Thursday, June 19, 2008

Samoa Part 17: Samoa Lite

In Samoa, it's safest not to take oneself, or others, too seriously. The following are some mini-adventures that helped me look at the lighter side of life.

The House, Band

One day Elder L. and I went home briefly before heading back out to make some visits, and right as we closed the door we realized that the keys were locked inside the house.

After dinner we went to the mission home to find the assistants to the mission president to have them open our house. They weren’t there so we visited with an American couple who worked in the mission office. They helped us locate the assistants.

The assistants took us back to our place and we soon found out that none of their keys worked. So in the end, after losing an hour or so looking for the assistants, we had to break into our house anyway.

That same night the most popular local band, the Evaeva band, played in the bar located over the fence from us. The music was very loud and kept us up until around 1:00 am—normal lights out time for missionaries is 10:30 pm. Though I now like to hear the occasional Evaeva band song, nostalgia I think, at the time I didn’t quite appreciate their sound. It consisted of keyboards, a bass guitar, a drum synthesizing machine, and the singer’s falsetto.

The Coconut

Another time while we visited with a family, one of the family members named Ioane brought us a drinking coconut. For those who don’t know, there are some significant differences between a drinking coconut and the ripe coconuts that we get stateside in the grocery stores. First, the drinking coconut has a green husk. It’s just as big as the fully ripened coconut in its dry, brown husk but it weighs a lot more because of the moisture in the green husk. Second, though both a green and a brown coconut have liquid inside of them, and both are drinkable, the green coconut has more and tastes better. Third, the meat in the green coconut is still soft; it is very delicious. Fourth, the milk of a coconut comes from a brown, ripe coconut; it has to be pressed out of the ground meat—it is not the clear fluid in the center of the nut as some think. A green coconut has little if any coconut milk.

Anyway, Elder L. decided he wanted to personally husk the coconut. He poked it onto the nearby husk removing stick but he accidentally popped it and lost some of the juice. Jokingly, I said to Elder L., “Is your climbing good?” He answered in the affirmative. So I said, “Ok, that’s good; let’s go and get some other coconuts.”

We walked to the coconut tree down the hill, being followed all the way by an incredulous Ioane. We could hear laughter from behind us because the people watching thought we were crazy. Sure enough, Elder L. climbed the tree and got about seven or so coconuts, all while dressed in slacks, a white shirt, and a tie.

The Breadfruit Bomb Attack

On another occasion, Elder L. and I were walking along the roadside and a little girl with an umbrella (to protect her from the sun) was walking maybe eight feet in front of us. As we all passed underneath a gigantic breadfruit tree, a huge breadfruit dropped just behind the little girl, barely missing her, and splattered in front of Elder L. and me. If the girl were a bit slower, or if we were a little faster, then the day would have swiftly ended in gooey disaster. The breadfruit was nasty and rotten and reeked as only rotten breadfruit can. Ever after we were a bit wary of walking underneath breadfruit trees.

The Delicious, "Malicious" Recipe

For my birthday I got a package in the mail from my mom, and for some strange reason she included the following recipe for whipped strawberry pie:

1 pkg strawberry gelatin dessert (4-serving size)
2/3 cup boiling water
2 cups ice cubes
4 cups thawed whipped topping
1/3 cup each mashed strawberries, whole raspberries, and whole blueberries
1 graham crust

Directions: Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add ice cubes and stir until gelatin starts to thicken. Remove unmelted ice. Blend whipped topping and gelatin. Fold in fruit. Spoon into crust. Chill for 3-4 hours.

--The Magic of Jello, pg. 100

I’m not sure why my mom sent the recipe, in fact I never found out, but Elder L. and I decided it wasn’t very nice: it taunted us with how good it would have been to eat one—or four—of them.

The Pit of Despair

Elder L. and I were walking through a part of our area and passed behind the back of a house to take a shortcut to our destination. Elder L. took the lead through what appeared to be simply a slightly sunken trash pit. Much to his surprise and consternation, however, it was quite deep—almost knee deep in some places—and was not only a trash pit but it also served as a drain for the shower building right next to it!

Elder L. took a few floundering steps to get across only to find out on the other side that one of his shoes was pulled off by the suction caused by the mud. So he had to do a little searching with his bare hands to find his shoe, which he did, and he used the shower room right next to the pit to clean off his pants and socks and shoes.

I was laughing so hard the whole time that a neighbor lady and some of the neighborhood kids came over and had a good laugh as well. No physical harm came to Elder L. He’s just fortunate that the toilet didn’t drain into that pit, or things might have been a little different.

A Drink from the Firehose

Once we had planned to have a baptism on a Saturday evening for three of our investigators. That day Elder L. and I went out as usual and made visits to teach the gospel but returned to the chapel at about 3:30 pm to fill the baptismal font. We were used to it filling within an hour and a half, which would put us at 5:00 pm, just in time to start the meeting.

After an hour’s time, however, only a foot of water had accumulated in the font. We immediately sensed that we were in a bit of trouble: baptism is by immersion and one of our investigators was a man of at least 6 feet in height.

People began arriving at about 4:45 pm and still we didn’t have enough water to baptize an infant (which we don’t practice) let alone a 9 year old girl or a grown man. Bishop Adams suggested that we call the fire department to have a truck come down and fill the font. He said it’d probably cost around ST$150.*

We didn’t want to spend that kind of money if we didn’t have to so we opted to run around the corner to a friend’s house and borrow their hose. Even with the hose running we could see that we wouldn’t get enough water fast enough, so we relented to Bishop Adams and he called the fire department. They came out and filled the font with a large tanker truck and said it was free of charge. Bishop Adams did give them a ST$50 tip though.

After the baptisms, Elder L. leaned in to pull out a four foot tall pipe plugging the drain. It was stuck in good so Elder L. really tugged on it. When it popped out, the liberated pipe in his hand caused Elder L.’s weight to shift forward and he fell into the water. So although he hadn’t actually performed the baptisms, he got wetter than he would have had he performed the ordinance.


One night I knelt down to pray and ended up falling asleep. All of a sudden, with great fear in my heart I woke up to a terrible noise and the house being shaken. The thought occurred to me that maybe I had incurred the Lord’s wrath for falling asleep while praying.

As could be expected, my knees really hurt from being asleep on them for at least an hour. So I painfully rolled into bed and tried to fall asleep but the house was shaking again and a great rumble was in the heavens above.

It was the loudest, strongest thunder that I’ve ever experienced. It was so loud and so strong that it seemed to me that lightning had struck maybe no more than 100 yards away. But strangely, there was no flash preceding the thunder, neither was there a super loud crack, only an extremely powerful rumbling. The mysterious thunder happened two nights in a row and it scared me to death each time. On a subsequent day I asked someone if she heard the thunder too. She said that it was just as strong where they lived some distance away from our place.

*ST = Samoan Tālā, the local currency, at the time roughly a third of the value of the American dollar.

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