Wednesday, May 14, 2014


It always seemed important to me whenever our children moved some distance away, to visit them in their new house/apartment/dorm. Somehow it helps erase the miles. When we think about them, talk with them, read their postings or emails, we can picture them almost as clearly as we could on skype; and there were plenty of moves before there was skype. We’re a little late in giving them that same consideration, and to be honest this may be more for us than for them or you. I want to remember as much as I can of this experience, and a fair bit of our time has been within these walls.

I must give a disclaimer before we begin the tour. I’ve been saying for weeks that I wanted to do this; take photos of our apartment, the rooms, what’s on the walls, what we see every day.  My idea was that we would do a quick pick up and straightening up and then take the pictures. What happened is that one day when I was engrossed in something else, Leon took the pictures. When I calmly said that I had expected that he would give some warning, or take it upon himself to do a little ‘staging’ first, he replied, “I want to picture it as it is every day”. Oh, great. I then, also calmly, (you can ask him) said, “Well if there are dishes in the rack, it is because I washed and it was your job to dry and put them away.” Didn’t phase him. It must be a gender difference. You can let me know.

This is Reality blog time.  What you see is, evidently what we see “every day”.  Not.  Right now, as I write this, the dish rack is empty. Mostly.

Here is our apartment from outside. Ours is the one on the left. Brother and Sister Sauni are on the right.

So won't you please come in?

Before we ever came, Sister Ho Ching took us through two available apartments via her ipad; apartment #4 has a lovely view of the temple. We were swayed by that. The disadvantage was that if you have guests, they must walk through the bedroom in order to reach the bathroom.  Well since you already have a suspicion about our housekeeping habits, you may think that was the deciding factor. Actually, the advantage that sold us on Apartment #1 is that it faces the parking lot and it is a short walk from the car to the front door when you are carrying bags of groceries. Now you know that not only do we leave dishes in the rack, but we're basically lazy.
Step into the living room a few feet and turn back to your left and you will see this. That is our front window. That is our coffee table that is undeniably always cluttered with books and papers. That is where we prepare our lessons, read, and occasionally watch a movie orTV.

That's our tv sitting at an angle in the corner under what you see directly above. That is such a great picture of the First Presidency. I begged it off of the worker at the distribution center here in the mission complex. It is the announcement of April General Conference. I was certain it would be removed from the window and thrown away after conference. He was nice enough to save it for me.

Keep going and you're in our little kitchen. Yep, there's the rack full of dishes.

Now you understand why we have our 'family' dinners at Sister Kamerath's apartment.

This is the wall opposite our kitchen table. Betsy and Justin gave us that 18 month calendar for Christmas before our mission. How perfect was that! As we passed each month, we cut the family pictures from the calendar and hang them all over our apartment. What joy that gives us to see their beautiful faces surrounding us.

Okay, go back outside and come in again, but look to your right this time. The map on the right is of Samoa. We live on the smaller island shown here; the one on the right, which is Upolu. Savaii is larger and less populated. We spent a day there when Leslie and James Merrell, Ben and Brianna were here last summer. Actually, the pictures between the maps are of Ben and Brianna.

This is our media center. ; )  From the Fife's we inherited a plethora of DVDs, many of which they had inherited from other missionaries. Leon set up an excel file on the computer; we distributed a list of titles, including some books, via email to all the senior missionaries. Quite a few couples drop in pretty regularly and 'check out' a flick, and sometimes a book. We don't send out reminders or charge fines for late returns, but he's a darn good librarian to keep track of where the movies are. We're not sure who will take over when we go home, but it's a good thing. We hope it keeps going. Maybe we should post a notice that we're accepting applications.

Down the hall is the bedroom. The bathroom is the first door on your right.
Actually, it's the only door on your right.

Not much to see; a stall shower, sink, toilet.

Note the ingenious solution Leon came up with to provide a clock in the bathroom:  One of his watches is duct taped to the wall. Again, notice the integrity of our Reality tour.

Our bed above.  Our bed below.  Colorful, don't you think?

OurReality dresser, and our entire wardrobe, visible from the closet door. 
Correction: our temple whites are in the hall closet.

We're back in the living room. This is our command center; our link to the outside world. 

So, now I am going to share with you the various signs and quotes you may have noticed that are all around.  Some of them are Samoan words and phrases from a time in the past when we were serious about learning Samoan. Somewhere along the way, we got distracted. The others are quotes that inspire and/or remind us of what we should be about. They have really been helpful.. Maybe you will find them so as well.  The first one is from President Monson. I have memorized this one.

So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment. 
                                                                                            ~ President Thomas S. Monson

Don't be gloomy. Do not dwell on unkind things. Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunshine. Even if you are not happy, put a smile on your face. Accentuate the positive. Look a little deeper for the good. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart.  ~ President Hinckley

Think the best of others, especially those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad.  ~ Unknown

O God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small. ~ Old fisherman's prayer, courtesy of son, Jesse. 

It's amazing what happens when you choose to let God shape your life and not let the bad things that happened be your present.  ~ Casey Anne Crowley, Argentina Neuquen Mission.

And last of all, the scripture that we chose for our missionary plaque. I've also memorized this one: 

And now my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you, to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall.  Helaman 5:12

Thanks for stopping by. Notice the lovely landscaping as you leave.  This is what we see through our front window. (Remember the convenience factor before you judge.)

This is what we see from our side living room window. That's the mission home in the distance. Walk around our apartment to the right and you will see the Service Center across the parking lot.

Our apartment is connected to the temple president's home. If you look over their roof you can see part of the temple in the distance. This is they way we walk to the temple. We don't actually walk through the mission president's home, but we do walk through their car port.

If you head the other direction as you leave and walk around the Sauni's apartment, you get a better glimpse of the temple beyond. You can also see the back of Lavatai's apartment, which is connected to Lamoreaux's, which is connected to Fitisemanu's (temple president). We're all connected. And the laundry room is at the corner of the sidewalk, if you get what I mean. See the clothesline pole? Notice in the foreground at the corner of Sauni's apartment is a young and growing papaya tree.

They planted this tree at Christmas. These are big enough to pick. 
The oblong shape indicates they are Hawaiian papaya. When ripe they are yellow/gold.
Inside, they are a deeper color of orange than the local variety.

If you turn right from the papaya tree, the sidewalk will take you to Sister Kamerath's apartment. Hers is the door on the right.  What you don't see is chickens.  They've been banned from the complex because of the mess they create. Leon is most happy to have them gone. There are two individuals that miss them quite a lot: Sister Kamerath, aka, "Chicken Grandma", and Sister Sauni who regularly thins their feathers for them and dyes them brilliant colors - the feathers, not the chickens - to use in the gorgeous fans she weaves and exports to Pago Pago to sell. There are very few chickens around these days, and proportionately rather skimpily feathered. Sister Kamerath fed 'her' chicken pets from the 50 lb. bags of rice she regularly purchased for them. The main rooster would even come into her apartment if the door was open and stand on the little rug just inside. He was such a proud and cocky specimen. He's gone to a better place. Not what you might be thinking. The bunch of them are now residing in the yard of the mission home cook. . .Well, maybe it is what you're thinking.

Remember to drive on the left side of the road. And try not to use your windshield wipers as blinkers. No one will even notice. Well, that's not entirely accurate. The people in your car will get a good laugh. Trust me. 

Tofa soifua.  Thanks for dropping by. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where did April go?

April was the first month that I haven’t posted at least once in the fourteen months we’ve been here. I hope I can remember some highlights and figure out why I didn’t blog.

The couples who are serving missions here are all people you would be happy to call your friends. Each contributes their unique personalities, talents, interests and testimonies to the enrichment of all, including Sister Carolyn Kamerath, who had the spunk to come here alone to serve as mission nurse years after she had been active in nursing.  And we can’t forget our volunteer dentists – yes, dentists. With the arrival of Mark and Jane Thomas, freshly retired from his practice in Salem, Oregon, we now have two dentists to care for the entire population, and they do it for free. Elder and Sister Layne are most thankful for this help. Dr. Layne was not really prepared for the patient load after being in semi retirement in Florida before coming here to serve an 18 month mission with his wife as his assistant. It was quite a shock to find a long line of people waiting for the clinic door to open at 8:00 a.m. each day.

Close friendships form within this group of dedicated people; usually it seems to be geographic, neighbors sharing with neighbors. In our case, it is the same. We are closest as far as time spent together and shared experiences with those who live in temple housing, namely the Lamoreaux’s and Sister Kamerath, as well as the Lavata’i’s.  Our time spent (outside the temple) with Lavata’i’s is limited due to the fact that they have lots of family close by. Their Sundays especially are spent with family, while we palagi’s become family to each other. We attend the English speaking ward together and often share Sunday dinner, as well as occasional evenings playing dominoes, crazy card games or watching a movie together.

So when Sister Kamerath got word that her beloved young adult grandson Justin, a recovering addict, had died of an overdose, we were with her. That was April 1st. We lived through that trauma with her. She has shown great faith and courage to finish her mission, saying that is what Justin would want her to do. And she does it with grace and good humor.

Other April news of significance (to us) is that with all the growth of the church and a new stake being formed recently, the meeting house we had attended was aligned into a different stake and the Pesega Lima ward was assigned to hold meetings in the Pesega High School (not called that here, but that’s what it is). We hold sacrament meeting in the gymnasium and classes are held in the air conditioned classrooms. It could be worse. This English speaking ward first began in the high school gymnasium, so it has come full circle.

April saw the end of an abundant avocado harvest of which we were the grateful beneficiaries. Mark and Pat Moors, members of our ward and Mark is a temple worker, have a grove of avocado trees that kept us and all the missionaries supplied for a couple of months. Moors delivered bags of avocados to us regularly to distribute to other missionaries. And these are huge compared to the ones we get at home. They keep far better, retaining their color and texture for days in the refrigerator. 

General Conference was - as always - anticipated, appreciated and devoured. We saw some sessions live on BYUTV and attended all sessions of the delayed broadcast the following weekend in our stake center. We’ve enjoyed revisiting some talks online at I am finding Elder Corbridge of the Seventy to be one of my favorite speakers. His messages are delivered with passion and punch. Why, indeed, did they not leave Joseph alone? Truth is always opposed. I was touched by Elder Packer’s talk and his rare show of emotion. How long will he be with us, we wonder.

The senior missionaries are organized into a zone under the mission president with three districts. We are district leaders of the temple housing district. It was our turn in April to provide the lesson/activity of our bi-weekly FHE. We did a Samoan cooking demo and served the food after. Can you guess that I demo-ed how to make cocosamoa and supoese? We also had demo’s of fa’alifu talo, baked taro, and palusami. It was very well received and lots of fun. There were several Samoan senior missionaries there and I was the first to demo. I was a bit intimidated, so I began by relating a scene from the movie, ELF. Do you remember the conversation between Will Ferrell and the little girl in the doctor’s office waiting room? She compliments him on his elf costume and he corrects her. “This isn’t a costume. I’m an elf…. raised by humans.”  She responds, “I’m a human, … raised by humans.”  Then I explained my reluctance to teach with Samoans present by saying, “I’m a palagi, … raised by palagi’s.” It was a good evening.

Sunday dinners, including Easter Sunday, with Lamoreaux's at Sister Kamerath's (she always hosts because she is the only one with a dining room table) sums up the highlights of the month of April.

Since today is Mothers Day with all of you, may I share our experience of yesterday, which was our Mothers Day? We were invited by one of the temple workers, Brother Tiatia, to attend his ward at Mulifanua which is about an hours drive to the west end of the island. Most of the other seniors are assigned to regularly attend Samoan wards. Since we fall under the authority of the temple president, we were free to attend whatever ward we chose. Pesega Lima draws its membership of English speaking saints from anywhere on the island. We are grateful to have callings and serve in Pesega Lima ward.

Yesterday was our first experience attending a Samoan speaking ward. We gained empathy for the missionaries who never hear a talk, a lesson, or sing a hymn in English. Since it was Mothers Day, as sacrament meeting began, all the mothers and grandmothers were asked to go to the back of the chapel and form a line. As we walked in, a young man of the priesthood shook each hand and placed around our necks an ulu (lei in Hawaii) of candy. I learned that some years it is made of flowers and some years it is candy. Leon just took it apart to share the candy with our home teaching family, so I can’t show you, but it is all wrapped in plastic wrap and tied between each candy with a short piece of curly ribbon.  Rather than return to our seats, we sat in front seats reserved for the mothers. I saw that Leon had been asked to sit on the stand. A mongrel looking dog wandered down the aisle from back to front three different times, exiting at the open door at the front of the chapel. No one even noticed. Sharing that with  Laynes later that day, they reported that in the ward they attend, the bishop’s dog wanders in and out of the chapel or sits in the door during the meeting. 

After church, we were invited by the Tiatia family to have dinner with them. Their home was just three houses from the church on the sea side of the road.  I wish we would have taken pictures. Their property is gated. The large palagi-style home sits on maybe four feet of concrete with a semi circle of steps leading up to a tiled deck of approximately 20 X 30 feet, with a 10 foot ceiling supported on three sides by pillars.The eves are decorated with geometric patterns of terra cotta on the light tan of the structure. The floor tiles, also terra cotta and light tan, are eighteen inches of detailed geometric design, set on the diagonal. These tiles continue into the large, open living area and kitchen of the house. The many louvered windows on all sides of the home, and the fact that the property sets right against the seawall, contribute to cooling breezes and a comfortable temperature inside as well as on the deck.

These living conditions were totally unexpected. Most people live in far more modest dwellings. We learned that Sister Tiatia’s father, whose property this is, is in the travel and tourism business and actually has a travel agency in Riverton.  He owns extensive property by the wharf, has subdivided and sold many parcels, and plans to build a hotel. Here is another example of a successful Samoan saint who uses his wealth to benefit and serve others. He purchased a full sized bus and gives free transportation to ward members. His family donated the land upon which stands the near by LMS Church. The full time sister missionaries were also invited dinner guests, as they often are.

But here is the most amazing part of this family. Sister Tiatia’s first name is Kelly Joyce, and therefore I thought before meeting her that she was a palagi. Not so. She was born in American Samoa, educated in New Zealand, and while still single, worked in Victorville, CA, as a county case worker with foster children.  Among her case load, she was responsible for the five American kids that are now part of the Tiatia family. It seems that there was a shortage of foster homes (a problem in Utah as well), and when it became apparent that there was nowhere to place these children, she decided to adopt them. When she moved back to Samoa, she brought with her five very fair children as her own. When she and Brother Tiatia began dating, she made it very clear to him and especially to her five children, that there would be no marriage unless everyone involved was in favor of it. 

And so it was that in 2012, Savea Tiatia and Kelly Joyce ___________ (we never asked her father’s name!!!) were sealed to each other and to their five palagi children in our beautiful Samoan temple. Since then they have had a baby boy who is now 17 months old, making them parents of six children in two years.  The ages of the other children range from eight to twelve. They speak Samoan at home, so it has become their first language. From their drug infested homes in America, they are now enjoying an idyllic childhood of simplicity and peace in a loving home and a most beautiful setting.  Sister Tiatia proudly told me that they are doing very well in school. She drives them to the Pesega Middle School and Pesega Fou, which is the elementary school. So that is an hour drive each way every day.

On this Mother’s Day that seems a fitting end to this post. If you happen to open this today, Happy Mothers Day to you!