Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Greskos Came!

One of the nice things about being senior missionaries is that, unlike the young missionaries, we can have family members come visit us and we can take time off to be with them. A few weeks ago we were delighted to have our daughter Natalie and son-in-law Steve Gresko and their three sons from Reno come to Samoa. How wonderful it was to have our grandsons Tell, Dallin, and Porter go swimming with us in our favorite spots in this tropical paradise!

Thus, this edition of our blog is designed as a quick – well, maybe not so quick – recounting of some of their 12-day whirlwind tour of Samoa.  You are welcome to read the whole thing, or just scroll quickly down through the pictures. (Clicking on the pictures enlarges them.)

We are frequent visitors to the Apia Airport where it is our opportunity to pick up newly arriving missionaries.  If you look closely at the picture of their plane, you can see some of the Greskos on the far right staircase.

 Needless to say, this trip to the airport was especially enjoyable.

We lost no time in getting into the water.

We went snorkeling in a place we call “Giant Clam Beach,” where the clams are 2- and 3-feet long and very colorful.

 This beach, like many in Samoa, has several small Samoan-type houses, or fale, where we could stack our stuff and rest awhile.

 We did not bring the underwater camera along with us, so this picture is taken from the internet.

 We went walking in the jungle to a huge and strangely-shaped tree.

At the base of the tree, its huge roots look like huge fans protruding out onto the ground around it.

 The giant ferns along the side of the road are fascinating!

We stopped at a large pool on the side of the road and fed papaya to the turtles.

A few years ago American television carried the show “Survivor – Samoa” which was filmed, oddly enough, right here in Samoa. We stopped at the site. A new resort is being built there, capitalizing on the name.

 As we traveled around the island, we stopped frequently at some of the beautiful and majestic waterfalls found in Samoa.

One of these falls is just outside the village of Sauniatu. Sauniatu is a special place in Samoa. In the early days of the Church here (about 110 years ago), a family or a village might banish a person who joined the Mormon faith. It was to Sauniatu that these cast-outs could resort to live and work. Today an LDS school operates there, and many people come to it annually to swim in the beautiful falls.

 The boys’ parents – and especially their grandparents – came near to heart failure as they watched Tell, Dallin, and Porter scale the cliffs to show off by bravely jumping 10, 20, and even 30 feet into the deep pool. 

Click here for a great video!

One of the local citizenry was especially fascinated by the foreigners’ antics.

 At another nearby mountain pool, one in which “Papa” bathed 50 years ago, he showed the grandsons how he used to take a bath in the river every day.

 Anyone up for a good “chicken fight”?

 Who needs diving boards, anyway?

 There was, to be sure, a fair amount of dining out after a full day’s set of adventures.

One day we made an excursion over to the small islands of Apolima and Manono.  No one got seasick!

Not the USS Minnow, but still a nice little boat.

Apolima and Manono are about as far away from Western “civilization” as you can get. Both islands are quiet, clean, dog-free and car-free.

Porter enjoyed discovering the fauna on the Island.

Standing on what remains of the Apolima wharf destroyed by the 2009 tsusami.

We had dinner one evening at the Treehouse Resort, or “Treesort” on Upolu Island. The Greskos spent a night there.

 Natalie was fascinated by the indoor – or rather, intree – bathroom and shower.

 One of the most fascinating places on the island is the “To Sua Trench.” From a point about 100 feet above sea level, one climbs down the steps and ladders into this trench which fills and empties with the tides just outside the trench.

 It was another great place to have fun!

And just down the road is a great place to have a great lunch, the Sea Breeze Restaurant. We were able to persuade Sister Darla Anderson (Elder McBride’s sister) to join us for some of the fun.


You can’t visit Samoa without attending one of the stupendous Polynesian shows. This one at the Tradition Resort is one of the best.

We went to the seaside fish market one morning.

Fresh octopus, anyone?

We bought enough lobster to fill all of us for under $25 U.S. dollars.

One morning we visited a Samoan family who showed us how a traditional Samoan meal is prepared.

 It was a most informative cultural experience.

And the food was delicious!

It was great having the Greskos with us. You, too, are invited to visit us here in “The Pearl of the Pacific” (but you had better come soon, as our mission ends the middle of March!).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Treasured Islands

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum

Recently we and the other senior missionaries were invited to attend the annual Robert Louis Stevenson Museum gala.

It was a grand affair, held at the beautifully restored estate of the author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Stevenson spent the final four years of his life in Samoa.

Museum Foundation President Jim Winegar, a former LDS missionary in Samoa, was the master of ceremonies that evening.

He was accompanied by a missionary friend of Elder McBride’s from 50 years ago, Phil Goodrich.

Among the guests were Sister Afulua Tuivaiti of the mission office and one of our newest Samoa Apia Missionaries, Sister Darla (McBride) Anderson (my sister).

Also attending was the newest addition to the office staff, Sister Mariel Barnes, our new Mission Nurse, from Idaho. She is truly a welcome arrival. Sister McBride is happy to now retire from her ad hoc position of "nurse."

The  Stevenson home, built in the late 1800’s, was slowly decaying until a few decades ago when Rex Maughan (founder of Forever Living Products) and some colleagues – all of whom had served LDS missions in Samoa – paid to have the building completely restored.

The RLS home his now one of the "must see" sites for the passengers on the many cruise ships that come into Apia harbor each year.

Interesting, indeed, that it is a handful of returned Mormon missionaries that is keeping this island treasure in such good repair.

Another Trip to American Samoa

An hour or so after the dinner, Alicia and I boarded the MV Lady Naomi bound for the Island of Tutuila, in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa.  The mission needed to ship some of its bicycles over there. (Both American Samoa and the independent country of Samoa, which used to be called “Western Samoa,” are part of the Apia Samoa Mission.)  The Territory requires that someone accompany a shipment of that nature, or they won’t let it in. Sister McBride and I said we would be happy to make the trip. We had made the same trip in February, for the same purpose.

It is a 9-hour overnight voyage. Alicia did get sea sick that first time after 4 hours on the water, but she was able to take a meclizine pill for it and all went well for the rest of the trip.

So off we went. This time, however, Alicia got quite sick, and had a rough time of it. We think it may have had something to do with what she ate at the gala, as the meclazine seemed to have no effect on her. (Elder McBride slept through most of the trip.) But we did make it, and soon she was feeling better.

We were met at the Pago Pago wharf by Zone Leaders and two other missionaries. These brethren are among some of the finest young missionaries you will ever want to meet.

It seemed only right that we take them all to a Big Breakfast at the Pago Pago McD’s.

We were hosted that weekend by another senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Jordan.

Wonderful people, the Jordans teach LDS Institute on Tutuila and help see to it that the missionaries keep their houses properly cared for, as we do on the Island of Upolu.

Special Experience on Aunu’u Island

Mission President Hannemann  had suggested that, while we were over in American Samoa, we might want to go visit the sister missionaries on the small Island of Aunu’u off the coast of Tutuila.

This is the first place the Church really got a footing in the islands in the early 1890’s.  The picture below depicts the first landing there by LDS missionary Joseph Dean.

These pictures give you an idea of rough the water was, but neither of us got sick at all on the ride.

We appreciated the opportunity to do some proselyting with Sisters Markowitz and Key, and helped teach a lesson to a family they were working with.

This was the highlight of our trip, to be sure.

The sisters  later related that the testimonies offered by Elder and Sister McBride – especially the one offered by Alicia – had turned the heart of the mother of that family to want baptism. Alicia had barely understood any of the lesson, but she managed to say just the right things to them about what a difference the gospel makes in the lives of people, especially in the lives of men who might need the strength and support of a good wife. That was tremendously important to the mother of this family. This family was baptized this past week.  What a blessing!

The trip back to the bigger Island of Tutuila went just fine. As we got off the boat, about 20 students who attend high school on Tutuila got on. We could see no life preservers.

The flight back to Upolu takes about 20 minutes, as compared to the 9-hour boat trip. But the boat is so much cheaper that President Hannemann is considering having all future missionary transfers to and from Tutuila be made by boat. We’ll make sure they all have enough Dramamine on hand.