Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life in Samoa

With this blog post I would like to just share interesting things Maurice and I encounter here in Samoa.

Recently we had the help of a senior missionary here who is simply brilliant with all things electrical and mechanical.  Here is Elder Larry Gillette doing what he does best:  fixing things. He is repairing a broken drain pipe under a missionary house.  The mosquitoes from the pond that had formed under the house were so bad that we had to keep fanning him for a half an hour.

At one point we were changing a light fixture in the ceiling that had gone bad. When we pulled the fixture out, some small, white balls fell on the floor.  At first I thought it was broken glass, but upon closer look realized they were lizard eggs.  I never knew that lizards laid eggs! And certainly not in a ceiling light fixture!

 Many people here do not own a car; they either walk to where they are going or ride a bus.  I took this picture Sunday after church let out.  These are a few of the members walking home after church.  This is on the Island of Savai’i and the ward is the McKay Ward.  It is named after President David O. McKay because as an Apostle he had visited them back in 1921.

Samoans have some of the strongest fences in the world.  They plant a stick in the ground from a certain tree which then spouts and puts out foliage and puts down roots.  After the tree gets a good root system going they cut off the top part of the tree.  This fence will last for years.  This land is so fertile that the tree will re-sprout and start to grow again.  Our farmer friends from the deserts of the Rocky Mountain West are particularly amazed to see you can put a stick in the ground and it will grow a tree.   Look closely at the picture and you see the fence is growing again.

Speaking of trees and foliage, this is a picture of a tree the Samoans call a “flaming” tree.  The picture does not do justice to just how beautiful it is.  We see a lot of these on the islands. In the background is the Church’s high school; beyond that is the Samoan Temple.

 This is a picture of a small branch chapel of about 100 people that was recently formed.  They are meeting in an open fale.  The church would like to build a chapel here but the land owner who wants to give the land to the Church is having trouble getting clear title to the land.  Notice the dog; dogs are everywhere.

This is a picture of the branch president and his family, together with a representative of the stake president who helps advise the branch president.

 Animals are everywhere. It is not uncommon to see pigs, horses, and chickens grazing in a family’s yard, with no pen or fence to keep them in. The speed limit here is 25 mph because there are so many animals and people in the road.  Occasionally we get up to break neck speeds of 40 in the remote areas on the back side of the island.  

Mormon Chapels are some of the strongest built buildings on the Island.  They are some of the few buildings that can withstand a cyclone, and the government here advises people to take refuge there in case of a major weather disaster. This chapel is one of the smaller ones, located deep in the tropical forest. All but a few of its members walk from their villages to it.

 This is one of two ferries that carry people and their cars from the main Island of Upolu to Savai’i.  If the sea is very calm it can be a pleasant ride.

I love this picture because it shows what a contrast there is between the way people live and the church house.  This is a typical Mormon church surrounded by local village.  It was hard to get it all into the picture, but look at the open fales and tin roofs surrounding this beautiful building.   This is a picture taken from inside a room where the missionaries live; a member family shares their house with the missionaries, at no charge. Many times graves are located in a family's front yard.  In this picture, the family is using the grave to dry wet clothes.

The picture below might be called a Samoan kitchen.  They usually eat twice a day, at 10 and 7.  Many Samoans have several fales.  One will be for sleeping, one for visiting with company, one to hang their wet clothes in, one for cooking, etc.  If your family has any money you will have a house to sleep in but you will still have at least one fale for welcoming visitors.

Here our crew is installing a water filter system in the kitchen.

Many Samoans do not have jobs.  They just live off their land.  A typical family will have a breadfruit tree, a banana plant, mango tree, taro plants and a papaya tree.  They may have a few chickens and pigs just running loose.  A member of the family may be a good fisherman, or the family may buy fish from those who do. They eat these foods for almost every meal, every day.  They love their food and never seem to tire of it.   These fruit trees are everywhere; food is everywhere.  The newspaper recently said there is no hunger in Samoa.  People may not have any money but they do have food and lots of it.

An interesting tree that grows here is the kapok tree.  Its pods contain something very similar to cotton.  Samoans use it to make pillows and mattresses.

If you are familiar with very many Samoans you know they can be huge people.  And strong!  The other day I had to drag a 5-gallong jug of water over to one of our Samoan sisters to put in their new house.  She casually picked it up and handed it up over her head to someone standing on a porch above her.

All Samoans wear sandals or flip flops, or simply go barefoot. It can be a challenge sometimes to find a pair of shoes that will fit them.  You can see my shoes as I am standing at the front door of a missionary house.

 Finally for this blog, take a look at this group of Primary children learning a traditional Samoan dance. Every church house has a fale like this next to it for games and other church gatherings. You probably cannot see this using a hand-held device; you will need to open it on a desktop computer.

 Elder and Sister McBride wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Alicia, this is wonderful! You are looking great and I hope you are feeling good! Can't wait to read your blog! You have certainly traveled the world, what opportunities you guys have had! Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
    Joyce Chancellor and Joanie Schroeder

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!! Such a rich culture to add to your list of adventures for the Lord.
    Valorie (Gideon) Perry