Dear Family and Friends February 2010
Talofa lava, (how are you all?) You are all well, we hope and coping with all that winter weather. We on the other hand are still trying to adjust to the heat. At least if you are cold you can put on more clothes whereas here we can only go so far with discarding our clothing. Having said that a lot of the senior missionaries (men ), have adjusted by wearing ‘Lava lavas’, a traditional wrap around skirt worn by most of the local men and boys. Elder Kelly hasn’t got that far yet but is thinking about it??
It was quite busy at first with all the missionaries coming in with random ailments We figured it was just to give us the once over They hadn’t had any Medical staff for a month or two. For those of you with medical backgrounds, we have a correction to make. On reading the last missive, Polariases (Elephant’s) should have read ‘Filariasis (Elephantitis)’ caused be multiple mosquito bites. We must be more tired than we thought. It has slowed down a little now, so we are busy catching up, writing up medical reports
The Temple was closed for two weeks for restoration work after the earthquake and psunami in late September. Moroni (the golden Angel that tops the spire on most LDS Temples) lost his trumpet and the chandelier fell on the table below, in the Celestial Room, plus regular routine maintenance work that is done twice a year. We watched the new Moroni being put up from our office window today. It reminded Elder Kelly of when he used to watch the last stages of the CN Tower in Toronto being erected, from his office at the U. of T. With dozens of Navajo First Nations (Indians) running around, across the ‘I’ beam girders without safety harnesses on, manoeuvering the parts held by the Helicopters into place. That was back in 1974-5.
Just to put you in the picture. Samoa is broken down into two parts, Western Samoa or Independant Samoa composed of two Islands, Upolu and Savaii the latter being the largest and Upola the next largest which is the administrative/ governmental and commercial centre in Apia a small town with a harbour. The rest of the two Islands comprise of small villages, ruled over by a matai (mat-i-e) head man or chief of the village who makes the rules and polices the village, making sure everything is clean and tidy including the homes (fales) and gardens. Every morning & evening he will bang the gong and everything stops including visitors they use the time to pray, study or rest for about 20-30 minutes then the gong is sounded again and everything starts up again. Sometimes there are more than one matai per Village.
American Samoa or Tutuila the third and smallest of the major islands has been adopted by the U.S. It has a large inland harbour strategic for naval shipping etc. The U.S. dollar is the currency used and one can purchase a lot of goods here, not available on the other islands and at better prices. The Tala is the currency of Independent Samoa, worth about T2.41 per $1USD.
Goods are quite expensive, owing to the geographic location. Most things come from New Zealand or Australia with some from the U.S.
We are positioned in the Pacific Area , Presided over by President Callister, of the Seventy. The Pacific area comprises of seven time zones, thirteen languages, sixteen Church schools, ten Temples, fifteen missions and a population of 420,000. Of which Samoa, with a total Population of 245,000 ( West. Samoa 180.000 & A/Samoa 65,000) of which 70,000 in West Samoa & 15,000 in American Samoa are members of the Church (30%) in 20 Stakes, comprised of135 Wards & 22 Branches. Religion plays a large part in life here and there are many thriving churchs of different denominations.
We have had the opportunity of driving around the southeast corner of Upolu mainly where the tsunami did the most damage. The Church has committed to rebuild 40 new homes and the individual Wards are adding to that total as independent projects. We are trying to get a little competition going between Wards to increase that number. Life is slower here. We are trying to catch up in reverse by slowing down ourselves. We are very impressed by the Samoan people, always smiling and cheerful, they really are a happy people. They own very little and don’t seem to need lots of possessions around them, they don’t seem to hanker after wealth. They walk elegantly, in fact they seem to glide along, we figure it is because they all wear flip-flops. When we are out walking at 5am there are several people out and about, going to work or school. They do seem to be an industrious and entrepreneurial people.
We went out last night to a local restaurant to celebrate one of the senior missionaries birthday. It was nice sitting on the deck overlooking the ocean listening to the water and having a nice cool breeze keeping away the mosquitoes etc we had a wonderful time. To-day we taught our first primary class at church, 7 year olds. 12 very energetic and enthusiastic kids we were exhausted by the time we were finished it was nap time when we got home. Our home Teachers came this evening with a big bag of Avocados from the trees in his garden, people are so generous here at sharing their produce. We often come home to find a bag of fruit hanging from our door knob. Fa’a Samoa ( the Samoan way) We have been here in Samoa a whole month today time has gone very quickly but we have certainly packed a lot into it. We heard today that we have 4 more fale’s (houses) to build over the next three weeks. So at 4 a.m. on Saturday off we go to the other side of the Island where the tsunami and earthquake hit. A big job but well worth it.
Last September the powers that be decided to change the laws of the road Samoa now drives on the left hand side ( I know you guys that live in the UK say so what!) It was quite an event here . We now have arrows every so far showing us which side of the road we are supposed to be on. All the buses had to have doors cut in the other side to allow passengers to get off on the kerb side but more about that later. Time to close. We wish you all a successful life and hope you are all having as much fun as we are . Best wishes to all, we think of you often and love you lots Pat and Barb Kelly