Follow the Mission of Bob & Cathy Bean

Sunday, December 22, 2013

And Then it was Over

We are safely home now, but before we sign off, we want to share some last thoughts.  One of the nicest experiences we had over the last 9 months was our relationship with Asena Tovo, one of our students.  Asena attended BYU Hawaii when she was 17 and did fairly well, but changed her major more than once, and ended up leaving school before graduating.  Fast forward 10 years, Asena got married, has three little boys and works full time.  Her husband runs a little store in front of their home and farms on the family property.  Asena came to us last January seeking a PEF loan so she could go back to school and work towards a degree.  Since the main degree school in Tonga, The University of the South Pacific, does not recognize BYU Hawaii for cross credit, she was basically asking to start over.  Her request was actually denied as the program would take far too long to accomplish.

We came up with the idea to contact BYU Hawaii to see how far Asena was along in school, and if there was any way she could complete her degree by doing BYU Hawaii online classes.  We eventually were able to communicate with a counselor who reviewed her transcript.  Because she had done quite well in school in the classes she had taken while on campus, and the number of hours required for graduation for all the BYU’s was reduced, it was determined that she could graduate with 3 online classes.

Asena works in downtown Nuku’alofa.  She gets to and from work on the bus from her home in Tokomololo.  In order to take the online classes she would then travel by bus from Tokomololo to Liahona where we had the computer lab for online classes several nights a week.  After spending 2-3 hours in the lab she would then get a ride home from a relative as the buses were no longer running, or just walk home, about 3 miles away.  She did that 2 nights a week and Saturday afternoon.  The 1st semester she had 2 classes and only one this last semester.  We just received word that Asena has now officially graduated from BYU Hawaii, and they are sending her diploma to Tonga.  By the way, this very intelligent person took three classes and got three A’s.

We spent a lot of time with Asena and learned to love her and her family.  How she handled a tragic event was amazing.  In the middle of all this, her home caught fire one Sunday afternoon and burned to the ground.  She and her family have been living with her brother and family while they rebuild their home with the help of family and friends.  No insurance!  Very few people have insurance in Tonga as they simply cannot afford it. 

We have so many wonderful memories of Tonga.  We don’t dwell on the heat, humidity, poverty, bugs, and don’t worry about some of the cultural differences, or the things that can, “only happen in Tonga.”  It’s all about the people and their faith, humility and obedience.  They know how to laugh and have a good time.  Their love of music and dance is legendary.  Their love of the Lord is amazing.  As we sat in two Sacrament meetings yesterday and listened to the Saints sing hymns, I teared up over and over thinking about what those songs would have sounded like in Tonga.  Tongans just don’t sing, they sing from the heart, loud and booming.  We will miss that a lot. 

We will miss the camaraderie of serving with great senior missionaries.  We made some really wonderful friends that we will meet up with to share Tonga stories following our missions.  Maybe we will even take in a BYU football game together.

In the 26th chapter of Alma we read about Ammon and his brothers as they head home after their 14 year mission among the Lamanites.  Ammon recounts some of their successes and to his brother Aaron it sounded like boasting.  Ammon goes on to explain that he just glories in the Lord and gives all credit to Him for anything they have accomplished.  Cath and I feel the same way.  We felt the influence of the Lord all through our mission.  He was there to sustain us, to buoy us up, to bless us with health, to bring thoughts and ideas to us through the Holy Ghost to help in His work.  We truly feel blessed and fortunate to have served among these sweet loving people.  We felt the love and prayers of family and friends at home also sustaining us.  We remembered the words of blessings we received prior to our mission that also provided inspiration and hope for us. What a blessing.

Finally, ‘Ofa lahi atu

The first photo is of us at church the day before we left Tonga.  Ward members
presented us with kahoas (like leis).

The 2nd photo is of us in front of our house on the Liahona Campus.
 It was also taken the day before we left.  

Uss with our mission president and his wife.

At a dance celebrating the return of a sister missionary. 
This is a photo of one of our BYU Hawaii on-line students and her husband with
Elder Bean and me  Asena finished her last on-line class the week we
finished our mission.  She earned her bachelor's degree.  We took her
and her husband to dinner to celebrate her graduation

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why We Love Tonga


The culture of Tonga is vastly different from America in many ways.  Some things are difficult to get used to, but many things are just plain superior.  We have loved the respect the whole country shows missionaries.  Whether by member or non-member, we are treated with respect and dignity.  Being shown to the front of the line is common, and the missionaries always eat first at social events and gatherings.  When the full time missionaries are eating in a member’s home the members will often feed the missionaries and not eat their dinner until after the missionaries have gone.  At most of the stores, patrons have to check their bags on the way in, except missionaries.  When pulled over for speeding (Who knows what the speed limit is? ), and they see you are missionaries, they just say warning and waive you on.
You get things given to you for being who you are.  Shortly after getting to Tonga I mentioned in our Sunday School class that I missed our garden.  The next Sunday Mapu shows up with the most Beautiful tomatoes you’ve ever seen for us.  A non-member who owns a restaurant in Nuku’alofa feeds the missionaries for free.  You have to be careful how you compliment someone on what they wear or what they have.  If they think you really really like it, it just might be your’s the next day.  No one in this country goes hungry because they share.  If a neighbor or relative needs food, it is given willingly, no strings attached.  No one in this country has much, but they have enough.  Everyone is so friendly.  We wave and they wave.  We smile and they smile.  These are sweet loving people who understand that family comes first.  We love the people.

Missionary Preparation    
The Buzz in the Church seems to be, “Hastening the Work.”  With President Monson’s announcement of lowering the age for missionary eligibility, more and more missionaries are preparing for service around the world.  We have heard from our Stake at home about the growth of the missionary force as the, “Call is Being Heeded.”  In the last conference Elder Nelson challenged everyone to, “Catch the Wave.”  Here in Tonga they have always had a lot of missionaries serve.  Now, they have caught a tsunami!

In the Liahona Stake alone, the Stake we reside in, the average attendance at the Saturday morning Missionary Preparation class is 130.  That’s right, I said 130 young men and women preparing for service.  The class is held every Saturday morning at 5 AM.  That’s right, 5 AM.  The class doesn’t go for 6-8 weeks, it goes for 6 months as they cover the entire Preach My Gospel program.  There are 6 teachers teaching every week with groups of 20-30 in each class.  The teachers are 21-25 year old recently returned missionaries.  Most of them are our students in the programs we administer for school.  Some of our students teach mission preparation in other stakes with similar programs as well.  Liahona High School has an annual Missionary Day.  On this day held no long ago, every student comes to school dressed like a missionary.  The missionaries here in Tonga have a standard dress.  The Elders wear a tupenu(skirt or lavalava), ta’ovala(wrap), held up with a kaafa tie.  The Sisters wear a pulitaha with a ta’ovala and kaafa.  That is 1300 kids looking like missionaries with a name badge for the day.  Pretty cool. 


Tonga loves music, dancing, eating and rugby, not necessarily in that order.  The national sport is rugby.  Each school starting with the early grades up through middle and high school have teams.  Each August the season concludes with a national tournament at all levels.  The big event is the Senior High School level.  Liahona High School usually does pretty well, but it had been a long time since they had won the championship.  The season did not start well for Liahona.  They had a new coach teaching them some new things.  They won a few games and lost some games too.  They looked pretty average and not a threat to any of the good teams.  They got beaten by the better teams early in the year.  Then something happened.  The new coach decided they needed to do something different.  That “different” turned out to be the team would fast together every Saturday for unity and brotherhood.  They would break that fast with a team meal across the street from where we live on campus each Saturday evening.  Things changed pretty dramatically for this team.  They started having success as they played with heart, unity and confidence.  They wore down many teams as their stamina seemed to be superior to their opponents.  Liahona made it to the big tournament and immediately started surprising teams as they swept through the early rounds.  When they got to the semi-finals they played a team that had thumped them early in the year.  Only this time, Liahona, down at half time dominated the second half to pull away with a big win.  Sister Bean and I were able to watch that game and it was a thrill to see those guys come back and win.

The final game was against Atele, the powerhouse of the country.  Not many people gave Liahona a chance.  Sister Bean and I were committed elsewhere and could not attend the game, but we drove by the stadium to see if it was still going when we were heading home.  We drove to a place where we could see the scoreboard, and it showed Liahona ahead by 7 points.  But, we did not know how much time was left.  We could hear the crowd cheering and yelling, and then a long whistle blew.  Fans started leaving the stadium so we knew it was over and Liahona had won.  Yes, they got behind by 13 points early in the game and fought back to tie the game and have it go to overtime where they scored and Atele did not. When we got back to campus, the school was going crazy.  When the team eventually showed up they were carried onto the campus on the shoulders of the students and the celebration began.  What a day! But what would you expect with a coach whose full name is Daniel Judah Benhur Kivalu, a mountain of a man.  The next day a sign hung on the fence in front of Liahona High School.  Just two words.  Stripling Warriors

Senior Missionaries

One of the great things about serving a senior mission is being with the other senior couples.  They come with varied backgrounds of work, education, family, conversion and usually a drawer full of pills.  We all come with aches, pains, chronic this and that along with a list of surgeries, some recent.  All of them are dedicated to their assignment and to the Lord.  We have office couples, a nurse, humanitarian, education, auditors, temple, ITEP (International Teacher Education Program) and TVET (Technical, Vocational, Educational Training) missionaries here now.  We also have a dentist and his wife volunteering at the clinic on campus.  One of the temple missionaries is on her 8th mission.  We love associating with all of them.  And, one of the best things has been the lack of University of Utah fans.  We are all Cougars and Aggies.  Sweet.

The Beans featured in Newsletter

Brother and Sister Bean were featured in the August PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) newsletter which goes to all of the PEF missionaries all over the world.  It describes what PEF does and some of the things the Beans are doing!
LINK to Newsletter and Article on the Beans 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tonga, this place is great!

Timing is Everything
The first time we went to one of our Ward socials, we went at the announced time of 7 PM.  The Beans and the other senior couple in our ward at the time, the Johnsons, were the only people there.  The school cafeteria was the location and the lights weren’t even on.  We were about to leave thinking we had the wrong night or something when another couple from the Ward arrived, the Fie’eiki’s.  They assured us the social was that night and we were at the right place.  We were just a little early.  It was now 7:30.  When I asked about the announced time, they just smiled and said these things usually start a bit later than scheduled.  This particular social got started about 8:30, which is real expected start time for a 7 PM social.  All of the rest of the socials have been just fine, as we now know when they really start.

The last social was really fun.  It was supposed to have light refreshments for a potluck.  We brought some tarts and the Johnsons brought some cookies.  We found out that light refreshment means you only fill your plate twice to overflowing versus a dinner when it is three times.  They had a pig, taro, two kinds of chicken, potato salad, rolls, fish, yams, other salads, etc, with otai for the drink, a very special treat.  At one point the senior couples were asked to get up and dance the waltz to the music playing.  If there is a dinner, there is always a dance.  Anyway, after Cath and I sat down I remarked that we had actually danced the foxtrot instead of the waltz.  Sister Tonga leaned over and said, “It’s OK Elder Beans, we can’t tell the difference anyway.” We chuckled all night.  Heck, we don’t know the difference either.  

Yawning Experience
We had a sweet young woman named Talita come in to our afternoon office a while back to start her BYU Hawaii application.  She is from the island of Eua and her mother was with her.  Eua is just a short distance from this island.  The BYUH application process takes quite a bit of time and multiple visits to our office.  She was eager to get started and Sister Bean and I were assisting her.  Our office is not big, but we have a couple of comfortable chairs.  I was wondering what her mother was going to do while we worked on the computer with Talita.  Mom just sat there for a time, then, she brought out two sticks from her bag about 18 inches in length.  I thought great, she is going knit something to pass the time.  Wrong.  I looked over a minute later and she was holding the sticks across her chest and had closed her eyes.  Within a few minutes we heard snoring like a B-52 going overhead.  Talita was a bit embarrassed, but there was no waking mom.  It was a crack up.  Tongans are pretty relaxed and can sleep anytime and anyplace.  We witnessed that first hand.  Naps are common at any time of the day.  When it was time for Talita to go, mom woke up, put her sticks away and out the door she went.

Go Coconuts/Bombs Away
Tongans use every part of the coconut.  They take the husk off to expose the face of a coconut.  There are two eyes and a mouth.  The mouth is a soft spot where a hole can be punched in.  Insert a straw and enjoy the juice.  Just don’t try to put it in an eye.  After the juice is gone they take their machete and cut the coconut in half.  They then eat the white meat, or scrape it out for making otai or just coconut milk.  The shells and husk are then fed to the pigs and goats.  Coconut milk is made by taking the scraped coconut and putting it in the outer husk and squeezing and twisting the meat to get all the milk out.  The rest goes to the pigs. Unfortunately coconut trees rarely grow straight up.  Because of that some of the roads that are well travelled have coconut trees overhanging the road.  It is common to see cars with big dents in their windshields with the usual spiderwebs going all over the place from a coconut bomb hitting it.  Most of the people do slow down when they cannot see much through their coconut windshield.  We had one land about 50 feet in front of us one day.  They are very heavy.
We woke one Saturday morning a while ago to some crackling coming from our kitchen.  I got out of bed hoping it was coming from outside, but alas, it was coming from the socket by the stove.  It was smoking and smelling the place up.  I had Cath stand in the kitchen while I found the circuit breaker and turned it off.  We got a hold of the maintenance people and they sent over an electrician a couple hours later.  He pulled the cap off the electrical outlet and got a surprised look on his face.  He showed me the inside and there it was, sluggy, fried to a crisp.  A slug had crawled up into the outlet and slimed the contact points and that was the end of him.  The electrician cleaned up the socket and it works great.

Cougar Blue
One of the big events of the year for the middle and high schools is an annual track meet.  It goes for three days and the schools are out as the meet runs from morning to night.  It is held at the stadium in town and there were typically 6-7,000 people in attendance each day.  It was on TV each night and ran for weeks after the event.  Since we have an office in town we decided to stop at our lunch time and take in a little of the event.  Cath visit teaches one of the runners for Liahona High School and we were hoping to see her run.  We sat down, and there were three seats in front of us open.  In walks a guy and a friend and they sit right in front of us.  He was wearing a BYU hat, which is not totally uncommon here due to the large LDS population.  We introduced ourselves and he said he was here on business.  When we asked what type, he said football recruiting.  It was Steve Kaufusi, the defensive line coach for BYU.  He was on a long Pacific island recruiting trip and was here in Tonga to look at a few boys.  He is also from here and is the nephew of our mission President, President Tukuafu.  We talked football and it was way cool.  He is a very nice guy.  Out of 6,000 seats, he comes and sits right in front of us.  It was a treat.  We got a picture too.

Fire in the Hole, Literally
The humanitarian missionaries, Elder and Sister Webb, asked us a few weeks ago if we wanted several bottles of Wellington.  Wellington is a bathroom cleaner and we use it, but we had a couple of bottles already.  He said he had to get rid of a ton of that stuff.  It is one of the cleaners that go to the missionaries to clean their apartments and bathrooms.  He said that one set of Elders made a bomb out of Wellington and blew up their toilet.  The mission president is taking no chances and no one gets Wellington anymore.  He wouldn’t tell us who it was, but I’m betting they were sorry about that the next day when the time came.

Not Even Close
The opening of Parliament begins with a parade of schools, mostly middle and high schools.  A lot of the schools have a banner and a marching band that leads their section followed by rows and rows of students.  The parade should take about 45 minutes because the route is not long, but it took 3 hours due to delays and events in the middle of the parade having to do with the King opening Parliament, etc.  Liahona High School was one of the last schools to come through.  Sister Bean and I had just about given up but we came back to see Liahona, the Church school.  The band had new uniforms that a couple of sisters in our ward had just finished that morning and they were sharp.  All the other schools marched well and played well, but Liahona was outstanding.  The crowd went wild.  The drum major called the brass section forward and they danced while playing.  They had a cool routine that was a real crowd pleaser.  We saw it again on TV that night.  That was pretty neat.  We are pretty proud of those kids.  They practiced by marching in front of our house for weeks.  We went up to say hello to some of our students at the parade and Winnie turned around wearing a Seahawks hat.  Pretty cool.

I Need More Power Scotty
Sister Bean and I drive along the waterfront on the way to our morning office.  Not long ago we noticed a very different ship in the harbor just in front of our office.  After a couple of days I brought our binoculars so we could get a better look.  It had a big central body and then two arms sticking way out with pontoon-like apparatus attached.  It wasn’t long before we realized it was a Klingon warship.  I believe they are called Bird of Prey, or something like that.  You’ll have to ask Jeff or Krissy the real name for sure.  We feel pretty special to have had a Klingon ship here in Tonga.  Someone was trying to tell us that it was just a giant tri-maran the other day, but I know better.

The Ship Is In
The USS Pearl Harbor arrived in Tonga 10 days ago.  It is a humanitarian ship that goes from port to port visiting lesser developed countries to provide medical and dental services and give supplies.  In this case the Church donated multiple containers of school supplies for primary and middle school children.  These were offloaded and taken to selected schools around the island.  We had the privilege of being at Kolovai Government Primary School last Thursday for one of these events.  This vessel has 700 crew on board, plus some Aussies and Kiwis, and other volunteers who provide service.  We had a Sister Davies from the Yukon in Canada in our Sacrament meeting last week.  She was here volunteering.  While the medical/dental/ mental health people go to the clinics in the village and work all day helping upwards of a hundred people, Navy personnel go to the school in the village.   

There they play games with the students on their playground such as skipping rope, kicking balls, throwing the rugby ball and football, running and jumping.  At the appropriate time the principle calls them all together and they sit down.  Our humanitarian missionaries then take over.  Elder Webb speaks some Tongan, but Ana Ika the Welfare Manager is also along to interpret.  They make a nice presentation of the school kits that the Church has put together that includes paper, pencils, sharpener, eraser, scissors, ruler, all in a nice bag with straps so it can be like a back pack.  They love it and know it comes from the Church.  The people then offer gifts of thanks.  We were standing pretty tall that day.  The Church is really blessing lives here.  I even learned how to throw a rugby ball.  

At some of the bigger presentations the Navy band is there to play.  They also gave a concert Friday night in downtown Nuku’alofa that we went to for a while, and they are very good.  Rock and roll classics to Justin Bieber.  



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where's the beef?

Michael, Row Your Boat to Shore
We work in the mornings across the street from the ocean in a part of Tongatapu called Ma’ufanga Toliki.  We arrived one morning and were about to pull into our usual parking space when we noticed an Evinrude outboard motor, gas cans, oil cans, boots and old clothes right by where we park.  There is 24 hour guard service at the facility because of the computers and being a somewhat remote site.  We asked the guard what that was all about. 
Sister Wixom, the Primary General President and Sister Burton, the Relief Society General President of the Church were in Tonga for firesides and leadership training.   

There is a branch of the Church on one of the little islands north of the main island.  The only way to get to the mainland is to get in a boat and make your way there, which is a 30 minute trip in good weather.  The Branch President had loaded all his leaders in his boat and drove to the mainland, landing not far from our office.  They were picked up by other members and driven to the leadership meeting, and then spent the night with family members/friends.  Since the motor is worth about $6,000 Pa’anga( About $3,500 USD ), the Branch President hauled the motor and other stuff to the secure area of our facility so it could be watched.  A couple hours after we were at work, the process was reversed and the motor was gone.  I was impressed with those islanders.

We get three channels on our TV.  Of course this is Tonga, and two of the channels show the exact same programming, which is usually a minister preaching in Tongan.  Oral Roberts comes to mind here.  The other station shows some news on a network called CCTV, which stands for China something TV.  At least it is in English.  They show segments from around the world, but with a certain bias to their opinions.  Anyway, they cover the weather in China and then show pictures of big buildings and temples from around the world while giving the temperature there.  They go alphabetically, and when they have the temperature for Atlanta, USA, they show the Church’s Atlanta temple.  I think that is amazing.

Get Around to it
About a month ago, I noticed that the counter in our morning office, held up by brackets screwed into the wall, was coming loose.  Since we had two PC’s and a large printer on that counter, I thought it a good idea to notify the facilities management people.  I sent an email and waited for a response.  I saw the FM guy a couple of days later and said it would be good to get someone down there soon, like ASAP.  He said he’d have someone look at it the next day.  

The next day we walked into the office, and there on the floor was the counter.  The security guard had been in the building sweeping the floor when he heard a loud noise.  He rushed into the area where the counter was and just in time rescued the computer and printer by getting them on the floor before the whole counter came down.  Anyway, they re-secured the counter and got it back up that afternoon. It is so humid here that you can’t tape anything to a wall.  The wall is just wet, and the tape loses its stick so why bother.  The counter had been secured by screws in the grout.  The grout gets soft and down comes the counter.  They used bolts after that.    

Oil Change, Tonga style
We got a new car when we arrived here, a Toyota Yaris.  At 5,000 km you get your first oil change.  We called the crack FM people and asked how they wanted to handle that.  There are no Jiffy Lubes here, so I knew it would be a bit more complicated.  They said to bring it in that morning, but we were already in Ma’ufanga so we agreed upon that afternoon, Tuesday afternoon to be precise.  They would give us another pool car to use and we’d switch back as soon as the oil was changed.  The switch was made, only we got the biggest van they make.  We parked it for the night, but when we were on our way to work the next morning the gas warning light came on.  That’s right, it was almost out of gas.  Since it is 14 km to our office we had to stop and put some diesel in the van.  When we called about switching cars back that day we were told the oil change had not been done yet.  Tomorrow.

Thursday morning here comes an FM person with what we had hoped would be our car just as we are leaving our place.  Unfortunately it was not.  She said the mission needed the van today and she was bringing another car for us to use that day. “ When will our car be done,” we asked?  “Hopefully by the end of the day,” was the response.  We transferred cars and headed to work.  We hadn’t gotten very far when the gas warning light came on.  That’s right, another car out of gas.  We had to stop and put gas in that car too. And, when we called to swap cars they told us the oil had not been changed yet.   Later that night we ran into a sister from a neighboring ward who asked us if we got our car back.  We said no.  She indicated that she had been driving it and FM wanted it back that day.  So, FM took a mission car( our car) and loaned it out.  Great!

Friday morning we called FM before heading to the office in town.  They said our car would be ready by 10.  Since we could not afford to sit around for 2 hours waiting, we said we’d pick it up in the afternoon when we got back from town.  We got our car at 4 pm Friday afternoon. Quite a bit of our gas had been used. That was a Tuesday to Friday oil change, two loaner cars out of gas and a lot of phone calls.  I will never complain about Jiffy Lube taking an extra 10 minutes ever again.

Wake up please
To apply for a PEF loan it takes about 60-75 minutes on the computer with the appropriate information at hand.  But, before you can start, you need an LDS account.  If you have never had one before, it is really easy to get one.  It takes maybe 5-10 minutes online.  If you have had a PEF loan before, you have a username and password.  Before we arrived, a secretary did all the entry work for all previous students including getting their usernames and passwords.  This year, we are working with the applicants in helping them apply online.  The renewing students need their username and password to reapply.  Of course, none of the renewing students know their username or password because someone else did it for them last year.  We asked if anyone remembered any of them, and the secretary tried to come up with the information sometimes.  To put it mildly, retrieving the usernames and passwords was a nightmare.  In order to get them in the first place an email had to be attached.  Most of the students either did not have an email, or couldn’t remember it, or closed the account.  The Church will only send the information to the attached email when requested, it can take days to get both username and password as we had to get new emails and communicate that to the Church, etc.

We finally make it all the way through the renewal season.  We had threatened suicide more than once if another renewing student walked through the door.  When, in walks the secretary, with a big notebook.  She says, “Look what I found, all the usernames and passwords.”  Mom and I counted to ten, thanked her for the information and ground our teeth as she walked out of the room.  All we could do was laugh when all was said and done.  We would have loved those notebooks early on.

A Petrie Dish
To say it gets humid here is probably an understatement.  Summer runs basically December through mid-April.  It never gets over 85-87 degrees.  But, the humidity is usually over 90% and often reaches 100% making it feel much warmer.  We went through a stretch in the last week of February through the first two weeks in March where it rained every day, sometimes very hard.  I mean buckets, roads flooded, schools closed, mud and goo.  Thank goodness for air conditioning, which we used a lot.  It was like living in a Petrie dish for those 3 weeks.  For the Elders, anything in the closet that you didn’t wear much got mold growing on it.  (My suit is still at the cleaners.)  I take a few pills every day.  OK, a bunch of pills every day.  I have a pill box I fill up once a week on Monday.  By Wednesday I noticed that my multi-vitamin pill was starting to grow mold on it.  So, like so much of our stuff, that pill lives in the fridge for now.  We are starting to get a day here and there where humidity is not a big deal.  By mid-April things should moderate pretty well.  The rest of the year is really quite pleasant.  We’ve made it through the worst weather.  And, no cyclone this year!  

A rather large young man came into our office a few weeks ago.  He was looking for a church bookstore.  There used to be one in the area.  He asked where we were from and he lit up when we said Seattle.  He said his brother played for the Seahawks this last season, but was now with the Steelers.  Just then an even bigger guy came through the door.  The brother named Hebron, who played for Seattle.  He played his college ball at USC.  Said he was looking forward to playing with the Steelers as there are two LDS guys on the team, Kiesel and another guy.  He seemed like a very nice guy.  We wished him well except if they ever played the Seahawks.

We scheduled an English test for a young man who just came back from his mission in the US.  He served in the Washington Spokane Mission.  One of the visiting dentists here now is from Spokane and actually had the young man in his home for dinner a few months ago.  Anyway, he knew we were from Seattle after we visited with him the other day, so he showed up for his test wearing a Seahawks jersey.  Never mind that it was Aaron Curry’s number.  It was pretty cool.  He knocked the test out of the park by the way.  The highest score we’ve seen since being here.  The test is required for entrance to BYU Hawaii.  

Only, I mean, Only in Tonga
We were in our afternoon office one day when a friend came by to say hello.  Mom asked him if he knew about the Family History Center office located in our morning office.  Mom and Elder and Sister Webb had been in that office looking for some supplies.  When they pulled out a drawer they found some name slips that looked like they were ready for the temple.  Since that office was now closed, mom wondered if those names should be retrieved and taken to the temple.  Our friend knew the country family history director and he suggested we contact him to see what to do with the names.  We said we’d call him, but our friend suggested we just go to his house. We may have mentioned that there are no addresses in Tonga.  There are almost no street signs, and no one has a number on their house.  Directions are generally given by landmarks.     

These are the directions he gave us:
Take the road out in front of Liahona until it comes to an end and then take a right onto the road to the airport.  When you get close to Vaini, look for a large mango tree (Large mango trees are everywhere.)  There will be a horse tied to it.  That is about 150 meters before you get to the Vaini Stake Center.  If you get to the Stake Center, you have gone too far.  His house is just 2 houses up from the mango tree, next to a Chinese store.  (There are Chinese stores everywhere on this island.  They are like locusts.  They are Tonga’s version of a 7-11.) He said you will recognize the house because his first wife is buried in the front yard.  We laughed so hard we hurt.  We look for the horse every time we go through Vaini.  So far, we haven’t seen the horse, the 1st wife’s grave, or the house.  Perhaps they sold the horse.  Now we will never find the house.
Where’s the Beef?
On November 27, 2012, Bob and I returned from our morning office at 1:30 PM.  We usually have lunch at our house and then go to our afternoon office across the street.  We were just sitting at our kitchen table, polishing off the last of our peanut butter sandwiches, when we saw a few trucks hauling calves drive down the street in front of our house.  (The Church has a cattle ranch not far from our house.)  There is a very large speed bump in front of our house.  One of the trucks was going a little too fast over the speed bump and the gate on the trailer popped open.  Three young calves suddenly found themselves in a very exciting situation.  They were no longer fenced in!!!  

Two of them dutifully headed back toward the cattle ranch, but one adventurous cow didn’t want to let this opportunity pass.  He took off running down our driveway and began anxiously exploring our back yard.  Bob told me to grab the camera quickly, which I did.  I was still wearing my apron, when I ran outside to capture the excitement on film.  The young cow was having the time of his life running all over.  Elder and Sister Coles rushed out of their house and began chasing the calf.  Elder and Sister Johnston came out of their house to join the round-up. 

Remembering that the hot Tongan sun is not good for my fair skin, I quickly ran back in the house to get my hat.  I must have looked very funny wearing my apron and my baseball cap, but this kind of lunchtime aMOOsment was not to be missed!  Elder Coles grabbed a rope and tried unsuccessfully to put it around the calf’s neck. (If he had watched as many John Wayne movies and read as many Louis Lamour westerns as Elder Bean, he could have done it easily.)  It was very humorous to see Elder Coles, Elder Johnston and Elder Bean, all wearing their white shirts, ties, and missionary badges, try to capture the calf.  The young cow had no trouble outsmarting the 3 city slicker missionaries.  I’m sure the calf was laughing as he watched the would-be steer rustlers running every which way.  I got some fun photos and wrote a poem about our lunchtime excitement.
“Hey Diddle Diddle,
The cat and the fiddle.
The cows jumped out of the trailer
The missionaries laughed to see such a sight,
But their rescue attempts were a failure.”