Sunday, August 10, 2014

Aokuso Sefulu Lima

Aokuso Sefulu Lima. That’s Samoan for August Fifteenth. That’s the day we leave. That’s the day we begin our re-entry. It was probably wise that we do it in stages, traveling through Hawaii to spend time with friends before returning to the hurried pace of Western life. You don’t notice, I know, that life moves very fast where you are, where we soon will be again.  So many people in a hurry.  So many cars. Traffic moves very fast.  So many things competing for our attention.  I remember those feelings from long ago.  Will I be able to catch up, to keep up?  Can I keep up with the yard and our home, which in my memory now seems by comparison so very large?  Mission life is very simple; not without challenges, but simple. Here in Samoa life is slow. People passing on the street make eye contact, both children and adults. They smile and speak their greetings of friendship: Talofa! Talofa lava!  Malo! Malo lava! Malo soifua! 

The days are falling off the calendar at an alarming rate. Our walls are bare in our apartment.  We’re sorting and discarding and giving away food, clothing, and miscellaneous ‘stuff’. We’re cleaning, making lists, planning menus to get us through the remaining days and use up what’s in our freezer and cupboards. And most importantly, we are spending time with friends. There have been and will be picnics at the beach, dinners with friends at our favorite restaurants, and in our homes. All this is happening at a time when the temple is humming with activity and we are in the midst of it. So many families are receiving the sealing ordinances to become forever families. Weddings too, and baptisms for the dead, and endowment sessions in which every seat is filled. School is on vacation in American Samoa and ward groups from Pago Pago fill patron housing. The baptistery is busy with large groups of youth, three and four baptisms back to back in the morning and then again in the afternoon and evening. We have seen a marked increase in the number of Samoan family names being brought by the patrons to do the work for their own ancestors instead of using temple file names.  It’s all part of the hastening of the work.


Number one on the Bucket List: Manono

We finally made it to the little Samoan island of Manono. I just have to give you a glimpse of our Manono trip on Saturday, July 26th. It took about 4 boat loads to get us all over there. The island in the distance is actually Apolima. The next picture is of Manono. Lots of Samoan history involves Manono.

The sea was the most beautiful turquoise, a bit choppy going over, and really rough coming home. Those in the back were bailing water most of the way back to Upolu and many of us were soaked. What fun we had!

We walked around the entire island before eating the Samoan feast our hosts provided for us. That really built up our appetites!  It took us nearly three hours to make it all the way around. Here are some of my favorite scenes.
A few of our group. Our guide is the short Samoan man in the red island shirt. He is a high chief.
My visit teaching comp, 
Asofa Fuatimau and her husband. 
A bright, colorful home. Family transportation- 
a boat parked in front. No cars on Manono.
Looking back toward Upolu.

 Local folk enjoy posing for photos.
I believe this from the coconut palm 
will become sennet used in making rope.

Friends and sisters. Part of our group.

Wow. Just wow.

My guy heading into the jungle. Nearly all of the trail was along the coast, but this last little section cut inland just a bit.
The end of the trail.

Even our plates were made from the environment, banana leaf plates
filled with every Samoan entree imaginable, only a few remnants remain here. So good.

# 2  Kekepua'a: A Tutorial

Tai and Kristen Tauiliili run the Pesega Church College (aka high school) Canteen. Some months ago we stopped by on our way home from our morning walk and bought a meat bun. We liked it. Enough that we finally asked if they would teach us how to  make them. Can you believe they agreed without hesitation? Yes you can. We are in Samoa!  Here's how it went:
Our tutor first mixed a very stiff bread dough, 
then rolled it into the long roll you see, 
twisting off enough for each roll.
Next he flattened each roll with the heel of his hand into a 4" diameter.
This is the filling for the kekepua'a (pork cake), which really should be called
kekemoa, since this is chicken (and moa means chicken), chopped and marinated in soy sauce and onions.
Holding the dough in his cupped hand, he spooned the meat into the center.
Using your thumb and first two fingers to pinch the dough as you go,
and the opposing thumb to keep the meat inside, you've successfully
prepared the meat bun when the dough encloses the meat completely.

Next, the buns are steamed for 25 minutes, at which point they can be eaten, frozen for later use, or cooled completely and then deep fried, which is the way they are sold at the canteen.
Learning to make these was on our bucket list.
This is Kristen. Isn't she beautiful? We love the Tauiliili's.


#3  Dinner at Salima's Home

Grandparents of Ariel Leon

Sister Salima and I became friends
as we worked together in the temple.
When her daughter Mataora gave birth to a baby boy, she asked what Elder Crowley's first name was.
This little grandson, their first grandson, was blessed the day this picture was taken.
His name is Ariel Leon Leati.

We were privileged to have dinner in their home two weeks ago. Her husband Senetari is bishop of their ward. He made an umu and cooked taro and palusami for our dinner. They also served fried chicken. He confessed his love for KFC, and said a relative brought a bucket back from American Samoa, and he thinks it's the best. They are such a good family. Their married kids live with them, so we have held little Ariel Leon. Their own younger children, Dominique (9), and Julie (7) are a big help. Salmar (4), not so much. They have four older children: a daughter serving a mission in the Philippines, two married children, and a seventeen year old son still at home. Mataora (mother of Ariel Leon) and her husband also live with them.
L-R Salmar, Dominique, Ariel Leon, Julie
Grandpa Salima says, Ariel doesn't cry - he roars like a lion since his name means Lion.
Having a namesake in Samoa was definitley NOT on our bucket list. What an honor!

Lava Lava Explosion

On August 2nd we met at President and Sister Fitisemanu's home for our bi/monthly FHE, this one to be our last. We were planning to go to Tafatafa for the day to enjoy the Su'a's hospitality and the great beach there. It turns out it was very stormy at Tafatafa on Monday, so instead we did the second most favorite thing we all do when we get togethere; we ate too much of favorite Samoan foods. I brought Sapasui (Samoan style chop suey) and this time I got it right. I found a really good recipe on line, instead of trying to duplicate what we've eaten here. Finally I got it right and everyone loved it. That felt so good.

It turns out it was a kind of farewell for us. They presented us with a stack of lava lavas, colorful and bright. Sister Tafua demonstrated different ways of wearing a lava lava.

Not a great picture but you get the idea.  After showing me the right way to wear a lava lava, they insisted we do the siva. I suggested I dance on Leon's back the way we remembered seeing it done 40 years ago. 
Wisdom won out. One foot on his backside just for effect. What a sport!


 The Fun Never Stops

We've dined at some of the great restaurants as guests of some of the great friends we've made here - places we had not yet discovered, or had only heard of but not experienced.  This week we had dinner with Ed and Laura Mulitalo at The Bistro. That was like going off island w/o leaving: quiet jazz music over the sound system, white linen and crystal; wonderful food and lovely presentations; great conversation with good friends. Laura pointed out that our waiter with his dress lava lava and white shirt was barefoot. Love it!

Earlier that afternoon, I taught Laura how to make pie crust. That was on my bucket list to do.

Taking Sister Kamerath to Kokobananas for dinner was also on our bucket list
She has wanted to eat there after hearing from us how great the food is, and we finally made it.
Jay Moors, owner and chef, is a former CCWS student of Leon's. After we had ordered, the waitress brought an appetizer of fried egg plant. When our main entrees were brought, she followed up with three lobster tails, all "from Jay".  The food was absolutely perfect. When we went to pay, we were told there was no charge.  And we didn't even get a picture of Jay! But we found this one of him and his family on facebook

Isaac and Vernetta Tagaloa suggested we get together one more time before we leave. Remember the 4th of July umu at their home? We'll never forget it. So Friday night we ate at our favorite Chinese restaurant with Tagaloa's and with Jay's uncle Mark Moors and his wife Pat (remember those huge avocados we had in abundance during their season? Those were from Mark and Pat's trees).
Tagaloa's                            Mark and Pat Moors

                                               Really good Chinese food. 

Saturday Steve and Rebecca  Roos invited us to have lunch at their home between our Saturday morning  temple shift and the senior missionary outing to Matareva Beach on the south side of the island. We really enjoy this couple. Steve was chief of police in Idaho Falls before coming on this mission. They raised a large family, retired early and their mission here is focused on self-reliance, specifically helping the Samoan people to improve their employment situations. They offer computer classes, help prepare resumes and generally aid their clients in entering the work force or improving their options.

                                               He has authored two suspense novels based on his experience in law inforcement. They are both very active and adventurous people. 

Later that day . . . .

What a gorgeous beach! The only ones not pictured are Lamoreaux's daughter, Bet and her husband Brit, and they're taking the pictures with all of our camera's.
L-R:  the Winters, Sister Kamerath, me and Leon behind me, Elder and Sister Krogh, the Thomas's (here for six months as dentist and assistant helping the Layne's), Sister Sa'u, the Lamoreaux's, the Laynes (dentist couple), the Roos, and the Edwards.

Here are our photographers with Bet's parents, the Lamoreaux's.

Yesterday a Brother Brunt introduced himself to us after church, telling us that Leon was home teacher to his family all those forty years ago when he was in fourth grade (form four). He remembered David and Justin and asked about them and our family. We showed him pictures and he said that since that time his dad has joined the church. He was here visiting family and is returning to Hawaii on the same flight with us this Friday. When he said he was a Brunt, I mentioned that one of the A.P.s to President Leota was an Elder Brunt from Sydney AU. He said with a big smile, "That's my brother's son!" Elder Brunt was a favorite of ours. When he and his comp had dinner with us they asked how we met. When we told our story, he got the biggest kick out of it and always seemed to think of it whenever we met after that. We attended the farewell testimony for the departing missionaries before he left. Although ninety percent was in Samoan, the spirit was so strong and I could follow most of what was being said. Elder Brunt was an excellent missionary. He spoke some in English and recounted the story of Christ's visit after his resurrection to Peter, James and John as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. His point was that each of these returning missionaries must not go back to their former lives, unchanged. They must continue to be involved in bringing souls to Christ in whatever calling they may have and in their everyday walk in life.

Elder Brunt the day before he flew home. Several of his family were here for this final testimony meeting.

Tonight is our last FHE with the senior missionaries. President and Sister Tolman said they will be there. It will be our last opportunity to be together with all these wonderful missionaries. We love them all. 
President and Sister Tolman. Aren't they the cutest?? We love them. We were at the recommend desk last week when they came to the temple. We asked how they were doing and President said, "We have 200 children!!!" He has been semi retired for the past 20 years and this has been quite a radical shift in lifestyle.

Tomorrow we are working both shifts to allow Lamoreaux's to have time with Bet and Brit. We all had dinner together yesterday and so enjoy this great young couple. We know how very special it is to have family here to experience Samoa with you. When Leslie and James, Ben and Brianna were here in 2013, the Lamoreaux's worked our shift for us and we appreciated that so much. In between shifts Rita Keil and daugher Daphne Papalii are taking us to lunch. Wednesday, Sister Tinielu from the temple is taking us to lunch. Thursday we are returning a chair we borrowed from Keils and our car to Lupe Ieremia, who paid cash money (in American dollars) weeks ago and graciously allowed us the use of it until we leave. 

Lamoreaux's kids leave Wednesday and they have asked to take us to the airport Friday afternoon. We are so happy for that. We love the Lamoreaux's. Their home is in Orem and they will be home next spring. You may remember that this is their third mission. They first served 2 years in Romania and then 18 months in Mongolia. Obviously Samoa was their reward.  Oh, Sister Satiu, our new neighbor and her husband just invited us to have lunch with them on Thursday, so we are all booked up. All the food I prepared ahead and froze will be eaten by others and that's okay.

I really must get to packing now. I hope you have not been bored to tears. The good thing for both of us is that I will never know that you stopped reading long ago. For any who are still with me, I just want you to know that a mission is worth every sacrifice. We are grateful. God bless you all.

Alofa tele lava,
Elder and Sister Crowley (I am going to miss my name tag.)


  1. I loved every word! I'm so glad you've had this experience! Can't wait to see you soon!!

  2. Thanks, Leslie! I think I'm through the tears. Today we packed, yesterday I cried. Now I think I made it through the wind tunnel of emotion and I have my sights set on home.

  3. I love this post and the two of you. I can't wait to see you in person again, but wouldn't trade the blessings that have come to all of us as you have served. You are such great examples of love and service.

  4. My heart is full. Thank you. Love you so.

  5. This was so fun to read. It has been so fun to see all of the friend and memories you have made. It will be so good to see you. I will be able to pick you up on the 19th. Love you guys.

    1. Can't wait to see you! So glad you're bringing your little family to the airport. We have lots of catching up to do!! As you said, little Sofie will have grown and changed the most of all the grandkids. Ollie, too, will surprise us. The picture you sent of him looks taller and older to us.

  6. I guess we weren't totally booked. There was still Friday lunch before we leave. Bless President and Sister Tolman! They are taking us to lunch Friday. We are blessed.