Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#4 January 31, 2010

JOHN: We travelled from Savai’i back over to Upolu yesterday a.m. on the ferry without any problems (seasickness). Saw flying fish and dolphins along the way. Shopped in Apia after lunch and bought more supplies. In the evening, we attended a huge meeting with all saints (church members) with Samoan songs and dances performed by young people from each stake on Upolu. Apostle Cook, Presiding Bishop Burton, area president and area seventy and all their wives were guests. Great program, but hot and very humid. Karen almost melted. Today we went early and bought fish at fish market (red snapper, albacore, and tuna). Big fish there, and many kinds.

Went to the Temple in the morning to do an endowment session (special service only done in temples, where members can commit to living the gospel of Jesus Christ and in turn, great blessings are promised to those who keep covenants, and includes baptisms and endowments by proxy for deceased ancestors who died without the opportunity to hear the gospel and partake of those saving ordinances). The endowment session was full and so we went into a sealing session, where members are sealed by priesthood authority to family for time and eternity, including husband to wife and children to parents. Again, already-endowed members stand in as proxy for those who have died. Extremely moving and spiritual experience! It was conducted by a Samoan priesthood worker, who taught many great truths about the eternal nature of the family.

Later in day went to visit Fotu Aiono, a man who was a missionary over 50 years ago when I was here as a young man. His huge garden contained many wonderful plants (pineapple, papaya, taro, etc.) plus beautiful flowering plants mixed in with coconut palms, bamboo, flowering trees, etc.). Looked like a garden of Eden. Had lunch in his new home, and then came back to Apia for a meeting with all Samoan missionaries and above-mentioned general authorities. Great spirit felt by all. Great testimonies borne by apostle and presiding bishop. Lunch later with group of senior missionary couples, included many things we love to eat but don’t have very often in this country (potato salad, ice cream, etc.). Evening meeting with all saints in Samoa (some heard it in their villages on other parts of this island and on other islands by broadcast). Again a great meeting.

KAREN: As John mentioned, we took the ferry back over to Upolo for a special church conference with visiting General Authorities from Salt Lake, who are travelling all over the South Pacific visiting the missions and giving support and encouragement to the missionaries and members. The ferry ride turned out to be okay. I had been dreading the ride on this small ferry (We had taken the large ferry over on our first trip, which is a smoother ride.) The last time we made this trip 5 years ago on this same small ferry, I had one of the most miserable experiences of my life. We got stuck in the car during a storm with the ferry rocking up and down and no way to get out the doors to go up to the deck for some air. I could open the door a small crack on my side with just enough space to lose my lunch (a couple of times) onto the floor of the boat. On John’s side, his door wouldn’t open, so he had to roll down the window and throw up all over the side of a large SUV parked about 6 inches away. There were 4 of us in the small compact car, right up against a wall on one side, the SUV on the other, and I became very claustrophobic, as well as sick. The trip takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, but sitting there in despair it felt like three hours. Yesterday, I would have chosen to take the later ferry, the large one, but the other couple we went with felt we had to leave early in order to get all our shopping done. We don’t get to the big city very often so we take full advantage of the better shopping while we’re here.

Before we got on the ferry, Sister Montgomery and I got out of the car and went into a small lounge toward the center of the ferry where less movement is felt. I had taken my ginger pills over an hour earlier, the locally recommended remedy for seasickness, and found a nice comfortable seat in the lounge to try to close my eyes and possibly fall asleep in order to weather the storm. It all worked like a charm. I dozed off right away and woke up about 45 minutes into the trip feeling just fine. I was able to sit up, jot some notes into my ‘pre-blog’ notebook, and check over my shopping list before we came close to shore again. When we went back out to where the car was parked right along the rail, we found John and Elder Montgomery raving about the sight-seeing tour they’d had watching the school of dolphins that were swimming and leaping alongside the ferry together with the flying fish. Apparently, we had missed a real show. I felt bad about Sis. M. missing out just to keep me company, but she said she had seen ‘that show’ several times and I would be able to also over the next couple of years. I felt a huge relief, knowing I could make this trip back-and-forth between islands without a repeat of my earlier journey of misery. I think I can really put that memory behind me now.

Once we landed on Upolo, we hit the ground running. We went straight in to the Mission Office, which was a hubbub of activity. It was swarming with young elders who had come in from all over the islands for the conference, some of whom we had made acquaintance with back at the MTC in Provo. We also met up with the other new Senior couple who we had trained with in the MTC, a dynamo of a team who would be responsible for the medical health of all missionaries. They were from Canada, but originally from England and had every earmark and accent of a true Brit. They had to stay at the MTC a week longer than we did for extra medical training, and had landed in Upolo after we had left for Savai’i. It was so good to see them again. I wish there was time and space here to tell you their history, but suffice it to say it was very colorful. After clearing a up a bunch of paperwork, a brief meeting with President Haleck, and renewing acquaintances with other Senior couples we had met during our first week on Upolo, we set out for a shopping trip. It seemed much hotter in Upolo, but it was a truly sunny day, which we hadn’t experienced for awhile, and we were constantly on the move. We made our trek around to several stores to locate different food items, not available on Savai’i, and for several household items we would need to set up our new apartment. The one big item we needed was a microwave. What with the constant heat, using a stove and oven can really steam up an apartment. We were appalled at what we had to pay for one, almost $500 for the cheapest one we could find. We decided it was worth it to have access to the quick and cooler cooking method. We got a white one, but the stainless steel model was almost $1000.

One of the purchases I made in the States before we came was a nifty little 5-pound electric sewing machine to have on hand for mending, etc. I can’t seem to live my life normally without a sewing machine close at hand. I’d had such a dilemma trying to shop for the right kinds of clothes for the heat and humidity and still stay within the guidelines of conservative missionary attire. I’d had such mixed messages from my missionary guide book and ex-Samoan missionaries, that I just packed a bare minimum of clothes, and figured I’d just whip up the proper wardrobe once I got in Samoa. When I first got to the Mission office, I discovered all the lady missionaries were dressed in these wonderful colorful Samoan prints of light-weight cotton, and sandles with no hose. I knew that sewing machine would really come in handy right away. I shopped for fabrics and set myself up early on to make some acceptable Samoan missionary clothes. I’m sure you’re aware that the electrical power source in other countries is different than the US, so we have to use special plug adaptors, and even transformers, in order to use American appliances, such as curling irons, blow dryers and sewing machines. I knew that, but when I hooked up my straightening iron the first time, using only an adaptor, it blew a fuse and I assumed it had ruined the iron. Gratefully, the fuse switch just flipped off. My naturally wavy hair kinks so tight with the Samoan humidity that I look like a little old lady straight out of the beauty parlor with a new perm. I can straighten my bangs and sides with the iron, but it doesn’t last long. Oh well, I guess I am a little old lady, or big old lady in my case. On the day I set up the sewing machine for the first time, I carefully added the converter plug and proceeded to plug it into an electrical strip instead of the transformer. This time it didn’t just blow a fuse; it completely burned out the motor. I felt more stupid than upset. I had only paid $39.00 for the little machine at a half-price sale, so I figured I’d just find a little one here in Samoa that worked with the local current, and donate it to the mission when I went home. What I didn’t anticipate was that there are virtually no home sewing machines for sale in all of Samoa. I found one that had to be hand-cranked and two old foot-treadle machines. I was just totally perplexed. I’ve since discovered that the only ones who sew in Samoa are tailors and dressmakers and most of them use commercial machines. So, I found a place in town that would fix my little machine, but they’d have to order a new motor from New Zealand and they suggested we replace it with one that worked with Samoan current. I said okay, and don’t have a clue what I’ll have to pay for the new motor and labor, but I’ll bet anything it will be a whole lot more than the $39.00 I paid for it in the first place. When I expressed my chagrin to the clerk at having to wait so long for the machine to be repaired, and that I needed it to get the proper clothes made, she kindly offered me the use of her little electric Singer machine until mine was fixed. When I protested that it was too much to ask, she would not take ‘no’ for an answer. So I am now using her machine for as long as I need it. That is just the Samoan way. Our Samoan tutor cautioned us about complimenting people about things they were using or wearing, because they would end up giving it to you as a gift. Well, this sewing machine was only a loan, but it was like a gift to me. While we were back in Upolo, I stopped in the shop to find out how soon I could expect my own machine back and she said it would be at least a couple of weeks and I was not to worry about it. She didn’t need it back for quite a while. That was not unusual Samoan behavior, I am told. So I happily purchased some more fabric from her, very inexpensive in Samoa by the way, and we went about the business of finishing our shopping.

For lunch in town that day, the Montgomerys took us to a wonderful little restaurant, tucked back in an alley behind the stores, where we had a really wonderful hamburger, with fries and all the fixins and more. Besides the usual lettuce, tomato, pickle, Mayo, etc., it had a fried egg and a slice of pineapple on it. We could hardly get our mouth around it, but we managed with the help of a big napkin.

After we had finished lunch and shopping, we hurried back to the Church College where a very special show was performed for the visiting Church authorities, the local members and all of us missionaries. The show was great, but it was so hot and sticky in that big hall, I thought I was going to pass out. When Samoans start singing and dancing, they just don’t stop. We enjoyed it a lot, but were ready to head back to our rooms and go to bed. To bed YES, but sleep NO.

We stayed in a very nice guest house that doesn’t get used very often, or fumigated often enough, so we shared the place with several lizards, geckos and a couple of the biggest cockroaches I had ever seen, probably over two inches long. Needless to say, I stayed awake a good part of the night, tossing with the heat and humidity, and worrying about which critter would end up in bed with me. We got up early the next morning in order to go to an early session at the Temple. I kept having to go back to the house because I’d forget different things, and that made us a little late. We were picking up Elder and Sister M. on the way, and I felt really bad when we got to the Temple and found out the session was too full. We were going to have to wait for a later session, which would make us late for a lunch date to visit the plantation of one of John’s old Samoan friends. While we were deciding what to do, a temple worker came out and invited us into a sealing session instead. I was so relieved, but still embarrassed that I was responsible for throwing our time schedule off. Once we went back in, changed into our white temple clothes, and were seated in the sealing room, I started to become a little more calm. As the sealings proceeded, I began to feel the sacred spirit of the Temple and more particularly the significance of this most wonderful of all the ordinances we have in the Church of Jesus Christ. Realizing that these people, whose names we were vicariously acting as proxies for and who had died over a century ago, had been waiting as spirits for heaven knows how long to be restored to each other as a family unit on the other side of the veil. You could almost feel their presence in the room. Being there, in that sealing room, or any sealing room in any temple in the world, is the ultimate goal of all faithful Latter-day-saints. As missionaries, our total focus is on bringing as many living souls as possible, whether they be new members or inactive members, to this point in their spiritual journey in preparation for glorious blessings in this life and the life hereafter. I was humbled, as I’ve never been in my life, by the magnitude of our responsibility to these good people, in spite of whatever hard work, discomfort or homesickness we are faced with. Aside from raising our own eternal family and teaching them about the Savior, nothing we will ever do in our lives could be more important.

After going through several tissues during the session, I felt drained, but uplifted. Our being late for the regular session and ending up in the sealing room, was exactly what I needed that day. I knew we were exactly where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to do at this stage of our life. I felt wonderful. The euphoria of the experience lasted on through the weekend and I was bolstered for the work and the trials ahead.

Once we landed back on Savai’i, and on up to Vaiola, we were sort of back to normal (for us on Savai’i anyway). Early morning walk/run down the beautifully manicured entrance road to the School (see picture below), shower, breakfast, scriptures, language study, to town to find some other much-needed item that can’t be found, shopping for groceries (practically daily because we have such a tiny fridge), to the bank ATM for cash (Samoa is pretty much a cash-only place), visiting around with local people at the stores, bank, internet café (to download and send off our emails), and the open market.

A trek to the open market is really something. The building is a very modern, open, two-story sort of mall, like a bazaar, with open stalls on the first floor (see the picture and notice the woman in the lower left corner taking a nap at her stall during a lull in business. Many of the merchants have a bed or lounge by their stall, or a kid or two asleep on the table). The picture of the men sitting on benches around a table is a place where only men can come to buy and drink Kava, (a not quite alcoholic beverage) and get involved in a checker game, either to play or watch, or just to visit. The second floor is made up of dozens of small shops selling just about everything (except what you’re looking for). Like any self-respecting mall, they have their ‘food court’, where some very questionable foods (for me anyway) are available for all.

On our way back home, we usually stop by the apartment (where we will supposedly be moving soon) to check on the progress of the construction of our new home. (the photo says it all)


Once we’re back home and John has cooked up a great (really) red snapper (a fish market purchase) for dinner, we sit out on the front porch, where most evenings the neighborhood kids will congregate for a visit. They are all children of the teachers and have wonderful Samoan names, like Brandon, Valentine, Norman, Cherry, Nedra, Angel, Rose, Joseph, Fraser etc. Actually, most have Samoan names too and the fine young four-year-old gentleman front-and-center in the photo is called Sefulu (meaning Number 10) because he is the tenth child in that family. They are all very sharp kids and speak quite good English (which is required here at this school). They love looking at the pictures of our family in our 50th Wedding Anniversary album and trying to identify which baby grows up to be which teenager or adult. One day I brought out my little roll-up piano (a rubber keyboard that wraps around a little box that houses the speakers and lays out flat when you unroll it). It’s about three octaves long but the keys are standard size. When I told the kids I was going in the house to bring out my piano, they were really puzzled, particularly when I came back with a little bag about 7” x 8” x 3”. I played a couple of nursery rhymes and primary songs on it, and they all sang along beautifully, and then they all wanted to play it. So we set it on a very tall book to make it more stable and each child took a turn playing the notes as I pointed to them from the opposite side of the keyboard. Today we picked up a board at the lumber yard so that we can lay the whole piano out flat and make it easier to play. I expect there’ll be music from our porch for many nights before we move, a hopefully so when we come back to visit. Vaiola is only about 20 minutes from Lalomalava where are new apartment will be located.

One day last week, while we were shopping at a local grocery story, we ran into the owner of the hotel where our new apartment will be and informed him that we’d decided to go to his hotel restaurant for dinner. He is the chef as well as the owner. He told us to come about 7:00 p.m. We had wanted to come earlier while we were still in town, but we realized later why coming a little later was a really good idea. We killed some more time in town and showed up for dinner about 7:00. There were some very interesting things on the menu (most apparently quite edible by my standards) and the prices weren’t bad at all. We selected two items and while waiting for the food to be prepared we enjoyed the lovely ambiance of the restaurant. It is situated right at water’s edge and the whole wall that faces the ocean is open. The waves don’t break right near the shore at this point on the island because the reef is quite a bit further out and they break over the reef. The water inside the reef is very calm and peaceful. We could hear it just gently lapping the rocks like you might hear along the edge of a large lake. They must have planned the background music just for us because they were playing some oldies out of the 50’s, most of which we recognized--Nat King Cole, Franky Lane, Bing Crosby, in case any of you are old enough to remember those singers. We had finished our dinner, which was absolutely fabulous by the way, and were patiently waiting for the check, when the unexpected ‘Dinner Show’ began.

The sun was just beginning to set and the reflections on the water and clouds were starting to show a little color. I got my camera out of my purse and took a picture, only to find that the sunset proceeded to become more and more brilliant as the seconds ticked away. I’d think it couldn’t get any better and then it did, again and again and again. I’ve only showed about six frames here, but I probably took 20 or so altogether over a period of about 5-7 minutes. It was just an amazing way to finish a meal and an evening. Once we paid the bill and started to leave, we met Poi (the chef and owner) out in front of the restaurant, where he was carrying his beautiful little two-year-old daughter and was walking with an older gentleman, a Palagi (white). We congratulated Poi on the delicious meal and he introduced us to his father, who is an Englishman and who founded the hotel. Poi’s mother is a native Samoan and is also the Minister of Health in Samoa. She lives most of the week in Apia (the Capitol on the other island) and comes home on weekends, while the retired father stays at the hotel on Savai’i, where his son has taken over the management, and the cooking. We also complimented them on the glorious sunset extravaganza, and his father said we must come back when the moon is full and the show is magnified by a moonrise over the water. Since we’ll be living right there once we move, I expect we’ll get to see it anytime the sun and moon decide to make an appearance together.

You are all probably wondering what on Earth kind of a mission we’re on, what with shopping, sightseeing, killing time, dinner out, wandering all over town, going snorkeling, etc. Well, that’s a good question. We probably don’t even know the whole answer yet. The ultimate purpose of our mission is to bring souls to Christ, which can be achieved through many avenues. Our specific avenue and job title is Member and Leader Support, which means a lot of things, but especially that we are here on Savai’i to assist new members, who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to ease into church activity and help train them as they are called to leadership positions. We will also be friend-shipping inactive members and hoping to help them recognize the blessings of returning to full fellowship and activity, and, of course, set their eyes on the ultimate goal of going to the Temple with their families. Since the Stakes are beginning several new programs for activation that are just getting off the ground, we have to wait until we meet with all the wards and their members, identify those who need fellowshipping and then team up with the members to visit, get acquainted with, and continue to fellowship. Our first Member Activation Fireside is next week, where we’ll be making appointments to start the visits. (a ‘fireside’ in Mormon jargon just means an informal gathering of people, outside of the regularly scheduled meetings, where different subjects are discussed or presented. They usually take place in people’s homes, (‘around the fire’ so to speak) but not always. John attended a Priesthood meeting with all the Stake Presidents and the area authorities and discussed with them our availability to help. We’ll be going all over the island attending firesides and teaming up with members in all the wards. Probably about 30% of all Samoans are Mormons and the young missionaries are teaching and baptizing new members all the time, so we have our work cut out for us once we really get started. We will also be meeting with the missionary preparation class, which is held once a week, to help young men and women who desire to serve a mission to prepare themselves spiritually to go out into the world to preach the gospel. Hopefully we can do some good. In the meantime, we are just biding our time, shopping for food and furnishings for a new apartment, and visiting around with anyone who will talk to us. We actually do our snorkeling on our “P” day (preparation day), sort of a day-off from missionary work to write letters, emails, clean house, have some sort of recreation and, of course, do laundry.

JOHN: One day this week we drove up the coast to see if we could find the village where I served as a young missionary. I was unable to find the exact spot where our old house stood. It was behind a chapel, and the chapel is now gone. The other fales there looked unfamiliar to me, but there was a new chapel nicely situated on a projection, right on the coastline. The village is called Moesavili, which means sleep in the breeze, and there was a nice, cool breeze coming in off the ocean as we walked around this beautiful new chapel. The grounds were landscaped and maintained beautifully, and we found a cab driver and 2 lady missionaries who informed us that this was, in fact, the Moesavili chapel. The coastline there is something you might expect to see on a travel brochure – absolutely beautiful.
I remember the meetings we held there in the old chapel with everyone sitting on the floor, and the small children sitting cross-legged, and falling asleep in the meetings with their heads on the floor in front of them and their legs still crossed. The women nursed their babies openly in the meetings, and the sacrament consisted of pieces of taro, baked bananas, or breadfruit, because bread was not often available. We were often asked to speak without any advanced warning in these meetings, and this necessitated our always having something ready to speak on. Now there are nice pews, an organ, bread, and enough good, knowledgeable members to do most things without relying heavily on the missionaries. I look forward to meeting people in their homes to help them strengthen their resolve to be active in the church. I believe the Polynesians are the pure blood of Israel as suggested by the Book of Mormon, and the reason they are so strongly Christian is because of that heritage. So many have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and joined the church, and the church is well thought of now, and experiences much less persecution than in former days. I believe that when they hear the message of the restored gospel they are quick to recognize the “Shepherd’s” voice because they are of His fold. Unfortunately, the customs of the country make it difficult for many to remain faithful, and they go back to their old ways. That’s why we’re here—to bring them back to Christ. My impatience needs to be tempered by the fact that we are now just one month into our mission, and we spent only 5 days in the MTC in Provo, while the young missionaries spend 9 weeks in Provo just learning the language before they come here. I’ll keep working on the patience thing.

KAREN: Soooo…… are you ready for another little episode in the continuing saga of “The Krogh Laundry Trials and Tribulations”? No??? Well, just skip ahead then, but I do want to get this down in our record and it does continue to get more and more comical. After the first hand-washing and wringing incident, we planned very carefully to watch for a fully sunny day to accomplish the next washday. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t rain later, but at least we could be assured there would be no power outage. First thing in the morning, on what appeared to be a very bright day, we took a couple of loads over to the wash house, loaded up two machines, turned them on and noticed the water was still coming in at a trickle. Ooookaaaay, what next? We then noticed a hose hooked up to the adjacent laundry tub and realized that we probably had to help fill the washers with water from the hose in order to get them to fill up before nightfall. We got one filled and started, and then filled the other one and got it on its way. Piece of cake!!! Well……. not until you realize that the washer is probably going to spin all the soapy water out at some point and will need to be filled again in order to rinse the clothes. We took turns checking the machines on and off until it looked like they were ready to be filled again. We repeated the earlier regimen of filling each washer for the rinse and congratulated ourselves when we were finally able to pull clean, spun-damp clothes from the washers with absolutely no wringing on our part. Knowing we had to leave soon, and also knowing it would probably rain while we were gone, we proceeded to hang the first batch of clothes in the laundry room. We had pretty well filled up the lines when John went to get the second batch, so I figured we’d have to hang them over the backs of chairs, etc. in order to get them all dry. When he came back in, quite a bit later and empty-handed, I asked what had gone wrong now. With a silly grin on his face he said, “oh I just hung them out Samoan style.” He led me to the front porch and proudly showed me where he had laid them neatly out on the front sidewalk ‘Samoan style’.
For generations before Samoans had clotheslines, all of their laundry was laid out all over the yard, on the grass, and especially on the abundance of black volcanic rock all over the island. The first time I saw it 5 years ago, I thought the laundry had blown off a clothesline. I mentioned it John and he said that’s the way they always do it. Most homes have clotheslines now, but many still use the old time-tested method of spreading them on the warm, clean black rocks, or on cement sidewalks or driveways, if they have them. So, John is now a full fledged Samoan laundress. Fortunately, it did not rain while we were gone that day, and we were able to gather up the dry clothes when we got home. Now….don’t forget to tune in next week for the next laundry tale. Actually, it’s already happened, but I won’t burden you with it this time around. It’s definitely time to end this for now.

With love from The Kroghs


Tracy Hall Jr said...

So nice to hear of your experiences! I'm sure you are exactly right for this calling.



Silvey Mothership said...

I look forward to each new post! Thank you for detailing all you do and plan to do as missionaries. I know you will be perfect to activate, friendship, and love the Somoan people. I loved the sewing machine story- it's so you to NEED to sew. You are in our prayers as missionaries and friends. Thanks again for sharing your adventures, experiences, and testimonies.

gaylendick said...

Hi,more later

gaylendick said...

Sorry about that short comment. Whitney was on the phone teaching me how to post a comment, and my visiting teachers arrived; so I had to cut it short. I have written 3 or 4 comments since you started blogging, but I didn't know how to get them posted. I do now, and hope I remember.
It is so fun to hear about your English classes and what a great response you've had to them. What a beautiful, green land you are serving in. I'd love to see some photos of your new home now that it's finished.
Dick arrives home from Afghanistan tonight. I'm so glad!
Keep on Bloggin'.

Laree said...

Hi Elder and Sister Krogh, It is so good to here that you are both having a wonderfull experience there. You will have memories to last a lifetime. You both are such great examples for all of us here in Wallsburg. Keep up the good work of the Lord and I ma excited to here of your next adventures. Eric jacobsen

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