Friday, July 31, 2015

We're NOT in Kansas anymore!

This past week has been incredibly busy.  Every six weeks the mission has transfers.  That means some missionaries get moved around, some get new leadership positions, new missionaries arrive from all over and the missionaries that have completed their time go home.  All of those things require record keeping in the office and involve pretty complex logistics to get everyone where they need to be at the time they need to be there.  Friday we said goodbye to the Jacksons, the office couple we are replacing.  Even though we have only known them for a few weeks we grew to love them.  They are amazing people and great examples of faith and service.

Saturday afternoon we had some time so decided to drive around the island.  We didn't get all the way around, so we'll save the other half for another day.
Spectacular Ocean Views

This photo does not do justice to the brilliant turquoise water.  Today's drive was like driving though one picture postcard after another.

Another Tender Mercy
When you eat at a restaurant a very popular drink is the "Niu" which is a very young coconut with a hole cut in the top and served with a straw or just drank from the hole.  Locals drink these all the time as it is good for your health.  This drink has the same electrolyte composition as human blood, therefore it is nature's most perfect way to re-hydrate.  I think it is amazing that in a climate where people constantly need to re-hydrate the perfect drink is plentiful.  No matter where I have traveled in the world I have seen numerous examples of how the Lord cares for his children in every clime.  Somehow, this just doesn't fit into the "Big Bang" theory. 

Inner Samoa
By far the majority of the population live near to the coasts.  The interior of the island is made up of rain forest.  We spent an hour driving through this very lush landscape, part of the time because we got lost.
Cute Kids!!!
We stopped for a minute to look at the ocean and these kids came running across the street and wanted their picture taken.  We saw kids swimming and fishing in the ocean, playing ball, playing outside.....What we didn't see was kids hooked up to electronics.  
South Side of the Island
It has rained everyday for the last few weeks on the south side of the island (we live on the north).  As you can see things are pretty soggy. The missionaries living on this side are dealing with a lot of mud and muck.  
Village Home
Flowers Everywhere!

Oh my Heck!!!
Now this isn't something you see everyday!  We got off the beaten path and ran into these young men who had a successful day hunting wild boar. You can see the piglet being held by the man in yellow, and also the very muddy, rusty gun laying across the boar.  This is so indicative of how different life is here.  People still live off the land and life is much simpler.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tuesday we took advantage of a slow office day and spent the morning downtown at the cultural center of Samoa.  The young people here are dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing that would have been worn by the chief, a Matai, or his family.  

The building in the background is a Fale.  Driving around the island you see these all over, some that are smaller still serving as the main house for a family, and the larger ones for village events.  I'm not sure about this, but in our meeting this afternoon with the President he told us there is no word for privacy in the Samoan language.

We watched a tattooing session for a few minutes.  This ceremony is considered sacred so no pictures or talking was allowed.  It was done in a Fale by a man from his village trained in this art.  The traditional tattoo, shown by this young man, take 12 days and covers his body from the navel to his knees.  The navel is done last as they apparently is the most painful.  None of it looked fun to me!

 The Umu, or outdoor kitchen is used for cooking food, wrapped in leaves and put on hot rocks.  Here they are weaving Pandanfs leaves to make "paper plates" that they served our lunch on.  Our lunch was a piece of fish, a baked banana, taro and something green that I'm not sure what it was.  All of the food was cooked in this Umu.

 Bananas are an amazing fruit!  In the lower picture you can see the fruit just starting to form.  Banana trees only produce one bunch of bananas.  Their roots send out runners and a new tree will start to grow.  That's why you never see just one banana tree.  It will take 9 mos. for the new tree to produce its one bunch of edible fruit.  Banana leaves are used for wrapping food in to cook and are sometimes 10-12 feet long!
Togitogiga Waterfalls
 It was Gay and Jim Jackson's last weekend in Samoa.  Next Friday they fly home to Provo, Utah.  Their family will be glad to have them home but they are going to be missed here.  They lived here forty years ago when Jim worked at the Church school, Pesega.  They have been training us for the last two weeks on our duties as the mission office couple.  Most of what I do involves putting baptism reports into the computer, answering emails, preparing for arriving and departing missionaries, and helping with whatever else needs to be done.  Because I am so busy the days and weeks fly by.  We have already been out one month!

Brent is the financial secretary.  Samoa is a cash culture - very few places take credit cards.  That means all of the missionaries need to receive their living allowance in cash.  So basically Brent just mostly plays with money and works very hard not to lose any.  He also helps with travel Visas and making sure the missionaries have power, that has to be paid upfront in cash.  The missionaries text his cell phone and tell him they are out of power.  He pays the power company and then texts them a coded number so they can get power.  It is a crazy system!

We spent Sat. morning with the Jacksons exploring the South side of the island of Upolu.  (The island we live on.)  We visited two beautiful waterfalls, one of which I had to photograph under a canopy because it was raining.  We hiked through a rain forest to get to the first one.  The scenery is spectacular!  
Sapo'aga Falls Viewpoint

Friday, July 17, 2015

Week 1 in Samoa

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Papapapaita Falls

We arrived in Apia, Samoa on Tuesday night and spent Wednesday getting our driver's licenses, opening a bank account, unpacking, grocery shopping and collapsing.  We were issued a cute blue Hyundai SUV with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.  Samoa recently changed the side of the road you drive on (you now drive on the left) and it is a little hard to get used to, especially when the arrows on the road are saying you are going the wrong way.  I guess they haven't had a chance to paint over the old paint.  We both have trouble when it comes time  to signal as invariably the window washers go on instead of the turn signal.  Grocery shopping has turned into an adventure as many of the things we usually buy are not available.  People go to 3-4 stores to shop to try and get the things they need. There is nothing that even closely resembles the supermarkets we are used to.  Their money, the Tala, is a little less than half of the US dollar so when you go shopping and the can of vegetables says $5.90 it's really only about $2.75.  Food is very expensive.  The local population have plantations so do not buy that much at the grocery.  Brent and I could lose weight if other senior couples didn't keep inviting us to go to dinner with them.  We've had some amazing fish and chips and tuna steak! 

Their are several other couples serving here in the mission, but they still need more.(hint-hint)  We have already made many new friends and were excited that at least one couple loved to play 5 Crowns.  We will be getting together for FHE and other special occassions.  We were invited to go snorkling today but had to take a rain check as we had to clean out the closets and get the apt. organized.  However, this afternoon we went with the couple who we are replacing and they drove us around town and showed us good places to eat, where to buy household goods, and then inland to see Papapapaita falls.  The countryside is beautiful and lush, a different kind of beauty than we are used to in Las Vegas.

I am going to try to load some photos of our apt. It has a living room/kitchen, a bath and one bedroom.  It is plenty big and had more than enough storage.  We will be very comfortable during our stay here.  We are steps away from the temple and the mission office.  The complex is large and includes the mission offices, mission housing, the temple and housing for the temple workers, the Pesenga School and housing for the teachers, and many open spaces for rugby and soccer.  My favorite part of the day is my early morning walks where I enjoy the sounds of roosters and birds and watching the sun come up.  It is cool and peaceful.  I had worried about the humidity but it really has not been uncomfortable.  Our apt is air-conditioned as is the office and the cars.  The mornings and evenings are cool and delightful to be out in.

Thursday and Friday we spent the days learning our many responsibilities - right now it is a little overwhelming but I feel confident that with the Jackson's great training that we will be alright.  They will be returning to their home in Provo, Utah on the 31st of July.  It has been a lot of fun to start meeting the missionaries as they come into the office.  Many of the elders here are from Samoa or at least from the Pacific Islands.  We are looking forward to welcoming the Elders and Sisters we met at the MTC.  Tomorrow we will be attending a Samoan Ward as they don't have anyone to play the music for Primary.  I am more than happy to help.

My new word for the day is Pili, aka Gecko lizards.  They are pretty cute as long as they are not sharing my bed.  Well, Brent is ready to go to dinner so will close for now.  Tofa.  Sent with love, Sister Patty Ellsworth

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tender Mercies from the Lord

I was dreading our 28 hr. journey to Samoa but we are almost there with no problems and many blessings.  My sister suggested we take a clean set of clothes in our carry-on, and the young man seated next to us on the plane told us about a lounge in the Auckland airport with showers and places to lie down.  A friend at the MTC mentioned an over the counter prroduct that had helped her with leg cramps.  We picked some up before leaving. Since the temperature in Auckland today is 3 degrees C sightseeing was not an option.  However, four more hours of sleep, plus a hot shower (with heated towels) and a buffet of yummy food has made our 8 hr layover a pleasure.  We will be board our last 3 1/2 hr flight in about 1 hr. rested, which will be a great way to start our mission.

It would be easy to credit luck with Caryns suggestion to pack extra clothes, the referral to the lounge,  and the passing comment on leg cramps. I see them as examples of tender mercies that we receive every day from the Lord.  Last night on the plane was the first time in two weeks that I didn't suffer with leg cramps, I count that as an answer to my prayer.  

Before we boarded the plane in SLC, Brent's mission president, Mike Neider, came to see us off.  It was wonderful to see him and we appreciated the effort he made to get to the airport.  Another great blessing in our lives are the association with amazing people who serve as examples of people living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My First Video upload :)

In class this morning we are learning how to upload videos.  This is a powerful message.  Hope you enjoy :)  (Also, hope it loads like its suppose to!)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Amazing Week at Provo MTC

Do you think we will both fit on that dot at the same time???

Just a few of the 80 Senior Missionaries that arrived the same day we did.
Tomorrow they are expecting an additional 121 new ones!
Many of these Seniors are on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th missions :)
They are going everywhere from Central Asia to Hawaii.
I had no idea when we arrived at the MTC last Monday that we were in for such an amazing experience.  We share the campus with 1600 young men and women, most 18 - 20 yrs. old from all over the world.  Every Wednesday some of them leave to their serve their missions to different parts of the world from where they came.  We have met a cute Sister Lee from Seoul, So Korea who hardly speaks any English.  She will be serving in the Las Vegas West Mission.  Sitting at the table were her friends from Japan and Beijing, China. Beijing has two wards with over 200 members, most of them Chinese!  It was amazing to see the love these girls have for each other, since if you remember your World History, Korea, Japan and China are not great fans of each other.  The Gospel brings everyone together in love as sons and daughters of God.  "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God..." (Acts:17:29)

We have also met several young people who are headed off to Samoa in a couple of weeks.  They stay longer to learn the language.  Brent and I are trying to learn the language with the help of a computer program.  It's quite comical!  So far we know how to say "O i ma ua o ni faife' autala i o Iesu Keriso."  Translated that is "We are missionaries of Jesus Christ."  We also know a few words, but it is very difficult.  It is amazing that these young people are here for 9 weeks to learn their new language and then sent off to preach the gospel.

Yesterday we had a bit of a break for the 4th of July.  We spent the afternoon playing 5 Crowns with another couple, the Harringtons from Idaho, who are headed to the Philippines (They served their first mission in Hong Kong).  In the evening Brent and I had tickets to the Freedom Festival at the BYU Stadium.  Montel Williams was the emcee.  He told some inspiring stories of heroes today and there was a beautiful tribute to the Armed Forces.  Two black hawk helicopters flew over along with three vintage planes, which was very exciting.  Four paratroopers, streaming flags, managed perfect landings in the middle of the stadium.  The rock group "Journey" was the headliner and there were several other huge productions numbers including a display of what happens to 1500 bottles of Coke when you drop Mentos in them - quite a spectacular mess and a real contrast to the rest of the week! The finale of course were the fireworks that went on for at least 20 minutes with hardly a break.  I love this country!