Thursday, February 4, 2010

#2 – January 19, 2010

KAREN: Once we finished our week at the MTC, we had three days to finish packing and setting things in order before we left. It felt like we’d been to Heaven and back, having to return home after the atmosphere at the MTC and deal with the final hassle of laundry, storing the last few things out of the way of our new tenants and juggling all of our mission clothes and books, etc. in and out of six different suitcases in order to make the weight limits for the plane without extra luggage charges. Our goal was to leave home at about 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning in order to run a couple of errands before we were to meet the family at a restaurant for lunch about 1:00 p.m. They were all there and eating from the buffet when we arrived about 1:30, very hungry and happy to see so many of them one last time before we got on the plane. We had a great lunch and visit, packed into a very small private dining room, and then proceeded to the parking lot where we gathered for a final family prayer before taking off to the airport. That’s when I really lost it. Final goodbyes are always so difficult for me, but this one was to last two years, and more for the grandsons who will go on their missions while we are gone. I can’t imagine what it must have been like years ago when there was no e-mail or skype to keep us so easily connected. From Samoa, letters could take weeks. I’m so happy we don’t have to be out of the family news loop for that long.
JOHN: We left SLC on the afternoon of Jan 12th after having met the family for dinner at Golden Corral. Our flight to LA was uneventful. Fortunately we had a long layover (3 hrs.), because we had to catch a shuttle to another terminal and ran into some delays once we ended up at the New Zealand Airlines ticket desk. After standing in a short line for awhile, we were mistakenly sent to another very long line, only to find out we should have been in the first line after all. We got back to the right ticket line, waited our turn, and finally ended up at the weigh-in counter to discover that Delta and New Zealand Air had different weight limits for carry-on baggage. We were overweight and would have to pay on both bags. Our alternative was to unload a bunch of stuff from one bag to the other to make the first one below the limit. Gratefully, we had not used the extended height on our bags, so we were able to cram the second bag really full of the extra things and check that heavier one. We took stuff out right there on the check-in counter scales, juggling our passports, drivers licenses, purse and laptop bag. Once that hassle and our ticket check-in was completed, we got back in the same long line to go through the security check- in, and of course, we both had to be scanned and patted down extra because of our artificial hips. The flight to Samoa was pleasant. The food and service were probably the best of any airline I have been on. We arrived in Samoa to 80-plus degree heat and very high humidity, after a 12 hour flight, at 5:40 a.m. We picked up our bags, checked through Customs quickly, and were met by President and Sister Haleck. They took us to the other end of the island to The Church compound in Pesega (pronounced Pay-sanga) that encompasses the Temple, two stake centers, The Church college (a high school actually)and teachers’ homes, and the Mission home and missionary residences.
On the way, we were informed that we would be going to the island of Savaii to work as fellowshipping missionaries. We were to assist inactive members come back into activity in the church. We were delighted to hear this. At Pesega, we were given an apartment to stay in for a few days until we could get drivers licenses, and buy some items to take with us the next week, when we were to take the ferry to Savaii. During our days in Pesega we had breakfast and dinner with the Halecks, went to town several times to go shopping, went snorkeling with some other senior missionaries, visited the area that had been hit by the tsunami in September, etc. I had lost my drivers license somewhere on the trip and I had to go back a second time, after Karen had obtained hers the day before. I went into the license office, after sitting on the bench outside and waiting my turn, rather than step up to the head of the line like most palagis (pa-long-ees - white folks) do. I also talked Samoan to people on the bench and in the office, and I think this helped me get my Samoan license without taking the test, even though I had lost my American license.
The devastation from the tsunami was sad to see. Many homes were partially re-built, but many were still just crumbled foundations. A newly finished Stake Center was also demolished, with just the outside walls left standing.
There were several tent cities along the route, where people are still living after 4 months. Much green foliage had re-grown over the bare earth. When we went snorkeling later in the week, the coral in the water was all broken up, especially close to the beach. There were still many fish in the water, and the water was a beautiful aquamarine color and just slightly cooler than body temperature. I saw a sea snake and knowing how poisonous they were, I didn’t touch it.
We went to an English-speaking ward on Sunday, and then had a great dinner with some of the other missionaries at Elder and Sister Bell’s apartment. (They are the missionary couple who run the Mission President’s office) We had been to the temple earlier in the week at an English-speaking session. I was given a headset to listen in Samoan. I understood it quite well, much to my delight. When Karen and I came here for the Temple dedication in 2005, I didn’t understand the session very well at all, so my years of studying had paid off. Our trip on the ferry to Savaii went very well with no seasickness at all.
KAREN: John was right about our flights, uneventful and pleasant. Once we got past Security in LA, we grabbed a quick hamburger at a Burger King and made our way over to our gate to wait for our flight to leave for Samoa about 10:00 pm. It was direct to Samoa, so there were many Samoans in the waiting area. We met three young native Samoan missionaries, straight out of the MTC, but on their way to serve their missions in Tonga, with a short layover in Samoa before moving on. We also met another native Samoan young man who had just completed his two-year mission in Oakland, California, and was returning home to Samoa. He was decked out in the usual mission uniform (dark suit, white shirt and tie, a big grin and a hearty handshake, not to mention several strands of mini-candy bars made up into leis piled around his neck, a farewell send-off from members in Oakland.
After we had been sitting down next to him and visiting for a while, he presented us each with a lei for around our necks. We felt a little silly wandering around the airport wearing the candy leis, but didn’t have the heart to remove them because he had been so delighted to give them to us. Even after we got on the plane, he sat across the aisle from us, so we didn’t actually take them off until the next morning, after sleeping on them for several hours. Needless to say, they got all melted inside the packages, but they tasted just as great when we started nibbling on them a couple of days later.(This paragraph is out-of-sequence, and taking place a week later in Vaiola, and it’s happening as I write) I’m having a new kind of experience right now. I woke up about 5:00 a.m., after having another hard night of sleep because of the all-night rain, and the room was pitch black and I mean BLACK. It took me a while to figure out that the street light that usually illuminates the bedroom was black also. I got up and tried the light switch and nothing happened. Aha! A power outage. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I figured I’d just go in and work on this blog segment, because I couldn’t read or anything. Well, finding my way into the living room to get the laptop was a real chore, because there is no light anywhere. At home, where it is plenty dark up in the mountains during a power outage, I don’t remember ever having this kind of darkness. Kind of spooky. Even working on the laptop with the lighted screen, I have to tip the lid periodically to see the keys when I move my hands off. Weird………..I’d better add flashlights to the shopping list. I just thought of something. School starts here on the compound this morning, after being off for ‘summer’ break. I’m told that the school mornings start with music playing all over the compound for awhile before school. I wonder if the power will be back on in time. A lot of the classes are skyped in from New Zealand, so that could be a problem too. Hmm. I wonder what the day will bring for the first day of school.
Okay, I’d better get back to the project at hand—this journal entry. We had a great flight from LA direct to Samoa, about 12 hours. Unlike most of the budget-slashing US airlines, we had lots of snacks, drinks, a lovely supper that night and breakfast the next morning. I slept very well, after some pretty short nights prior to the trip, but John didn’t sleep much at all, which is par-for the-course with him. He can’t sleep in a car, train, bus, or plane while it’s in motion. Just about the time breakfast was all cleared up, it was time to land, about 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 13, 2010. When we stepped off the plane, we were hit with an enormous blast of hot air—Samoan heat and HUMIDITY. We had left home in very dry Utah the day before with a foot of snow on the ground and about 20 degree temperatures. What a switch. It was still pretty dark outside at that time, so we couldn’t see much beyond the lights of the Airport. After collecting our luggage and going through Customs, we left the building to find President and Sister Haleck, our mission president and his wife, waiting to pick us up. We recognized them from their picture in our missionary packet, and we had met them very briefly 5 years before on our trip to Samoa for the LDS Temple Dedication. It was light outside by then and we could start to see the beautiful area surrounding the airport—all very lush and green with palm trees and flowers everywhere, just like we remembered it. Our huge stack of luggage just barely fit in their car, but we made it with some small carry-ons on our laps. It’s probably about a 45-minute ride back to Pesega, where the mission home is located just outside of Apia, the capital city. On the ride in, President Haleck informed us that we would be stationed over on the Island of Savaii, which John had been yearning for. It’s a much slower-paced island than Upolo, where the capital is, and more typically Samoan. We were taken to a small duplex in the Church College compound where we would be staying for the next 5 days, until we were scheduled to take the Ferry to Savaii the following Tuesday. We would then move temporarily into this little house where we are now in Vaiola, until we could find an apartment down around the villages by the beach. It sounds pretty tough doesn’t it? WELL, SOMEBODY HAS TO DO IT!!
Parked across the street from our unit was what will be our car for the duration of the mission. It’s a nice new little white compact car, a Hyundai Tuscon, with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car (Yes! and whooooa!), and we will be required to drive on the left side of the road (whoooa again).. We’d gotten a taste of that as we drove home from the airport in the Haleck’s car and it felt very strange. We were taken that day to get our new drivers’ licenses by the finance secretary, Elder Bell, who would walk us through the process. The first thing that happened when we got to the license office was that we realized neither of us had our Utah licenses on us. We’d had them out when we checked in at airport, and because our arms were loaded with carry-ons, we’d stuff them in John’s coat pocket, which was back in the apartment. We had to traipse back to the duplex, where I found mine right away, but after a lengthy search, John never did find his. It was decided that I would go ahead and get my new Samoan license and be the family chauffeur (whoooa a third time) until John was able get his, probably after having to take a test. I was able to get my license by just showing them my Utah license and filling out some papers. Then we went back to the college and tried to figure out what had happened to that lost license. We mentally retraced our steps from the last time John had had it, while we were juggling luggage around in LA to make the weight limit for New Zealand Airlines. We remember that he put both of our licenses and passports in his pocket in the flurry. He did finally take his coat off when we were getting seated in the plane and laid it out in the overhead compartment. It could have fallen out then. Also, as we were moving our luggage around on a cart in Customs, he had thrown his coat on top of the suitcases, because he certainly didn’t want to put it on with all the heat. It could have fallen out then, as well. When we were over in the mission office, we found out that the three Samoan missionaries who were on the plane with us and would be flying on to Tonga, had somehow missed their flight and would not be able to get another for a few days. So a couple of young missionaries serving there in Pesega were going to go pick them up at the airport and would check around there to see if John’s license had been turned in to Lost and Found. The only thing they were able to retrieve at the airport were the three disgruntled missionaries, who would have to come back and double up with the local elders until they could catch another flight. We just gave up looking for the license and I took John back the next day to get his new one.

The people in the Mission office warned him that he would probably have to take the test, because without an existing license they’d have no way of knowing whether he could drive or not. When we went with Elder Bell the day before, he walked us right past a row of benches full of Samoans waiting outside to get into the license office. We didn’t think much of it at the time until we’d finished getting my license, and then we realized that we had jumped way ahead of the others in line. Maybe it’s expected that the palagis will always go ahead, but we were very uncomfortable about it after. When we went back the next day, John refused to go ahead and waited in line for a half hour or so just shooting the breeze in Samoan with the others in line. Once it was his turn to get to the first desk, he had a nice little Samoan chat with the clerk, who then filled out John’s papers, happily stamped them and sent him on his way, new license in hand with no test. He had just charmed his way through it all. It was really something to see, and greatly amazed everybody back at the mission office when they heard about it.
(I just have to interject another little story in right here, even though it’s out of sequence, but it relates to the out-of-sequence paragraph I snuck in earlier in this segment.) I had mentioned that I had awakened to a blackout here at the school. It had been storming all night. My plan for today was to get our laundry done, which was long overdue. I realized that with the power out, the washers in the wash house wouldn’t work. So we busied ourselves with other projects, until we heard the loud speaker at the school come on. We checked our own lights, and sure enough, the power was back on. I gathered up a large load of laundry, carted it over to the wash house and loaded up two big batches. When I started to fill them, I noticed that the water was coming in very slowly, so I slipped back to our place and grabbed my language book to study and wait for the washers to fill, before I put the soap in. When I got back to the wash house, the water had stopped running completely. I pushed every button I could, but couldn’t get any more water to come on. I went back to the house and called the Montgomerys (the only other American missionary couple on this island, who are serving a special Church Education mission here at the school) and asked if there was a trick to getting the washers going. Elder ‘M’ said that the power that was on now was just the auxiliary generator and would not be enough to run the washers properly. Oooh great!!! I had two washers full of clothes, soaked with just enough water to make them really heavy. I went back and got John and he helped me unload the washers and carry the soggy clothes back to the house, where we proceeded to wash them by hand in a wash tub in a laundry room there in our house. It probably took the two of us about three hours to hand wash, wring, then take to the kitchen sink to rinse and wring again twice, while the next batch was washed in the wash tub.
I can remember some times in our early marriage when we were poor struggling students with 5 kids, including 2 babies in diapers (not disposable), and our washer would break down and we couldn’t afford to fix it. I had to do our laundry by hand in the bathtub. John, of course, was gone most of the time in classes or studying and could not help me. Well, he got a dose of it today. Gratefully, he assisted me through this process, or it would have taken me all day long to get it done. I doubt he’s ever done much hand laundry, other than maybe a pair of sox or underwear when we’d run out on a trip. I had learned early on that if you don’t really wring the water out of the clothes tightly, instead of just squeezing it in a ball, a lot a soapy residue is left in and they take forever to drip dry. John had to be given ‘wringing lessons’ in order to be very efficient as a laundress. We wrang(?), or wringed(?), or whatever the past tense of ‘wring’ is, until our arms were worn out and we were soaked all down the front of us. I ended up with a big blister on my thumb in the process and poor John had to finish the wringing while I hung the clothes on a makeshift clothesline that John had strung? (strung, strang or stringed(?)—whatever) out across and crisscrossed in the laundry room. It was just pouring rain, so we couldn’t hang them outside.
We ran out of clothespins half-way through, so the rest of the clothes had to be draped over the line doubled up and would take twice as long to dry. The drying process is extra long anyway, because of the humidity, so who knows when we’ll have clean, dry clothes to wear. You’d think that once we got the clothes washed, wrung, rinsed and wrung again twice and finally hung that our work would have been done, right? WRONG!!! We had to go back and squeeze out the bottom of each hung-up piece, where the water was dripping onto the floor, and keep going back and mopping up the floor until the dripping finally stopped. (well, that was a fun little detour wasn’t it? Everyone in the world is dying to know how the Kroghs do their laundry, I’m sure.) Please forgive me for having this whole laundry story completely out of whack with the so-called continuing saga of the Kroghs in Samoa, but I’m not very good at this blog/cut/paste/move thing yet and I’m afraid if I try to move it to where it belongs in time, it will end up somewhere in cyberspace.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes--back to business. Now that John had his license and was able to drive on the left side of the road, it was my turn to back-seat drive (or passenger-seat-on-the-left drive, in this case) which he had been doing with me for 24 hrs. “ Whoa! You’re going off the edge of the pavement on this side!” or “You can’t pull out yet—you’ll get smashed broadside by the guy coming at you from the right.” or “Watch out!! That guy coming around the bend is going to hit you head on!!—oooops, sorry, he’s on the other side of the road.” If you’ve never done this, try to envision yourself making your left turns by just hugging the edge to the left as you turn, or pulling out into the traffic across in front of cars coming from the right in order to make a right turn. Needless to say, I was happy to relinquish the driving to him and he’s actually doing it quite naturally by now. I haven’t driven since he took over, but I suppose I should take a turn now and then, just to get the hang of it, especially the rules about who to yield to, which is still very confusing to me.

My goodness, I’ve gone on and on again. Please forgive my ramblings. There are so many new experiences coming at us, it’s hard to say it in just a few words—well, for me, that is. I’m still at least a week behind. I think we’ll sign off for now though and give you a rest and me some time to figure out how to add some snapshots to this epistle. I haven’t done that yet, and even though Kelly wrote very detailed instructions for me, I expect it will take some time for me to get it right.
Love to all from the Missionary Kroghs


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