Saturday, September 24, 2005

Trip journal - day 10

10 September 2005

I woke up and began listening via laptop to the pregame show (BYU was playing Easter Illinois). Also listened to the first couple of drives. Then we went down for a buffet breakfast, eating on the open terrace. Lots of fruit, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, juice (I combined passion fruit, guava, and orange juice).
Then Mindy and her kids and Caroline and I went snorkeling in the enclosed Turtle Bay. The water had a lot of sand (from the waves), so not as clear as in Samoa. We saw some fish and live coral, but, again, not as nice as just offshore in Auto, Samoa.

After the beach, we hit the pool – the slide, the hot tub, and the main pool. Then I showered and dressed, and we moved our luggage into Mindy’s room (the rest of us had to check out by 12:30). Then the folks went to a shrimp shack, and we (Mindy and her kids, and Cindy and Caroline and I) returned to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We ate at the Banyan Tree Snack Bar (the folks delivered a fresh shrimp “to go” platter to me at the entrance gate -- huge plump shrimp). Then we did the New Zealand show while Mindy and Gabe did the Samoan show. Then we did some shopping and left for the airport.

Uneventful time at the Honolulu Airport, and then flight to Vegas, where we parted from Bob and Linda, and then to SLC. It was touch and go for Caroline (who had an e-ticket and no boarding pass) and Mindy (who inexplicably had a ticket for an earlier flight), but we all made the flight and home.

I know 11 days have passed, but it’s still hard to absorb the climate and culture shock of our travels. Fortunately, we took nearly 1,000 photos and will share with Bob and Linda and the others to get the best pix.

Amazing trip. Good to be home.


Trip journal - day 9

9 September 2005

Arrived in Honolulu. We loaded most of our luggage in the back of Sini’s truck. Bob and I rented cars. Then we caravanned behind the truck to Turtle Bay Resort. Even though we’ve been in Samoa, and especially Sauneatu, I’m still impressed by the steep volcanic cliffs and jungle growth. Oahu is a bigger island than either Tulopa (Western Samoa) or American Samoa.

Also, a striking contrast between Samoa (third world, or perhaps second world) and Oahu.

Caroline, who had been napping, announced that she had to go to the bathroom, so we made an unscheduled stop at the Laie Temple Visitor’s Center (the door was locked – not open until 9:00 am, and it was before 9:00 am), but they let us in and Caroline was able to go.

We arrived at the hotel. Sini’s son, Les, helped with the luggage. The receptionist and Les chatted – both are Polynesian Cultural Center alumni.

We checked in. Amazing room, with balcony overlooking the beautiful private beach and pool complex. Wireless broadband in our room, so I caught up on email, and news (which I haven’t really been on top of the past week or so – for example, Linda had to tell me in Samoa that Chief Justice Rehnquist had died). Blue Pacific, with a palm tree-shaded hot tub, waterfall water slide pool, and swimming pool. We changed into suits and sat in the hot tub and swam in the pool.

We ate the lunch buffet in the Palm Terrace restaurant (the hotel has several restaurants). Lots of fresh fruit, salad, make it yourself cold cut sandwiches. Then Cindy, Caroline, Molly, and I drove back the coastal road past the temple, the BYU-Hawaii campus, to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The Samoan show was the highlight. It was a more humorous replay of Sini’s “show” at the umu. It included starting fire by rubbing sticks together and touching the smoldering stick to a coconut frizzle. It also included climbing a much higher coconut palm. The star of the show was a crackup, asking each group how to say “fire” in their native language (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, etc.). We ate at the Banyan Tree Snack Bar (I was still a little queasy), went to the Imax theater (movie about saving coral reefs) did some shopping, then met Sini and the folks for the big show at the Pacific Theater.

It was a wonderful revue of Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, Fijian, Tongan, Maori, and New Zealand culture.

Home to hotel and to bed.

Trip journal - day 8

8 September 2005

We (Cindy, Caroline, and I) awoke early, and took a walk along the beach with Gabe. I snapped a photo of a rainbow (now the “wallpaper” for my laptop). We breakfasted on donuts, eggs, bacon, Samoan pancakes (balls of fried bread), cold cereal, and juice. Later, we swam in the warm South Pacific water at the beach directly in front of the houses where we stayed, and used goggles to look at the coral and the fish. Amazing how close to shore the water was teeming with life. There was a bright blue starfish, and several sea cucumbers, including very long ones wrapped around large rocks. Cindy, Caroline, Molly, and I actually touched the starfish.

Later, we caravanned (in Sini’s rented van and our host’s Lincoln Navigator) to Tula, where Sini’s grandfather first met my grandfather and established the first branch in the village. My grandfather and his companion were the first "paolenge's" (sp?) ("pah-oh-leng-ees" -- the Samoan word for "haole" ("how-ley") meaning "white fish" -- white men) to ride in the chief's boat.

The church is no longer standing (it’s now a public school ground), and Sini and the chief’s grandfather’s grave has been moved from the chapel grounds across the street. His grave is near others, but is also near the dumpster for a store so, ironically, is also a kind of junkyard.

We stopped on the way back at the beach and saw a huge Samoan man bathing in the water. Eventually, he undid the bob of hair, and had long flowing black hair down his back. We also waded and gathered shells and sea glass.

After returning to the chief’s, we loaded up and caravanned into Pago Pago to the airport. I was again impressed by the number of homes and shops that had yellow signs in tribute to a Samoan soldier deployed to Iraq.

One of the highlights of being with the chief was his 10 year-old disabled daughter, Olivia (they told us it was Samoan for “olive”). She hovered around us, peeked in windows, and expressed her. She had a heart of gold. She memorized each of our names. However, for some reason she had something against Mindy, so when she recited each of our names, and she got to Mindy, she shook her palm at Mindy, and said, “Nothing!” She also threw away Mindy’s weaving (which, the group reported, was the best), and made Mindy sit in the corner facing away from the group.

By the time we left, Mindy had given her a piece of candy and they were fast friends.

We ate at the airport restaurant (I had a toasted cheese sandwich and a baked potato – comfort food: I’d been a bit queasy since the umu). I had a good talk with Bob.

At security, for some reason I set off the metal detector. I gave my boarding pass to the security man. He said, “Hello, Brother Madsen. I’m Brother So-and-So. We saw you on television during the dedication Sunday.” Nice to be among friends.

Flew the redeye to Honolulu. (Flight left at 11:45 pm, arrived in Honolulu at around 6:30 am).

Trip journal - day 7

7 September 2005

Up early, packed. Went down for breakfast. Hard to believe our last in Apia. The hotel staff hovered over us with even more attention this morning. Lots of papaya, bananas, Milo, eggs, toast, and juice. The hotel owner came to tell us goodbye. We piled in the van and took the 30-mile trip to the airport, faithful Delilah at the wheel. Sini began singing “Goodbye, My Friend” inserting Delilah’s name. We sang along. I could see her tears in the rearview mirror. It was just as we were approaching the airport security gate. We paid our airport tax ($40 [Samoan “Tala”] per adult), took pictures. We made our way through security and immigration and out to the waiting area, then the short flight to Pago Pago.

Sini and his brother had a van and an SUV for us and our luggage. We drove for about ½ hour through Pago Pago, around the harbor, past the tuna packing plants, and to the village of Auto ("Ow-ooh-toe"). We went to his brother’s place and essentially took over two houses. Cindy, Caroline and I shared a room.

When we first arrived, they gave us traditional warm papaya soup and banana soup. We had an umu (“oo-mooh” -- BBQ on the beach) that evening. They cooked beef, chicken, octopus, ham, taro, potato salad, and we also had raw fish, and cream tuna with plenty of cold soda and bottled water to drink.

During dinner, the mom and three daughters danced for us. The cement floor of the little cooking fale collapsed and one of the women and men went down with it but were unhurt. Apparently the sand had eroded beneath it.

Sini showed us how to weave a basket from a coconut leaf. His brother, the family’s chief, showed us how to weave a plate. He said you heated banana leaves and put on the plate, and then put the food.

One of the young men climbed a coconut tree and knocked coconuts off. Sini showed us how to open a coconut, we drank the juice, and ate the meat for dessert. Then we took turns singing. They sang Samoan songs for us, and we san “Oh We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money”, “When You Wore a Tulip”, and other family favorites. Caroline and Mindy sang solos, and Mom and Dad sang a love duet.

Two of the younger members of the family played games on their cell phones (kind of an anachronism as we sat on the beach in a tiny village having a traditional Samoan meal).

Dad spent a lot of time talking with one of the brothers (Sgt Misi) who came over with us on the first flight to Pago Pago from Honolulu (they are back from Iraq on leave, but will go back to Honolulu on the same flight with us, and then to Iraq).

We went to bed, and I know I slept because I woke up so many times. Cindy and Caroline shared the single bed and I slept on several blankets on the floor.

Trip journal - day 6

6 September 2005

I dreamt I was preparing for two oral arguments at a court of appeals. I realized that I had not prepared at all for one of the arguments. I crammed and tried to read and gather the gist of what I was reading. I saw myself in the courtroom with another argument preceding mine (the one I was unprepared for). In the twilight between wakefulness and sleep, what I needed to say suddenly became clear and I felt prepared. As I woke up, I realized it was a dream. But I also thought I ought to prepare more for my upcoming 10th Circuit Court of Appeal argument (in Denver, 4 days after we return home). I began thinking about it, and new insights came. I arose (around 5 am), went into the bathroom, and began typing on my laptop as the ideas came. I kept typing for a couple of hours until Cindy got up to go to the bathroom. I kept typing a bit longer, tired of it, so got up and began reading the Book of Mormon on my PDA. Other insights came, so I typed them in my laptop, too.

After a while, I got up and went next door (to Mindy’s room) to see if the kids were going to be able to do baptisms for the dead. Sini had called, and they were, but Molly had misplaced her recommend. Mindy was over at the folks (room 10) so I went over there to find out what was going on. We had a delightful conversation and joked with the folks. Mindy shared a comforting dream she had just had regarding Grant. She saw him in his gray suit. He came up to her, held her in his arms, and kissed her. She asked him how it felt to die. He said, I was all alone, you weren’t there. But he seemed contented, and kept instructing others who came up to them as he held her. She awoke with a strong sense of peace and of the Spirit burning in her heart.

We breakfasted (more orange juice, Milo, scrambled eggs with the sautéed onions, toast). Then we piled into the van (all but Cindy and Caroline, since Caroline isn’t old enough to do baptisms), with intrepid Delilah once again at the wheel. We went to the temple. We removed our shoes and put them on the wooden rack in the room to the right of the entry. The kids and Mindy did baptisms for the dead, while we attended an endowment session.

We passed a family in the reception area waiting for a wedding. In the locker room, we saw the groom (identified with the tag that said “sealing – own”). I congratulated him. Several family members were in white shirts and lava lava's seated in the locker room.

I directed Sini to a “wide-body” (wide door) locker and he thanked me. We went to the session room. It was painted with a mural of local scenes – in fact, it looked like the road we took to Sauneatu yesterday – complete with the small island just off the coast road. There was also the ubiquitous rooster. I supposed the artist studied local flora and fauna and included them in his painting. I noticed that the padded seats had no arm rests (I once heard the temples had 4 large sizes: L, XL, XXL, and Samoan…). I supposed it was for “wide bodies” to be more comfortable. It also seemed the seats were wider and had more leg room. We wore headsets to hear the session in English. I kept the volume low enough so I could hear the Samoan. Bob and Linda, and Mom and Dad stood in the prayer circle (even though the prayer was in Samoan…). I went through for Richard Wooldren.

I recognized the temple president, and his two counselors as we went through the temple. In the locker room, a young Samoan told us he had just come back from Afghanistan, but the next day was told his unit was called up because they don’t have enough people to fly helicopters in New Orleans in hurricane relief.

Patient Delilah picked us up (she had already taken Mindy and the kids back to the hotel after they finished baptisms), and she brought tickets and passports so we could get our seats confirmed on the flight to Pago Pago. Then she took us to have lunch at Comar’s (sp?) Seafood. I had a platter, including mussels, crab, tuna, and other varieties I couldn’t identify.

Then back to the hotel, where we changed. The longsuffering Delilah dropped of Mom and Dad and Robert and Linda near the temple so Mom could go to the mission headquarters and she and Bob could take pictures. Delilah then drove Gabe, Caroline, and me to Sliding Rock.

At Sliding Rock (several cascading waterfalls and pools accessible by steep stairs into the jungle) we met Steve Snow (former Samoan missionary and son of Karl Snow). We talked at length about the dedication, our trip, and Mindy’s recent loss. I took pictures of the kids, of Steve and his friend, and of Samoan kids, going down the slides.

Delilah picked up the folks and us. Mom said that she had learned that the mission headquarters once stood directly on the site of the current temple. Mom had also gotten several copies of a history of the Church in Samoa. We caught up with the rest of the group at the flea market, then to the hotel.

Sini prepared a feast for us which we ate with the hotel owner and his wife and several other Samoans in the hotel fale: prime rib, taro, stuffed baked potatoes, string beans, fried bananas, papaya dressing, salad, soft drinks, ice cold bottled water. The girls (Cindy, Molly, and Caroline) had prepared a hollowed-out coconut, and put a black pearl necklace and earrings for Delilah inside, and then beautiful flowers. Caroline made the presentation on behalf of the group. Delilah seemed embarrassed.

Having gotten up at 5 am, I was pooped, so I went up to our room with the kids, who watched a couple of movies on my laptop. Caroline made friends with Malo, Delilah’s daughter, and the two took lots of funny pictures of each other and played games. I napped. Mindy, Cindy, and Molly went to the Carters to have dessert and do laundry (Brandon Carter was a teammate of David’s on the sophomore basketball team at Timpview – he wore unique orange shoes and an orange head band – they’re here for the Church; he’s been a financial manager of the temple reconstruction). To bed.

Trip journal - day 5

5 September 2005

Up for breakfast. We (Cindy, Caroline, and I) ate with Molly and Gabe. We had papaya, along with eggs and toast (this time sunny side up – we forgot to tell them to do scrambled). Then to the Robert Louis Stevenson plantation estate, Vailima Villa. We were treated to a special tour by Brother Winegar (along with Alan Bergin, the Naylors, Brother and Sister Hess and others). Delilah’s sister, Margaret (formerly a flight attendant) is a guide there. Caroline took lots of pictures. A beautiful place with beautiful grounds. Much like the estates we saw in England. A garden party there tonight.

We stopped in Apia for lunch at McDonald’s, met lots of missionaries: Elders Stark, Owen, Merrill, etc. Their P-day and "payday". All Apia Samoa Mission missionaries were in Apia for the dedication. I introduced two to Delilah.

After lunch, back to the hotel. We dropped off Mark and Emily in Apia to shop (since their plane leaves late tonight). Then to Sauneatu (“Son-yah-too”). I read aloud the excerpts from Bapa’s journal about the place as we drove there. Beautiful lush growth on the road into the mountains off the coastal road. A clean village in the mouth of an ancient volcano, ringed by lush green-covered peaks. A David O. McKay monument (he had visited as an LDS apostle in 1921, the year my grandfather first came to Samoa), also a David O. McKay fale (traditional Samoan house -- a roof on pillars withou no walls). A beautiful LDS chapel, and a “gym” for 24 young men from all over the island, who dropped out of school to help their families, and come on Monday then go home on Friday. A missionary couple (the Osmonds from Coalville, Utah) teach them the Book of Mormon, preparation for missions, and some business skills – they run a small shop. Elder Osmond showed us around, took us into his home for a drink of water. He showed us a trail to a nearby waterfall and swimming hole. There were very slippery, mossy concrete steps going down. Without a recent rain, the water was too low to safely get out over the slippery rocks. We took pictures anyway.

The visit to Sauneatu gave me a stronger sense of place and about my grandfather’s service. He helped build a school here. We walked where he likely walked. It was well worth the trip.

We drove back to the coastal road, then through lots of villages. Finally we came to a stretch of beach. The kids (Caroline, Molly, and Gabe had wanted to go to the beach since our first day). The water was very warm. We collected seashells and coral. Then back to the hotel.

Everyone but Caroline and Gabe and I went to the garden party at Vailima. The four of us had dinner together on the front veranda of the hotel (I had the club sandwich, Caroline had a curry bowl, and Gabe had a burger with a side of garlic bread – one of his favorites now), with a new large cargo ship lit up across the harbor (it arrived around breakfast this morning after another cargo ship had unloaded its contents the past few days, and left this morning). Later, the kids watched the rest of "Sahara" and started "National Treasure". Gabe and I fell asleep at some point (I, during "Sahara"). The folks got back from the garden party, and Cindy reported dancing with Sini toward the end. We said goodbye to Mark and Emily and they left (with the intrepid Delilah driving) for the airport. To bed.

Trip journal - day 4

4 September 2005

Dedication day. We are going to the second session, at 11:30 am.

Perhaps because last night was Saturday (the night before Sunday), the bar next door appeared to be closed, and there was no revival under the adjacent tent. As a result, it was a quiet night (no earplugs required).

We awoke during the night to a couple of downpours of rain, one early in the morning at around 6:30 am. Also in the morning, pop religious music began coming from the revival tent.

Caroline and I arose and went out on the balcony to read the Book of Mormon. As we watched, brightly-colored buses, taxis, and private cars began arriving, with Samoans in Sunday best getting out, greeting each other, and moving toward the tent. What sounded like recordings gave way to live singers and a live band, with the crowd clapping, singing, and joining in, and with the pastor providing commentary to the music and the sustained applause.

The impact of Christian missionaries is far and wide on this island. We are told businesses are closed today and most families are attending religious services.

We all showered and dressed in our Sunday best and skipped breakfast in the spirit of fasting. Then we met with the rest of the group in the open lounge area near Mom and Dad’s room. Uncle Bob read the last two verses of D&C 109. Then we knelt in prayer. Dad offered it. He talked about the lifelong dream that was coming true today. Sini wore a white shirt borrowed from Uncle Bob (his luggage still hasn’t arrived), and a traditional formal hunter green lava lava.

Wonderful Delilah drove us to the temple in the hotel van. It’s her day off. We waited in line with the rest of the saints. There had been a couple of downpours this morning. But as soon as they come, they go. It’s like the disposition of the Polynesian people: so quickly sunny. In line, we spoke with Dr Paul Cox, BYU botanist. He told us of Mike Wallace filming BYU students in connection with his interview with President Hinckley. How he (Cox) chose students at random. How they did the University and the Church proud in responding to questions. How he told the public affairs man for the Church that the students were his responsibility, and that he wasn’t going to let Mike Wallace embarrass any of them and that if he began asking questions that he (Cox) found inappropriate, he was going to pull the plug. Such a question came up, and Cox told the public affairs man that he was going to pull the plug. Just then, the cameraman reported being out of film.

We were asked to join a separate line for those with white (celestial room) tickets. We saw Phil and Allie Pili and shook their hands.

When they opened the temple doors, I told a woman pushing her daughter in a wheelchair to go ahead of us. She replied, “No, white tickets first. We have blue tickets.” I wanted to give her my white ticket.

Our names were printed on pieces of paper on the seats in the celestial room. A sweet sister played the organ as we were seated. They had to add a few chairs to accommodate everyone.

When President Hinckley and President Monson entered the room, everyone stood.

President Hinckley conducted the session, welcoming everyone and announcing the opening number. He noted that, because of the satellite broadcast, everyone could be accommodated in two sessions, while in 1983, they conducted 6 dedicatory sessions – without a satellite broadcast.

The choir entered from the side, perhaps 20-strong. The leader was a handsome Samoan with almost Hispanic features, salt and pepper hair, beautiful burgundy lava lava, and a wonderful pastel floral tie. The choir sang “How Great Thou Art” in English.

The opening prayer was in Samoan.

President Hinckley then made introductions, including the temple presidency, Paul Cox, and Brother Naylor (the construction manager). He also introduced Mom and Dad.

The 1st and 2nd counselors spoke in English. The 1st counselor noted that it may be the last time President Hinckley would be in Samoa, that it was not their culture, strong as it was, that would save them but the ordinances of this new temple, and said that missionaries need two strong weapons when they go forth: humility, and obedience. Together they will form a strong shield. The 2nd counselor spoke humbly about accepting his calling.

When it was President Monson’s turn to speak, he asked his son, Art, a prior Samoan missionary, to share his testimony in Samoan.

President Monson spoke, through an interpreter, about his first visit to Samoa, about visiting a school, and about directing the principal to conduct the closing exercises. He had the impression to greet each child one by one. During the closing song, he had the impression again. He told the sister. She reported that she had told the children that if they had faith, an apostle of the Lord would someday visit them, and that if they really had faith, he would ask to greet them one by one. President Monson said he was glad he had followed the impression and noted that some of those children may have been attending the dedicatory services.

The choir then sang “Dedication” in English.

Elder Condie spoke through an interpreter about temple as place of sealing, and place of healing, that a fountain of living waters (like that prophesied to spring from the temple in Jerusalem, and like the one symbolized by the water flowing in the front of the Apia Temple) can cure the Dead Sea, a dying marriage, hurt relationships, and troubled families.

President Hinckley asked Brother Cox and Dad to bear their testimonies. Brother Cox did so entirely in Samoan. He told us later he had talked about the importance of keeping covenants and the saving ordinances of the temple.

Dad talked about the reason for our trip, about Mom’s dad (“Misi Panapa”) serving a mission in Samoa 80 years before, about Mindy’s recent loss, about how this trip had been a dream come true and had provided healing for our family which, as Elder Condie had said, is what the House of the Lord is all about.

President Hinckley asked who in the room did not speak English. He jokingly told his interpreter that “I guess we don’t need you.” He then spoke lovingly about his dear Marjorie, her passing, and eternal marriage, and that the sealing covenant is most wonderful part of the Gospel, that he looks forward to embracing her when he passes through the veil. It was a reassuring sermon. (I thought of Mindy -- and Sini, who lost his wife several years ago -- and how a prophet of God likely tailored his remarks on the spot for one family – Mindy’s – after Dad’s remarks, but how the sealing covenants had application to every family who attended or watched by satellite). President Hinckley got emotional as he noted that it may be his last time in Samoa, but that he would leave, with “Goodbye, My Friend” (the title of which he said in Samoan) ringing in his heart.

President Hinckley then gave the dedicatory prayer in English without the interpreter.

Pres. Monson gave instructions regarding the history and the way to perform the Hosanna Shout.

He then led the Hosanna Shout.

President Hinckley noted that the choir would sing the “Hosanna Anthem”, composed by Evan Stephens for the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, and that the congregation would join the choir at the appropriate time to sing “The Spirit of God”. He noted that that hymn was first sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and that, by singing the “Hosanna Anthem” and “The Spirit of God”, we would be joining together the dedications of the Kirtland, Salt Lake, and Apia Samoa temples.

The choir of 20 was joined by a heavenly choir. They sang in Samoan with power. When it was our turn to sing, there were more voices than mortals present. I tried to sing, but sobbed instead. It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

A Samoan brother gave the closing prayer in Samoan.

The saints assembled outside to bid President Hinckley farewell. They lined the driveway as President Monson and President Hinckley emerged from the entrance of the temple in dark suits. The saints began singing “Goodbye, My Friend” and waving white handkerchiefs. It was a tender moment.

I looked at them and thought how many of them would only see the prophet today, had only seen him for 1 ½ hours, and would likely never see him or another prophet again in their lifetime, and how we in Utah have the opportunity see the prophets and apostles almost weekly. How blessed we are.

After the dedication, one of the founders of the Robert Louis Stevenson museum/home (“Vailima Villa”) invited us to a private tour tomorrow, and a garden party in the evening. We greet Jayne Anne Payne and her daughter and family. I found the choir director and thanked him, and thanked other choir members I recognized for their powerful singing.

Delilah drove us to Aggie Grey’s Hotel for lunch. Dad asked us to go around the circle to tell us what impressed us about the dedication. Sini bore a strong and powerful testimony to all of us, “my family” (and many at other tables could/did hear) of the truthfulness of the Gospel, the reality of the Savior, and of the only true Church and of his gratitude for being included in this trip.

Delilah drove us back to the hotel. I read the Book of Mormon and we rested. I set up “The Other Side of Heaven” DVD for the kids to watch on my laptop.

Had a good talk with Mom and Dad, Mindy, and Molly.

We had dinner at the hotel (I had a chef salad, Cindy had curry, and Caroline had a club sandwich). Then to bed.

Trip journal - day 3

3 September 2005

The waiter was wrong (I think – I fell asleep almost immediately). I was right: the earplugs were a necessity. I heard muffled music when I awoke much much later.

We all woke up around 6-ish and couldn’t go back to sleep, so we got up and showered and went down to breakfast. The sun was bright on the ocean. We sat inside this time, but inside is kind of outside since there are few walls. Lots of open space. We had eggs and toast, with orange juice and Milo – unsweetened cocoa served with thick-crystal darkish sugar and a small pitcher of cream. The scrambled eggs included sautéed onions and tasted like they were made with cream, not milk. The sea breezes made for a pleasant, unrushed repast and an invigorating wake up.

As we ate, we watched several long white canoes go past us on the ocean with perhaps 30 men strongly rowing (practicing for a big race where they will row from miles away to finish in Apia – according to our driver yesterday).

After breakfast, we returned to the room to get sunglasses, and Caroline took pictures of a tiny Gecko on the wall next to the trash can in the kitchenette in our room. We went downstairs the back way and saw a man carving traditional designs on wooden columns on a pavilion behind the hotel. There also appear to be archery targets in the picnic field behind the bar from which emanated the “Island country” music last night.

We took another walk along the sea wall, this time going away from town. We encountered several families sweeping and cleaning up garbage on both sides of the wall. It’s almost as though they’re sweeping the front porch of their house all the way to the ocean (even though a road runs between their homes and the sea wall).

Caroline began counting Geckos (small lizards) on the rocks. She got past 20 by the time we finished our walk and were back at the hotel.

We also passed a group of young shirtless men who were walking on the road back toward town and who had apparently been rowing in one of the racing canoes. Many of them wore lava lava's (men’s wraparound skirts) which were wet. They all had muscular upper bodies, and most had tattoos that circled their biceps. As we continued our walk, we got closer to two racing canoes which were tied up 10 or 20 yards from the sea wall. It appears the men probably had to wade or swim to get to the shore.

Interesting how skirts on men are considered effeminate. Not here. After two days, I’m used to seeing many men wearing lava lava's (including our waiter last night and this morning).

We also passed a memorial to several seaman “killed in action”, one column for those on the “U.S.F.S. Philadelphia” and one for those on “H.M.S. Loyalist” (as I recall). The inscription said they died in 1899.

Back at the hotel, we snacked, Caroline worked on her puzzle book, and Cindy continued reading her Michener book (while I recorded this entry).

Later – I went on the Internet through the hotel office computer. I answered a couple of emails from Rick Moody (re 68th Ward business), and sent one to the boys, Kelly, and Beverly. I also checked in on the BYU game. Folks haven’t arrived yet.

Later – I sat at a table in the shade under the balcony reading my Book of Mormon on my PDA. Also waiting for the folks to arrive. I also watched two huge cranes offload huge containers off a ship, and taxis and other vehicles go by. Lots of trucks with people loaded in the back.

Cindy and Caroline came down around 12:30 pm and we had lunch. Cindy had the chicken curry bowl, Caroline had the chef salad, and I had fish and chips. The folks’ luggage arrived, and then they did. Mom and Dad are in room 10, Mark and Emily in 7, and Mindy and fam next door to us in 18. Sini came later (he had to get a white shirt for the dedication). He showed us how to open a young coconut, then passed them around with straws so we could drink the juice. He also shared some breadfruit with us. Our waiter, Tony, told us about his fire dance at the Coconut Beach Club. He said it would be 50 tala for us to watch him. Although we enjoyed our private time (Cindy, Caroline and I), it was good to have the group back together. I caught the group up on what we had done, and on the fact that they would likely need earplugs to sleep tonight. We also decided on a time to be at the temple in the morning. Then we crossed the road to the sea wall and took in the view, and then retired to our various rooms.

Mom and Dad’s room (the deluxe suite, room 10) is off an open upstairs balcony. There are also dining tables off a sideroom balcony. Bob and Linda are in the topmost room. Bob yelled from his window to get my attention when we crossed the street to the sea wall.

I read some more in a hard copy of the Book of Mormon (while charging my PDA – mom had brought a converter), and Cindy read while Caroline played with Gabe.

We got ready to go to the cultural celebration. We ended up at the temple, and asked a guard for directions. He told us it was at Apia’s main park (stadium). There were thousands in bright costumes and thousands of spectators all around the grounds when we arrived. President Price (the mission president) greeted us and found a place for us to sit among the missionaries. The stadium has no seats or bleachers. It is just cement. Mindy prevailed on a couple of Samoans for a pillow so Dad and Mom could sit on it. Uncle Bob went and got several bottles of ice cold water. We greeted Elder Spencer Condie of the Area Presidency, and several couple missionaries (including Church’s – who Bob and Linda know; they’d earlier served a mission in Michigan -- Osmonds; Ravenburgs) and young elders and sister missionaries.

I felt a little uncomfortable thinking that we may have displaced missionaries or others from seats. We were 4 or 5 rows up in the center section looking directly toward the pavilion for the VIPs. Directly in front of us was a dirt track with a walkway closest to the stadium, then chairs set up closer to the infield. Between the chairs and the infield was an asphalt track. Across the field was a stage with an oval shell-like backdrop/cover. A band in bright blue-floral shirts was set up with bright colored lights on stands. On either side of the stage were projection screens. At either end of the field were the performers in bright costumes.

As we arrived at our seats in the stadium, Samoa’s Police Band (in white lauve’s, white coats, and topped by white “bobby” hats) was performing (“How Great Thou Art”, “The Wells Fargo Wagon”, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, “Seventy-Six Trombones”, and others). They marched in time and had interesting choreography, cocking on one leg and twisting their feet in the air. The crowd enthusiastically applauded.

Then the band onstage played a traditional island tune while a male dancer in a grass skirt cavorted on the field to the amusement of the crowd. His exaggerated movements were obviously intended to be humorous and had the desired effect.

About this time several large American cars (all the same make, model, and color) began entering the stadium. Everyone stood, and it was suddenly quiet. President Monson was the first dignitary to emerge from one of the cars, followed by President Hinckley from his car. They and their group were seated in the VIP pavilion directly in front of us. (Our digital camera battery had died, so we’ll need to get pictures from Mindy, Molly, Emily, Mom, or Bob).

The emcee welcomed President Hinckley, President Monson, and other dignitaries. (The emcee is a prominent bald leader of the Church in the islands; he was accompanied by his large, hovering wife who helped him find his place in the script and otherwise orchestrated the performers).

After an opening prayer, the celebrations began, tracing traditional Samoa and its heritage, to the arrival of the missionaries, and the modern Church in Samoa. A 7-year-old Samoan sang “Families Can Be Together Forever.” The performers were not precision – several lines moved to different spaces just before dances began. But they were excellent. Traditional drummers accompanied with traditional rhythms.

One of the features of the program was the children who always seemed to be front and center in the front row. Young boys and girls did the dances with the rest.

There were traditional Samoan, Maori, Tongan, Tahitian, and Fijian dancers. All were announced by the emcee as “Stake President so-and-so and the so-and-so Samoa Stake.” Usually there were three stakes in each group. The stake presidents often took the lead as the chiefs in traditional costumes, yelling out war cries, barking out to the dancers and leading the way.

Depicting the time after the missionaries arrived, couples waltzed to an Anne Murray recording of “May I have This Dance, For the Rest of My Life?”

At the end, all the dancers took the field (5,000 strong) and did a Samoan dance while seated on the ground – a huge wave of motion. Then the missionaries who we had been seated among marched down the track and spread single file along the infield. The missionaries and a choir sang a medley of “Firm As the Mountains”, “High On A Mountain Top”, “Behold a Royal Army” and other songs as the Samoan police band accompanied. Then we all sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

Finally, the crowd sang and waved, “Goodbye, My Friend” to President Hinckley. He also stood facing them and waved his handkerchief from side to side during the entire song (not bad for a 95 year-old man, separated by 5 time zones from his home, who’s probably been in the country less than 48 hours -- and it was 2:00 a.m. his [Mountain] time).

After the song, a stake president (one of the performers) gave a closing prayer. Then we sang again “Goodbye, My Friend” as President Hinckley, President Monson, and their group got in the cars and drove away as the waiving crowd of performers closed in behind them.

Mindy borrowed a cell phone to call our driver, Delilah, at the hotel (we had been told and told her that the performance would be 3 ½ to 4 hours; Dad said Elder Condie had told him the dress rehearsal took 6 ½ hours, and President Hinckley mandated that the program last no more than 1 ½ hours). Delilah arrived and we piled into the Hotel Millenia van. She maneuvered quickly to open spots and we were able to quickly return to the hotel through the traffic. Along the way, we greeted performers and travelers with the Samoan Sini had taught us for “Thank you,” “Good evening”, and the occasional “Asi Asi Paco” (“Ducks are different”) – a favorite saying of my grandfather when there were disagreements in the family.

We dined on the upstairs dining terrace. Caroline had a cheeseburger, Cindy had a chef salad, and I had a vegetable curry bowl with garlic bread on the side. Several of us dozed off – it was late and had been a long day. But we were all together. Sini talked about his days in the Coast Guard. Bapa kept the conversation going. We went around the circle and said what had most impressed us about the celebration. I got to start and said President Hinckley waving. Others said the children. Others, the unity of each of the separate islands in the Church, and exemplified by the temple. (Reminded me of the T-shirts we saw on the plane from Pago Pago: “One worldwide family under one roof – Apia, Samoa Temple”).

After dinner, we went to our room and crashed for the night.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Country fine at the Fair

Took my three ladies (wife Cindy, daughters Kelly and Caroline) to the State Fair last night -- to the Dierks Bentley concert at the Pepsi Arena: 4,000 country music fans and a high energy, mighty fine country music concert. My daughters were in hog heaven -- they went down front until the first encore. (Dierks is a "hotty").
Cindy and I enjoyed it, too (but had to push wadded-up Kleenex into our ears to avoid hearing loss...). Dierks sang his hits "What Was I Thinkin'", "Bartenders, Barstools, and Barmaids", "Shotgun Girls", "I Gotta Lotta Leavin' Left to Do", and "My Last Name". A fine time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Apple's iPod nano

"Holds 1,000 songs. Impossibly small." The smallest iPod yet: 3.5 x 1.6 x 0.27 inches and 1.5 ounces.

Perfect storm

The Dems' Hurrican Katrina fury at the Bush Administration's "slow-because-racist response" to the natural disaster and his politically tone-deaf first-day Air Force One flyover of New Orleans put the Roberts confirmation hearings in the back seat. But Bush's response to the criticism, a pledge to spend billions rebuilding a party city that still lies 14 feet below sea level (when most of its residents don't want or plan to return), may turn out to be his biggest political blunder.

TCU 23 Utah 20

I'm schadenfroh about the U's 18-game winning streak coming to an end.
BYU gets TCU at home a week from Saturday (after a bye week this week). It's almost a best case scenario for BYU: TCU is the giantkiller (has beaten Oklahoma and Utah), but is up and down (lost to a bad SMU team), so it's TCU's week to lose, and BYU has two weeks to prepare (while TCU had to go into overtime to beat Utah). If BYU wins, it's huge; if not, BYU was expected to lose. Go Cougars!

He's baaaack

Argued for the first time before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver (Judges Ebel, Seymour, and Kelly) yesterday: Julie Allen, et al. v. Sybase, et al. The court was a "hot" panel (asked a lot of questions). Fifteen minutes isn't very long.

I'm still recovering from sleeping on the floor of a chief's house in Auto (pronounced "Ow-ooh-toe"), American Samoa, taking a redeye from Pago Pago to Honolulu the next day, and a day later from Honolulu to Vegas, and then late nights preparing for my oral argument. Plus, I had my first bishopric meeting since returning (to continue organizing our campus ward) last night at 6:30 and didn't get home from interviews until 10:30. It had been our home ward temple night, and the refreshments after at our house. I missed it all. It was a hop-skip-and-jump to midnight (I needed to talk with my wife, and needed some down time and was exhausted, but wasn't sleepy yet) when the kids came home (Jed, Kelly, and David), hadn't talked to them for a while, so was up to 1 a.m.

All this without the benefit of Dr. Pepper (I'm being good).

I'm hashed. Or as we would say in Britain, shattered. Going to go into the office late today, take care of a few things, then come back home and get my life back together (organize the piles in my corner of the bedroom). I've been treading the treadmill too long.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Knocking one out of the park

The text of Judge Roberts' statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ralph Woodward: November 21, 1918 - September 6, 2005

Speaking of a lot happening in 11 days, we learned from reading our ward newsletter upon our return that dear friend Ralph Woodward died while we were gone. His obituary is here.

I last saw him at the Easter service in the Jamestown Branch (he had asked our daughter, Caroline, to solo, and I sang bass with the accompanying choir).

My first (and recurring) memory is seeing him, tall and stately in black tie and tails, directing Christmas at Midday with "stereo" choirs on the opposite open staircases at the Harris Fine Art Center.

When we moved into the Edgemont 14th Ward, he was one of the first neighbors to visit and welcome us -- with a warm loaf of homemade bread. My sisters took voice lessons from his wife, and my children sang in his son's Salt Lake Children's Choir.

We members of the Edgemont 14th Ward cherished the privilege of singing in Ralph's "choir" (he directed the hymns in sacrament meeting until his and Mary's health required their move to the Courtyard at Jamestown assisted living center).

His funeral program included (of course) lots of wonderful music performed and directed by former students and colleagues. For example: organ prelude was by Robert Cundick, former Tabernacle Choir organist; a choir performed, composed of former members of the BYU A Capella Choir, the Ralph Woodward Chorale (including members of the Tabernacle Choir); and Craig Jessop conducted the choir (a former graduate assistant to Ralph, and current director of the Tabernacle Choir). Ralph's musical legacy is immense and far reaching.

A kinder, gentler man I've never known.

This poem was on the back of his funeral program:
To Music
by Franz von Schober

Thou lovely Art,
How oft in hours of sadness
When life encircled me and held me fast,
Hast thou my heart transported up to gladness,
And to a better world my soul has passed,
and to a better world I've passed.

How oft a sigh from out thy harp has charmed me,
With sweeter holier harmonies from Thee,
Then Heaven's portals have themselves seemed opened
Thou lovely Art.
My thanks I give to Thee,
Thou lovely Art, my thanks to Thee!
(There is beautiful double meaning in the twin references to a soul passing to a better world -- transported by music.)

My thanks to God for his gift of music, and to Ralph, through whom God so beautifully shared that lovely Art. Farewell, dear friend. Until we sing again -- choirs of angels.

While you were out

A lot can happen in 11 days. (Chief Justice Rehnquist died... Two former Cougars were acquitted of rape...) I kept a journal of our trip to Samoa and Hawaii, but was too busy traveling or relaxing or not close enough to internet access (let alone broadband) to bother uploading it. We also took over 1,000 photos. I intend to cull through them and upload the best to Flickr and then link to them here as part of my (condensed) trip journal. But, very busy at work this week, so probably won't get to it until (earliest) Thursday. Stay tuned -- and thanks for coming back.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trip journal - day 2

2 September 2005

Woke up at 6:30 am local time. Looked out the window at the sun rising. It struck me that the landscape was something my grandfather saw nearly a hundred years ago when he first landed at Pago Pago to begin his mission. I felt a tender kinship with him, my namesake.

You see photographs of tropical places, but it’s amazing to see lush green mountains rising in the not too far distance, and palm trees. Caroline woke up to go to the bathroom. I showed her the view. She pointed out palm trees with breadfruit, and a pool below our balcony with fish.
(The glare is from the unopened window)

Eventually we all got up and showered, then went to the Equator Restaurant right next to the hotel. We had fresh pineapple, orange, and cranberry juice and wonderful crepes, hotcakes, and omelettes while Sini told us about praying with his daughter after getting the call that we had missed our flight from Las Vegas. After praying, he got off his knees and said, “We are going.” He also spoke of the miracle that spared his wife another four years when she was given up for dead, and of the courage to finally let the Lord take her.

We met a fine young returned missionary who works at the hotel in the lobby. We packed up, checked out, and went to the Pago Pago Airport. At the airport, we met Phil and Allie Pili. She’s Caucasian, and he’s Samoan, in fact, American Samoa’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the American Samoa director of public communications for the Church.

Cindy, Caroline and I got on the 11:00 a.m. flight. We were the only Caucasians on the flight. Several Samoans had temple T-shirts on (“One worldwide family under one roof – Apia Samoa Temple - Pago Pago West Stake – July 30-31, 2005”). Two sweet, restless little boys kept their parents and us laughing. Everyone spoke Samoan, except the flight attendant, a handsome young (smiling) Samoan man, who provided safety instructions in both English and Samoan.

I took and and read some of the entries from Bapa’s missionary journal. His account of Pago Pago was interesting (since it matched what I saw and felt as I looked out the window early this morning), as well as his encounter with Sini’s grandfather.

Our plane was a twin-engine propeller plane and sat 30 people. After we took off, it looked like American Samoa lacked beaches – from what we could see from the plane – just lava rock joining the sea. We flew over beautiful turquoise coral reefs as we approached Western Samoa to land. We also saw lots of fish breaking the water in the blue Pacific.

We made it through customs and immigration, changed some money, and took a taxi to the hotel. Along the way, our driver told us many stories about the island and the sites we were seeing. He spoke of British missionaries, of Germans, New Zealanders, and others who had colonized the island and taught various things to the islanders. He spoke proudly of the island’s independence, and of their reverence for an old king, and disdain for modern politicians who changed the law to claim title as head of state.

There were probably 50 churches or more on the 30 kilometer drive from the airport to Apia. We also noticed many Church-run schools, and many family burial plots (typically two cement tombs above ground right next to homes). Our driver explained that families show respect to their parents (“Mummy and Daddy”) by burying them on the land where they brought up their families, and that they want to stay on that same land as long as they live. We also saw several large groups sitting in the shade of trees (probably lunch hour), and a couple of rugby teams taking the field coming from opposing directions carrying team flags. Our driver also emphasized the mixture of blood among Samoans from American Marines, Germans, New Zealanders, etc. “Half-castes” he called them.

We arrived at the Hotel Millenia and found that they had sent a van to pick us up. Mom was on the phone with the receptionist (Delilah) when we arrived. Turns out none of them made the 1:00 pm flight, so they’ll be flying in on a jet together tomorrow morning arriving at 9:30 am. We got to our room (19), turned on the AC, and quickly lay down and took a nap.

The hotel is steps away from the sea wall and has a fine view of the town and the sea.

When we awoke, we went downstairs to get a bite to eat from the restaurant (3:00 pm), but the kitchen was closed. Natalia, the wife of the owner’s son, spoke with us at length about local sights, our accommodations (including Internet – we’ll have to use the computer in the office), and suggested we go to McDonald’s to grab a quick bite. Everyone we have met here speaks English with a New Zealand accent. Notable, too, that in American Samoa, the current is 110V and things seem “Americanized”. Here there seems to be a stronger British, Aussie, and New Zealand influence, the current is 240V, and things seem more “British”.

Just before we set out, there was a heavy but brief rainfall. As quickly as it came, it left, and the sun came out. We took a taxi into town with some other people from the hotel. At the counter at McDonald’s, we met the Naylor family from Orem. He is the brother of the temple builder, and they’re here for the dedication. He said his brother gave him and his wife a VIP tour of the temple yesterday. The Lyons had been missing their luggage for three days because they were some of the last on the plane, and they said the Samoans brought a lot of boxes and things on the flight, so their luggage was bumped. They’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days.

After our late lunch, we took a walk through town. We bought a beautifully-colored sarong for Caroline at a fabric-and-locksmith (combination) shop run by a Caucasian lady. We also bought a tie at a chemist’s shop (Brit name for pharmacy) around the corner. (I had forgotten to pack one).

We also walked by a movie theater (showing “Monster-in-Law” [the inflight movie on the Pango Pango leg], “Dukes of Hazzard”, and a couple of others I didn’t recognize). We spent some time in a flea market, just before closing, where Caroline picked out a shell bracelet and some earrings for her friend, Meg Boshard.

We walked back along the sea wall, taking some pictures, and then got back to the hotel where Caroline and I uploaded the photos she and I had taken, sorted them, deleted some, and labeled them. Caroline is now reading on the balcony, and Cindy’s taking a nap. The sun’s beginning to set, and I can hear a rooster crowing. There’s also some music coming from a large tent they’re setting up near here. There’s a cultural and arts festival starting tomorrow. Interesting that the Church planned the dedication to be near that event (perhaps to make it convenient for people who were traveling for one to attend the other).

After Cindy napped (while I watched the beginning of the Saints and Soldiers DVD on my laptop – happily, the Apple power supply and international power kit works – it’s 240V current here), we went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

We sat on the veranda, our eyes getting used to the darkness. “Island country” music came from a nearby bar: “It’s Now or Never” and other favorites. Island style. Several minutes later, competing sound and music began coming from a nearby Assembly of God tent revival.

Samoa seems to disdain walls. Ocean breezes can flow through open windows and open buildings. So the two kinds of music and sound joyfully competed.

A young boy came to the railing and offered a lei. We bought it and put it around Caroline’s neck. It had fragrant blossoms.

Caroline had a “Samoan burger” and a Sprite. Cindy had Satay (kebobs) and a Coke Lite. I had a chicken curry bowl with garlic bread on the side and a Sprite. It was romantic sitting on the veranda, in the mostly dark, with balmy sea breezes blowing. Robert Louis Stevenson’s south sea isle paradise. We are definitely in a foreign country. A distant island in the South Pacific. A distinct minority. Everyone but us chatted in Samoan.

After dinner, we took a walk along the sea wall and looked up at the stars. We could see an extremely bright Mars, and another nearby planet – not sure which one. Also a very milky Milky Way. We tried to distinguish the Southern Cross. But the constellations in this hemisphere are unfamiliar.

We saw several dogs lying on or near the sea wall, all looking to be descended from the same original parents – kind of Palamino-colored, with long legs.

We returned to our room, had family prayer, and Caroline went to bed while Cindy continued to read her Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, and I finished Saints and Soldiers. Good movie.

Our waiter said the bar would stop playing music around 11:00 pm. He said the revival should wind down around 11:30 pm. We will all be using earplugs tonight…

Friday, September 02, 2005

Trip journal - day 1

1 September 2005

Stayed at the Inn at Temple Square after getting in late and getting to bed around midnight. Up at 5:30 am. Mom and Mindy had gathered yogurt, fruit, rolls, and bottled water for breakfast. Our Delta plane was broken so we got off late. We arrived in Las Vegas with about 30 minutes to make our Hawaiian Air flight. We had to race on foot between terminals. We were going up the escalator when we heard the last call for boarding flight 7 to Honolulu.

Uncle Bob was already there with Linda and they had told the gate people we were coming (Mom had called him on her cell when we got on the ground). Nevertheless, they refused to let us board the airplane even though it was still at the jetway. Mom cried and cajoled, but the supervisor at the gate refused. We went to the Delta gate (since Delta’s delay had created the situation). A wonderful ticket agent named Shauna Williams (turns out, from Utah) helped us get booked on an ATA Airlines flight.

We are scheduled to arrive in Honolulu at 5:15 pm. Our flight to Pago Pago (pronounced "Pongo Pongo") is scheduled to leave at 5:05 pm. Mom’s trying to pull strings with Hawaiian Air to get them to hold the plane so we can board. If we miss that connection, we miss the temple dedication (at least, live). Dear friend Charlyn Fantasia gave me the number of Phil Pili (father of former BYU football player Ifo Pili and Priscilla, also Church public communications director for Samoa, has deep roots in the Samoa – his grandfather was first Samoan missionary from the island). If we can’t make it, we can call him to ensure someone gets our seats for the dedication.

Mom has Sini’s ticket (we were going to meet him in Honolulu for the flight to Pago Pago). (Sini (pronounced "See-nee") is the grandson of one of Bapa’s (Barnard Johnson Nicholl’s) first contacts on his mission in Samoa (1921-25)). He has been a friend of the family for 50 years, but we first learned of his connection to Bapa about 5 years ago. Hopefully Sini has gotten the word about our late arrival, and hopefully he’ll be able to get to Samoa for the dedication.

Later… As we were landing, we saw a beautiful raindow. When we arrived in Honolulu, the flight attendant announced that there was a family of 12 that needed to get off the airplane first to make a connecting flight. Mom had talked to a flight attendant who had talked to the pilot who had apparently radioed ahead. We scrambled to grab our bags and get off. As soon as the door opened, we ran up the jetway. The other passengers clapped as we raced off. There were Hawaiian Airline personnel asking, “Are you the Madsens?” One was holding a sign with our names. They gave us temporary security badges and led us to two waiting vans, bypassing security. Mom wept. (It was tender that 4 or 5 employees were there just to help us). We met Sini who was waiting for us at the gate. He said that in the next couple of days he would have a story to tell us.

We got on the plane (the last to board), and the flight attendant thanked everyone for their patience. Apparently the flight had already been delayed arriving in Honolulu, so the wait wasn’t very long. We had a mechanical problem after we pulled away from the gate (we had prayed for one that might delay the plane so we could make it – not one after we got on!), so we had to pull back to the gate. Ultimately, they put a part on the aircraft for installation in Pago Pago, and we got away about 40 minutes late.

The sun just started setting over the Pacific. I saw Diamond Head out the window as we turned down the main runway for takeoff. I can’t say I’ve never been to Hawaii now (although the stay was rather brief – not that I’m bitter… :-) ). Emily and I sat on either side of a Samoan woman who lives in American Samoa. She owns a flower shop, and imports most of her flowers from South America, but also from San Diego and elsewhere. She said one of her old friends provides fresh flower arrangements every day inside the temple. She was returning from Los Angeles. She said when she saw our children hurriedly boarding the plane, she thought, “They don’t have any Samoan in them. Why are they going to Pago Pago?” We explained the purpose of our trip, and I showed her some of Bapa’s memorabilia from the packet Mom gave us last night (manifests of his ship voyage from San Francisco to Pago Pago, a menu from a meal, several photographs, extracts from his journal). She knows Sini. She also knows Phil Pili. I joked about how she was a “haole sandwich” (stuck between two Caucasians).

We’re in seats scattered throughout the plane. But this is the only plane this week from Honolulu to Pago Pago. Had we missed it, we would have missed the chance of getting to the temple dedication in the temple. Mindy said she was telling her kids to keep their boarding passes – because they were evidence of a miracle.

There were several Samoan soldiers on the plane in Army desert camouflage uniforms returning from Iraq. When we landed in Pago Pago, a flight attendant said “we would like to thank our military heroes returning to Samoa from Iraq.” There was also a banner as we entered the airport with the seal of each of the services saying “Welcome Home to Samoa’s Heroes in the Armed Forces.”

My sister Emily said she had checked the weather forecast for the week before we left: highs 82, lows 79, humidity in the high 80’s. Not much of a range in temperature or humidity. When we got off the plane, we all immediately felt the wet heat.

The flights to Apia today were all cancelled so we are in the Clarion Tradewinds Hotel overnight and will hopefully fly to Apia tomorrow.

Sini’s luggage didn’t arrive (including a cooler). Hopefully it will arrive via Tahiti Air tomorrow. Caroline was so exhausted she threw up. But we’re now in air-conditioned comfort with free Internet access. Cindy and Caroline are asleep. We’ve been going for just over 24 hours, with bits of sleep along the way. More tomorrow.

Samoa - first leg

We flew from Salt Lake City, to Las Vegas, to Honolulu, to Pago Pago today. Pago Pago is where my grandfather first landed in Samoa (he came by ship in 1921). More later.