Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zone Meetings

Our mission is organized several smaller zones, compared to the size of the zones in Scotland where I served.  The zones range in size from 4 missionaries to 14 missionaries.  There are 8 zones on Upolu, 3 on Savaii and 4 on Tutuila. 

We have been asked by President Leota to attend a different zone meeting each week. This is our second week of attending zone meetings and we have really enjoyed meeting with the missionaries. We know the zone leaders quite well because they come into the office every Monday to drop off mail and to pick up the mail for their zone.

This week we attended the zone meeting of the Faleasiu zone which consists of 8 elders all riding bikes. It is the only zone on Upolu that does not have a van so the zone leaders move their zone meeting around to a different area of the zone each week.  This week the zone meeting was held Nofoalii. In zones where there is a van, the zone leaders pick up the missionaries and take them to the zone meeting. The lesson was on "The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion."  As part of the lesson the missionaries do role plays or "real plays" as Elder Hamula likes to call them.  They usually ask Sister Partridge and I to participate in some way, usually sharing something we have presented in Zone Leader council.  It was a very warm day and the Elders that rode in from the east end of the zone were dripping with sweat when they arrived. So we offered to take as many home as we could in our air conditioned van.  We managed to fit 6 Elders and 6 bikes in the van.

Elders Payne, Iosua, Hanen, Alesana (Helmet) & Petelo
Elder Tauiliili is sitting next to Elder Iosua and not pictured

One of the Elders lost his mother late last week.  On Wednesday morning I was asked to pick him and his so'a up and take them to the wharf so they could go to Savaii to attend his mothers funeral.  I was impressed with the Elder and that he was in good spirits.  We picked them up from the wharf on Thursday prior to their zone meeting and again I was impressed with his attitude. He participated in zone meeting and made good comments to go along with the lesson. It is a testimony to me that the Plan of Salvation works and although this Elder has lost the companionship of his mother in this life he will see her again.  I was impressed that she will be watching over her son through out his mission.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

piano lessons

I have five piano students and have offered to teach them for free if they practice.  For the past two weeks none of them have shown up.  This week I had one show up on Thursday.  She is doing very well and has access to a keyboard.

One of our A.P.'s who is a Samoan from Magna Utah asked me if I would teach him the piano.  So, we had our first lesson this week on a keyboard that we keep in the conference room. 

Afulua who is the mission housekeeper, said that her daughter would like to take lessons also.  Samoan's are very laid back people and just do things if it is convenient.  So, I have them come to the mission home if they want a lesson.

I have been playing the keyboard for Relief Society, which has been a challenge for me.  I'm a very nervous piano player and have about 30 songs that I can play relatively well if I don't panic.  Every week I ask them to give me the songs ahead of time, which they never do.  I have tried calling the Bishop's wife who is a counselor and she never knows what the songs are.  I have decided that I will just practice a few new songs every week and give them the list of songs to choose from.  Of course there is the language difference too.  They had never heard Our Savior's Love before, which surprised me.  They often sing Children of our Heavenly Father which I hadn't heard before.  They have several songs in their hymn book that are unique to Samoa.  They also have their own version of the way some of the songs are sung which makes it sound like I am playing the wrong notes.  It has been an adventure, but I have decided that I have been called to serve them and will do my best.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We Survived!!

Polynesian Airlines flight to Pago
We survived our trip to American Samoa.  Ever since I first saw the plane land at the airport I made up my mind that I never wanted to be on that plane when it lands or takes off.  I have visited the airport (Fagalii) at least twice a week since we have been here to pickup and send mail to Pago and to pick people up and drop them off.  Every time I have looked at the studied the plane I have seen something about it that did not inspire confidence.  But, we were assigned by President Leota to visit Pago do handle some items of business for the mission so we went. If the plane is full it holds 20 people plus a crew of 2 if the weight limit isn't exceeded.  They weigh the luggage and the people and once they hit the weight limit they either stop loading luggage or people or both depending on the situation. Usually it's luggage. 
Inside the plane
Northeast coast of Upolu
Pago Harbor
The trip was surprisingly smooth and the view was spectacular.  We flew east along the north coast of the island and got an aerial view of  the coast we love to drive along.  You can see the wheel of the airplane in the picture on the right.  We arrived in Pago a half hour later and were met by the Zone Leaders at the airport.  We accomplished our duties which included fixing the wireless Internet in the home used by the couple who serves in American Samoa.  The home is currently unoccupied so we stayed there.  It was quite a change for us.  It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  We had the pleasure of entertaining the Elder & Sister Preece one night while we were there.  They were travelling home to Utah and flew to Pago to catch the midnight special to Hawaii.  There aren't alot of international options from Apia or Pago.  Most of the options from Apia are to New Zealand and Australia.  We also picked up some canned chicken at a store called Cost U Less which is run by Costco.  Some people call it Cost U More but we liked it.  We also purchased some more chocolate chips and some cheese.  The actually city of Pago is quite small and is situated along a large harbor.  To drive inland around the harbor is probably 10-15 miles.  It is a beautiful drive.  There is a Starkist tuna factory along the harbor complete with a statue of Charlie Tuna outside the plant.

We returned home on Thursday in time to help move back into our office at the mission home.  We have new carpeting, which I can hardly wait to take a nap on, and fresh paint.

Robert Louis Stevenson's Home
Saturday we took a trip to the Robert Louis Stevenson museum. Robert Louis Stevenson was very ill most of his life with lung problems.  He is from Scotland, which is another country near and dear to my heart. The climate in Samoa made him feel better so he settled in Samoa in 1889.  He purchased 400 acres in Vailima and built a home and established a plantation. The Samoan People loved him and he loved them and advised them in their desire to achieve independence. The German government threatened to deport him because of his political activities and some of his writings supporting the Samoan people. He died in 1894 and his widow sold the home to a German and went back to San Francisco where she was from. The home was used by German governor of Samoa until World War I and by the New Zealand high commissioner  to Samoa until 1962.  When Samoa gained it's independence in 1962 it became the home of the Samoan Head of State.  In 1992 it was badly damaged by a hurricane and abandoned by the government of Samoa.  A returned missionary, who served in Samoa during the late 1950's,  bought the home and paid to have it restored.  It opened as a museum on Stevenson's birthday in 1994.  After the tour we climbed Mt. Vaea to the tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote his own epitaph:
A tired hiker on the tomb of RLS
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live an gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will
This be the verse you grave for me,
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.


Friday, June 8, 2012


Today Bob and I took a drive to Sauniatu. In the early days of the church in Samoa, the saints were persecuted by the nonmembers and the Matai's.  The church bought 800 acres in the mountains where the saints could live in peace.    President David O McKay visited them in 1921 riding a horse up to visit with them.  He told his story for the first time of his mission when he saw the plaque that said, "What Ere Thou Art Act Well Thy Part".  When the meeting was over he was ready to return to Pesega because he had a meeting there with some government officials.  The saints lined up and sang "Tofa My Feleni" which is a traditional song of farewell in Samoa.  The fathers and mothers all came forward for a blessing and he received all of them even though he had to leave.  After that, he blessed all of the children.  They all followed after him crying.  He felt impressed to return and leave a blessing for the people.  The people recorded this blessing and buried the paper on the spot of the blessing.  A year later they erected a monument to honor this sacred occasion.

They have a school up there now and a Fale which has a bust of President David O McKay and carvings of life in Samoa.  They also have a graveyard for some of the people that lived there.  President McKay said that he felt it was like a Nauvoo for the saints and that to him it looked like a Garden of Eden. 

What Ere Thou Art

Monument for Pres. McKay
David O McKay bust

David O McKay fale
We also stopped at the Fagalii Cemetery on the way home where some missionaries were buried.  So we learned a little history of Samoa today.  We are doing well and love the Samoan people.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Independence day in Samoa

Admiring some "fili le pou"
June 1st was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the independence of Samoa.  Samoa was actually granted their independence from New Zealand on January 1, 1962.  The celebration was moved to June 1st because it was felt that the weather would be better.  I've heard that the weather on January 1st was actually very good.  The islands of Samoa were claimed by the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States during the 19th century.  As a result of an agreement Tutuila and Mu'ua were given to the United States and Upolu and Savaii along with the smaller islands between Upolu and Savaii were given to Germany.  About the time of World War I New Zealand took control of Upolu and Savaii without any conflict and ruled what came to be known as Western Samoa until 1962.

Independence day celebration

The Samoans have been preparing for this celebration for quite sometime.  When we were walking around downtown last week we saw large groups cleaning up the roadways getting ready.  They put coconut leaves around all of the street posts and telephone poles and along many of the main roads.  It's called fili le pou. We got up at 5:30 to walk down to the opening ceremonies on Friday.  We are glad we walked because there was a real traffic jam going down to water front.  They held the opening ceremonies in front of the building where Parliament meets. We got there around 6:20 am and got a great spot right by the US Navy band.

Head of State reviews the Veterans
And we waited.  About every 10 minutes the drummers would put on there drums and we thought we would hear them play.  Instead they would announce a dignitary arriving and we were supposed to stand up for them.  The dignitaries included the governor of American Samoa and his special lady, the king and queen of Tonga, the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand and their spouses, and finally  the head of state of Samoa. The Samoan Police band played the national anthem of each country as the dignitary arrived.  I'm not sure what the relationship of American Samoa to the United States is but they didn't play the Star Spangle Banner when the governor of American Samoa arrived. The head of state of Samoa reviewed the troops including the veterans that were standing fairly close by.  I got this great shot of the head of state walking passed the only 2 people I know who were standing on the field.  The gentleman in the gray suit is Elder Erekson, one of our senior missionaries serving as a public affairs specialist.  He served his mission as a young man in Samoa and served in the US Air Force for 6 years. Next to him in the dark suit, is Brother T'oa, a counselor in the Bishopric of the ward we attend.  He served in the US Navy for 20 years. Elders Hamula and Pearson are on the VIP stand somewhere but I couldn't see them.  They started a Thanksgiving service at 7:00 am which was lead by the President of the Methodist church in Samoa.  We listened for about 30 minutes and then decided we needed to walk home and go to work.
Hey had presentations all day long by different villages.  The ensembles from the Navy bands from the United States, Australia and New Zealand performed also.
Saturday morning we walked downtown again and saw the parade.  The Samoan Police Band along with the Navy bands from the United States and New Zealand all participated.  They do their parades a little different.  They closed off one side of the street for the parade and people could drive on the other side of the street. Some people would drive down the street so they could say "Talofa" to their friends that were in the parade going the opposite direction.  The most unique entry in the parade was the woman in the butterfly costume below. 

US Navy Band
There is a Navy frigate and destroyer in the harbor.  The destroyer is the USS Chafee.  I'm not sure which frigate is here. I couldn't get a good look at the hull number from where we were. 
I guess this is supposed to be a butterfly

Friday night we were hoping to see fireworks over the harbor. We drove down and found a good parking spot.  They were supposed to begin at 10:00 PM.  We waited until 10:30 and then decided to go home. They started around 11:00 pm.