Thursday I got my hair cut. Karen Ho-Ching introduced me to Eka Arp, a beautiful mixed blood Samoan, a young mother of four who owns her own salon and employs several others. This was the 4th time she has cut my hair. Her employees do the shampooing. The first time I got quite a shock from the cold water. Whoa! But once you know what’s coming, it isn’t half bad. Cools you right off. They give a nice scalp massage after the final rinse. The second cut she gave me was months ago. It was the day her little niece was born. She had been at the hospital half the night to support her sister, Brownyn and witness the birth of a beautiful baby girl. She was sharing pictures on her ipad with her staff when I arrived. That was also the day before she was to travel to the island of Manono for an incredible family event. Some important background is needed.
Manono is a small island, part of the Samoan group of islands, a short distance off the west end of Upolu. It is a closely held island by those whose heritage there is long. Visitors must wear traditional lava lava (wrap-around skirt worn by both men and women). Eka’s family owns the property where anyone would anchor. The family has spent years, at least a decade, building sleeping fales and a large fale used for celebrations and feasts, working on it whenever they had time. These are right on the beach front and visible for quite a distance for approaching watercraft.
Eka’s aunt, living stateside, had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She had said she would like to renew her wedding vows with her husband. They were approaching their 50thwedding anniversary and the kids got together and made a plan, which their dad accepted and supported. They would stage an elaborate wedding celebration on Manono and trick the aunt into coming on some other pretext. They told her some story of having just hosted a wedding party there, so she wouldn’t suspect it was for her when she saw the decorations. I’ve forgotten the details, but it was a great plan that involved many trips back and forth to bring food and decorations and equipment to prepare for this huge family event. Eka was up to her ears with the preparations and excitement, receiving several phone calls on her cell phone while she was cutting my hair. While Eka was up to her ears with excitement, her scissors were bringing my hair up to MY ears. Holy cow it was short. She even used the clippers around my ears! I casually observed, “I think you cut it a little short.” “Really?”, she said, “I don’t think so.”, smiling that beautiful smile at me in the mirror and admiring the cut. That was what prompted me to ask Leon to give me my next cut. About 6 weeks later.
I’ve been back twice now, careful not to take her attention away from the task at hand for too long at a time. She’s a delightful person and I enjoy hearing about her family. So, this is what I really wanted to tell you. I was talking about trying to learn the language and she gave me a revelation. She told me that she was on an endowment session when the Fifes were still here. It was a Samoan language session. Elder Fife was officiating. He knows Eka, had spoken to her in Samoan many times (remember he served his mission here as a young elder), so he was shocked to see that she was wearing a headset during a Samoan language session. He asked her about it afterwards, and she told him that the language spoken in the endowment session is the high language, and is so different from the common language that it took all her concentration to ‘translate’ what she was hearing into the Samoan she could understand. That was when I told her how frustrating it is for anyone trying to learn (by listening to conversations) to pick up on words and begin to understand when they constantly substitute the letter ‘k’ for the letter ‘t’!!!!!! One day I was in the locker room with a group of ordinance workers who were talking to each other, and I swear, every other word was a ‘k’ word!!! I just couldn’t stand it and I blurted out, “K k k k k k k !!!!! What’s with all the ‘K’s???? There aren’t that many ‘k’s in your language! I can’t understand anything you’re saying!!!! They had a good laugh. Of course nothing has changed. I refuse to give up yet. Leon and I have both added one more ordinance to our Samoan knowledge. Evidently that isn’t going to be much help in daily conversation. But if we meet up with a chief, we may have the advantage. Haha.
Yesterday, September 1st, was our last day at the temple until the 16th of September (your Sunday/our Monday). With the temple closing for cleaning (and who knows what else, i.e., replacing carpet or touching up paint, we don’t know) we were busy all week. Now this week is the annual Teuila Festival in Apia. In fact tonight, Sunday, September 1st, there is a night of choral music from the various churches on Upolu. We are leaving in a few minutes to go in support of the Upolu North Stake. We’ve highlighted a few things we hope to see and do this week as part of this celebration, which Leon refers to as the Tooele Festival.
It’s now 3 ½ hours later and we’ve returned from the evening of Christian choral music. I’m not being prejudiced when I say our stake choir was the one performance where I felt the Lord’s spirit. It was beautiful. Leon estimates 120 voices in our choir. If you’ve ever heard Samoan voices raised in song, then you understand what a joy it is to experience. We enjoyed all the choirs.
One more thing before I close. Leon told me after church today that Bishop Vaaulu felt strongly that we should be assigned to home teach another family, and he took Meredith’s and Lupe Ieramia away from us. We were sadly disappointed to lose those two families before we hardly got acquainted. Now I think it is a blessing because we have made two friends that we can continue to get to know even though we don’t have the assignment, plus another sister we may not otherwise have met. And get this – she is Eka’s older sister, Brownyn Keil, who had just given birth the day Eka cut my hair so short. I tell you, life here is one eternal round.
We have an invitation to visit Lupe Ieremia’s village out past the wharf on the west end of Upolu next Saturday to see where she grew up. She said she and her siblings had rocks thrown at them because they joined the church. She remembers walking what seemed to her to be a long way to church on Sundays, her mother carrying a basket made of coconut palm leaves full of food for the family to eat between meetings. Her father would carry the twin babies in baskets which he fastened on the ends of a pole and carried across his shoulders. This was back when meetings were not all held back to back, so the members would sit on mats outside and eat their lunch.
Every post I write, I hope has something of interest to you. Our life here is so full of surprises and unexpected blessings and challenges. We are on a grand adventure with lessons to be learned along the way. I hope every couple whose circumstances permit will choose to serve a mission. I don’t know what the future holds for us when we return, but if we are able, we both hope to serve a second mission. We would need some time in between to enjoy our family and reconnect with friends, but then, why not?
The Upolu West Stake Choir, Aren't they beautiful? You should hear them sing.
Here are some pictures of special people we would never have known but for this mission:
Jim and Fiesta Merrick, who left early due to health issues. We miss them so much. Right now they are staying with their daughter in Hawaii before returning to their home in Texas.
Above: Sister Nele Moaga. I told her she needs to marry a good man who could serve as temple president because she would be an excellent matron. She laughed. A definite type A personality.
Above: Sister Tevete. I want to put her in my pocket and take her home with us. She is adorable, loveable and fun. She is our age, has been widowed for a long time and served a proselytizing mission here before this temple mission. Actually, so did Sister Moaga. She and Sister Moaga are companions. They are a sweet version of the Odd Couple. I love them both.