Friday, October 30, 2015

Just Pictures, Tonga

Above and below.  I am fascinated by their beautifully decorated graves.  They always have artificial flowers on them.  This one above is fancier than most, people with more money.  The less expensive grave sites are just mounded by rocky dirt.  They have to keep them in good condition.  If someone else dies in the family they might move the bones over and add the newly deceased in the same place.  I they are very poor they might be just wrapped in cloth.  All graves are above ground.

Above and below, some sunsets.  Beautiful.

This is a blowhole beach.  As far as you can see, the breakers explode on the rocks.  It is quite a sight.  They said that this is a small evening--it can get way bigger.

This was the piggy we ate at the buffet during the dinner show.

Above the girl dances prettily using her hands to gently tell the story.  Below, the guys on the other hand dance with great vigor, doing quick head jerks and they really get into it.  They were so much fun to watch.

Back to Tongatapu

Friday, October 30, 2015

Last night’s chuckle:  We had run out of toilet paper and the girls hadn’t come in to clean, so he went to the office and told the young gal that we had run out.  She said, “Well, we don’t have any, so if you need some you’ll need to go to the store and buy your own!”  Incredulous, Jim said that hotels always provide it!  Luckily the security guard heard this conversation, reached into a cupboard and gave Jim the TP.  When Jim told the morning gal what she had said, she also was rather astounded—we wonder what her boss will say.  We were told that all the businesses in the area are run by Americans except this hotel, which is owned by a Tongan and we (church) gets a 25% discount.  Ana said that she would report to him about our room.  We did not tell her everything: there was no hand soap, a cockroach corpse was being eaten by other little bugs in the bathroom, our TV didn’t work, the pool was empty of water and was full of debris, the shower head was a crazy spurting thing with little needles going everywhere except where they ought to go, and of course they had no Internet.  Who isn’t in the mood for a good giggle…we don’t take these things too seriously because they are so entertaining.

We bid a fond farewell to Vava’u; this morning the seas are shiny smooth; a National Geographic Cruise ship landed at the dock and the people live off of the tourists who embark here.  Whale watching is another popular activity along with snorkeling and diving.

Last night we ate at a casual restaurant down from our hotel with the other couples.  It is owned by a young American of Polynesian descent whose wife is from Vava’u; they landed here, creating a wonderful American menu—everything any of us ate was top notch.  If we ever go back, we will eat there again. 

In the morning they picked us up at 7 AM (no time to find breakfast as no one was open yet) to look at yet another project on our way to the airport.  It is the Tongan telegraph—they hear that we are there and everyone needs to take their best shot at getting something done.  If we were able to fulfill every request in Tonga and the islands in their chain, we’d spend a few million…

We luckily found some snacks for sale at the small airport so we had water and coconut cookies for breakfast.  We boarded our plane, which is the one that the Murdock’s were telling us about:  in between the rows there is just enough aisle to get your legs down it if you go sideways.  If a man stretches out his fingers, the thumb and pinky fingers would touch the sides of the seats across the aisle from each other.  As we boarded the plane there were a group of Aussie’s ahead of us who were big guys.  As soon as they saw the squeezed seating they began to laugh.  They made so many jokes about it that it kept us laughing for 10 minutes while the pilots prepared for take-off.  Ana said that people are concerned that this littler version of island transport has unreliable engines or at least they say that the engines are ‘smoking’.  In the previous flight they had taken our carry-on luggage, putting it in the back because they said there was no room for it at our seats.  On this incredibly smaller plane they didn’t take it from us.  Luckily the seat across the aisle from Jim was empty--we’d have had to stack our backpacks and laptop on our laps.  I stuck my backpack in between my legs sideways on the floor so that my feet had a spot to go under the next seat.  This plane was slower so it took a little longer to get there—about 1 hr. 20 minutes. 

Right: This is our wee little plane so full of seats that you can barely get down the aisle.

Below: I didn’t have my own window but some good shots from above looking over the shoulder of the man in front of me.  Note the bit of propeller that made the picture.  I will send more from Auckland when I have time.  I have so many beautiful pictures to share.

Once back on the main island we took our belongings to our various abodes and then went to lunch at the pizza place.  Afterwards we went to see three more project requests.  Ah, I can’t say how nice it was to be finally done!!  (That is of course unless someone else discovers that we are here!)  One of the most interesting requests is way out of our league but thought it a worthy project to pass along to those in the Auckland office where we are headed tomorrow night. Since we are partnering with many large NGO’s on Vanuatu’s impending dearth of rain (and this after the cyclone devastated them previously), we thought perhaps LDSC could present this proposal to this same group—worth a shot.  The project is interesting because flooding has been devastating huge communities near the sea ever since they built the sea road and more people moved there.  When it rains heavily this area gets flooded.  It has happened steadily the last few years except for the last one because of the drought.  We saw the pictures.  They came up with a grand plan that costs a king’s fortune, but it is a good plan and geologists and engineers have been working on a solution.  So perhaps a group of NGO’s could help them. 

There are 5 large zones that have the flooding problem.  This has been a dry year, but this area is still flooded in places.  You can see watermarks on all the houses around here.  When they get heavy rains they have a foot of water inside, bringing sewage and all kinds of disease-ridden problems.

We returned to our home with Internet (yes!) in time to get ready to go out for a nice evening.   On the way to a dinner show we stopped by to see a beach full of blowholes.  As far as we could see down the beach we watched this fabulous display of nature.  There was also a beautiful sunset.

We continued on to our dinner show and ate at the buffet--it was pretty good, after which they performed their Tongan-style of dancing.  I thought it interesting that the ladies were dancing so sweetly and lady-like, using their hands to tell a story while the men behind them danced like roosters, shaking their heads and jumping around—it was great!  The men were way more interesting to watch.  Towards the end of the show they did a lot of fire dancing.  There was one young woman doing an amazing fire dance and a gal in the audience, no doubt a little drunk, started dancing to the rhythmic music by her seat, but then went right up on the stage, sometimes going in front of the performer!  It was a bit obnoxious.  Her little boy on the other hand, was dancing where he had been sitting and that was really cute.

We stopped by a special dance that is held here for the students in the complex where we are staying (church offices and housing for staff and couples).  It was sort of like what would be a prom at home.  They do not have fancy dress shops here so they make their own in these bright colors and they are very beautiful.  The boys also get decked out.  It was a colorful site.

Can you believe that these fancy dresses are all homemade…

Tomorrow night we depart for Auckland.  We are looking forward to finally being able to sleep in!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Another Day in Paradise

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Stake President, Waterski (first name, I kid you not) who is the man from the Tonga Water Board, the Murdock’s, Ana Ika, and the Edwards’, loaded onto the boat that had two large engines, whipping us quickly to the islands we were to visit today.  We had such a fun time, especially when we hit rougher seas and the two people in the back on the side (Ana and Elder Edwards) occasionally got soaked; the ride was so swift though that they dried out as quickly as they got wet.  We really had to hang onto our stuff!

This is the Tonga Tango, the boat that swiftly took us between islands—it had two big motors on the back and was a light boat.  The President and Waterski who is on the Water Board, rode in front.  The rest of us sat in back facing each other.  The two on the sides in the back got wet occasionally.  Below Elder Edwards was soaked.  We were all hanging tightly onto our belongings!

 First we went to Hunga Island.  This was the poorest community of the islands that we visited; what makes their community so great is that they all work together—they rely upon each other.  They are organized (working committee for 10 years) and they have saved quite a bit of money.  India gave them raw materials and they built this long sidewalk, and an incredibly steep ramp from the shore all the way up to the level top—it is a long way.  The requests are all the same, so I won’t go into those, but they usually consist of a borehole, pump, diesel engine with a belt that turns the pump, and sometimes a stand and tank to pump the water into, and from there it is distributed to various areas in the village, meaning piping—they all vary a little off of this model.

This incredibly long ramp built by the community, extends to two, long roads or walkways through their village, and they built it themselves (India donated the materials).

Everywhere we went we saw solar panels given to the people by Japan, either to light their homes or to pump water.  The problem with them is that they do not store energy, so when the sun doesn’t shine they don’t work.  The ones that they give to the individual homeowners only have enough power for the people to turn their lights on.  They trained someone to fix the solar panels if they break.  There does not seem to be enough power or sunlight even in the dry season (since it is still cloudy) to be consistent in running their water pumping operations.   They all have enough water in the rainy season, but use it up and then it becomes a problem.

Next we went to Nuapapu, got back in the boat and went to the same island only on the other side (Matamaka).  We went to yet another island (Otea) to check out another request.  You can see why we need to come back and check our notes and write something down so that we can remember it all.  Two of these islands wanted to give us food—pineapple, coconut, fish, papaya, etc.  They brought them in colorfully weaved baskets from special leaves that they grow here. 

A shack of a house, with their little solar stand on the left, which gives them light, nothing else.  But who doesn’t appreciate light?

The best treat of all, including the beautiful scenery, was when they stopped on our way back to go into what they call ‘Swallow Cave’.  It is on one of the shorelines and the guys were able to maneuver the boat into the opening where we saw the beautiful formations.  Unfortunately people couldn’t help but ruin the natural beauty by painting their names on the walls of the cave.  We were told that the snorkeling and diving here are legendary.  I just wish I had gotten a good picture of what we saw.  I can’t describe the natural beauty of the walls formed by the seas.

Coming out of the Swallow Cave.  I’ll send pictures of the inside if I can borrow some from those taking pictures with me—I don’t think mine captured the beauty of this cave. 

We returned, ate a late lunch next door to the hotel prepared from things that the couples brought, and relaxed (well, Jim did, taking a quick dip in the sea losing his goggles), tried to catch up on our reports, and go shopping (Jim bought a shirt).  The couples came back for dinner at 6:00 after which we hoped to get a good night’s sleep for a change. 

Tomorrow we will fly back to the main island in the morning and check out yet more sites.  When I get a chance, I need to send a parcel of pictures.  This area is so incredibly picturesque, one of our Lord’s prettiest creations.  As I said before, the seas are this most incredible color of blue, turning turquoise near the shores.

Bye for now.

Vava'u Island

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Murdock’s picked us up at 5:30 AM to take us to the airport.  I got 6 hours sleep the night before, which is a one hour improvement over the last two nights.  I always want to giggle when I come to an airport so small but they have all these signs up as if you could get lost there.  We took a small prop plane with about 16 seats, so small I couldn’t hold my backpack or computer which they had to put in the back of the plane.  The co-pilot, we observed, also acted as the steward and baggage handler.  We landed on a single strip of pavement and upon reaching the end, turned around to go back and park near the building.  Once again the signs directed us to either departures or arrivals, because without them we might surely have lost our way…

Our little plane to Vava’u. 

Note the arrival sign on the right, so we don’t get lost at the terminal building.

On the flight over as we approached the main island of Vava’u we saw so many islands that one probably couldn’t count them all.  Some were larger, some were like green dots on top of the water.  At a certain height you could see the reef under the seas, realizing just how massive they are and how treacherous they might be for larger ships.  There was a map in our room not just all the islands off of this one, but all of them from the main island also.

Speaking of larger ships, we think the Hollander was following us!  There it was, parked in a bay, with the little tender launches taking people around off the big one.  Our view from one of the chapels was of this bay with the Hollander anchored there in this most beautiful place with islands and all around set in the incredibly rich color of blue you can imagine.  It is magnificent.  And the weather is still not too hot yet this time of year especially with the nearby ocean breezes.  Each time we’d get too warm we’d find a tree or go towards the ocean to cool off.

The best thing about our room is that our balcony sits at the edge of the water, otherwise it is way overpriced. 

They checked us into a room that was quite pretty with nice furniture, but it didn’t have Internet, there was no soap, and they had the funkiest shower head, but who cares—the mattress was okay and the air conditioner worked and there was hot water. Also, we are sitting right on the ocean front at a beautiful bay with boats of every type sitting on the water. We only felt cheated when we found out the price of this place---I guess they can get it for the location, but it was really lacking in some essential things to get that price.  The Murdock’s and Ana are staying at a church housing place but there was no room for us.  They ended up taking us to the main offices where there is also a school to get WiFi so that we could do our work—a bit slow, but better than nothing.  I could see what e-mail I had but could not for the life of me get open them so I could read them.  Oh, well, we can do that when we return Friday morning to the Nuku’alofa mainland. 

We changed vans at these offices and got in one driven by the 1st counselor to the Stake President, who took us around to all the project request areas.  Some of their water systems were a bit more advanced in the main part of town, but in others they all have the same problem—they want motors, engines, sometimes tanks and towers.  These are individual projects and cost a lot more than water projects do in Africa, but then they don’t have as many options here to get clean water.  Ah, but for a lot of money to get water to these people.  It is endless--we always say, throw a rock in any direction…  The problem again is the cost of electricity compared to fuel for a generator, and solar has proved to be unreliable and seems to be their only option.
After looking at our first and major bunch of possible project sites, the Sisters fed us a lunch.  They had so many things there, all local food, that they could have fed a small army with, but due to island culture, most of it got eaten by all those  that were there, maybe 20-25 people.  Some of it was pretty good.  They also had that green stuff I mentioned before except this time I took a picture of it—also it had ham in it along with the coconut milk and onions that are cooked in the leaves.

Coconut milk, onions and ham, baked in leaves inside foil; looks gross but tastes pretty okay—felt a little like it might be too rich though—it was not that big, but looks like it in this close-up.
A funny thing happened; we were waiting for Ana to deliver someone to their home and it seemed to be taking forever.  There was a jam because the King of Tonga was riding his bike along the road and no one passed him.  The funny thing, she said, was watching his guards or militia trying to keep up with him on foot!  Wish we had been there!

This is the view of the bay from the Chapel where we had lunch.  The pine branches peeking into the picture on the right is a tree that President Hinckley planted there.  They are very proud of this tree.

Ana and Murdock’s tried to deliver a wheelchair to someone because hers was broken and was a little too big.  Ours was too small, so they said that they would refurbish the one she had.

We went to see another site (another Bishop had heard we were there) and then went to dinner and back to our hotel completely exhausted once again.  We meet the others at 7:30 AM to go on another boat ride to some islands where we will see more project requests and the same Stake President will accompany us.

A new couple, the Edwards’, arrived here a week ago and they will be in teaching.  They are now over jetlag and very excited to be here.  They joined us for dinner also, and wanted to buy a ticket just to tag along, and so they are also going with us. 

Till tomorrow…

A Day in Paradise

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mosquitoes, they have tons of them here, oh, joy, and how they love me…I ward them off with bug spray on top of the sunblock in hopes I don’t get to be too much of a meal for them…it hasn’t worked all that well because I keep accumulating little bites all over me. 

Tupenu is the Tonga name for the lava lava worn in Samoa.  The ta’ovala is what they put around their waist sometimes and is considered more formal wear and has even more significance to them. 

They picked us up at 9 AM to get to the boat that would take us over to another island--Atala.  Because it is used for tourists they have a lunch deal in with the price of the transport.  They have some smaller boats than the one we took—ours had a cover on it so that if the seas were rough we wouldn’t get wet, but then the seas were calm all day.  The boat looked to be ancient and reminded me of a wooden boat I made while in elementary school, but then it worked just fine.  We had booked the boat without anyone else going with us, but a Hollander cruise ship was sitting at the harbor, meaning there might be someone that wanted our boat—sure enough there was.  A Tongan family—a father and three sons that got off the ship and wanted to go over and swim in the salt water pool and then go snorkeling.  We had planned on being back by 2 PM, but with this group going too, they wanted to stay later than lunch so we got back closer to 5 PM.  It occurred to me what torture might be—you are stuck in paradise without a bathing suit, and that’s what happened this afternoon.  I told those guys that I would give anything for a bathing suit (and my snorkel too).

This is the Tongan family climbing down to the boat.  When it was my turn, I must have had 3 hands helping me—it was a bit of a drop.  The boat here looks kind of nice but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the pictures I took of it, but who cares when it gets you where you want to go.  The Tongan family were so big and so many that we had to put some in front so that the boat could plane upon the water. 

We came to the island because of a project request.  Japan has already agreed to drill the borehole on this island so flat that they had to find the highest point, which we hiked up to—they guessed the highest spot was about 32 feet and it wasn’t much of a hike.  A geologist has already been there to verify that they would get clean water.  What they want us to do is to provide the tower, tank, diesel engine and pump.  That leaves the piping, so the church wants to see if someone will partner with them.  Apparently they are too poor on this island to provide it, although they would dig the trenching.  I think however if they are not willing to do something more, the church won’t buy into it.

We walked up to the resort while listening to Polynesian music and were given pineapple drinks.  We were in heaven but without bathing suits.

The church members have a special problem on this island—the people here don’t accept them and ran them off.  The Free Wesleyan Church is the most popular here in Tonga because a missionary named Wesleyan was the first to come here and introduced Christianity to them.  The LDS members have made attempts to come back, so they especially want us to fulfill this need so that the church members will be more welcome on this island, plus they need it.  It was for this purpose that the Stake President went with us on our journey because it is in his Stake area. 

While looking up things on the Internet about Tonga I realized that Ana’s last name means ‘fish’ (Ika).  The Stake President gave me his name and said it meant tree and road and something else--way too long to remember--a very nice man.  While going over to the island the men with us were big enough that we had to get some to move forward so that the boat could get out of its own way and plane over the water.  Still, it only took 30 minutes to get there.

The water is so clear there that we could see the little fishes that come close to the shore.  The water at the edge was like a bathtub.  There is so much coral that the boat had to maneuver around the reefs, but one time bumped it with his engine.  When the men went out snorkeling they said that there was a ‘clam farm’ out there by the reef.  Everyone says how beautiful the reefs are here. So while they did what we all wanted to do, we took naps, visited, had smoothies, went walking on the beach, collected shells and took lots of pictures of the paradise we found ourselves in.   
This is a salt water pool since they use what little water they have for drinking.  At low tide we collected shells by the bathtub water at the shore.  We so wanted to go in the water!

Japan has donated a lot of humanitarian aid here on the islands.  We see solar panels everywhere, but unfortunately they are the kind that only work when the sun shines and do not store power.  And even in the dry season the clouds, which might not produce a drop of rain, cloud the skies the solar panels don’t work.   Electricity here is so high that they would rather use diesel and generators to pump the wells.  Even in places where they do have power, they rarely use it because of the extreme expense.  They use diesel fuel to bring the power so the bill to customers is ridiculous, even by American standards.

After we returned to the main island we checked out one project request to replace an engine and pump and saw two old projects that were still working from 2006—not too bad.  We went out for pizza that tasted like what we’d get at home from an Italian man who started a new life in Tonga of all places—we always wonder how someone decides to live a different life somewhere completely different than what they used to consider home.  He’s a nice man and makes good pizza and he used to be in construction.  But he came here and married a local woman and had children and started anew.

The Stake President, Murdock’s and Ana Ika.

We went to bed exhausted once again, and also too late.  There is not enough time to get it all in.  We are leaving at 5:30 AM for the airport to go to another island.  

Till tomorrow…

Monday, October 26, 2015

First day in Tonga

Monday, October 26, 2015

We arrived in Tonga after lunch on the smaller plane where you don’t have much legroom at all, but I just watched a movie and then the flight was over with (about 3 hours).  I felt sorry for my two seat mates (Jim and I get matching aisle seats) because both were going to funerals; both were members and Tongans and lived elsewhere, one in CA & the other in Auckland.

We got out of the airport in a reasonable amount of time and immediately saw our three hosts, E/S Murdock and Ana Ika.  Ana is a local gal who is the welfare manager there.  They were all quite fun and pleasant and we immediately enjoyed their company.  I was once again pleasantly surprised by the mildness of the weather, having just come out of winter and into their spring, it was breezy and not too hot especially if you stayed in the shade.  We did not drop our luggage or get settled, but got right into our visiting.

Ana Ika Welfare Manager in Tonga with the Murdock’s.  Their worst experience on their mission was being stuck on another island for 3 weeks while Elder Murdock got dengue fever, a very serious illness carried by mosquitoes.  Note E/Murdock is wearing the Tonga version of the lava lava.  He said that just about all the men and missionaries wear these. 

Sister Murdock had written out an ambitious schedule that we thought we would never be able to accomplish; even though we didn’t get to everything I believe we did get to almost all of them, just not in the way it was to happen.  We kept getting diverted.

All over the island they have farm projects run by whoever lives in the community.  This one is no exception, using members and non-members who cooperate in producing all kinds of crops.

*Some facts: We learned that this island has about 40+ % Mormon population, but still is not the largest religious group. 

*The island doesn’t have mountains so they don’t have springs; they can drill wells though to get water and they use pumps to get the water into tanks on towers and then out to the surrounding areas.  They also use rain catchment but have been in a drought for a couple of years now.

*Tonga is a much smaller and less prosperous island than Samoa.

*There is a king in Samoa, and he is not just a figurehead.  They think that he is okay.  Sister Murdock met the prince, asked to take a picture of the fan that he had so that she could have one made just like it.  Instead the Prince gave her his fan.  She has quite a collection of fans and seashells.

*Samoans and Tongans are so talented and they can really sing well.  During the turnover ceremony in Samoa they sang in 4-part harmony without music, perfectly on pitch, and just beautifully.

*The roads so far on both islands are mostly paved and the short dirt ones we’ve traveled have been rather smooth unlike the African ones.

*They barely pronounce the ‘G’ in Tonga because it is silent or not in their alphabet, but it is not like leaving it out altogether—I have been practicing. 

*I saw horses in Samoa and also here in Tonga and was surprised—I never thought of them as cowboys…well, actually, they eat them, along with dogs.  (Sorry I asked).

The flags were up at the garden project because they had a big celebration and the TV station was there.  As soon as we got there they fed us an incredible feast.  As usual, I was not all that hungry but gave it my ‘college try’.  The meal was cooked in the ground as all Polynesians tend to do.  We had chicken, raw and cooked fish, cassava and a bottle of water.  I thought I would not like the raw fish but took a bite and it was surprisingly good. 

Above & Below: Taking off the last layer of our meal that they cooked in the ground (they also had blankets on top of those leaves; served on a peeled off stalk of a banana tree.  They always give us way too much food!  None of us were able to finish, but it was good!

We went to visit projects; we saw a very old well, older than 70 years, that had no water in it to see if we thought it could be fixed; we saw water towers and tanks and both electric pumps that got the water up into the tanks before distribution to here and there, and ones with generators.  The projects are usually not just contributed to by LDSC but also other NGO’s and contributions by recipients both in labor, materials and monies.  It is about all that they can do here to get water.

They had a lot of metal towers that were falling down.  This is one of ours and we quite like it better out of concrete.  Others are participating in this project and all we had to do was the tower.  They will protect the ladder either with fencing or a block on the ladder itself—don’t want little kids climbing up there.  They are also going to add the Latter-Day Saint Charities logo.

We didn’t get home until dark.  Didn’t get to bed till late.  More about a very nice guest house that we are staying in later, with pictures.  It is huge with a large living room and family room, all with air conditioners.  A full kitchen and dining room.  There is another guy here tonight so we are told but never saw or heard him.  It is actually nicer than where the Murdock’s are staying, although in the same compound.  It is the Liahona Guest House.  We got to fully unpack—I love to do that more than anything when on these trips.  Well off to bed.  I slept about 4 hours last night and going to bed late tonight.  Not too brilliant of me. 

Tomorrow we are taking a boat ride, not a ferry but a smaller boat, to some island or other for a day.  Should be Interesting.

Back to Auckland

Saturday & Sunday, October 24-25, 2015

E/S Lata drove us and two other women to the airport at noon; we had a nice flight on a roomier coach seat than normal on a NZ flight, and they even had more bathrooms.  It seems the space is getting smaller and the bathrooms fewer, so it was really a more comfortable flight in coach.  Jim got bumped up because he complained about his seat mate, a very large Samoan (nice guy, but took up part of Jim’s seat).  He sat in Traveler Plus next to a writer, who noticing our badges, had many questions all about the church.  It was a 2+ hour question and answer session.  I think he was trying to find out what made us different from other Christian religions and I suspect he was trying to figure out if we revered Joseph Smith more than Jesus—well, we worship Jesus, not Joseph, but treat him (Joseph) with the same belief as we do with any prophets that we read about in the Old Testament.

Our last look at the Apia, Samoan Temple.  Maybe someday we’ll have time to go to one of them in this area.  This was burned down a few years ago and after being rebuilt got dedicated.  We passed it every day on the way to the offices.

It took us forever to get out of the airport this time because so many planes landed at once and the place was jammed.  Elder & Sister Winters braved the wait to pick us up and take us to dinner.  They have been so welcoming even before we ever planned our trip.  We checked into our hotel and they took us to eat the best hamburgers ever—so yummy.  He said they are the best burgers in all of NZ, and I have to say that they were as good as they told us that they were. 

We were in our hotel just after 9 PM and hurriedly began our wash in the blessed washing machine and dryer.  I have to say that we had so little time to do wash so this is a real treat, and we have tons of it.  I stayed up till 12:30 AM getting it all washed, dried and ironed.  Then we will begin our week in Tonga with a whole new set of clothes.  This time we are on the 11th floor (7th last time) in a look-alike room--same as last time. 

Sunday: The Winters’ picked us up at 8:45 and after church took us to their apartment and fed us a yummy lunch after which we went back to the hotel for a snooze.  We feel like celebrities the way that they are taking care of us.  We are glad that they are back here after their UT trip.  They picked us up again to feed us dinner, including a couple we just met who will be doing accounting work on Kiribati.  They are going to the airport at about the same time we are.  Their name is Jenks and they are from Blackfoot, Idaho.  Everyone who comes in and out of here (members) stay at the Spencer Hotel, so we will always run into people serving here. 

At church today we ran into Sister Vincent Haleck, who is the Aunt of Makisi Haleck that Jim helped to coach in the pole vault at T.O. High School.  Her husband is a member of the 70 and they are here on assignment.  We had our picture taken together after church so that she could put it on her Facebook page and surprise her nephew.  He took 2nd in the State (CA) his senior year.  He went on to pole vault for the Air Force Academy and his PR was just barely under 18 feet.

Susan Winters in her kitchen, preparing lunch for us.  It was a nice, modern place with a pretty view of a park across the way.  There must be 20 Church couples that live in this same apartment complex.  There are so many people serving here.

We had to get up at 5 AM, eat breakfast in the hotel at 6:30, and leave for the airport at 7.  Monday is a holiday so there will not be as much traffic getting to the airport.  

I told them to give me their most ‘nervous’ smiles, E/S Jenks from Blackfoot Idaho, going to live on Kiribati for 18 months.  He is a professional agricultural guy, but will be doing accounting and many other things while living there.  E/S Waldron, who had to go home because she got something called chicken ‘something or other’ (can’t remember the official name and never heard of it before) from a mosquito bite, had to go home to get it fixed, but will be returning in a few months to complete their mission, so eventually they won’t be all alone.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Saying goodbye to Samoa

Saturday, October 24, 2015

We awoke early, even though we had a leisurely day ahead of us, not going to the airport till noon.  We finally had time to take a walk, that sounding like a better option than going to their small gym.  We walked across the street and a park, which was a short distance to the sea wall where there is a path all along the beach.  We were able to see the beautiful sunrise, met people along the way, and enjoyed the views.  We saw a memorial for a shipwreck in 1955, and another memorial in German or some other language that we couldn’t read.  It had two dates on the plaque: 1900 and 1913.

Sunrise along the beach walkway outside our hotel. 

We returned to our hotel and got ready for our day and went to breakfast, packed up all our stuff.  It has been a useful trip and we learned a great deal and solved some problems.  It reminds us again how important it is to go and look ourselves instead of just seeing pictures and/or descriptions of what a project will consist of.

These are boats they use for racing.  They are really heavy—it takes 40 men on each side to get them into the water.

Jim down by the water, all lined with rocks.   He found one way down a cemented path.  We also saw a break in the wall where they could launch boats.

Although we occasionally see where people have left their containers and trash wherever they want, for the most part this is a clean land and a washed people.  We saw a man cleaning the gutter at the street as we walked by.  We are just used to the mounds of trash that we see in many parts of Africa, so this has been nice.
I remember years ago when my younger sister had cancer and she went to Tahiti and drank what she named ‘jungle juice’.  She left bent over, and came back straightened up; unfortunately you can’t get that good stuff over to the USA.  It occurred to me and her at the time, that they have everything they need here to eat and that it is so healthy, but Western foods have ruined their bodies, and probably many have developed diabetes.  Their natural diets are healthy.  There is a chart at the office showing some foods; underneath are spoons full of fat.  It shows how much fat is in each item of food—two spoons is pretty good, but many had 10 spoons or more under it. 
There are a lot of solar systems here, some by the government, and some by private businesses.  The hotel we are staying at is run by solar, or at least we see many panels.  There is a huge government project near the airport where they are going to construct a large solar plant.  The government is also widening the road to the airport and ferry so that it will be 4 lanes.  A portion of it is completed.  They are constructing things properly here.  This island is definitely more advanced than where we usually travel to. 
I remember years ago when we went to Hawaii the first time how much the tropical climate seemed to agree with my hair and skin.  Yes, it is humid but in a tropical way, which seemed to make all the difference.  I have found that here on the islands I do not have any ‘bad hair days’.  Auckland was a different story—it was humid and cool, but my hair was always electrified and I couldn’t figure out why. 
E/S Winters are picking us up this evening at the airport and delivering us to the Spencer Hotel.  I have found that the luxury of having a washer and dryer has been very useful.  We have so little time here that I am looking forward to washing all my clothes at once when we get back.  I will never complain about that luxury again…

Love, from us, and farewell to Samoa.

The NZ All Blacks.  Next to it was the sign for the Aussie’s. 

There was also a sign across a fence that said that Samoa was founded on God the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. 

Poles at our hotel, etched with Samoan symbols of all kinds along the walkways.   We see the same around ankles especially.