Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chapter 36 - MAIL...

1/25/13 – MAIL… Our neighbors, the stake patriarch and his wife, were off island for a few weeks and asked us to pick up their mail at the post office.  Remember, they don’t deliver mail to homes and businesses on the island – there are no addresses, so when we picked up Pili’s mail we got a real chuckle out of the address on their bank statement.  Notice it has the PO box and the next line reads “Next LDS Mission Homes” – so I guess if they were going to deliver mail, they would know right were to deliver it….  We got a great laugh out of this.  “Fa’a Samoa” (what we say when something strange, odd or funny happens)!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chapter 35 - Christmas 2012

What a busy time of year.  Just like at home the Christmas Decorations start to appear in the stores just after Halloween.  People love to decorate for the holidays, and many put up Christmas lights on their fales – even the ones that have no walls.  
One of the Churches on the island decorated for Chirstmas

I have said before that the houses here go from HUMBLE open-air fales to very nice homes – by US standards. Hearing Christmas music is strange when the weather is so hot…  But we were busy enjoying all the festivities…  

Two of the larger homes on the island decorated for Christmas...
The season started out on December 5th with a Christmas devotional and activity with Sister and President Leota and the AP’s for all the missionaries on the island.  
Missionary Games

Competition was intense...

It was so much fun to watch, as they played some competitive games together.  They played one with ping pong balls, several with soccer balls, several relays, and the one where you tie a balloon on your ankle and try to pop each other’s balloons while protecting your own from getting popped.  There was a lot of competition going on in the room.  It was a great day.  President and Sister Leota are such wonderful people.  I can see why the Lord called him to lead this mission.  We love them so much…
 seemed like every night there was an activity somewhere in one of the wards.  We attended a party by the pool with one ward. They divided the ward into four groups and each group was responsible to come up with a skit and four musical numbers.  Each group was responsible for their own food, and because we were guests, we ended up with four different dinners…  

We sat on one side of the pool and the entertainment was under the tent on the other side...
The owner of the pool is a high-ranking chief of his village, a member of the Church, and well respected on the island.  He paid us such a great compliment.  It is scary sometimes to realize how much we are being watched and in the short time we have been here, how many people know who we are.  Another ward had a dance for their party.  It was so fun to see everyone, no matter their age, dancing and enjoying themselves.  

Our ward party...  Looks like they are running out of food -no worry more is on the way!
Sister Tele Hill (she is our medical angel)

They always start out ward activities with a traditional Samoan dance performed by the leaders and special guests - and we are expected to dance!  I have caught on to the footwork, but I just can’t move my hands in the graceful fashion they do – so I feel really conspicuous!  But we are made to feel so special, so we just laugh and do our best!  All of the zones were asked to go Christmas Caroling to investigators and new members in their wards, and we had the privilege of going with several of the zones.  It seemed kind of funny – going caroling when it was still light, and HOT.  
Christmas Caroling with the East Zone
We are used to caroling in the cold - until our toes grow numb -  and then going back to someone’s house or the church and having hot chocolate and donuts to get warm.  Here we relished getting into the air-conditioned van and having a cold drink of water…  But it was so great singing carols in the Samoan language, and watching the reaction of the people we sang too.  They were so responsive and almost everyone greeted us with warm hugs and kisses.  It was a great experience…  The Pago West Stake has a 20-year tradition of throwing a Christmas party for all the missionaries on the island.  They fed us an awesome dinner – with more food than we could eat.  

Hungry Missionaries...

We went home with enough food for four more meals…  Then each zone (5 of them) each put on a skit and presented a song.  They were so funny.  
Missionaries at the Pago West Stake Christmas party
We laughed so hard we were crying.  The leaders in the stake presented a short program and then they presented each missionary with a gift basket

President Tuitele presenting gift baskets to each of the missionaries

We were treated well, don’t you think…  We got sheets, pillowcases, a tablecloth, lots if shampoo and hair products, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, and even after shave (when we first got here we couldn’t find after shave and had to have Jeff send some)!  I don’t think we will have to worry about that item for a while.  I already posted our Family Home Evening with the Halack’s.  That was another highlight of the season.  We spent Sunday evening, the 23th with the East Zone elders.  We went caroling with them and then went back to the church and had Family Home Evening with them.  
They invited a family to join us, and it was a great evening.  I even shared the McLachlan story.  We got permission from President Leota to have the missionaries from the other four zones at our house for Christmas Eve.  So we had our traditional Christmas buffet with pretty much all the food we would have at home – except stuffed celery.  

Christmas Eve with "our" missionaries..
We haven’t been able to find Chez Wiz here, so we used a cheese from New Zealand that was almost as good.  We even had or goodie table – minus the fudge – because of the humidity it just won’t set up here. Christmas Day some of the missionaries put together a puzzle.  It didn't take long with so many working on it...  
Careful - don't break it!
Elders Hansen and Stout

It was strange celebrating Christmas without snow, and we missed being with our family, but it was a wonderful Christmas that we will remember it always.  

Chapter 34 - Photo Shoot at the Temple - PRICELESS

Here are pictures of our photo shoot at the temple - when "someone" found the water...

Samoa Apia Mission Senior Missionaries
President & Sister Leota
Temple Presidency and wives

Surrounding the fountain in front of the temple...

Are we really going to do this?

We better not slide down...  That may be going too far...


Chapter 33 - S&I Seminar in Apia, Upolu

The day after Thanksgiving we flew to Apia for a S&I Seminary.  We left on Friday morning.  The flight took about 45 minutes and when we arrived it was Saturday – they are one day and one hour ahead of us.  They are on daylight savings time and we are not. When they go back to standard time we will just be a day behind them – no hourly difference.  It is strange, because the island is about 40 miles away.  Until about a year ago, American and Western Samoa were on the same day and time, but because so much of their commerce is with New Zealand, they elected to move the date line so they were the same.  However, American Samoa  (which is further West) chose not to change.  So we deal with the day/time issue.  It keeps us on our toes….
We left on Friday so we could visit the “Market”.  It is a fascinating place.  There are rows and rows of vendor shops, and most of them sell the same items, but it is so fun to walk up and down and see everything they have to sell.  The sights and smells are so intriguing.  We bought a Kava Bowl – to use as a candy dish, and a Fu’e (it looks like a large fly swatter) that the high chiefs use when they want to talk.   After we visited the market we went to a beautiful beach and went swimming and snorkeling.  
Getting ready to take the plunge...

What a great experience.  We saw so many colorful fish and beautiful coral.  It was amazing to see the variety of fish and the brilliant colors so close to shore.  I thought one could only experience such beauty scuba diving.  We are looking forward to going again.  Of course, in the excitement I didn’t think to use sun screen or put on a shirt, so I experienced the SAMOAN SUN at it’s finest.  I got a SAMOAN, SAND, SWIMMING, SNORKELING, SUNBURN!!!  Funny thing was, even though it was almost purple in color, it didn’t hurt – it just itched…  And when it started to peel it itched even more.  Through all of it, I thought of my sister Kathy.  She likes to peel sunburned skin!  We stayed with Reed and Nada Spencer.  They were in the MTC with us. We were also able to spend some time with the Budgett’s – the other couple who were in the MTC with us.  It was so much fun to be together for a couple of days.  We had a great time together and laughed a lot…   Saturday evening we went to the Family History Display we have been helping with in the stakes on Tutuila.  It was great to rub shoulders with President and Sister Leota again.  
Sister Budgett and I on the temple grounds
We are standing in front of a Peacock Tree

It is always such a blessing to be with them.  Sunday after church, we spent some time preparing the 1-hour presentation we were assigned to give at the seminary the next day.  When we found out about the seminar, we thought we were going over to be trained, but a couple of days before we went, I got the feeling we ought to check our S&I email address to see if there was anything we needed to do beyond the original instructions we received in October.  To my shock and surprise I saw that we were on the program to teach a workshop!  I was sure glad I checked the email.  We were to discuss a talk given by Elder…… at the last S&I broadcast.  It was a challenge, because of the subject matter, and we didn’t want to lecture.  We wanted to be able to present the subject matter with group involvement.  We were scheduled first thing Monday morning.  
S&I  Seminar - Our bosses
Ngatai Smith (left)
Wayne Maurer (right)

Our presentation went well, and after we were done, we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of the seminar.  It lasted two days – Monday and Tuesday, and we received some great ideas to help with our teaching.  Monday evening we celebrated Thanksgiving with all the senior couples, President and Sister Leota and the temple presidency.  After dinner we went over to the temple grounds to take pictures.  One of the pictures was taken by the fountain in the front of the temple.  It was hot, and I mentioned that the water sure looked inviting.  Pearl, the mission president’s 17 year- old daughter agreed.  Well, Dennis looked at her and said, “I will if you will.”  The next thing I knew they were both standing ankle deep in the fountain!  
Rebels In The Fountain...
 Sister Leota just covered her eyes, the temple president seemed amused and President Leota said Dennis was the only missionary he would allow his daughter to stand in the temple fountain with.  I was sure we were headed for a transfer….
Tuesday evening we went with some of the other senior couples in the mission to dinner.  We sat right by the ocean and it was beautiful.
Susan, Elder & Sister Gertsch, Elder & Sister Budgett
Elder and Sister Osborne, Sister & Elder Spencer, Sister Tanuvasa

The food was good, but the company was even better.  The highlight of our four-day trip was we were able to contact a sister who served her mission in Salt Lake City, Sister Nive Tanuvasa.  When we gave the missionaries her name, hoping we could find her (we didn’t have any idea which village she lived in), they knew right away who she was.  They told us she was the best member missionary on the island – that she gave them contacts weekly and they knew if she gave them a referral they better follow up on it.   She met us at the mission office and we took her to dinner with us.  It was so great to see her.  She was such a great missionary – she served her entire mission in two stakes, one being ours, as well as teaching those in the mission who needed to be taught in Samoan.   We were blessed to have her and her companion in our home several times for dinner.  It was so awesome to see her!  It was a great way to end an incredible week-end!