Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blog #16 – April 19, 2011

The next day, Sunday, we started off early again by going to church at the L.M.S. Church, where our good friend Reverend Esera was preaching and we wanted Benj and Lori to see their beautiful church and hear the great singing from the two different choirs that always perform there. After the service we went racing back to the McKay 2nd Ward to attend a missionary farewell of our young friend Etuale, who was leaving that week for the MTC in New Zealand, and then on to Australia for his mission. He had asked us both to speak, which put a little pressure on for such a busy day, but he’s been a good friend and we really needed to be there. After that, we went back over to Esera and Tamara’s home, where we had a wonderful to’ona’i which means Sunday Dinner. It’s really more of a brunch because we ate about 11:00 a.m.. As usual, there was too much food, but we’ve learned to just eat what we want and then push our plates away, meaning that we’re finished. It was quite a feast, similar to the one we’d had the night before at the Umu demonstration. Lori and I passed again on the octopus and a couple of other dishes, but I think John and Benj ate just a little of everything. We had such a nice visit with the Eseras, as always because they both speak such good English, and they were so excited to meet Benj and Lori.

Somehow or other we got on the subject of Benj singing for the people at the hotel the night before, so Tamara asked if he’d sing for them. There was no way to give him a pitch for his song, so he started off a little low and even he had a hard time hitting the lowest bass notes, but it was well done and the Esera’s really enjoyed it. Benj is so brave to just break into song in front of a large group, or even a small intimate one. I guess he’s had enough experience doing it that he doesn’t even think about it any more. It made me think of the time that I took him as a young man of 19 out to the MTC before his mission. John was not able to get away for that trip, but it was an enjoyable, as well as heart wrenching, experience for me. The night before I took him to the MTC, we were having a special dinner out at a restaurant with Kim and Dave (Gumby), and a little old lady came out of a private dining room and asked if there was anyone in the place who could come and sing Happy Birthday to an old gentleman in her party. Gumby promptly volunteered Benj, who reluctantly got up and went on in to sin g. He was gone longer than we had expected. When he came out, he was just shaking his head and said “I can’t believe I just did that.” He was so quiet and shy at that age that is was a new experience for him to just sing for a group of strangers on the spur of the moment. Apparently, when he had finished singing happy birthday, they asked him some questions about himself and he told them he was on the way to the MTC before his mission to Argentina. Somehow it came out that he had sung a song at his own missionary farewell the week before, so they insisted he sing that for them as well. It was great preparation for his next adventure as a missionary.

That Sunday was another unusual and very busy day for all of us and it wasn’t over yet. After we left the Esera’s, we went on up to Vaiola, where we had made arrangements to use the internet and skype, so that Benj and Lori could call and talk to their kids back in Utah. Lori’s parents were there taking care of their kids and they had a great visit with all of them. Benj had been gone for well over a week by then and they were really missing both of them. Little Sharlee was so cute, asking when they were coming home and that she missed them and wished she could just give them a hug. After the skyping session, we went back home, gathered up all our music, three keyboard pianos and headed over to the Fataloa Ward for a Reactivation fireside. I had been working with some piano students to prepare a piano duet using the primary song “Heavenly Father, are You Really there?”, using a couple beginning students, both 16 year old girls, one playing the right hand and another playing the left, each on their own keyboard, and then each playing their own melody during the duet. I thought it would be nice to have someone accompany them with the written accompaniment from the book, just to fill in around their two simple melodies. The lady in charge of the fireside suggested a woman to play and asked her if she would. She accepted, but then we found out she was not very experienced, even though she was really excited to join the group. The two girls who had worked so hard to get their little melodies right, were so frustrated, as I was myself only more patiently so I hope, because the lady couldn’t keep up with them and certainly couldn’t play with both hands. I was just panicking because she was an inactive member that we had been working with and didn’t want to disappoint her by telling her it wouldn’t work with her playing the accompaniment. I decided to just write a simple little one-hand accompaniment for her and then ask a young man from another ward to accompany them quietly on the organ with some soft chords. I had to re-write several of the “difficult” measures for Fetaua’i, the inactive lady, as we went along and finally had her part down to where she could handle it. I thanked the girls for being so patient with her, even though I’m not sure they really were feeling that way. I set them up on three keyboards, and they were accompanied by the organist, with me conducting them, trying to keep them all together. The lady playing the third part got behind a couple of times, but I had anticipated that and wrote her part so that there was a break in some difficult places so that she could stop and start again with the others. It actually worked out quite well and made for a really nice number, stressful to me, but nice. Unfortunately, I was so concerned about our numbers and my piano student’s number, I forgot to take pictures of most of the rest of the fireside.

The lady in charge had asked if John and I could do a number and we told her our son and his wife were coming and could join us. Being a proud mother, I also suggest that Benj sing by himself, because she was asking me for other possibilities for special numbers. John and I and Benj and Lori sang a quartet of “How Great thou art” and Ben sang “Be still my soul”. Both numbers worked out okay. The other numbers were all sung by soloists, duets and groups from the Relief Society in that ward and as usual they all did a great job.

The local zone of elders were asked to do a special number and I always love hearing them sing. After the fireside, everyone congregated for refreshments and Benj and Lori had some fun visits with the elders, and of course were thinking of their own elder back in Massachusetts. It was a fun and uplifting evening and a great end to a long busy day.

Early Monday morning, the guys got up very early to try fishing off a kayak owned by the hotel. I got up with them to take their pictures when they left and then went back to bed. As you can see, the ocean inside the reef is very calm in the early morning, almost like a lake.

Once they got everything they needed into the kayak and took off, it was a long slow trip for them out to the reef where they were planning to fish. John has wanted to take me out there quite often, and we have gotten part way a couple of times, but just didn’t have time to go all the way. I was so glad he had to chance to have Benj here to go with him and paddle out just this once, because I doubt he’ll do it again. I’ll let John tell you about the fishing experiences during the week of Benj and Lori’s visit.

JOHN – fishing

Benj and I went out in the morning in a two-seater kayak to try our luck at fishing out on the reef. The Savaiian Hotel owner had told me that they had done some good fishing out there previously, and we took our poles, Benj with his fly rod and me with my spinning rod. The reef is way far out there at this part of the island, and we paddled for a long time to get there. Along the way we crossed some beautiful coral gardens and thought how nice it might be to snorkel there. Actually, Benj did snorkel for a few minutes on this trip, and he said he saw many fish and lots of beautiful coral. When we got out to the reef it was between tides, and there were pieces of the reef strewn along as far as we could see in both directions. It was a grayish yellow color, and it looked like a rock pile. I realized that, since many of the pieces were very large, it had to take a lot of huge waves to toss those pieces around and pile them up like that. We tried fishing along the reef, but it was very shallow on the island side while the sea side had big breakers crashing on it constantly. We went back in the kayak and paddled back to the coral gardens where Benj hooked into several fish and landed one about a foot long. It looked like a bass or a snapper, I kept moving the kayak around for him as he cast his fly out over the water. We returned back and I discovered how far out of shape my arms were because the long trip took all I had. We noticed many other good-looking fishing spots along the way, and some of them not very far out, so next time I go out I will not go so far.

A little later in the afternoon we again tried our hand at fishing at the black sand beach. A local lady advised us to fish off the rocks. We did, but the huge waves just washed our lines in about as fast as we could cast them out. We tried fishing in the surf too, but the wave action was so strong that it almost knocked us down. We noticed many other places later on that we thought would be better along our trip around that part of the island, but we just didn’t have any more time for fishing that day.


The reason they didn’t have any more time for fishing that day, is that we had scheduled, a trip up to Vaisala, our favorite snorkeling haunt, where we went snorkeling a little that afternoon, but it was just too rough at high tide. We ate a leisurely dinner in the dining room overlookin the beach and more beautiful sunsets, which Benj got pictures of, but I didn’t take my camera. After dinner, we went back to our rooms and got out a game and sat and played games on the balcony for the rest of the night. After the three very hard-pushing days we’d had before, it was nice to be a little lazy. We went to bed early, had a good sleep and got up very early to take advantage of the early morning low tide for snorkeling. I was dressed and ready, or undressed I should say in my bathing suit, when Benj came out and said that Lori was going to sleep in. I took that cue and decided to go back to bed myself. John and Benj would have a much better time if they didn’t have to wait for me to keep up with them. I went back to bed in my bathing suit, read a book and fell asleep for awhile until the guys came back. What a perfect way to spend a morning. They’d had a great time and had seen some wonderful sights and fish, etc., and Benj felt bad that he didn’t have an underwater camera with him, mostly because he was confronted with a large sting ray, with about a six foot arm span?, wing span?, fin span??,oh whatever, not many feet in front of him. He said “It was almost as if he was smiling at me” just asking me to take his picture. After the guys came back, we went up to the dining room for a leisurely breakfast and watched the clouds break up and the sun start to come out, for which we were grateful. It can get cold snorkeling on a cloudy day. Once we’d finished breakfast, we asked the management if we could stay beyond checkout time so that we could go out snorkeling again. If there are no guests expected that needed our rooms that afternoon, they are more than happy to let you stay as long as you want. It’s a funny old hotel, and not particularly glamorous, but clean, air conditioned, hot water for showers and a balcony overlooking the beach and ocean, not to mention relatively inexpensive. As Benj would tell you, the beach was just incredible there and we had it practically to ourselves, as we usually do, and the snorkeling is wonderful, especially when the sun shines. Besides making it warmer, the sun makes things under the water just sparkle and really show off their colors. We couldn’t have had a more perfect day for snorkeling that afternoon. I thought Lori would be more nervous going out where the ocean was deeper, but she said as long as she had a life jacket or belt for security, should would be fine. We had borrowed a life jacket from the hotel for her and she got along really well, as long as someone stayed close to her. I could really relate to that, from my first few snorkeling trips. Benj held her hand and moved her along quite a way, but after she got more accustomed to her snorkel, etc., she did pretty well by herself. I was really proud of her. The guys wanted to stay out longer, so Lori and I turned back and headed for shore, which seemed a lot further away as we made our way back in. When we reached the beach, we took off our snorkel gear and went over to a wonderful little area between two rows of big rocks, where there is a perfect swimming beach. The waves are not strong and the water, after several hours of sun, was almost bathtub warm. We just lolled around there until, and after, the guys came back in and then decided we’d better move on down the road to catch some of the other tourist sites along the way home before they closed.

We stopped off to see and feed the large sea turtles which are kept in a large lagoon right along the seacoast. They are quite amazing to watch and always very hungry. We cut up a papaya and threw pieces out to them until they all came right up to the edge and Benj was able to feed some by hand. We moved further on down the road to the lava fields, which were left over from a huge volcanic eruption about 100 years ago, the last one recorded on Samoan. I’ve sent pictures of all this earlier, if you remember. We went out to the old church which had been literally flooded with oozing lava that broke through the big church windows and filled up the floor about 6 feet deep, and burned up the church completely except for the concrete walls. You can see where the lava flow cooled and stopped right there inside the church and along the outside of it. The rest went on toward the sea and that’s all you can see out there for miles is black lava with a few green plants and trees forcing their way up through the cracks. You can walk out over the lava fields, but it doesn’t take long to realize that you’d be baked if you stayed out on it very long, especially on a sunny day. We headed home after that and fixed a leisurely dinner at our place and went to bed early again, because the guys had a very early deep sea fishing excursion planned the next morning. I got up with them so that I could drop them off and Lori and I could have the car that day to go shopping in downtown Salelologa and at the big open market. AS usual in Samoa, time doesn’t mean a whole lot to many Samoans and we had to wait quite a while for the fishing crew to get there, over an hour—which we could have spent sleeping. I’ll let John tell you about that “great” fishing day they had.


Wednesday mornimg we went out on a small motorized boat, maybe 25 feet long to do what we had been told was to be bottom fishing. The boat men, three of them, arrived an hour late. They didn’t seem to have any gear for bottom fishing. We went out beyond the reef into the open ocean searching for flocks of birds. The birds would be feeding on schools of small fish, and the larger fish like tuna and masimasi would be feeding on the small fish. We rode for a few hours before we spotted the birds. We tried several times to get the boat to the birds, but had no luck doing that. The crew had large 18” diameter hand-made reels, one on each side of the boat which they could use to quickly crank in the lines. The lines were thick, and probably capable of hauling in huge fish. We finally gave it up and went back in when they asked us if we had our poles, which we did not. We called the wives who brought us our poles so we could try bottom fishing just off a short distance from shore. Benj again tried his fly rod and I tried using pieces of fish for bait, but we caught nothing. We went back in, paid our 300 tala each and the gals picked us up. The boat crew told us that they always go out in the afternoon from about 3 till 6. We had chosen the morning time not knowing what was best. Poi, the hotel owner said he was surprised that we didn’t catch anything because those guy always have good success. Next time I will go out whenever they suggest.


We had planned to get on the 4:00 p.m. ferry to go back over the Upolo that day, but found out there was no 4:00 boat and the 2:00 boat had no reservations left. We had to cancel our big trip to the Aggie Gray Hotel Fiafia (luau) show and buffet in Apia, and just went back to our place, had a long nap, greatly needed, fixed dinner and got us all packed and ready to go over to Apia the next morning.

In Apia, we saw the usual tourist sites, and Benj and Lori were overwhelmed at the difference between that very busy, crowded city and the quiet peace of Savaii. We hit the markets, did some souvenir shopping for their kids, then went over to the Mission Home to visit and see the Pesega campus and temple grounds. We had a great lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, did some more sightseeing and then went back to Pesega and attended the English-Speaking session that is held every Thursday afternoon at the Temple. After leaving the temple, we drove on out toward the airport to another big Aggie Gray Hotel right on the beach and met some other senior missionaries and their guests who were flying back on the same plane as Benj and Lori. We had a wonderful dinner and visit, and then it was late and time to get everybody back to the airport for their flight back to the U.S., which left at about 1:45 a.m. It was so hard to send Benj and Lori off after the wonderful week we’d had with them, but have great memories of our time together and being able to show them some of the amazing things about Samoa and her people. I’m sure we just wore them out, because they were still suffering from some jet lag and we kept them moving most all of the time. It’s difficult to see everything in Samoan in 6 days, but we did a pretty good job of giving them a good taste of it. We look forward to any other family members or friends who want to brave the long trek down this way.

I’m going to close down this part of the blog and hold the other things for the next time around. We have the Easter weekend coming up, which we learned last year is more like Easter week, when all the stores, internet cafes, and gas stations close down in order to celebrate Easter, which the Samoans do in a very big way. We want to get this blog segment out today, fill up our gas tank, buy groceries and anything else we think we might need until next Tuesday so that we’ll be better prepared than we realized we should have been last year.

Love to all our family and friends and have a lovely Easter.