It’s probably been about a week since we finished the last entry and most of our days are similar to the ones described in the last blog segment. We continue to go to town and shop and just wander around and introduce ourselves to people and chat for a bit. We quite often find other members of the Church working in different places around the towns and villages. We are always very recognizable because of our missionary attire and our nametags, so we get stopped a lot by members who are used to missionaries. John is always in his white shirt, dark pants and tie, but I am able to wear clothes that are a little less institutional looking. I’ve finally finished making some lighter-weight and more colorful clothes (in moderation, that is) and will probably be sending most of the original wardrobe I brought with me back home pretty soon.
The temperature varies all the way from about 79-81 degrees, day and night, so it’s all very predictable. At night we may need a sheet over us at times, but seldom. It continues to rain constantly, but we’ve realized it’s not such a problem as long as we have our umbrella with us. When we run in the mornings, it actually feels great to get wet, and we often do. The humidity doesn’t seem to plague us quite so much now. It’s just a fact of life in Samoa we’ve learned to deal with. Our clothes, even clean ones, get smelling slightly of mildew, but after finally finding a supply of Febreze over in Apia, we’ve got that problem licked as well. I do more laundry than usual, as you may have noticed from our earlier blogs, but we’re learning when and how to do it and to accept that we will always have wet clothes hanging in our house. We have a separate laundry room here in Vaiola, but won’t have down in Lalomalava, so there’ll be clotheslines strung in the bedroom and living room I expect. There are clotheslines in the yard there, but we’ll be gone so much from home, we won’t be there to watch for rain and bring the clothes in. We’ll have washer and dryer privileges, but they charge extra for the dryer, so we’ll use it sparingly.
As long as we’re talking about laundry again, I might as well get the next installation of “Laundry Tales” out of the way and be done with it. The day after we figured out how to use the machines in the washhouse, a truck drove up to our door and delivered a beautiful brand new washer and dryer. Once they got it unloaded and into the laundry room, they said they’d be back to determine how to vent the dryer. In the mean time, we were free to use the washer whenever we wanted. We noticed a sticker on the lid that cautioned us to use only “high efficiency laundry powder”, which is not what we purchased the first time around. We were warned several times in the instructions to stay away from regular laundry powder because the high suds created problems with rinsing and could damage the machine. When we went into town the next time, we went to every store available and found absolutely no laundry soap anywhere marked ‘high efficiency’. Most merchants had no idea what we were talking about. We finally found one that noted smaller quantities to use for front-loading washers, but didn’t say anything about high efficiency. Since it was getting time to do laundry again, we went ahead and decided to try that one.
We got the washer all hooked up to the water and drainage sink and proceeded to start the first batch of clothes by just putting the soap in, pushing the right buttons and going about our other business. Being a little paranoid about the suds, I checked to find that they were all foamed up and spilling out from under the lid. I got a cup and scooped most of them out, which we had to do a couple more times before it stopped agitating. Once it started to drain, we figured we were home free. (oh sure!!) As we were sitting there at the table quietly studying, we started to hear and feel this horrendous sound from the laundry room. We ran in and found that the vibrations of the spinning had sent the washer walking all over the room. John grabbed hold of it and hung on as he walked/wobbled it back into place and had to hold it down until the spinning stopped. We figured it must just be out of balance, so we grabbed the instructions to find out how to balance it. All it required was a special wrench, which we didn’t own, so he turned the legs by hand as far as he could. While he ran to find the maintenance men who had delivered it, I proceeded to start the washer back up so that I could rinse the clothes, knowing full well that it would probably start vibrating again as soon as the spin cycle kicked in. I hoped John would be back by then with help, but figured I could hold it down as well as he could, if I had to. Well, I found that I could, but my arms got so tired, I had to shut the machine down. Pondering my dilemma, I grabbed a chair from the dining room, climbed up on the washer and plopped down, turned the spin cycle on again and sat there for the next ten minutes riding the machine until it finally finished. What I didn’t realize was that this was a double-rinse cycle, so I let it do it’s thing again.
I grabbed my book and climbed on again for the final spin, which is where John found me when he came back. This was a photo moment, if ever there was one. When the workmen came back with their wrenches, and made some adjustments, they wanted me to start another load so they could see what was going on. After emptying the first load and loading the second, and being cautious to add very little soap, we left the workmen to watch the cycle and they were there ready to catch it as it took off again. They decided that there was definitely something wrong with the machine and they would recommend to their superior that it be sent back. They left us there, with a batch of clean, but soapy, clothes, so I informed John that since I was now an experienced washing machine rider, I’d get my book and take it from there for the two rinse cycles. Once that was done and we had the laundry hung, we figured we’d go back to the washhouse with the last batch of dirty clothes. However, before we left, the ‘superior’ in charge of maintenance came and wanted to check out the washer before he had it sent back. Sooo.... we demonstrated the wash cycle for him, with John helping him hold it down, and then he left saying it would definitely have to go back. Okay, that’s fine, but now we’re left with one last batch of soapy laundry that needed to be rinsed. John volunteered to rinse it in the sink and then wring it out, but I had grown to love the jolly jaunt so much that I just grabbed my book, climbed aboard, and accompanied the ill-fated washer through its last two spin cycles. Yaaahooooo!!! I told you didn’t I, that it gets more and more comical. Who knows what to expect once we start washing our clothes at the hotel, but you know, I’m beginning to think there might be a book in the making here—how about DIRT DISPOSAL FOR DUMMIES or maybe even LAUNDRY LAMENTATIONS OF A LUDICROUS LADY? Does anyone know any publishers who might take a chance on it???
Now, we’re not on this mission just to provide entertainment for the masses of people following this blog. We do have serious business here and it is really starting to pick up finally. We have a zone meeting tomorrow, a missionary training class on Friday and a Fireside on Sunday. Hopefully, after those meetings are out of the way, we’ll have plenty to keep us busy in the missionary vein. John, who has always been such a hard worker and has had all kinds of extra things to keep him busy back home, finds himself a little too idle when he gets to the point that he’s had enough of language and scripture study. He helps me with my duties--shopping, cooking, cleaning, LAUNDRY-- but is still feeling that’s not what he came to Samoa for. I suggested that he needed to start up another little hobby for just such times as these, like whittling, drawing, etc. While he was kibitzing around on the front porch with a bunch of the neighbor kids, and was waiting for me to come out with my little piano, a great idea struck me. He’d been wanting me to teach him how to play the piano for years, but would always get bored with it when I tried, like he did as a kid. Now he can’t run off to the woodshop or his garden when he needs something to do. Also, I need someone to experiment on with the Basic Piano Course that was added to my duties as a missionary.
So for the past two nights, I’ve started him on the simple lessons in that course. He’s practically teaching himself, so I don’t have to do much. He doesn’t last too long at it, but he is moving through the lessons and learning the technique and will actually be able to assist me in teaching it when he gets to a certain point in the course. Along with teaching simple piano/keyboard lessons, I’ll be teaching some conducting classes as well. Music always plays such an important part in all our worship services and auxiliary meetings. The Bishops all like to have up-and-coming accompanists and conductors in their wards to assist in the music callings in each auxiliary. So that’s another part of our member support responsibilities.
Another part of my duties that John has taken on is helping with the cooking. I joked before we came to Samoa that since the men in Samoa do all the cooking, I would certainly go along with that and turn it all over to John. He has helped me a lot with meal preparation and cleanup since he has plenty of time to do it. We have been getting so many gifts of pineapple, papaya and bananas that we’ve had to discreetly unload some of it off onto the elders and they are usually happy to get it. The papayas and pineapples keep pretty well in the fridge, but once a banana is ripe, it needs to be eaten or turned into banana bread. The only baking pan we had in the house was one we picked up when we were last in Apia—a nice cake pan/baking pan/cookie sheet. We got a banana bread recipe from Kimmy when we were skyping with them and John figured he was ready to make banana bread. We realized that we had no eggs, so we bought a dozen very small eggs, for about 6.50 Samoan Tala (ST), which is about $3.00 (ouch!). We don’t plan to do too much with eggs at that price. After dinner one evening last week, John decided to make banana bread. He had all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl and had cracked the first egg into the other bowl with the oil. Somehow as he was reaching for the second egg, he knocked the whole carton of eggs on the floor. We lost about 8 of them in that accident.
He felt so bad, not only because of the mess, but the cost of the eggs. We cleaned it all up and finished getting the batter in the pan, sort of a small cookie sheet with high sides, and got it in the oven. We followed the recipe in terms of oven temperature and time, but realized after that we should have cooked it either a shorter time or a cooler temperature, because it looked pretty well done when we got it out of the oven. It did taste good though and we’ve requested some bread-baking pans in our next Care package from home. We learned a lesson or two on how to go about our next attempt at baking--alter the time and temp and keep the eggs away from the edge of the table.
In the course of an average day we seem to spend a lot of time in the car. That can be pretty nice actually, in light of the constant heat and humidity. This little car is very well air-conditioned and a nice reprieve in the middle of the day. We see a lot of very interesting things as we drive around. John has been amazed at all of the newer homes that have replaced the typical old very picturesque Samoan fales (house) that he was so used to when he was here over fifty years ago. The thatched roof is pretty much a thing of the past, even on the typical fale, so nearly 90% of all buildings have corrugated metal roofing on them. To find someone actually living in one of the old style fales, instead of relegating them to cook house or animal abode, is quite unusual. We had to stop and snap a picture of this fale, with thatched roof intact, and still being lived in.
Note the second little building next to the bigger one. That is the cook house. Most Samoan homes, including the more modern ones, have a little building outside of the regular house to do their cooking and especially the baking, because it keeps the mess and heat away from the family.
The more modern version of Samoan homes may still have the open walls, but are often painted in very bright colors and have multi-colored print fabric shades to pull down when it rains or they want privacy at night. Notice the large cheerfully painted truck tires decorating the front yard in the third picture (a very common sight in Samoa). Their yards are all very well kept up and have colorful native foliage growing everywhere. There are very few lawnmowers in Samoa. All those neatly manicured lawns are kept up with a weed eater. I expect there could even be some that are still ‘mowed’ by a bunch of guys with machetes, the old fashioned way it was done when John was here as a young missionary. (This is 2 days later—today we actually saw a little old lady doing that very thing—cutting her grass with a machete almost as big as she was) The grass is also weed-eaten (is that a word?) about 6 ft. wide all along both sides of the highways where there are no homes at all. I thought it was just for looks, but John said that the way things grow here, the lush green vines would be encroaching on the pavement in no time, if they let them go. It makes sense to me, but it still looks really nice.
There are also quite a few concrete block homes, with louvered windows which are almost always opened, even when it rains. That’s the type of house we live in here and I really like the control the louvers give us with the heat, air and rain. Almost every house, and church or school for that matter, has a large open building right next to or even attached to their homes like a covered patio, which sort of acts as a gathering room for large groups, and also doubles as living space, outdoor sleeping space and laundry-hanging space when it rains. I’ve wished for a building like that next to my house, so I don’t have to hang the clothes all over inside the house.
KAREN – February 16th – (five days later) We’ve had a more eventful week this time around. We did have a zone meeting where it was suggested that the missionaries could be a big help to the kids in the wards, by offering to assist them with their homework. All the children in Samoa are learning English and it is quite difficult for them. Apparently the government schools don’t give them enough English for them to pass their exams and get into better schools. The parents are so anxious for their children to succeed in English, because that’s where their futures will be found. After talking to the Bishop, it was decided that we would hold our first “homework assistance session” on Sunday afternoon at 3:30. It was announced twice in our church meetings earlier in the day and we expected to have a few kids, mostly teenagers, that we would be helping with their homework. Well, about 50 kids from about ages 5 to 17 showed up, plus some of their parents. Only a few of the older ones had homework with them. The others all just wanted to get better in English. The first 20 minutes were very confusing, trying to come up with some way to deal with all the different levels. Fortunately, we had two Elders there to help us. It was decided to split the group up and send the younger ones, some of whom could hardly read any English, out to another classroom with the missionaries. The poor elders also thought they would just be helping with a little homework, so as they left with the young kids, probably about 25 of them, they gave a us look that said “HELP!!!” I left John to fend for himself with the older kids for a while and helped herd the other children into another classroom and suggested the Elders start with the English alphabet, help them to recognize the letters and how they sounded, and maybe even make some words out of them. I left them and went back in to where John was trying to zero in on some sort of class discussion with the teenagers. They talked about the difference between Samoan pronunciation vs. English, and also had some of the kids with homework bring it up and we’d try to make a lesson out of it. We were still in over our heads, so I took another of bunch of Jr. High-age girls to another classroom and started to quiz them on what some of their biggest challenges were in school. The first room we went into was right next to the one that the elders had the younger ones in. The elders were doing great making games out of the alphabet, but the noise level was just like a playground at recess. With my bad ears and the soft spoken young girls, I couldn’t make sense out of anything they said. We moved to another room clear across the courtyard from the noise and did much better. In a more quiet setting, I resumed asking each one about their most challenging problem. They brought up things like, pronunciation, speech writing and delivering, spelling, etc. I was going by the seat of my pants here, so I asked each one of them to write a short speech, in English, one half page, telling us about themselves—who they are, their families, what they like to do--and if there were Samoan words that they didn’t know the English word for, to just leave a blank space and make a note of the Samoan word down below. I would also write a speech in Samoan about me and my life and we would all share it next week in front of each other. Once they all understood the assignment, we talked about another possible weekday class later in the week and promptly adjourned. I told the elders to go ahead and close down and went in to join John, where we announced that now we knew what we were up against, we would come better prepared next week. We’ll see how many show up next time.
We’ve been on the phone all day for a couple of days since Sunday talking to people at the different church schools to see if there are some books and lesson plans we could use to make the classes more meaningful for the kids. We’ll be going over to Apia next week to pick up some materials, but in the meantime, we went to the local library, where the librarian was most anxious to help us come up with some books to use until we could get the help we needed from the schools. We’ve created a new schedule in order to split up the kids and spread them a little thinner. We’re going to ask the bishop to recommend some Ward Members who speak good English to help us as well. Say a prayer for us. We really need it.
This experience makes me think of something that happed over in Pesega before we came to Savai’i. One of the young elders told us about a quote from a visiting general authority who was giving them some counsel during a time of discouragement. The quote said “There is no Growth in the Comfort Zone and there is no Comfort in the Growth Zone”. Those words hit home so totally with me that I had to go home and print it up (by hand with colored markers), frame it, and hang it on the wall where I could see it every day. I am definitely out of my ‘comfort zone’ and hopefully there is an enormous amount of ‘growth’ going on right now. It’s been made very clear to us that helping families bolster up their English is one of the best kinds of member support we can offer them, but how we do it will be a tremendous growth experience for us.
JOHN: One morning last week I had the feeling that we needed to go down to one of the villages on the coast and visit the local minister. The village is called Sapapali’i, and has a bunch of history associated with it. It was here that the first Christian missionary, John Williams, arrived in Samoa in 1830, and the church set up became the LMS (London Missionary Society) church of Samoa. It continues this day to be the predominant church in the country. They are a protestant church patterned after The Church of England. The actual site of the landing is marked by a big monument, and right by it is this big, beautiful church. It may well be the biggest and most important LMS church in Samoa--certainly it is on this island. The other island, Upolu, is more populated, but because John Williams landed here it has special status over the other churches. The village was named to commemorate William‘s arrival there. When his ship’s sails broke the horizon, the white sails seemed to the Samoans to be like an explosion in the sky. Explosion is “pa pa”, and chief (or lord) is “ali’i”. The past tense is “sa”, hence the word Sa papa ali’i is contracted to “Sapapali’i”. The minister of this church is undoubtedly carefully selected, and holds a position of great respect. We met him, Esera (Ezra), and his wife Tamara and began what is proving to be a close, mutual friendship. They are most gracious, and eager to visit with us. They are both native Samoans, but speak good English, and look forward to our visits to engage in good, friendly conversation. I told him on our first visit that I had been listening to the local radio to help me get an ear for the spoken language, and that some of the best spoken word came from ministers’ sermons. I asked if he would allow us to attend his church so I could hear his sermons in Samoan. He said we were very welcome to come, and so the following Sunday we attended our first LMS Church meeting in his beautiful chapel. It was very impressive and the music was wonderful, with the audience doing all of it with full voices and wonderful harmony. He even spoke kindly of us from the pulpit, pronounced a blessing on our work, and asked his congregation to be accepting of us--not at all like the early days of our church when we were persecuted severely by the other churches of Samoa. He even announced that I would be giving a sermon at some point in the future. This story will be interesting to follow in days to come.
KAREN: I’ll just fill in a few little blanks here about our visit to the LMS church. (Hmmm, interesting how close that comes to LDS Church). Actually, we were able to locate that minister because we ran into a young American girl from Texas named Emily who was walking by the Church earlier in the week. There are so few Americans on the island, that we seem to naturally migrate toward each other. She is in Samoa as a member of the Peace Corps and happens to be staying with our minister friend while she volunteers at an elementary (called primary) school in that village. She is struggling with Samoan like I am and we had a lovely visit with her. She told us where to find the minister’s home and hoped to meet with us again sometime to swap stories and languages. Before walking up to the minister’s home, I was very nervous about showing up there unannounced. They were so very cordial when we arrived and we had a wonderful visit and an invitation to attend their services on the following Sunday.
After the service, the minister and his wife asked us for lunch, but we had to rush off to our own church meetings where we had obligations. We made plans to do that on another Sunday.
I had a hard time sleeping the other night. I knew my good friend, Gary Totland, was in serious trouble in an intensive care unit back in Utah. We learned the next day that he had died about the same time I was having my attack of insomnia. I thought throughout the night that he was one of my few remaining close friends. He was the best man at my wedding, and we did many things, especially sports together over the early years of our lives. He was a great one who could make everyone happy with his wit and genuine friendliness. I’ll have to wait till I am on the other side to renew that friendship.
KAREN: We are truly saddened by Gary’s unexpected death and it makes us feel much older as we realize that there are fewer and fewer friends and relatives our age. I know this must be a great shock for his wife and family, but also know that they, as we, will find comfort over time in the Savior’s gospel and the knowledge that death need not separate families permanently. Thank Heaven for that knowledge and the peace it gives us in times of grief and trial. Life continues to go on in Utah, with deaths, family birthdays, weddings, reunions, etc. and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more news from home to keep up with as we serve out here in the middle of the ocean. Hopefully, most all of the news will be happier than this last bit of news about Gary. So…keep the news coming, we love hearing from you.
Well, thanks for suffering through our travelogue. As our mission progresses and we find ourselves much busier (we hope), I expect the blog will dwindle down to a trickle. It’s been a great time filler for me, like a good friend to talk to I might add, and will create great memories for us as we view it after our mission.
Love to all from The Kroghs
PS: we got our malfunctioning washing machine back today and it worked like a charm, in case you were sitting on the edge of your seats wondering about it.