of containers. I raced back in to find my camera, but by the time I got dressed and went out onto the balcony, all the boats had come back in and the people were unloading and coming back to the hotel. John hurried down to try to get some pictures of their catch and after seeing the pictures, I was pretty sure that I’d pass on eating the palolo this time around.

This first picture is of the bigger boat owned by the hotel, unloading several guests who had come to Visaula especially for the palolo run. In the second photo, John was able to catch a picture of one batch of the squirmy worms collected in a garbage bag by one of the guests. Ugh!!! When I thought of having to go out there snorkeling with all of them swimming around, I was ready to stay back, but it turns out they are completely gone by daylight and won’t come out again until after dark. Considerate of them, I’d say. We did go ahead and go snorkeling for awhile, but it was still cold and stormy and we didn’t last long. We came on in for a yummy breakfast and just about the time we finished, the sun decided to make an appearance, so we asked if we could stay beyond checkout time to do some more snorkeling. The owners were not expecting any new guests that afternoon, so they told us to take all the time we needed. We had a wonderful time. Besides being warmer with the sun out, it kind of sparkles under the water and you can see so much more color. Since we’ve gone snorkeling with the Squires, we’ve learned that half the fun is the hunt for shells and diving for them. I haven’t had the nerve to do much diving at all, because it means taking a big breath and diving under, while your snorkel tube fills up with water; then when you come back up you have to blow hard to get all the water out in order to take another breath. I watched John do a lot of dives and he found some really nice shells. I decided that I wanted to try it, so I stopped in some shallow water and practiced a few times, getting two or three good mouths full of sea water before I finally got the knack of it. On my first real dive for a shell, I had a hard time staying under, because quite frankly, in spite of a pretty good weight loss this year, I still have plenty of blubber on me that keeps me afloat. After working really hard I was able to make it to the bottom, only 6 or 7 feet down, collect a shell and make it back to the top without a big gulp of water. The shell was a small, very common one, but I was really proud of myself for actually doing it and it certainly added to the fun and excitement. I had to keep that silly little shell because it was my first dive success. We collected several other shells and finally had to bring them back in because we had no more pockets, etc. to carry them in. After we unloaded, we went back out again until we just wore ourselves out. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable times we’ve had snorkeling and look forward to our next shot at it. The Squires are expert snorkelers and they also take lots of underwater pictures. When we saw their photos, we really got the bug to get an underwater camera and try to take our own pictures. We may do that for ourselves for Christmas this year. In the mean time, we thought we’d include a few of the Squire’s underwater pictures just to give you an idea of what we’re seeing down there. Let me tell you, if you get to the ocean somewhere and don’t get a chance to even do some simple snorkeling, you’ll have missed most of the beauty of that venue.

When we left Vaisala on Saturday afternoon, we decided to go home around the opposite way from where we came. We came around the island counter-clockwise, and could have gone back the same way, but we decided to go the other way just to see some different scenery. Visaula is far enough around that it’s about the same distance both ways. As we were getting close to home, we told the Squires about a tapa cloth demonstration we had seen a couple of months ago, at a fale up ahead a short distance. They are leaving to go back home this month and this is their last trip to Savaii, so they asked if we’d mind arranging for them to see the demonstration. We had made a reservation before when we brought another couple, so I was glad for the chance to see it again and take photos. We stopped at the fale and asked if it would be possible to see a demonstration that day. The lady said that if we didn’t mind waiting 5 or 10 minutes while they gathered everything up, they’d be glad to oblige us. The making of tapa cloth is becoming almost a lost art, because most of the younger generation are not interested in taking so much time and trouble to create a project. There are apparently only about 3 families left on Savaii who make tapa cloth anymore and this family so far seems to be able to keep their younger generations interested.

JOHN: In our visits we have met some interesting and unusual people. We always go out to meet families initially using a ward mission leader or some other church member to show us where to go. There are no street names or address numbers. Many families will contain a father, mother, their children, grand parents, cousins, etc, all living in the same house. One woman, Flo, has taken on the responsibility of taking care of a severely handicapped 30 year-old niece who can only lie on her back and be spoon-fed all of her meals. She can’t talk, sit or stand due to severe contractures of her joints. She is probably mentally retarded as well. Another 7-year-old girl has been ‘p[ taken in as a daughter because her real mother tried to take some kind of drugs to abort her, and thought she would also be born like the other handicapped girl. She, however, is quite normal, and, in fact, is very precocious. If this isn’t enough, Flo also takes care of her aged mother who is wheelchair-bound. Flo has been coming out to church again. She speaks good English and loves to talk. Our first visit lasted 5 hours.

We stopped in for another short visit yesterday and ended up staying about 3 hours, after she had fed us several kinds of snacks and then prepared a full meal for us of fish and chips, chicken soup, taro and bananas, soda pop. She kept sending her girls out to buy more stuff at the store. We certainly were filled up and ended up having just fruit and mixed nuts for dinner that night. We’ll be going back tonight to take her a pumpkin pie and the recipe. She has a baking business that she’s trying to expand into a fish and chips place and thought pumpkin pie sounded pretty good to add to here menu.

Others we have visited have had their feelings hurt by a church member, or they have stopped keeping the commandments and have fallen out of the habit of going to church. We are sure that some of them don’t tell us the real reasons. Undoubtedly there are some who don’t want to pay tithing, others who live far from the church and don’t want to walk that far, etc, etc.. We are offered Samoan cocoa practically every where we go. We usually eat Sunday dinner with a member family, and eat a lot of taro, palusami, chicken soup, fish (speared, baked whole), papaya, and lobster and crab on special occasions.

Last week we met a woman who is not a member, but now wants to be baptized, along with her whole family. The Elders are now giving them the lessons. She told us her church has levied an assessment on each family of $5000, 30 pigs, and 24 cases of canned meat for the building of their new church down on the coast. If they don’t come through with the assessment, they will not be allowed to worship at that church. She was impressed that we would eat the same food as her family ate. She said her pastor would turn his nose up at that food because it wasn’t good enough for him. She was also very impressed with our tithing doctrine and our unpaid ministry. I explained that our church leaders don’t get paid one cent for their service, and that they all have to support themselves. Other churches here supply their ministers with a salary, all their food, sometimes a car and a house – all at the expense of the members. I pointed out that that was not in accordance with Christ’s teachings, because Peter and his fellow apostles continued to work as fishermen while serving, and Paul continued to work as a tent-maker while serving as an apostle. Anyway, I’m sure that family will soon be baptized. Our mission gets about 130 baptisms each month, and leads the Pacific area in baptisms. I told Karen she could edit my entry if she wanted to, and you will know she didn’t if the following statement remains: Karen is a dingbat.

KAREN: Ha! I added a couple of things anyway and everybody already knows that I’m a dingbat, so that’s not big news to anyone.

Recently one of our elders, Elder Beck, called us to tell us about an injury on his hand that appeared to be getting badly infected, with red lines running up his arm. John told him to go straight to the hospital and they surprised him by admitting him immediately and starting him on intravenous antibiotics. He had been putting a shirt on and put his hands above his head and was smacked by the metal blades of the ceiling fan. He and his companion, Elder Wells, had to stay at the hospital for three days, until the treatments were finished. They had not a chance to get back to their fale to even get clean clothes, or shaving stuff, etc. We visited them the second day and found them pretty discouraged, just sitting there all day and night. In Samoa, you have to take your own bedding to the hospital, supply your own food and have a member of the family stay with you 24/7 because of a nursing shortage. Because companions cannot be separated, Elder Wells had to stay as the family member. The local ward provided them with bedding and a mat so Elder Wells could sleep on the floor in Elder Beck’s cubicle. The ward also provided meals for them. We had thought we could pick them up and take them home that second day, but the doctor wanted more treatments, so we had to come back the next morning. They were both chomping at the bit to get out of there so that they could get clean clothes, a shower, and a shave. They had pretty good 5:00 o’clock shadows by then. It took most of the morning to finish the last treatment, and their whole zone of elders came in while we were there waiting and sang to them and had a prayer. The hospital was pretty clean, but very sparsely furnished. Each cubicle had a bed and a bench. Elder Beck’s intravenous bottle was hanging from a home made wooden stand about 6 ft tall, with a cross board at the top with holes drilled in it to hold the bottles of fluid with a wire. It was almost noon before they were ready to go and they were really ready. These are some of the pictures we took while we were waiting for them.

I got Elder Beck’s family’s email address and sent them a note and copies of the pictures. I got the pictures in the message in the wrong order, and apologized that I was a 72-year-old senior missionary, who is still pretty computer illiterate, and said I was thankful that the pictures ended up in the message at all. We got a copy of a note his family sent as they forwarded the pictures to other family members and commented about the sweet little old 72-yr-old grandma who had sent the pictures. We got a big laugh out of that. I may be a 72-year-old grandma, but sweet and little??? That just doesn’t seem to fit a true description of me.

These are pictures we took of our second adventure making pizza. Elder Uelese, who was the zone leader and getting ready to go home, said he’d heard I’d made pizza for the last zone leader who went home and suggested he’d love to have some. So we invited him, and his companion and any others they wanted to bring along to have pizza the following Saturday. We got a picture of the pizzas this time and I’ll admit they look pretty strange. The cheese we can get here hardly melts at all, so the pizza looks a little blotchy. I was so excited to find pepperoni over in Apia last trip, so these pizza’s were better than the others. We have no such thing as a pizza pan around here, so I found these funny shaped aluminum trays at the grocery store that looked like they would fit in our little oven, so we bought 4 of them and they’ve worked out pretty well. I cover them with foil, so they don’t get burned on food on them and will plan to use them over and over. We had to flatten them out a little, because they were shaped like a serving tray with a ridge in around the middle, but John just took the hammer and smashed them all pretty flat and once they’re covered with foil they don’t look quite so beat up. The picture of Elder Uelese sitting at the serving table with the pizza in front of him, is exactly where he sat the rest of the evening. I had intended to use our little table as a buffet and just planned to have them load their plates and sit around the living room with drinks on a little table in the center. Elder Uelese just decided to stay by the Pizza and I think must have eaten almost two of them (I made four) by himself. The other 5 of us ate the other two, plus a couple of pieces. This particular elder is a very handsome fellow, but I’m sure he’s put on about 50 pounds since he got here and I hope he can take some back off when he gets home. He’s actually a law enforcement officer who was in great shape when he came and is expecting to go back to work on the police force in Hawaii. I’ve a feeling they’ll crack down on his weight once he’s back. He’s a great elder though, and is several years older then most of the others. He just felt a strong desire to get more school under his belt before his mission, so he almost finished a masters degree in Criminal Justice, but just couldn’t pass the final test two different times, missing the passing level by only 1 or 2 points both times. His father, who had been encouraging him to go on a mission for several years, told him he’d be sorry if he waited too long. He jokingly said his father must have put a curse on his exams, and figured he’d probably never pass until after he’d served his mission. He was so reluctant to go on a mission for so many years, but now he doesn’t want to go home. He’s extended twice for a month each time and asked the President to extend again, but was told that it was probably time for him to get home and move along with his life. As with the other missionaries we’ve watched go home, we’ll really miss him too.
This a photo we took of our good friend Tasi Segi, (see pictures early in this blog in Halloween paragraphs) with her “friend” as she calls him that she is planning to marry next summer. They are engaged, but like most Samoan couples there is very little demonstrative romantic behavior between them in public. She met him just as he came home from his mission and he became interested in her right away. Because she was planning on a mission herself, she didn’t want to get too serious with anyone yet. She did really like him, but had very strong feelings about her own mission. He told her he’d just wait, because he really intended to marry her someday. Once she finally got her call to the Independence, Missouri, mission, he supported her completely and wrote her faithfully every month, even though she didn’t write to him a lot, because she was trying to focus on her mission. She was amazed that he was still waiting here in Samoa when she got home and hadn’t changed his mind at all. She was able to relax now that she was finally home and allowed him to come around a lot and spend time with her and her family. She’s totally committed now, but he works over in Apia and she’s not ready to think of moving there just yet, so they trade weekends and visit each other. Each time she goes over to Apia, she stays a little longer with her cousin because she doesn’t want to be separated from her “boyfriend” or “Fiancee” or friend as she calls him. I’ve a feeling the wedding will be sooner than next summer. Tasi has been a great help to us visiting inactive members of her ward, where she is serving as a ward missionary. Because of her American mission, she speaks great English, so we’re able to go on splits with her and the ward mission leader. We’ve become great friends and we really miss seeing her so much now that we’re working in another ward. The day we took this picture of them there was an outing at the beach for the local YSA, Young Single Adults, where they swam, played volleyball and had a wonderful feast of barbequed chicken and all the trimmings.

The elders are always invited to the YSA activities on Saturday, even though they can’t swim. This was the same day we brought Elder Beck home from the hospital. We had wanted to stop on the way and meet Tasi’s intended and the elders decided to stay after seeing the food and games. The other local elders were there too, so we turned our hospital veterans over to them to enjoy the food and volleyball and association with the Samoans so near their own age. It was a nice change for them after those three days cooped up in the hospital, and we were freed from having to take them all the way home, so we were able to go home and get caught up on some of our fun Saturday stuff, like laundry, shopping, housecleaning, etc.

Our trip over to Pesega for the Thanksgiving celebration was a really fun weekend. We started off on the early ferry on Saturday morning, arriving on Upolo about 9:30. We were scheduled to meet up with some other couples at a beach on the back side of the island, Return to Paradise Beach (named after the movie that was made there back in the 50’s with Gary Cooper). The route from the wharf to the back side of Upolo is much different from the one we usually take into Apia, and much more picturesque, because there are just small villages over there separated by larger open areas of bush or beach or mountains. One of the rivers we had to cross had no bridge, just a ford. We see these quite often in Samoa where the stream of water just crosses a concrete roadway where the cars just go through the water to the other side, maybe 8-10” deep.

This first picture was taken as the car was getting ready to cross the ford. The other two were taken from the inside of the car halfway across, looking upstream and downstream. This ford is under water almost all of the time, but there are several others on the islands that only have water crossing them during a severe rain storm, which we experienced the first couple of months we were here during the rainy season, and will start happening again as soon as the rainy season comes upon us in January. Last year, we came up behind a line of cars stopped at a ford because the water was moving too fast and deep for cars to safely make it across. Sooooo…, you just wait until the water subsides and it’s safe to start across, sometimes ten minutes, sometimes an hour. You can’t just go around another way because there is usually no other way. We hit a ford once just down below Vaiola, and decided we’d just go around the back way and miss the ford, and found there was another ford on that road too, same stream of water, just down the canyon lower. We’ve learned our lesson about just being patient and waiting.

Once we had arrived at the beach, we met the other missionaries and had a wonderful barbeque with charcoal broiled hamburgers and Polish sausages and all the trimmings. It was a cool, rainy day, so only a few of the guys went snorkeling and the rest of us stayed up on the beach and just spent the time helping with the food and visiting. It was a nice relaxing day for us.
This is the group at the barbeque: the Tolmans (who are in charge of the Institute at the University in Apia, and will be finishing their mission in February), the Kroghs, the Webers (who just arrived a couple of months ago and happened to be in our ward in Los Angeles more than 50 years ago. He is the mission dentist and they’ll go home after we do), and the Squires, who’ve taught us a lot about snorkeling and become great friends as well.

After the barbeque, we were pretty well rained out, so we headed back to Apia, and made our way to the guest house where we would stay for the weekend, unpacked and got settled and then went to our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner, another special meal that we can’t find in Savaii. We got to bed early and had a nice sleep-in the next morning because our meetings at the English-speaking ward don’t start until 11:00 p.m. After church the next day we spent about an hour making tortillas to take to the Mexican dinner we were invited to at the Squires home right across the street from our guest house.
We’ve gotten the tortilla making down to a science with me making the dough and dividing it up into balls, and then John rolls each ball out to tortilla size and then I slap them in the first pan to cook for several seconds on one side, and then turn them over into another pan to finish baking on the other side. We can usually keep two pans going at once to keep up with the rolling pin. Once I had made the dough and allowed it to sit and cool (you make them with boiling water), we were able to roll out and cookaabout 30 tortillas in about as many minutes. (Maybe we should go into the business.) The dinner at the Squires was such a treat, because Elder Squires made his wonderful Chile Rellenos from scratch and taught me how in the process. (He’d made them for us a couple of times before and promised he’d teach me how to make them before they left to go home.) We had the Rellenos, plus our tortillas and all the fixins for soft tacos, chips and homemade salsa, and a chocolate pudding cake for dessert. It was our third great meal of the weekend. After we finished the dinner at Squires, we went over to President Hanks’ home (Temple President) to visit for a little while and look over some music Sister Hanks was going to lend me for one of our elders, who is playing a piano solo at a fireside in Savaii in December. They’re probably just a little older than we are and have 11 children and tons of grandchildren (almost 60 I think) and great grandchildren. This is their third mission to Samoa together, once as teachers, once as mission president and now temple president. President Hanks also served his first mission in Samoa before he was married, about the time Dad was here. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that he is the brother of our good friend from Kirksville, David Hanks.

Monday morning, after a short doctor appointment, we spent the rest of the morning doing our usual Apia shopping for those food items and things we can’t find on Savaii. We’ve got the stores pretty well plotted out as to where to find what we want, so we don’t spend as much time just hunting like we did at first. One store over there has started stocking quite a few things from Sams and Costco since we were here the last time, so it was fun to find some of our old favorites. However, the price is significantly higher that what we paid for it them home, so we decided we could live without some of it till after we get home. At 2:00 we met up with the Squires again for one last snorkeling trip before they go home at the end of the week. They had been telling us about a place just a little outside Apia called the Pololo Deep. Just the ‘Deep’ part of the name made me nervous at first, but they told us there were no bad currents and you could either stay around the edge or venture out into the middle where it was really deep. It’s like a big deep underwater bowl inside the reef. I stayed pretty close to the edge at first, but as I got used to it and everyone else was moving out a little further, I felt better about doing the same. It was just a wonderful place, where you can see more varieties and larger sizes of fish than you can in the shallower areas. We didn’t stay too long because we had to get back for our Thanksgiving dinner, but the Squires felt we’d do better going out the first time with someone who knew what to show us. We really appreciated their time that day, because they have so much to do to finish packing up and getting ready to go home the end of the week, and still keep up their busy missionary schedule right until the very end. Their last obligations are on Friday I think, and they leave Saturday. They are going to go down to visit New Zealand for a couple of weeks before they go home, since they’re already this far south. We’d really like to try to head down that way on our way home, if we can work it out financially. We’ll never be down this way again I’m thinking. Some of our kids have talked about maybe coming down around Thanksgiving next year, which will be about two weeks before we finish up. Our first thought when we thought they were coming right at the very end of our mission was that we’d probably want to fly home with them; but since the Thanksgiving week is easier for them, they’ll be gone before we finish up, so we may plan to go the other way first. That’s still a year away, however and a lot can happen to all of our plans before then.

Because they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Samoa, the Senior Missionaries scheduled their Thanksgiving dinner for that Monday Family night on the 22nd, combined with a farewell party for two couples who were going home. The dinner was just wonderful, with all the traditional thanksgiving food we eat in America, plus some good Samoan food, because there are now several Samoan Senior couples. The Mission President’s wife brought turkey and ham back from American Samoa on her last trip, and everything else was taken care of by the missionaries. It all tasted so much like home.
Earlier in the day before we went snorkeling, we stopped in at the mission home and the ladies were all weaving little dining mats to use on the tables. I had a little time, so I sat down and wove a couple of them. We used strips of palm fronds and criss-crossed them in a simple woven pattern and then tied them off at the corners, just one of the many clever things the Samoans make with their hands from something they pluck from a tree or vine. They were used like we would use paper plate liners, to give a little strength to the plate, but also add the Samoan look to the festivities..
The tables looked so colorful with the dark table cloths, the mat and plates and colorful little corn candies sprinkled all over the place to nibble on before, during and after dinner. I love those corn candies and haven’t had any since we got here, so I put away quite a few during the evening. One of the sisters had made cute little turkey name tag/favors out of half a muffin, a flat cookie for a tail and a little corn candy for the head. It’s amazing what a bunch of old Relief Society ladies can put together.
It was so fun to be in the kitchen before the dinner to smell the terrific aroma of the meat and dinner rolls cooking, etc., and see everyone bustling around, carving turkeys and hams and making gravy and putting the finishing touches on all the other dishes. Two big buffet tables were set up and decorated with all the food and we carried it back to our tables on the mats and plates. Needless to say, everything was delicious and greatly enjoyed by all. That was our fourth special meal of the weekend, in about that many days. We’ve really been spoiled. (It sounds like all we did that weekend was eat, which is probably not too far from the truth. We’ll have to be good when we get back to Savaii and double up on our exercising to pay for all those delicious calories. Fortunately, we only get over to Apia once in every four to six weeks.)

After the Dinner was over, there was a special farewell program put on for the Squires and Pembertons, who were leaving the end of the week.

By tradition, each couple has to stand up and give a few thoughts about their mission experiences, and of course many tears were shed by those leaving and those seeing them off, maybe never to see them again.
The final ordeal for the two couples was having the group sing the traditional Samoan farewell song to them. It’s a beautiful song and a lovely way to end the program, but a real tear jerker for all involved. After getting everything all cleaned up, everybody just seemed to want to hang around and visit before heading home. We were so glad to have the opportunity to go over for that weekend and spend some precious time with the other Missionaries. What a tremendous group of people they are, and we feel privileged to have this association with them.

We finished our last day in Apia the next morning, by spending time in the Temple, which is always an uplifting experience. We had to head out pretty quick after we left the Temple so that we could pack up our belongings, pick up all the last minute mail and packages that we needed to carry over to Savaii for all the young missionaries, and then make the 45 minute drive back to the wharf to catch the 2:00 p.m. ferry. We got off the ferry an hour and a half later, raced home to unload the car, and then filled it up again with pianos, music and lesson books for our piano class that afternoon at 5:00 p.m. up in Moesavili. Our mission was back in full swing.

This looks like as good a time as any to end this section and continue with the rest next time around. I guess I'm including too many pictures in each blog and there's not enough space for them all. Rather than eliminate the pictures, I just need to make each blog posting shorter, in order to keep everything in that I want to have saved as our Mission Journal, which will include all of the blogs over our 23 months. I expect we'll have several volumes by the time we go home.
We trust all is going well with your families and we've loved hearing from you periodically. Please know how much you all mean to us and how much we look forward to seeing you all again.

Until next time around, much love from Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandpa, John and Karen, Elder and Sister Krogh

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blog #12 – September 28, 2010

It’s only been a little over a week since I sent off the last blog segment and I am determined to try to write as I go on this next one, so it won’t seem such a huge job when I get behind on it. Thank you so much for your comments and emails, especially your thoughts about all the details I write about. I fear that my long-winded entries will become a bore to everyone, but I’m having such a great time writing the experiences we’re having, I hope you’ll forgive my desire to not leave out anything. When we get back home and start missing Samoa and her beautiful people and spectacular scenery, we’ll have a wonderful record of this amazing adventure to look back on.

One morning early, John woke me up asking where the camera was. I told him it was in the car and he said I might want to get some pictures of the beautiful sunrise that was showing itself off. I threw on some clothes, grabbed the camera and was able to get a couple of shots before it started to fade. It only takes a few minutes for the sunrises and sunsets to lose their color after they’ve hit their peak.

These were some of the beauties we took that morning. The best part of most sunrises and sunsets, besides the color, is the cloud formations.
These clouds were across the sky from the sunrise. We’ve never seen clouds like we see in Samoa and here are a few we snapped just before sunset on another day, as we were dropping some piano students off at their house, which sits right across the road from the beach.

We’ll probably have 100’s of these by the time we get home, but each one just seems so amazing, I like to record it along with the rest of our memories.

We finished this last week off with a trip back up to Sasa’ai, where we’ve been making a lot of family visits with the Ward Mission Leader, Konofese, as well as attending their Sunday meetings for a few weeks. We noticed as we attended the Sasa’ai sacrament meeting and then the Moesavili meeting later in the day in the same building, that the organ was being played in both wards by the current full-time sister missionary, Sister La’ule. When I asked her about it, she told me they had no other pianists in both of those wards with enough experience to play in church. I mentioned to her that I was teaching a piano class down in the McKay ward and wondered if they could use one up there to help get some organists prepared to take over when Sister La’ule gets transferred. She suggested we visit with the bishops and ward music chairmen of both wards and see if there is any interest, as long as I am here and have been sent along on our mission with materials to teach keyboard and conducting classes. Both bishops were very enthused with the idea and we will be meeting with both wards this week to get the class started. Our intension was to have one combined class for both wards, with maybe 4 or 5 from each ward. Amazingly we had over 25 people attend the meeting who wanted to take the class. I knew that there was only one working piano available at that time and how I could teach a class with that many was beyond me. It was finally decided that we would split the class into two classes, one for each ward. We did have to limit the number or people eligible at that time, because there were a few younger children there, who couldn’t speak English and I knew that would be a problem. We explained to them that they needed to be 14 years old, unless they had a parent or older sibling taking the class as well that could help translate and help them practice at home. About two in each class fell into that category. I felt bad to disappoint the others, but we explained that this would only be the first such class and that as soon as I had trained others to teach the course after I’m gone, they would be able to teach the younger children in Samoan, even though the lesson books are all in English.

After the meeting, while we were talking to one bishop’s wife who will be taking the class and is coordinating it for her ward, John asked how in the world I’d ever be able to teach so many people with just one piano, and all of them expected to practice every day. We had enough problems in the other ward with just 11 students and 5 pianos. I just shook my head and said “I have absolutely no idea, but we’ll just have to hope for a miracle.” The Bishop’s wife gave me a ‘thumbs up’ and I hope we’re right about the miracle.

Well, the miracle happened. I had been in contact with the Church Music department who had sent me more copies of the keyboard course kit. I had a couple of cheap little roll-up pianos, one that I had brought with me and another that I had shipped, but they were beginning to malfunction. I realized that I should probably buy my own small keyboard so as to have at least one other instrument available to the classes. Finding that there were none available here in Samoa, I tried on line to find some in New Zealand, where the families in the first ward, who had their own keyboards, had purchased them. The only thing I could find on line in New Zealand was a site where I could bid on used keyboards, which I’d have no idea about whether they were in working order. I decided to call Diane Bastian on the skype, who is the sister in the Church Music Department who had sent me the extra copies of the lesson books, and asked if she could recommend a keyboard that I could buy that would work down here. She informed me that the same Harman Grant fund that had provided the books, could also supply a few practice keyboards for us at no charge. I asked “What do you mean by a few?” She nonchalantly said that she could probably provide at least 6 if we needed them. Because we had just had word that all the shipping and mailing procedures in the mission had been changed, I was not able to place an order at that time, but told her I would email her with details. When I found that the shipping procedure from the States had not changed, I sent her an email and asked if it would be possible to send the 6 keyboards, along with keyboard course lesson books and adapters for each, and gave her the shipping instructions. When I didn’t hear back from her after a week, I got nervous that maybe it wasn’t going to happen, so I tried to call her again, only to find she was in meetings all day. The lady I talked to suggested I send her an email asking my questions, which I did that very day. After a couple of days, when we went back to the internet café to send and pick up new messages, there was a message from her saying that 8, yes 8, new keyboards, plus books and adaptors, had been ordered on Oct. 11, at no charge to us and we were to let them know when we had received them. WOW!! That was our miracle and just what we’ll need to make these classes realistically possible. It will take a few weeks to get them, but just knowing they’re coming will make the next few lessons tolerable. I’ll be able to leave three in some homes in each ward for daily practice and keep two for the other class, and then gather them all up on class days, so that we’ll have ten available for the classes. Halleluiah!! It will certainly take some extra running around to gather up and deliver the keyboards, but we’re happy to be able to do it, knowing we’ll have what we need for each class.

Moving along, as I was visiting with the one Bishop and his wife, she asked if there was any kind of an activity that we could do for their young men/young women at mutual. We told her about some of the things we’ve already done in other wards, like a dance class, dating seminar, or music conducting, etc. When she heard that we had taught one group how to waltz, she jumped on that and we set a date to come last Friday night to the Bishop’s house, where they had a computer with all kinds of music downloaded on it, and a very large room to teach the class in. We went up Thursday evening to go over the music ahead of time, and found she had a lot of really good waltz music. That made our job simple. When we taught the waltz class before, finding the right type of music with ¾ time was a challenge.

When we asked how many mutual kids would be there, she said probably about 30. When we got there on Friday evening, there were only about 8 girls and 1 guy when they started mutual, which made a little difficulty in terms of dancing partners. By the time their opening exercise was over and we had started teaching them the basic waltz step from a diagram on a blackboard, others started trickling in, on Samoan time as usual, and we ended up with about 14 couples. Now, ballroom dancing is not a common thing for Samoans to do, especially where boy and girl dance together in dance position. I think I talked before about our first dating seminar, and what a challenge it had been because Samoans don’t date or demonstrate any kind of affection to the opposite sex in public, like holding hands, or arms around each other, etc. Once we had taught the individuals the steps, we kind of paired them up opposite each other so that the boys would be waltzing forward and the girls backward and their feet would work together. We had them take each others’ hands at first, and they seemed to have no problem with that. They stumbled over each other a little in the beginning, trying to get the hang of moving their feet opposite each other, and then introduced the waltz position with hands on shoulders and waist and other hands being held. They took that in their stride as well, and started to do fairly well together just doing a plain square box in a waltz step. Then we had them move across the floor, with the boys pushing the girls backward all the way, and then started turning them a little so they could move around the floor. We had them change partners quite often so that the tall girls didn’t always have to dance with the little short boys. Then we did some different varieties of partner changing like a snowball, starting with one couple dancing until the music stops, and then those two splitting up and asking someone else to dance, and again and again until all were dancing. Then we had them form two circles, boys on the outside and girls on the inside. They started dancing with the person by them in the circle and then when the music stopped, the girls would stand still and the boys would move on to the next partner, and continue doing that all around the circle. This was all new stuff for them and they really seemed to enjoy it. We were a couple of boys short, but some of the girls were more than happy to take a turn as a boy. It’s not like we are these great dance teachers, but we know enough elementary steps to make us look like pros to these inexperienced dancers. It was great fun. We had to slip out a little early in order to get back down to Salelologa for the MTC class, but the kids were still dancing when we left.

Here are just a few pictures I snapped while they were dancing.

As we left the Bishop’s house and walked back to our car, we had to walk through an open fale where there were several men working on a dugout canoe, carving it from one large tree trunk. We stopped to watch them for a few minutes and were amazed at their expertise using these funny little carving tools, that looked kind of like a short hoe, with the sides bent in and then sharpened to scoop out the wood chips from the inside of the canoe. They had just started this the day before and would probably finish it that evening. They took turns working on the carving and then took a rest with a game of checkers while the others carved for awhile. Of course, there was also a big pot of hot cocoa Samoa being passed around to add to the fun. They were all having a wonderful time, and carving out a functional fishing boat in the process.

They loved having me take their pictures both carving and playing checkers

We went straight from there to the MTC class, where there were about 20 potential missionaries in attendance. We took 9 of them to another room, 5 young men and 4 young women who had mission calls to English speaking missions, and we worked with them on the English lessons and scriptures. Three of the girls were going to California, one to Ohio, and the boys were divided up going to Salt Lake city, New Zealand and Australia. It’s fun to help get them a little more prepared for their missions, and for the different Formal MTC training they’ll get in Provo or New Zealand. Our pre-mission experiences volunteering at the MTC in Provo, have been a big help to us in teaching them a little of what to expect when they get there. Fortunately, they all speak pretty fair English already, but have a lot more to learn in terms of missionary lessons, and casual everyday English conversations. They’ll all be experiencing winter for the first time, and that will be a rude awakening for them, but I think they are looking forward to these new experiences in a new culture, and a little nervous too.

These young adults are so sharp. They were all pretty avid seminary and institute attendees and really know their scriptures, of which they have an amazing number already memorized. Memorizing is an incredible gift the Samoans have. I guess for centuries nothing was written down and all the family histories, etc., were memorized and passed on to the next generation. The children started memorizing English primary songs and hymns at a really young age, even though most of the younger ones don’t start learning English in school until 6th grade or so. We love working with these young people, especially since it can mostly be done in English, putting me in more of a comfort zone.

Speaking of English, we spent the last two days going to Stake conference meetings, where everything is translated from Samoan into English and English into Samoan, because most general authorities who come are English speakers, though many come from other foreign countries. I was given headphones at the beginning of each session and happily listened to two different interpreters share the messages of the conference. This is such a nice treat for me, because I sit through soooooo many meetings where nothing but Samoan is spoken and I have a long way to go before I’ll be able to understand everything. Even though I’ve learned a lot of words and phrases, and can read and understand a lot of Samoan, when the Samoans speak so softly and so fast, my brain just doesn’t keep up. It doesn’t depress me or put me to sleep like it did in the beginning, because I know enough to be able to listen for words I know and catch a few ideas here and there. In Sunday School and Relief Society, I have English lesson books which really help me to keep up with some of it.

This conference was just an amazing experience and we still feel a little of the glow from it. Of course, the musical performances were spectacular, as usual. There was a large choir from one ward, almost 80 members, who sang some really beautiful arrangements of hymns. The best one was my favorite primary song, “As I have Loved you”, all in English. It started with a little primary girl about 8 years old singing a solo at the microphone and the choir humming background music. After a nice chord change in the accompaniment, the whole choir joined in, in English, and then again in Samoan.

(Pics missing??) As is often the case, the choir comes all dressed in identical dresses and white shirts and matching ties, this time a pretty aqua, trimmed in black. The choirs are so large, they have to sit on the first several rows of the congregation, because there is absolutely no room for them in the “choir seats”. They took up the first 8 rows of benches, with about ten across each row. I don’t know why this impresses me so much--probably because I’ve been a choir director for years and have been lucky to fill even half the choir seats on the stand. These Samoan choirs would be a dream come true for any choir director, not only because of their numbers, but because of their natural singing ability.

Some of the inactive families that we’ve visited were in attendance, to our delight, and a couple of the men were presented for ordination as elders. For those of you reading this blog who are not members, you must get tired of hearing all this Mormon jargon, but becoming an elder is a huge step toward deep spiritual activity in the church and exercising this new priesthood in leading their wives and children toward a stronger unity within their families and with the Lord, bringing peace and contentment in their homes.

Please forgive all our references to LDS Jargon, but this is what our mission is all about and we hope you understand what a joy it is for us to serve these incredible people and help them to come to Christ.

After the conference session today, we were invited to join the guests of honor and the stake presidency and their families in a delicious feast, where there was way too much food as usual, and certainly enough that was appealing to me, in spite of the octopus and other dishes I’m not accustomed to yet. There were so many leftovers, that each of us was sent home with a plate of food for another meal tomorrow, also a common Samoan practice.

Another choice experience we had last Sunday was to attend the LMS church White Sunday service presided over by our good friends Reverend Esera and his wife Tamara. I’m not sure why it’s called White Sunday, but it’s celebrated all over Samoa in all the churches and is a time when people travel from far and wide to be with their families in other places. The big difference in the service is that the preacher doesn’t preach, but the whole program is put on by all the children and young people of their congregation. They’ve been practicing for weeks for these performances and a lot of work was spent making costumes, etc. There must have been over 250 children performing, and like the primary programs at home, each child had an individual part and they put their heart and soul into performing it.

The costumes were pretty flashy, and each part portrayed some special bible story.
Before the program began, there was a special baptism ceremony performed where Esera baptized three small children by scooping water from a special carved wood stand and bowl and sprinkling the babies’ foreheads.

The picture I captured of one beautiful little baby girl, who sat right in front of us, was so precious. She was all dressed up for her baptism in a white lacey dress, plus a bonnet that had been put on upside-down by American Standards. They had a hard time keeping it on her and had to keep adjusting it, even during the baptism.

We truly enjoyed the whole program and could see how much work it had taken to do rehearsals and costumes.

These are pictures I took of Esera and Tamara during the service. They are both very handsome and distinguished people, and we love them dearly. Esera’s wife Tamara, was responsible for preparing all the younger children for their parts, having to make sure that each child could shine for their parents’ benefit. There were probably about 100 of the small ones and poor Tamara was worn out by the time the program was over. We had a curious call from her a few days earlier, asking if she could come over and talk to us privately, without her husband. She seemed upset and we nearly went nuts wondering what it was all about. We figured that maybe the powers that be at their church had thought they were spending too much time with the Palagi Mormon Missionaries and she was going to tell us that they had to curtail our friendship a little. She wanted us to pick her up and take her to our house to talk, which seemed strange also. We had a little prayer before we went to pick her up, asking that whatever the problem was that we would be inspired to react in a Christ-like way, showing love and understanding. We were saddened by the possibilities we had imagined, because we so cherished the friendship we had developed with them. To our great relief, when we all got sat down at our place, she confided that she had been terribly sick and depressed trying to get this program ready to everyone’s satisfaction and had had a bad attack of some sort at her morning aerobics class that left her weak and breathless. She’d gone to the doctor, who said her blood pressure was up and she had some bronchitis, or something, and sent her home with some meds and told her to go to bed for a few days. She knows John has a medical background of sorts and wanted his opinion on her symptoms, and she wanted to unload some of her worries on some good friends who were not members of her husband’s congregation. We felt touched that she trusted us enough to share her problem with us. She had been quite ill physically that day and Esera had to leave and be gone all day for a funeral across the island, and the longer she stayed home alone the more depressed she got, until she finally called us. Her attack reminded me somewhat of an anxiety attack I’ve had a time or two when stresses mounted up, and I think that relieved her a little. We had a moving visit with her, and had prepared a simple supper of beef stew and garlic bread, which she really seemed to enjoy, especially the garlic bread. It was something new to her, and she must have eaten about ten pieces. In the realm of comfort food (and I know all there is to know about comfort food) I’d say good garlic bread sits pretty high on the list. She was anxious to know how to make it and share it with Esera, so I sent along some of the leftover butter mixed with a garlic bread mix that I brought from Utah, so that she could make some at home.

During dinner I told her I think that she does so much hard work as a pastor’s wife, in probably the biggest church on the island, that she’s left absolutely no time for herself. She agreed, but felt guilty and selfish about it. John explained that she needed some balance in her life and told her that she could be of better service to others, if she served herself a little first. It was decided that she and I would take a day off every couple of weeks and go off somewhere for lunch and a long visit. We made a date for that and when I took her home, she was in pretty good spirits; and we were so happy to know that the friendship was still very much in tact.

We had our lunch date last week, where I picked her up and we went to a very nice hotel that has a dining room overlooking the most beautiful beach across the road. We went about 11:00, had a lengthy visit and a very leisurely lunch, probably about 3 hours long. It was a great outing for both of us. We’ll be doing it again in a couple of weeks and this time she will pick me up and decide where we will go. I was surprised, because I didn’t think she could even drive, since most drivers in Samoa are men. I just assumed that about her because we’ve always seen her with Esera driving. They’re actually both very well educated, mostly outside of Samoa, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve become very dear friends and she feels like a sister to me. It will be difficult to leave her behind when we go home. They do go to Utah to visit her brother every once in a while, and I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to see them when they make that trip again.

One day when John and I were in the local store, we ran into a group of elders who were hunting for something to eat for lunch. They told us they had just come from a local hotel where they heard they could get pizza, so they had been saving up their money for a special meal. When they got to the hotel, they found they only had pizza at night and that wouldn’t work for a P-day (preparation day when the missionaries have a little time off to do something special, as well as their laundry, letter writing, etc.). We’ve been to that hotel for pizza and it’s fair. We told them so and said that we could fix some pretty good pizza for them on their next P-day. We spent most of the morning that next week making four very large pizzas and they were actually pretty good. Several of these elders are going home soon and I don’t believe they’ve had pizza in the past two years. It seemed like a real treat for them and a lot of fun (and work) for us to provide it for them.
I didn’t think about taking pictures until all the pizza was gone, but we at least got these pictures of the three Palagi elders who were leaving the end of October. As usual, we’ve gotten pretty attached to them, and hope we’ll run into them again at a Samoan reunion after we get back home ourselves.
On another day while we were eating lunch at our place, we heard a clucking sound and realized that we had some uninvited guests in the house. This hen, with her chicks, had been pecking and feeding in the yard and decided to come on in our open door to see what they could find in here. We keep the door open most of the day to get as much air as we can, but other things can get in besides the air. It’s not unusual to be visiting at someone else’s fale and have a hen and her chicks wander in and right across between us and those we’re visiting, and no one thinks much about it. We’re learning to take it in our stride.

The first piano class we started a few months ago in the McKay Ward where we live, is still moving along. The numbers have dwindled from 11 to about 8 and I’m glad for that. The kids who are still coming seem pretty serious about keeping it up. They certainly don’t get their practicing in every day, which is evident at each lesson, but they are making some progress and hopefully the Ward will benefit by a few of them becoming accompanists some day. We still have to double up on the pianos, which slows us down, but hopefully we can move along faster once I get the new keyboards from the Church.

John is so good to help me get the tables and chairs set up and pianos hooked up, and then sits patiently for 1-1/2 hours for the class and then helps clean up. We’re good friends with most of these kids because they were in our first English class earlier in our mission. We’re hoping to have some of them prepare some simple Christmas carols to be performed around Christmastime at church or a ward party. Since we’ll hopefully have the new keyboards by then, we can do a whole chorus of piano players playing together. That’s the dream anyway and hopefully we can make it work.

I do enjoy these classes and even the two new ones where we have large numbers, 19 in one and 16 in the other, where we’re getting along okay with just the one piano in the chapel and one other keyboard that we were able to rig a plug for. The two pianos seemed like a real luxury after a couple of weeks with only one piano. I have some pretty good helpers in these two new classes and so I’m able to split them up in two different rooms where they get more time on the piano, even though they have to play it along with one or two other players. With the two pianos at the church, and the 8 new ones coming, the classes will just be a joy, after what we’ve had to do so far. We’re making it work, though, and know it will get better.

We get to the big market once or twice a month, and when we went last time it was the weekend of White Sunday and a really big day at the market.

I snapped a few pictures here and there, including the one of the big fountain out in front of the building that we’ve never seen working before. I guess White Sunday weekend is something really special.
This picture is of a friend in one of the wards who has a little table set up at the market, where she makes and sells all kinds of Samoan crafts. She’s either a widow or divorcee with several children and this is how she supports them. Her name is Malelega and we’ve bought several things from her. She always seems to find us when we show up at the market, hoping we’ll buy something from her. We usually do, even though we may not really need or want it. Fortunately, she makes typical Samoan fans (also in the picture), which I keep losing, or someone keeps taking, so I always wait to get my next fan from her when I need it; and I’ll tell you, I always need it, either for a fan at church, or a sunshade when we’re out walking around on our visits, or to swat flies wherever we are. Mighty handy little implements, those fans, and they really are inexpensive, even though they’re hand-made. I think most that I’ve purchased were about 6 Tala, which is about $2.60 U.S. I finally printed my name on this last one and we’ll see if I’m able to keep track of it any better.

These pictures were taken at a favorite place we go to lunch every once in a while. The small hotel that it’s in looks a little shabby from the front and is on the main busy street just up from the Wharf. It was recommended to us, or I’m not sure we’d have gone there the first time, which we did on our anniversary in June. We were pleasantly surprised when we came around back of the hotel and saw this lovely setting where the dining room is. We were also pleasantly surprised when we had our first meal there. It was really quite delicious. John had the best steak he’s ever had, anywhere he says, and I had a wonderful chicken fetuccini Alfredo, one of my favorite dishes. The only thing about this place is that if you want to go in the evening, you have to make reservations ahead so they will be sure to open up. We were the only ones there the night of our anniversary, and it took over an hour and a half to get our meal. We weren’t in any big hurry, but we were getting really hungry. The food was worth the wait though. You can go anytime for lunch without a reservation, and we have often still been the only ones there. I don’t know how they stay in business, but we really love it there and maybe we’re the ones keeping them open, because we do go quite often because of the lovely surroundings, the really good food and pretty reasonable prices as well.

This is being written a couple of weeks later. We decided to go back to that hotel for lunch, and when we drove up a lady came out and told us it was closed and the people had gone to New Zealand. We’re not sure if that was for good, or just temporarily, but as we looked in the windows we saw no tables and chairs at all. We’ll be very disappointed if they don’t open up again, because we really enjoyed our meals there, in spite of the slow service.
I snapped this picture while waiting our turn at the internet café on a P-day Monday. The place is usually crammed full of elders, as it was on this particular Monday, including Elder Pili in the black shirt. We don’t mind the wait and usually have enough other stuff to do in town that we’re able to come back. Often we have to meet different elders there from around the Island to pick up or deliver mail or meds to them. They’ve had a problem recently of having the Zone leaders deliver the mail, who end up carrying it around in their vans for awhile; or the final straw was when one elder’s new shoes from home ended up in the garbage at the Zone leader’s little house, because when he told his companion to gather up the garbage and take it out, this shoe package was just in a brown bag like their garbage bags, so they got taken out with the garbage. Fortunately, when the mission office called them trying to track down the lost shoes, the zone leader and his companion did a search and sheepishly admitted they had been in the garbage. Soooooo, now there is a new mail policy over here on Savaii and that is that all of the mail comes to us and we have to distribute it personally to each elder, and since some of them live so far around the island, it’s easiest to catch them in town on P-day. They give us their letters to mail home as well and we have to keep track of them until someone comes over from Upolo for one reason or another and can take them back and mail them. I’m nervous about having that responsibility, because I am a little prone to lose things myself and I’d hate to be the culprit that deprives a missionary or his family of their precious mail. Thank heaven they mostly do the email thing, so there aren’t as many letters as there probably used to be.

Speaking of me losing things or making blunders, I did a beauty this last week where the mail was concerned. Two weeks ago we had a whole pile of letters for one elder because it was his birthday. Then this week and last week we had all kinds of letters and packages for another new elder that I hadn’t met yet. I asked him last week if it was his birthday and he just politely told me it wasn’t. This week when he received another pile I teased him about the fact that it must be his birthday, which it wasn’t, again. I don’t remember how I found out later that day, but apparently his father had died suddenly, and unexpectedly at age 57, about the second week he was on his mission, less than a month ago. I’d heard about an elder losing his father, but didn’t know who it was until at this Zone meeting the other day. Then I realized why he was getting all this mail and packages from home. I felt so bad after asking him twice if it was his birthday. I apologized later at the meeting and had a nice little visit with him. He was so sweet about it, I just had to give him a hug from an old grandma. Knowing how difficult the first few weeks, and even months, can be for the missionaries in Samoa, and especially over here in Savaii, I can’t even imagine how difficult it has been for him to adjust, with the death of his father on top of the other discomforts most new missionaries face. He says it’s getting easier and preaching the gospel, especially where eternal families are concerned, really puts it all into perspective for him and he’s grateful for that. And I’m grateful that he was so forgiving of my apparent insensitivity.

We’ve moved on now to our 8th ward up in Lano. We made contact with the bishop there and he made arrangements for us to do splits with his wife and the ward mission leader. (When I say “splits” it means that John and I split up and I go visiting with one person (Sasa, the bishop’s wife, in this case) and John goes with the ward mission leader. Quite often the elders and sisters will split up and go out with different ward members, especially young men and women who are preparing to go on missions in the near future.) When we visited the Bishop’s fale for the first time, I was so impressed with Sasa's beautiful flower garden that I just had to take pictures.

What’s amazing about these gardens, and we see them all over Samoa, is that they are planted among all the lava rock that is everywhere. The Samoans seem to work around the rock pretty easily, and even use it to their advantage for many, many walls, which we also see everywhere, and to quickly dry their laundry, as you can see in one of these photos. Those black rocks really absorb the heat and are washed almost daily by the prevalent rain storms, so they double quite effectively as clotheslines, and probably even dry the laundry a little faster, which fits in nicely between rainstorms.

When we went back to Lano for our visits a few days later, we waited quite a while in vain for the Ward Mission leader and finally went to his house to find him. He apparently wasn’t back from working up in the bush, so the three of us just went ahead with our visits without him. We visited two inactive widows that day, and Sasa insisted that I take their pictures.

These pictures are of Sasa, in black and white, and Nima, and another photo of Nima sitting on the floor working on weaving a Samoan mat. Nima still feels very strongly about the Church, but she lives so far away and it’s hard for her to walk so far. We offered to pick her up the next Sunday, but she was on her way to Apia to be with a sick daughter. We’ll try that again next week.
The other widow we visited was Sita. When we asked if we could take her picture, she insisted that we include her two grandchildren and then took us outside to the porch, which was attached to her husband’s tomb or grave, and wanted their picture of them standing on it. Samoan graves (tombs) are an everyday part of life here in Samoa. They are always very close to the fale, sometimes even inside or often covered with a very elaborate canopy or enclosed glass house of sorts. We see people lounging on them, wet laundry spread out on them, Samoan mat leaves drying on them, and people having their pictures taken on them or by them. I think I mentioned before that being buried on your own property helps you lay claim to that land in a way.
Well, I think I’m going to call it quits on this blog for now. I actually had several more pages ready, but when I started to add the pictures, I realized there are so many photos to accompany this next section, that it would make this blog segment impossibly long. Soooo we’ll let you have another little rest from our Samoan adventures for a time and I’ll hopefully send this next section off all by itself next week. You won’t be hearing personally from John this time around, simply because I am determined to finish this off, create the email and add the pictures to send on to our daughter, Kelly, who puts it all in order and makes it easy for you to read, with the photos in the right places, etc. (if I’ve done my part right at this end); and I must finish it tonight and John has already gone to bed. (He usually turns into a pumpkin before 9:00 each night, just as I'm getting a good start on some project or other. (so what else is new?) Tomorrow is Sunday and we have a full day scheduled and I want to email this to Kelly first thing Monday morning when we go into the internet café.

One last note, in case you're wondering, John is on this mission with me and is doing just great. He loves everything we're doing and does an amazing job with the Samoan language. People who meet him for the first time are just astounded at how fluent he is. He still complains about not being good enough, and continues to study the language daily. He's made friends with so many little kids along our jogging route and stops to high-5 and talk to them. It seems that wherever we go we hear these little voices calling out from a fale or back in the trees saying, "Hi John", even in areas where we don't think we've been jogging. We often can't even see them, so we just wave in that general direction and hope we got it right. He will definitely be writing some of the next blog, however brief, if I can get him to stay up long enough.

Again I'll truly quit and send all of our love to our dear family and friends from Elder and Sister Krogh, or Elder and Sister Ioane, which is what most of our Samoan friends call us (because it’s easier for them to say than Krogh), or even Elder and Sister John to make it really simple.

Tofa soifoa manuia le po and I'm going to bed too.