Dear Family & Friends: We are having so many new and exciting adventures to tell you about. We get up around 5:45am and go as fast as we can until bedtime, learning our new responsibilities and having a peek at this BEAUTIFUL country. We hope in this blog we can express how blessed we are to testify of Jesus Christ and serve Him in this amazing corner of the world! HAERE MAI* to our blog, we're glad you are visiting us!.....(*This means 'WELCOME' in the Maori language)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hard at Work

Here I am right next to the door of our office.  One of the first assignments we had was to take photos and write a story about a 'Mormon Helping Hands' humanitarian project.  This was my favorite photo from that day, and is still my favorite photo of all the photos I have taken while here.  I haven't decided yet whether I will take this with me when we leave or if I will leave it here so a little part of me will remain in NZ.

Welcome to our little cubbyhole where we spend our time when we are not traveling.  It's a pretty cozy  fit for us, but we have a big window, and most days we see a parade of dramatic clouds floating past. 

Here is the top of our file cabinet with some of our personal stuff, including our favorite office decor, our family photo.

We spend most of our days at our computers surrounded by very messy desks.  A picture of Christ watches over us.  We truly feel our Savior has watched over us every day.  We have been safe and healthy and have such favorable circumstances in which to work.  We would never have been able to learn this job or have the confidence to do what we have done on our own.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Samoa Fale

A house or a meeting place in Samoa is called a 'fale'.  This is a large village meeting fale constructed in the traditional way.  Fales have a roof and a floor, but no walls, and just one room. 

 This is a very small fale.  These older, traditional fales are scattered throughout the countryside and in the villages but we are told they are disappearing with time.  

 Traditional fales had steep rounded or dome shaped roofs.  Here are a few more examples:

 Now fales are made with tin or shingle roofs.

Many of the photos I took of fales must have been village meeting places or not in use anymore because, for the most part, they were void of furniture or other household items.  I avoided taking photos of family fales out of respect for privacy.  As we traveled through the small villages it was interesting to see these open family homes with all their possessions in plain sight.  Every once in a while you would see a TV sitting up on a make shift shelf.  Often there were no chairs, and usually no beds so I assume they roll out mats at night.  In one fale that was almost empty of furnishings, I saw a very old woman sitting on the floor sewing on a very old sewing machine that was also sitting right on the floor.  My first thought was, if that were me, I wouldn't be getting much sewing done because I'd be in pain from head to toe. 

 This is a modern school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I loved this beautiful fale with the kids busy at their studies.

Here is a very large and new fale at the National University of Samoa.  We are helping to organize a Law & Religion Conference, (which is why we are in Samoa), and it will be held here.  We expect around 200 attendees, and speakers will be coming from several of the Pacific islands, the United States and I think Europe.

 The newer fales are often very colorfully painted and have more detail, like this railing.  Additionally, they usually have a more modern roof design as we were told will withstand cyclones better.

I asked someone if they worried about having their possessions stolen since obviously anyone could just walk in.  I was told no, because all the neighbors in their fales are so close that all can see what is going on around them.  I guess privacy is not an issue.  
You will note the two graves sitting prominently outside the front of this fale.  This was very common, in fact probably 95% of the family fales we saw had graves by the front entrance.  We were told that Samoan people have great respect for their ancestors and want to keep them close by.  Many we saw were elaborately decorated with artificial flowers.  (Side note:  While we were driving around Apia I noticed quite a large store selling artificial flowers as well as several other smaller stores specializing in artificial flowers.  In such a small city, and in a humble place where I thought people would have more important things to spend their money on, I thought this was strange.  After driving around and seeing scenes like this one, I now understand why artificial flowers are important.)  Here are a couple more examples of families honoring their ancestors:

When families lived in more modern houses, their memorials to their ancestors tended to be more elaborate.

I would venture a guess that around 50% of the family houses we saw were open fales, and 50% were enclosed houses.  We were only there a week and only saw a part of one island, so this may not be true of Samoa as a whole.  Many newer homes maintained large open verandas in a traditional fale style, but had closed in rooms for living quarters.

 Here is a typical setting for a fale nestled in lush vegetation on the outskirts of a village.  Isn't this a lovely scene.
(P.S.  Most of these photos were taken out of a moving car, so not much thought was taken with any technical photography stuff.)

Botticelli Italian Restaurant

One thing we love about Takapuna, (and most all little towns in NZ), are the little 'mom & pop' cafes/restaurants dotting the main streets.  There are very few large chain restaurants, although there are a fair share of fast food chains.  What is nice about these small places is that the chefs and waiters know us well and often visit with us.  One time while we were eating lunch here at Botticelli, Matt came over and asked us to help him decide on the dishes for a new lunch menu.  Another time, I told him that nothing on the menu really sounded good and would the chef make me a salad with this, and this and this in it.  He said, "sure", and now I have my 'custom made salad' that I order all the time.  The other day we walked in and the chef was out in the eating area talking to Matt and someone else and he said, "Hey, we were just talking about you!"

Matt is taking our picture.  Many of the little cafes are indoor/outdoor, very friendly and fun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Freedom of Religion - a Precious Gift
We were in Samoa to begin organizing a Law and Religion conference to be held in a few weeks.  We will be back in Samoa for the conference.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gracious Welcome

We arrived in Tahiti at 1 am in the morning, and even though the hotel was only 5 minutes away from the airport and we could take a shuttle, our hosts insisted on meeting us, greeting us with beautiful leis and driving us there.  We were even more humbled by their warm welcome when we found out they had about an hour drive from their homes to get to the airport.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Visiting with New Friends in Tahiti

While in Tahiti, our Director of Public Affairs invited us to a birthday party for three of his grandchildren.  We had a wonderful time visiting, and eating and making new friends.
His son chopping open coconuts for everyone to drink.
Frederic explained that you don't drink coconut milk.  It is coconut juice you drink straight out of the coconut.  He showed us how they scrape the coconut meat from inside, then squeeze out the milk.  He said the milk is very oily and not for drinking but for other purposes.