Hi again to all our family and friends. I wish I could be more consistent with getting this blog out more often, but the time just flies by and we have more experiences and not enough time to sit down to the laptop to get it all written down. The last 2 blogs were just so full of pictures that I had to either just leave some things out until later, or cut them up and send them to Kelly in three different emails. Even then, I didn’t get everything I had done put in those two, so I’m adding this section about tapa cloth right here so that is doesn’t get left behind for the third time. This next section was one that I cut out of another blog that was too long, but I had spent so much time on it and wanted to save it somewhere, so I kept it in my drafts for awhile. Before Christmas we told about a trip we took with the Squires up to Vaisala to go snorkeling and had a wonderful time. We came home around the island another direction, and 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 were leaving to go back home soo and that was 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. I’m just going to show these pictures and make a little comment about each one as the process goes along. I found it quite fascinating. Cut small mulberry tree from back yard and split the bark along one line. For the larger tapa cloths, they would use a tree trunk 6 to 8 inches in diameter, but the smaller one works much quicker and better for the demonstration.
Separate the bark from the tree trunk.
Peel outer bark from the inner white pulp.
Place pulp strip on a wet board, then wet the pulp and scrape it to soften and flatten it.
The scraper is a small seashell, filed smooth along a serrated surface.
The 3-1/2” wide strip, about 5 ft long, is then folded into shorter layers.
The layers are then pounded with a heavy metal mallet on a smooth, hardwood log to flatten and spread it.
It’s continually folded into more layers and pounded wider and wider until it reaches approximately 14” wide, about four times its original width.
The soft, wet tapa cloth is opened up (notice the holes) and made ready to dry.
It’s then stretched out on a sleeping mat to dry, held in place by smooth lava rocks. A piece of dried cloth (finished earlier) is laid back on the board with the carved design.
The cloth is coated with Tapioca glue and pressed into the carved grooves underneath.
Dried pigment is finely grated onto the cloth.
The pigment is spread with a damp wad of tapa cloth to create the basic design on the raised areas (the holes are still visible).
Small pieces of tapa are cut and tapioca-glued to cover the holes.
Another dried layer of plain tapa cloth is glued over the patches and the cloth.
The second layer is dampened with tapioca, pressed into the design and tinted like the first layer (the holes just disappear), and then set aside to dry again.
The dried double layer (another one finished earlier) is laid back on the carved board.
Stains concocted from dirt and seeds and charcoal are painted on to accent the design. The “brushes” are small absorbent pods from some plant, sharpened to different sizes.
Elder Squire, who had done some pottery painting previously in Arizona, asked if he could help.
Another color is added to the design.
The finished tapa cloth, held by the artist, is happily purchased (still wet) by Elder Squire, and laid out on the back seat of their van to dry on the way home. Now if you have any questions about how to make your own tapa cloth, just let me know. You may have a little trouble finding the right little tree and the other tools, etc., or the time to even think about getting started, let alone doing it. I think I understand why fewer and fewer of the younger generation in Samoa are learning the technique.
This darling little girl is the daughter of the hotel owners where our house is. Her name is Adria and she’s 3 years old and a real charmer. Both her parents are half Samoan and half Palagi. She has a new baby sister named Moana, but no pictures of her yet. She’s another beauty though.
This is a picture of John and our little friend Simon. We are sponsoring him for the Shriners Hospital Outreach Clinic being held here in Samoa in April. We first met him when we were visiting his mother, who is in my piano class. John saw him out in front of the house while I was talking to his mother, Liua, and noticed his arm was a little mis-shapen and appeared to have been broken and never set. He had limited use of it and John was just sick, because he said it was probably a simple break and could have been easily mended with the proper medical help. Unfortunately, most Samoans head for their village taulasea (sort of like a witch doctor) for most injuries and illnesses and get a nice massage and maybe some herbs and hopefully will heal on their own. Many who are seriously ill finally end up at the hospital too late and end up dying there, so the Samoans think if you go to the hospital you’ll die. The government health service has tried to have seminars for the tauloseas to train them about when someone needs professional help, but most won’t come. When we heard about the Shriner’s clinic coming to Samoa, we went back to Simon’s mother with an application to get some help to repair his arm. Fortunately the clinic is working mostly with orthopedic problems, so Simon’s problem really fits the bill. His father works over in Apia and we needed to have his signature on the forms as well as his wife’s, so we tracked him down on our last trip over there and were able to get his signature.
We took these pictures of Simon and then took him and his mother to the hospital to get an Xray and sent all the information to the Shriner’s Hospital in Honolulu, who will do the clinic and pay all the medical expenses to have the child taken care of. Unfortunately, if he is accepted, he and his mother will have to go to Honolulu to have the surgery, and have to pay their own transportation and housing, which could limit many of the candidates. We’re going to work with the Bishop and Stake President to see if the Ward and Stake will be willing to have a special fast and donate the money to help defray expenses. Liua has family she could stay with in Honolulu, which should help some. It could take up to a year or so if he is approved, because they have to get visas and passports and raise the money for the trip. I’m afraid we’ll be gone before it happens, if it happens at all. We’re trying our best and have done all we can do so far until he’s actually seen at the clinic in April. They’ve told us that he will definitely get an appointment, because the forms and pictures we sent were all very anatomically correct in terms of the diagnosis, because of John’s anatomy and physical therapy background, which we made sure to mention on the cover letter. We intend to go to the clinic with them for their appointment. We had another experience with a broken arm when we were visiting with an inactive family a couple of months ago. John noticed that the husband seemed to be favoring his arm and it seemed swollen. He asked if he had injured it and was told that he hurt it in a rugby game the day before. John checked it out and told him he thought he ought to go have it Xrayed. He hadn’t planned to go the the doctor at all. We told him we’d be glad to take him and so he consented. The Xray showed that it was definitely broken, so they took him in and set it and put a cast on his arm. It should mend well, if he’ll take care of it. We wonder how many other people are wandering round with untreated injuries and illnesses. The interesting thing is that Samoa has socialized medicine, so the expenses for treatment are really minimal. It seems to be their superstitions that keep them away. What a shame.
A month or so ago, we had some pretty severe Cyclone warnings (Samoa’s version of a hurricane) The warnings changed over a period of days, but it finally hit a part of the island on Saturday night. Most people living close to the ocean moved inland because the size of the waves and the wind could be pretty dangerous. We certainly felt the storm and wind, but it didn’t seem to create much of a problem down here in Lolomalava.
The next morning we went on up to Puapua for church and found that there had been some damage up that way. The little old church sits about 30 feet from the sea wall and if you are in church in a rainstorm, the rain comes into the chapel until all the windows are closed. It was flooded all around the church the next morning, even though the storm was pretty well over. Waves were still washing over the seawall. It’s easy to see why a new church away from the ocean is going to be built for this ward this year.
As we drove down the road that morning we could see where the waves had washed a lot of sand and debris, along with some pretty heavy lava rocks that usually line the beach. There was a lot of flooding, but most fales have concrete floors and are raised up enough to keep the water out. Notice how the waves had undercut the beach and washed away the dirt and sand from under the palm trees lining the beach. Several of them were tipped right over and others don’t look like they’ll stand up much longer. When we drove back up there a couple of days later, most of the mess had been cleaned off the road, even though there were plenty of large pools and puddles still standing most filled with little boys who couldn’t resist sloshing around in them and running and sliding across the soggy grass.
One of the many service projects that the missionaries have gotten involved in this year has been providing materials and labor to paint several weather-worn old primary school buildings, inside and outside. As you can see, the usual missionary white shirt and tie are the dress code set up by the mission president, who promised that if they got paint on them, he’d buy them new ones. I doubt that any of them have taken him up on that promise, because from the look of these shirts and ties, this was not the first painting project where they were worn. This was our first painting experience on the mission, so the clothes we wore that now have paint on them will be set aside for next time, just as I’m sure the elders have done. The one concession the mission president made was to provide white plastic painting pants, which didn’t have very good elastic at the waist, as evidenced by the photos of the “missionary mooning” whenever one would stoop down to show his black slacks (gratefully) underneath. When some elders saw me taking pictures of a couple of others painting by the windows, they all wanted to get in the picture. This third photo was a very candid one, as you can see.
We had some good help from some of the parents, and some really great “help” from some of their kids, who were eating their lunch in the form of big chunks torn from a loaf of bread. They wanted to paint everything, including the benches and tables we were supposed to be standing on to reach the high walls and ceilings. I’m not sure they were even supposed to be painted, but they are now. They were so proud of themselves, that we just tried to work around them and stood on 5 gallon paint buckets instead. John helped the elders paint about 25 porch posts in front of the school. Just about the time they had them all finished and the area cleaned up around them, a huge rain storm dumped buckets of water for half an hour or so and the bottom 2 to 3 feet of each post will have to be done again on another day. A new mess to clean up was made by the bleeding posts. The one lone senior sister missionary went around touching up around the small moldings that no else wanted to paint, or weren’t wearing their glasses when they did.
These final pictures show the elders prepping (sort of) the back of the building by brushing off the dust and flaked paint with a small paint brush, and the front and back of the building almost finished. It really did look nice when it was done, both inside and outside, if you didn’t count the rain-washed posts. The insides of the classrooms looked especially bright and cheerful after covering up the old dark tan walls and navy blue ceilings with mostly a creamy white. Other service projects have been wheelchair giveaways, large water storage tanks, new desks and chairs for some schools that had nothing but straw mats to sit on and the uneven floor to write against. The elders really enjoy these projects, especially when they get to see the happy faces of the local villagers when they first see the projects finished.
Our work visiting inactive families is a continuing process that we fit in around the service projects, piano classes, etc. We have just finished our visits in the final ward in the Savai’I Stake and feel excited about some of the successes we’ve experienced there. One of the challenges of this particular mission, is that we make the contacts with the local mission leaders, share our testimonies and invite them to church and even offer to pick them up and take them the first time. We attend that ward for a few weeks and then move on to another. After that, the ward takes over with the fellowshipping, visiting teaching and home teaching, and we are not always aware of how that’s working after we leave. It’s kind of like an emergency room doctor who deals with the immediate crisis and then sends the patient on up to a hospital ward, hoping that they will get good care once the actual emergency is over. Our son Benjamin, who is a doctor, told us once that’s why he preferred family practice over the emergency room, because of his continuous relationship with his patients. We can really relate to that. We feel great satisfaction when some of those families we’ve visited with do come to church and appear to want to change their lives. In the final week we worked in Fataloa Ward, the last ward in Savaii Stake, six of the families were in church that week. We were so excited to see them there, and now that we’ve moved on hope that the ward members will embrace them and give them the fellowship and love that will assure them of their place in our Father’s kingdom. We have to trust the wards with that responsibility, because it won’t be many months before we are gone for good. We certainly understand how the young missionaries feel when they are working with a promising investigator and are then transferred to another area, hoping the next missionaries and the ward members will carry on with their hard work. I remember wondering why the elders were transferred so often, but I think it’s all part of the plan so that the investigators have a large support group and don’t just depend on that one set of missionaries to help them progress in the gospel. That makes every member a missionary, right?? I remember in one ward here an old gentleman speaking up about the fact that it was the job of the missionaries to preach and teach and fellowship. A young palagi fulltime missionary threw his hand up abruptly and said that the missionaries were the finders, and the ward members, who also have the gospel, were then responsible for helping the investigator and new members feel a part of the ward and church family. The ward members will always be there—the missionaries will be transferred or go home, leaving their investigator and new member ‘children’ to be cared for by the local ward family. Having been ward members all our lives, who maybe haven’t done our share of fellowshipping, we can really see it from the other side as we leave our reactivated ‘children’ behind and move on. Hopefully, that will set a new pattern for us when we go home. Not that I mean to change the subject so drastically, but this picture was the next one on my list, so that’s what you get.
John was awakened one night by a stinging in the back of his calf, suspecting a centipede bite. He threw on the light, and sure enough there was the centipede scurrying away from the bed. He quickly grabbed some insect spray and did it in and then took its picture. Notice the size compared to standard ballpoint pen. Those bites are not fun and take a while to heal. I was bitten a few weeks before that, but I wasn’t quite aware of what it was until I got out of bed and informed John. By the time we got the lights on, we couldn’t see a sign of it, except for the bite mark on my hand. There are some great things about Samoa, and some not so great! Don’t you wish you were here?
One of the fun things for us about being over here on Savai’i is being able to entertain guests from the other island and from overseas and show them around. The Menascos, Sam and Amber, are a young couple who both just graduated from BYU and wanted to have an adventure before they moved on to the big new world. They had both had some classes in Samoan Language and culture after their missions, so they made arrangements after their graduation, with the Church colleges here to do some volunteer work for a few weeks. They paid their own way and the school put them up in one of the houses on campus. The last few days they were here they came over to see Savai’I so we had the opportunity to show them around for a couple of days. They enjoy snorkeling, and wanted to see the other end of the island so we suggested a Friday night and Saturday stayover up at the hotel in Vaisaula where we take off to go snorkeling once every couple of months.
We had dinner Friday night on the balcony overlooking the beach. The next day after some snorkeling, we went up to the rain forest preserve and climbed the new metal tower, walked across the swinging bridge to the giant banyan tree where we continued to climb much higher to get to the top overlooking the rain forest. The stairway and platforms that you take down the tree to get to the bottom number almost 100 steps, so that is a huge tree and a beautiful view from the top. The last place we stopped was on the far western edge of Samoa where the beach is really closest to the international dateline. It’s said if you stand in that spot, you can see tomorrow, so the Menascos wanted their picture taken there. It was so fun to get to know Sam and Amber and hope we get to connect with them again sometime in the States. Probably another thing not so great in Samoa is the quality of health care. Our little hospital here at Tuisivi is pretty clean and has some good doctors and nurses, but not nearly enough of them. I think I told you earlier about a missionary who was in a few months ago and we found out he had to supply his own bedding and food, which we had to do for Elder Blazer this past month, when he ended up in the hospital for a bad infection. Because of the nursing shortage, his companion had to stay with him and sleep on the floor, just in case he needed any help during the night. The first picture is of Elder Blazer, the patient, and his faithful companion, Elder Asa’asa, the second with Elder Krogh and the third is of the board inside the men’s ward where they list the names of the patients. Instead of jotting down Elder Blazer’s real name, they took whatever looked like a palagi name on his “Kaiser-Permanente” insurance card. I think he was called Kaiser for the duration of his stay. It was so hilarious that we had to have a picture of it and nobody that knew the truth wanted to change it on the board. It was a priceless example of the difference between people recognizing Samoan names and Palagi names. We pulled into the parking lot at the wharf one day and found these big colorful tents set up in the next lot. They seemed so completely incongruous sitting there next to the wharf and the ocean. We've since heard from many people that they attended the circus, even some of them missing school to do so. I don't know how often they get the chance to see a circus. I don't know if it was just a Samoan circus, or it travelled all over the Pacific. Obviously, I didn't ask enough of the right questions. I did get a good picture of it though.