Friday, March 28, 2014

The Land Down Under

A brief history of our fascination with Australia:

1.       The 1969 movie, Support Your Local Sheriff, staring James Garner who plays the reluctant sheriff  of a wild west town, insisting regularly that he is not to be counted on to hang around for long. “Basically I’m on my way to Australia”, is his mantra.  Leon has quoted that line too many times to count in the years since James Garner made it famous (in our family).

2.       A not-so-distant relative of mine came to America via Australia, and it appears he met his wife either there or on the voyage to America. 

3.       Our Aussie friends, Neal and Barbara Goodlet, senior missionary couple serving as teachers in the Pesega high school, have endeared themselves to us for many reasons. We share many interests, including for Leon and Neal the fascination with all things mechanical. Goodlets are lovers of good books and music and we share books with each other.  I’ve introduced them to Jesse’s music and they’ve shared with their daughters back home in Aussie land. They are funny and fun people. Sister Goodlet knows all the good thrift shops in Apia. You would be amazed at what she finds – and what I find when I tag along. Their home is near Perth, in Western Australia. Their accent is quite strong and we sometimes have to think in context to understand what they are saying. Sometimes I try to imitate the accent and it is hard to do. I say a word over and over again to discover what it is they do with their mouth.  Leon just thinks I’m mumbling, but it does have a purpose.

Sorry about going on about Goodlets. I said our history was brief, and I made it longer than necessary. So that’s it. Somehow it has always been on the periphery of our consciousness. It’s really quite amazing to us that we have actually been there. Of course we only set our foot on a small area of New South Wales, which is one of six states on the continent, and then mostly in and around the city of Sydney. 

Some Interesting Facts as per Wikipedia: (You can skip this part if you like.)

Australia has six states—New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA)—and two major mainland territories—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT).

Before the first British settlement in the late 18th century Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke languages grouped into roughly 250 language groups.  After the discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788.

Australia is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the world's 12th-largest economy. In 2012 Australia had the world's fifth-highest per capita income, Australia's military expenditure is the world's 13th-largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

The indigenous population, estimated to have been between 750,000 and 1,000,000 at the time European settlement began, declined for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease.  A government policy of "assimilation" beginning with the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 resulted in the removal of many Aboriginal children from their families and communities—often referred to as the Stolen Generations—a practice which may also have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population. The Federal government gained the power to make laws with respect to Aborigines following the 1967 referendum. Traditional ownership of land—aboriginal title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the legal doctrine that Australia had been terra nullius ("land belonging to no one") before the European occupation. [End of edited Wilipedia source material.]

I found that very interesting.  The only thing I knew for sure about Australia was that Kangaroos, Koala Bears, and Aborigine’s lived there. Goodlets have them hopping through their backyard - kangaroos, that is. Evidently the only place you can count on seeing them in NSW is in the zoo. We have a documentary film at home focusing on the government removal of Aboriginal children from their families as mentioned above.The film title is Rabbit Proof Fences.

On with our story: Our hotel was in the heart of downtown Sydney, overlooking Hyde Park. Free city buses made travel around the city possible, mostly because of the high cost and limited space for parking. So many shops, restaurants and interesting people made walking about the city enjoyable. This is a multi-cultural city. Many beautiful old buildings and churches give character to the otherwise modern cityscape.  Hyde Park is lovely, St Mary’s Cathedral, and the Queen Victoria Building are beautiful. The area known as The Rocks is a good place to learn of the earliest settlement of Australia. We had heard of the world famous Sydney Opera House, but knew nothing of its fascinating history. It was on everyone’s ‘what to see’ list. We were not disappointed. An impressively efficient ferry system makes the beautiful bays and beaches of Sydney Harbor very accessable. The Sydney Australia Temple is about a forty-five minute drive from downtown and was one of our first destination stops. 

We were able to attend three sessions on our first Saturday in Sydney. Our former temple missionary friend, Sister Nele Moaga was working that day in the temple. How fun it was to connect with her again.

The next day in search of a church to attend, our GPS sent us back to the Sydney temple. Unsuccessful in attempts to find a regular chapel, we sent up a prayer for assistance, and settled on taking pictures of the temple. No sooner had we walked to the front with our camera, than a couple out for their morning walk happened by and offered to take our picture. Further conversation revealed them to be Elder and Sister Tanner from Payson, UT, serving as public affairs missionaries for the church in Australia.
They generously offered to take us to church with them and then join them afterwards for dinner in their home adjacent to the temple. We enjoyed a wonderful Sabbath experience due to the Tanner's kindness and hospitality, and an answer to our prayer.
From a distance, the Sydney Tower Eye looks all alone in the city. However, it is right in the midst of buildings on every side. We left our hotel and asked someone what direction  to walk to get to the tower. They motioned for us to step out towards the street and look up past a highrise in the next block and there it was. We learned that it is one of the safest buildings in the world, capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind conditions. That is comforting when you are standing on the skywalk 880 feet from the ground. From there you get a 360 degree view of Sydney, Sydney Harbor, and many landmarks, including a glimpse of the Opera House.

Using the zoom feature, this is the ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park. The building directly behind in the photo is the location of the ward we attended the last Sunday we were there.
Looking down on St. Mary's Cathedral, just through the block from our hotel. Hyde Park is in between.
 Sydney Harbor as seen from the tower.

A ferry like this one took us to Manly Beach, Bondi Beach, and Watson Bay, home of the lighthouse and military installation constructed during WWI to protect the harbor.

Bondi Beach  Glorious surf.
Watson Bay (left).

All the benches along the beachfront at Bondi Beach were covered with mosaic tiles.

The Sydney Opera House as seen from the ferry.

Enterprising Aborigines selling their CD down by the harbor. Every song sounds the same to our unaccustomed ears, with the doleful, drone of the didjeridu. Just to their left, we enter the historic area called The Rocks, referring to the rocky coastline from which many buildings were constructed by convicts. No photos, but a fun place to wander, and a museum of sorts giving the history of the original inhabitants and the first European settlers.

I can't end this post without mentioning this incredible icon.
The Queen Victoria Building (right) takes up an entire city block in downtown Sydney. Originally built in 1898 as a tribute to Queen Victoria, 
it has seen many uses, including a city library. Now it is houses upscale retail shops and eateries. But you don't have to spend a penny to wander and gaze in awe at the architectural artistry. 
To learn and see more of this fabulous building, go to

Thanks for letting us share these memories with you. There is so much more to see than can be seen in a few days visit. I'm not sure what Leon will use as his new movie quote, but if he sticks to the old one, I'll be happy to go along with him again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

We Interrupt this Travel Log . . .

With a special announcement experience of last Sunday, March 24, 2014.

Sunday was our annual ward conference with its attendant stake visitors on the stand. The second counselor released the bishopric of our ward, then read the names of general, stake and ward officers for a sustaining vote. He then announced the names of our new bishop and his counselors, asking for a sustaining vote. NEWS FLASH: In all my years in the church this is the first time a change in a ward bishopric has not been preceded by speculative conversations among members of who they thought would be called as the new bishop.  I could attribute that to our somewhat unique connection with the ward, but we have enough contact in settings other than Sunday meetings that I find it very impressive that not one word or allusion to this change was obvious to me.

There were fewer speakers than has been our experience back home. Our Relief Society president, Rebecca Lolo, was given five minutes to bear her testimony. She chose to use her five minutes to share counsel received in a recent leadership training given by our Area Presidency under the heading, Annual Plan for Strengthening the Church and Hastening the Work in the Pacific where Elder Pearson, counselor in the area presidency, taught that at the heart of strengthening the church, is the need for each of us as members to Deepen Our Personal Conversion to Christ and His Gospel. Our bishop of the past six years, Uele Vaaulu, gave the most beautiful, insightful and candid reflection of what it means to be a bishop that I have ever heard. He had written it out and stayed with the text of his talk. We have learned to have great respect for this good man and his leadership. Our new bishop, Ete (Edward) Pauga, who’s father is counselor in the temple presidency, and his first counselor, Andrew Craig (sounds palagi, but he is Samoan), were both counselors to Bishop Va'aulu. Bishop Vaaulu was followed by his counselors, newly sustained Bishop Pauga and Brother Craig. After a beautiful interlude of young women’s voices singing a new-to-me song of their commitment to the Lord and His work, our stake president Lake Ah Chong spoke to us of the price of liberty and conversion, comparing the two.  I will share some of his talk with you as that is really the point of this post.

President Ah Chong related to us a story of conversion.  At the time of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, he had two young daughters serving in the US military. Shaken at the imminent reality of war with the country they had sworn to defend with their lives, they called him, pleading to come home.  As their father, he too shared their fear.  In a soul-searching process, his daughters chose to be true to their commitment to serve. That process led them to the realization that theirs had not been a casual commitment, allowing them the advantages of a uniform without the duty it represented. Likewise, they determined that the cause they had espoused and pledged to defend was worthy of sacrifice. They serve still today along with another of President and Sister Ah Chong’s daughters, converted to the cause of liberty, not counting the personal cost. Their fields of operation include Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

It is the same, he said, with the gospel. Echoing Sister Lolo’s message, he challenged us to deepen our commitment, our conversion to Christ and His work. As his daughters learned, we too either have faced, or will yet face the reality that we are at war against the powers of darkness in this world. We face the same choice his daughters and their parents faced;  the words we sing (perhaps without thought) ask, “Shall [we] falter when defending truth and right? When the enemy assailed, shall we shrink or shun the fight?”  Truly, the war that began before the earth was formed is the war of bondage vs. liberty, and continues to thwart the work of God whenever fear overcomes faith.  I receive strength personally from the scriptures which remind me that when we stand firm for truth and righteousness, we never stand alone. The spirit in our meeting bore witness of the truth that was spoken.

Alma 46:12,36

IN OTHER NEWS:  We are experiencing an epidemic of PINK EYE in Samoa.  Our mission nurse, Sister Kamerath is inundated with providing meds for the young infected missionaries. Pesega schools are closed this week in hope of limiting contact and containing its spread. It has been estimated that half of Samoa is infected. That estimate was made by a medical doctor, which may have influenced his perspective. It is reasonable to assume that most if not all families have someone in their family with pink eye. President Pauga, counselor in the temple presidency is out this week as a result of contact with an infected patron. The joke is that if you see a person wearing sunglasses before the sun is up or after it sets, they are hiding something. They have posted a placard at the recommend desk, advising anyone with pink eye to wait until it has cleared up before coming to the temple.

That’s all the news from Lake Wobegon where the missionaries are strong, the temple stands as a beacon, and most of the patrons are not wearing sunglasses. (Shout-out to Garrison Keillor fans. TLB)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


     I have to admit it. It was hard to come back. Our time in New Zealand and Australia was refreshing in every way. The weather was mild, cool breezes and temperatures in the 70’s with only occasional overcast skies and one day of – how can I call it rain when it came so softly? And then there were the “motorways”, aka highways, and freeways. Can you imagine how it felt, especially for Leon, to drive at speeds well in excess of 35 miles an hour? The food, everywhere we went, was excellent and reasonably priced.  Everyone understood us and we understood everyone!  And the chocolate!

I struggled with coming back. I think we both did. But we didn’t dwell on it. After all, we’re adults, right? And we can do hard things. So we packed our bags, tucked in the few souvenirs we bought, crammed my carry on with Cadbury chocolate for our temple and missionary friends, and we were on our way.

The return trip from Australia to NZ and then on to Samoa was a piece of cake compared to getting there. The day we left Samoa for New Zealand was a Saturday (February 22nd). We had been up since 3 a.m. for our morning shift at the temple. Our flight left at 9:40 p.m.. By the time we checked into our hotel in Auckland, we had been up for 25 hours.  In contrast to that, we had a good night’s sleep before heading home, not much time between flights, and felt quite rested when we arrived at Faleolo Airport.

Here’s the amazing thing. Walking down the steps from the plane and across the tarmac to the terminal, the moonlit Samoan night felt like a warm embrace. As we entered the terminal, we could hear the familiar sounds of Samoan harmonies and guitars. Not since we arrived one year ago had I remembered the live music that greets visitors.  I don’t know if they are always on hand, or if we were just fortunate to have come back when they were playing. It was irresistible. We were home. And we were happy to be here again. Lamoreaux’s were there to welcome us and take us back to the temple complex. We laughed and shared each other's highlights of the two weeks since we had seen them.

Before I go there, I have to tell you that our dear little friend, Sister Tavete, took an unexpected early release from her temple mission and a quickly arranged flight home to Australia during our first week back. She had received word that her 45 year old son was bleeding internally and awaiting surgery. She was to have served until May. We should be accustomed by now to unexpectedly hasty good-byes, but we’re not.

The time away has proven to have been good for body and soul. We are happy to be serving in one of the most beautiful temples on earth, among some of God’s most beautiful children, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We seem to have a clearer perspective of the work we are engaged in and the rare opportunity we’ve been given to serve here – again.

I do hope you will indulge us in sharing some of our experiences and photos of our trip. For those who abhor travel logs, you are free to click the white-on-red X at the top left of your screen. I will never know. 

So, here are some highlights of New Zealand:

Early morning hot air balloon ride, Hamilton, NZ.

Everyone was included in launch preparations.

Launch site at take-off.
Idylic countryside with the Hamilton, NZ temple, center.

Happy Landing!!

Dinner Cruise Auckland Harbor

"That's our boat in the center there? For our dinner cruise? Will we fit?  
Yes! All seventeen guests, plus a crew of two. And what a lovely meal it was!

Our able Captain, Jason and First Mate, Makala

Hoisting the sail.

Sailing under the Harbor Bridge.  Wait..
"Who's drivin' this fly umbrella?" (Name the movie.)

We thought for sure our sail would hit the bridge (pictured above). Notice the two extensions on either side of the bridge. These were designed by a Japanese firm and 'hung' onto the existing bridge when it became obvious that bridge traffic demanded four lanes instead of the original two.

Altogether a lovely evening on the water.

Rotorua is home to world famous Pohutu Geyser which erupts on average once or twice each hour and can reach heights of up to ninety feet. It is also the location of a Maori cultural education center with a carving school, weaving school, and a traditional fully carved meeting house where we were entertained by traditional dances of the haka and the female poi dance. This is also where we found our little glass kiwi bird.

In both pictures you can see the detailed carvings that grace
 both interior and exterior of the meetinghouse.

Hamilton New Zealand Temple

The Hamilton New Zealand Temple was also closed for the same two weeks as the Apia Samoan Temple. We took advantage of the visitors center, chatting with the missionaries serving there, and taking the tour. Sister Brown from Rigby, Idaho was nice enought to take our picture. The temple is located on a hill with picturesque bucolic views all around; rolling hills, trees, and lovely flowers on the grounds. We were happy to at least have seen it and felt the peace that surrounds it.

That's our New Zealand experience. Or at least some important highlights. Oh, and the picture at the beginning of this post, is a picture of the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland. We had a great lunch in the restaurant at the top and a panoramic view of Auckland, which is a lovely city, the harbor, and the blue mountains in the distance. 

Australia will have to wait for another day. Please pardon the crazy placement of pictures. I'm sure I aged another year before I wrapped this up and decided it would do just the way it is.

Anyway, we're 'home' now and glad to be back.

I know, its a tough assignment, but someone has to do it, right?. Wait, Leon! I'm coming.(Actually, we're on the early shift this week and we're heading straight to bed!)