Odds ‘n Ends

Available to Rent in Hawaii
Available to Rent in Hawaii

I don’t see these very often, but every once in a while someone shows up at the Visitors’ Center driving a true beach buggy. They are indeed available to rent. I’ve heard they’re a bit pricey, aren’t very comfortable, get lousy gas mileage, and are a boatload of fun.

I received a message from a cousin about an upcoming event. Just to show how nerdy we tend to be on my side of the family, she used an excellent description of the typical “Mormon Standard Time”. In this case the deadline was specifically set to “accommodate those running on a standard LDS deviation from the space-time continuum.” That’s just plain delicious writing!

The planned picture for today didn’t pan out. Just as I was going to take it, the skies opened up and a ten-minute deluge ensued. This is the last week of the current “transfer” in the mission. Next week on Wednesday many of the missionaries will change companions, move to new locations, and take on new assignments. New sister missionaries will be arriving from the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah. A few sisters will be coming back to the Center after serving their three-month assignment as full-time proselytizing missionaries and a few sisters will begin their three-month assignment. On Saturday evening after the Center closes at 8 pm all of the missionaries at the Center will gather in the large auditorium for the much-anticipated “Transfer News” video. That short (five minutes or so) video will outline the changes. The Coordinating Sisters (the two sister missionaries who are assigned to be the lead missionaries at the Center) spend much of the day on Saturday putting the video together. All of the sister missionaries whoop and holler, cheer and groan, and generally applaud the new assignments.

Every other transfer on the Monday and Tuesday of the week ahead of the transfer we hold a missionary “give ‘n take”. The sister missionaries bring over to our garage all the stuff from their apartment they don’t want or won’t be needing. That includes clothes they can’t wear any more (too big or too small), food items they won’t be using, and other stuff. We put it all on display on tables and ladders in the garage and the missionaries take from there anything they might use. I was planning to take a picture of the garage, but the rain caused us to have to close the door and it was too dark when the rain moved out. So, I’ll grab the picture tomorrow and it’ll be on a future blog entry.

BYU-Hawaii runs a large “Give ‘n Take” operation over by the student housing. Students and the community drop off stuff they don’t need or want and the students can “shop” for items they need. Periodically the staff culls through the stuff and disposes of things that no one will ever want. So, that’s where our missionary “give ‘n take” stuff goes tomorrow afternoon. Right now there’s quite a pile of stuff in the garage. Perhaps there’s a good home for it somewhere else. That’d be nice!

Yesterday (Monday) was one of the slowest mornings we’ve had since we arrived. By 2:30 pm we’d only had 50 guests and forty of those had come in after 1pm. Mondays are, as a rule, the slowest day of the week. Tuesday are usually fairly slow in the morning as well. Today was the blow-out exception. We were busy with fifteen to twenty visitors constantly at the Center the entire morning. Some were local. We had a number of visitors from the mainland, including Utah, Arizona, Illinois, Virginia, and California. We had people from New Zealand and England. Since the sister missionaries have their preparation day on either Monday or Tuesday (half on Monday, half on Tuesday), we only have one set of sister missionaries working with us at the Center on Monday and Tuesday morning. We were all very busy and before we knew it, the shift was over…. Except for the mouse. The sister missionaries have a room in the Center (called the Guide Room) where they have little cubby holes for their things, where they can change into our out of the muumuus they wear while on shift, and where they eat their lunch or dinner. Just as the shift was ending a number of missionaries were in the Guide Room getting ready for the afternoon shift when a mouse came out of a cupboard and dropped into the sink, then scampered away. I’m sure you can imagine the screams and commotion! Traps and bait have supposedly been put in place this afternoon.

Today was loud….

Three Months!

Skyping
Skyping!

Today is the three-month mark of our mission here in Hawaii. Two immediate thoughts: (1) the time has gone by very quickly and (2) it seems like we’ve been here forever. I don’t know how that works in the brain, but that’s definitely how I feel. We arrived in Laie a little after 6pm on March 19th and have been going pretty much non-stop since then. The whole thing will be over before I know it, I’m sure!

Yesterday for our Preparation Day we didn’t need to go anywhere. The furthest away from our home I went was to the trash can outside the garage. Nina set up with most of our kids a schedule for us to either Skype or Facetime with them. That was a great afternoon. We were able to catch up on  lot of family news and the best part was being able to actually see people as we talked with them. We’ll be trying to do this a lot more often. It may not work to do it once a week, but a couple of times a month would be wonderful. We pretty much need to do these calls on our Preparation Day in order to get them all done in one day.

Tile is Being Put Down
Tile is Being Put Down

Earlier this week I had a crown break off while eating a chocolate chip cookie (it was almost sacreligious). This morning I drove an hour south to Kailua to a dentist who did some drilling to put in a post and cemented the tooth back in place in the lower left jaw. I got back to the Center just in time for the weekly 10:30am Story Hour put on by the sister missionaries for the local two-to-five year olds. It’s called Story Hour but actually only goes for about a half an hour. While that is going on in the front foyer in front of the Christus statue, I usually hang out in the back area to visit with guests who come in and aren’t interested in Story Hour. A lot of parents come to Story Hour with their kids and the sister missionaries have a great time acting out various stories from the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

All the preparation work is finally finished and the work crew started putting the new tile down in the fountain. One of the fellows told me that it would take about three weeks to complete the work. After they left I looked around the dumpster and found a small strip of the tile being put down.

Front and Back of the Tile
Front and Back of the Tile

I took a picture of the front and the back of the small strip of tile. It is normally in a block one foot by one foot in size. Since they had tossed this little strip away, we’ll probably use it for a coaster or something at the house. It’ll be very nice to have the fountain finished and working again!

Life is cool (it’s 73° and 78% humidity with a breeze out of the ENE at 5mph. Very pleasant).

 

How Diverse Can One Day Be?

Temple Corner
Temple Corner

When we say that we get people from all over the world at the Visitors’ Center, today was certainly an example of that (for more on one specific group, see Nina’s blog). While it wasn’t a particularly busy day at the Center (it rained quite hard for a couple of hours this morning), we had people come in from the Marshall Islands, Germany, Korea, mainland China, Philippines, Venezuela, and of course, the US. I talked with a couple from Virginia and, as they left, turned to meet with another family from, of course, Virginia.

One of the women visiting was deaf and Nina spent about an hour conversing with her on little slips of paper that they passed back and forth, kind of like back in High School!  Nina’s started keeping a little book on all the unusual (to us, at least) places that people come from to visit the Center.

There are several different areas in the Center, each with a name. The front area where the Christus statue stands is called The Christus. Behind that is the Book of Mormon room. To the right is Prophets Corner and beyond that is Family History. On the left is the Temple Corner and beyond that God’s Plan. These short names help us to make assignments and guide people on tours through the Center.

The Temple Corner is lined with pictures on each side leading to a large plate-glass window looking out at the Temple. One of the senior couples is assigned to wash the window once a week. It has a nice view and we don’t want it obscured! When we’re in the Temple Corner with people we talk about the Temple, why we have temples, and what we do with temples. Since the general public isn’t allowed in the Temple, we get a lot of questions about the temple and what we do with them since we don’t have worship services in the temple.

Yesterday we were at the Polynesian Cultural Center again for our weekly opportunity to volunteer there and then have dinner without having to cook or do dishes. This time we were assigned to the Hale Ohana luau with me at the back exit to the restrooms and Nina up front with a clicker to count the number of people coming in. My job is to direct people to the restroom (it’s not hard to find), or to the smoking area (a bit harder to find) and to keep people from coming in from that direction. Occasionally people come in because they don’t know where the entrance is. Nina’s job is to count the number of people coming in and record the count every five minutes. Someone from the ticket office comes over with an expected count of the number of guests based on the tickets sold up to that point. Yesterday the expected ticket count was 402. I think we ended up with about 417 when all was said and done. Some people buy a general admission ticket and then later decide to add a luau to their general admission. They’ll make that decision just about the time the luaus start (4:45pm) when they realize they’re hungry and the main evening show doesn’t start until 7:30 pm.

Being at the exit is my least favorite assignment, but I do get to sit down for most of the time we’re there and I do get to talk to some people. Yesterday there was a family seated close to the exit with a very rambunctious two-year-old boy. He had a very hard time sitting down and, of course, the parents were interested in eating and watching the show. The boy came over by where I was to play in the rocks and dirt alongside the venue. He was having a great time, doing absolutely no damage, when his mother realized what he was doing and I thought she was going to die from embarrassment. He was just re-arranging the rocks! No problem, as far as I was concerned. Fortunately, she didn’t scold the boy (she was too busy apologizing, I think). About ten minutes later, he was back…. We had fun!

Life is very pleasant!

Fifty-one Years and a Day!

Roland and Nina
Roland and Nina

My mother and dad celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary while they were serving their third mission at the Manila Philippines Temple. They got their start on doing missions earlier than we did. Dad retired from Monsanto the day he became eligible, I waited to make up for the debacle at AMI Semiconductor and was having a delightful time working with the big supercomputers at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Yesterday was our fiftieth wedding anniversary. We were working at the Visitors’ Center during the afternoon and while we were there, some of the sister missionaries decorated the door to our house. We sure do enjoy these missionaries!

Today was our Preparation Day and we spent most of it down south. I had an appointment for an oil change for the car in Kanaohe at 8am (it’s an hour south of here). After that we went to Whole Foods in Kailua then to the Ala Moana Mall area. I dropped Nina off at Walmart while I went to the Apple Store for an appointment to try and figure out why my iPhone and iPad suddenly will no longer backup to iTunes. We spent an hour trying several things and did get one successful backup. They’ve given me three other things to try as this is pretty much a previously unknown issue and may well be a misbehaving application.

After that I picked Nina up and we stopped at Costco for the monthly big-grocery purchase and then back home. We left at 7am this morning and got back at 4:30 this afternoon.

We had a set of sister missionaries over for dinner and enjoyed the conversation with them. One is from the Chicago area and grew up speaking Korean. The other is from Tokyo, Japan. Both are diligent, obedient missionaries and I enjoyed getting to know them a little better. So, now everything is cleaned up and ready for tomorrow. I’m substitute teaching the 16-17 year olds in Sunday School, so I have some things to print off for them and then I’m ready for bed. It’s been a very nice day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s “day of rest”!

Life is eternal!

All Work and No Play….

Guarding the Exit
Guarding the Exit

Not to suggest in any way that what we’re doing here in Hawaii can be construed as “work”, such as what my favorite brother does out in the deserts of Wyoming. His Fitbit steps count every day is rather remarkable. But, what I can report is that we’ve been at the Visitors’ Center every day since May 28th. Our next day off will be the day after tomorrow (June 13th). This fifteen-days-in-a-row was voluntary. One of the senior missionary couples here has family visiting from the mainland so we’ve worked a couple of shifts for them so they could spend more time with their family.

Sadly, however, we learned on Sunday morning that the senior missionaries we replaced had both contracted serious infections. Br. Rose’s infection turned septic and he passed away. They’d only been home a couple of months. Since almost all of the sister missionaries here had served with Elder and Sister Rose, his passing has been difficult for them. While we didn’t know the Rose’s at all (we had a couple of phone conversations with them and a twenty-minute face-to-face greeting when we arrived), we were also quite saddened with his death. Life can be very fleeting!

For our volunteer assignments at the Polynesian Cultural Center Nina and I wear matching clothes; my shirt and her muumuu. The picture above is of us at the Island Buffet exit on Monday, June 8th. All of the workers and volunteers wear similar shirts and muumuus which makes it easy for the guests to tell who is a worker and who isn’t. The Island Buffet is the largest dinner meal venue with seating for around 1,500 people. On that evening about 600 people were expected for dinner, so the area around where we were seated wasn’t needed.

Our job was to keep people from trying to sneak in from the exit (no one even looked remotely like they were trying to sneak in) and to guide people who might be lost (didn’t happen, either). Essentially, we had two hours to just sit and chat with each other. We are asked not to use our cell phones or smart devices while we’re on duty and we try hard to be obedient. We were in the shade, there was a slight breeze, and it was a very comfortable afternoon from 4:30 until 6:30pm. Afterwards we met up with the other senior missionary volunteers for dinner at Prime Dining, another of the food venues at the PCC.

Monday evenings are also the Senior Missionary Family Home Evenings. When we’re on our current schedule we work at the Center on Monday mornings and can attend FHE. On Sunday, June 28th, our schedules swap with Elder and Sister Jensen and they will be able to attend FHE while we’re at the Center. This week’s FHE program was by one of the senior missionary sisters who has compiled three books in a series titled “The Transfer”. These are stories about missionaries who were killed or seriously injured while on their mission. She talked about how in the early days of missionary work the main causes of death were sickness (flu and small pox being prevalent) and shipwrecks. With the advances in medicine and transportation, the leading cause of death today for missionaries are automobile accidents. The Church does a lot of training and retraining for missionaries with driving privileges to reduce as far as possible the number of automobile accidents. There was one a couple of weeks ago here in Hawaii that totaled a missionary car (both missionaries came out with just minor bruises) when a chicken ran out into the road and the driver tried (unsuccessfully) to miss the chicken, caught the edge of the road, and rolled the car over on its top.

Shaka Steel and Brass Ensemble Summer Concert
Shaka Steel and Brass Ensemble Summer Concert
One of the benefits of living around a University is the variety of activities available. BYU-H has an excellent music department with programs in music performance as well as composition. Last Tuesday was the Brass Ensemble and the Shaka Steel summer concerts. These two groups do their fall, spring, and summer concerts together. The concert was held outside next to the Cannon Activity Center. A pretty nice crowd gathered on a delightful evening. The music was well performed (much of it was arranged by members of the two bands) and the weather more than cooperated.

Tomorrow we’ll be married for fifty-one years. Definitely doesn’t seem that long, but on the other hand, it feels like we’ve always been married to each other. I love my wife Nina and am blessed beyond belief to have her in my life.

Life is delightful today.

Some Random Updates

Clear View of the Mountains
Clear View of the Mountains

Most of the time the clouds obscure the mountains to the west of us. The winds come off the ocean from an easterly direction and the updraft over the mountains causes the clouds to accumulate there and to drop a lot of rain. Every once in a while we get a pretty clear day with lower than normal humidity and the mountains are clearly visible. The island of Oahu is a fairly young island geologically speaking, evidenced by the sharpness and jaggedness of the mountains.

There are always clouds in the sky. I’ve asked a number of locals if there is ever a cloud-free sky and they are unanimous: never. There are a lot of rain showers, but so far in the time we’ve been here, I haven’t seen any lightning nor heard any thunder. It’s just possible that Hawaii doesn’t get thunderstorms??


Replacing the Tile
Replacing the Tile
I’ve talked earlier about the work going on to replace the tile in the fountain pool in front of the Visitors’ Center. The process to get the old tile out was very arduous and took a full week, finally finished yesterday morning. Today they spent the day grinding away the old grouting and smoothing out the surface. I don’t know the full story about the tile problem. The fountain and associated pool are brand new. The pool was filled with water and the fountains started up on March 20th, the day after we arrived here. But there was something wrong with the tile, probably several somethings, so it’s being done over again. The supervisor told me that the process to replace the tile and get the fountain back in operation will take at least six weeks.

Having the fountain under construction changes the entire dynamics for the visitors coming to the center. When the fountains were working, the most popular spot to take pictures was in front of the fountains followed by in front of the huge sign for the Temple. Now most pictures are taken on the other side of the construction area with the Temple in the background. It’s a bit further to walk and some people don’t want to walk that far so they don’t take a picture.

The Aloha Luau Setup
The Aloha Luau Setup
Monday afternoon after our shift at the Visitors’ Center, Nina and I had an assignment to be at the Hale Aloha Luaua exit. Our job was to help direct people to the entrance, keep people from trying to “sneak in”, and to direct people to the bathrooms and the smoking area. There actually isn’t much to do on this assignment.

This is the largest of the luau venues. I think it can seat more than 600 people for dinner. This venue used to be where the night show was put on. A few years ago the Pacific Theater was built for the night show and this place was converted into a luau. One important part of the luau is a show featuring dances and songs from the various Polynesian cultures. The stage for the show is to the right side of the picture. Prime seating (along with the prime price) is front and center. That area was full, as were almost all of the tables. Across the “river” from the stage was the “imu” where the pig was roasted. At the beginning of the luau the pig is pulled out of the ground and with great ceremony brought across the bridge into the luau where the chef slices it up and the guests can have a piece of the roast pig.

We were able to watch the entire show from where we were sitting, which is where I took this picture. The show was a lot of fun and featured a very young boy doing the fire knife dance. He was very good and very entertaining.

Buffet Dinner
Buffet Dinner
The meal is served buffet style. There were eight buffet lines set up and tables were called up eight at a time starting from the front and working to the back. The roast pig station and the dessert stations were in the middle. The lines moved through quite quickly. It was clear to me that the folks running the food service knew what they were doing and had the whole thing down to a science.

There were three luaus on Monday evening, the Hale Aloha (where we were), the Hale Ohana, and the Hale Ku’ai. All together I think they can seat at least a thousand people for the luaus and another two thousand at the Island Buffet and the Prime Dining Buffet (neither of these have a luau show). After our assignment at the luau, which ends at about 6:30pm, we join up with the other missionary volunteers at Prime Dining to have a free dinner. That means Nina doesn’t have to do any cooking and we don’t have any dishes to do on those evenings, a very nice benefit.

Nina Through the Foliage
Nina Through the Foliage
The Hale Aloha has two ways out to go to the restroom or take a smoke break. Nina sat at one of the exits and I sat at the other. I have a shirt that matches her muumuu… .

Life is quite tired tonight!

What a Busy Monday!

Waiting for the Mail
Waiting for the Mail

I drove back to the house the other day as the mailman was coming up the street. I then noticed a number of our sister missionaries standing out by the mailboxes. I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car just as the mailman drove up. Some of the missionaries were very excited, a couple were quite disappointed. I’m sure it had to do with whether or not the mailman put something for them in their box. All of these sisters had been or were going to be serving at the Visitors’ Center as they’re dressed the the obligatory muumuu. They are so much fun and have so confounded much energy!

Today started early with the training meeting at 7:30 this morning. This is also the morning when we celebrate birthdays for any of the missionaries having a birthday during the month of June. Nina has the assignment to prepare the treat for the birthday party. That means we need to be there well before the training meeting starts to get things set up. The party happens after the training meeting. It was also the morning when we took the “transfer picture”. All of the missionaries at the center pose for a group picture. During the coming month one missionary will go back home to Korea. On July 3rd transfers will happen and companionships will change, new missionaries will arrive, some will come back after serving a term as a proselytizing missionary and others will go out for their three-month assignment away from the Center. Then we’ll take another picture for the next transfer.

After the training meeting the three senior couples at the Center had another (what was supposed to be a) short meeting to plan out some training that we’ll be presenting in two weeks. It was after 11am when we finally finished with meetings actually started our shift at the Center. The sister missionaries cover for us when we have these meetings, but on Monday mornings we only have one set of sister missionaries so they get pretty busy when Nina and I aren’t there to help out.

We finished up our shift at 2:30 and came home for an hour and a half (both of us took a short nap) and then left at 4:15pm for our assignment at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This afternoon our assignment was at the Aloha Luau exit. The task was to help people get around to the front exit (or to the right dining venue based on their ticket) and to check people out and back in who leave to go to the restroom or to take a smoke break. The exit assignment is nice as we can also watch the luau show. It’s a fairly boring assignment otherwise, but someone has to do it every night.

Monday night is also Senior Family Home Evening at 7:15pm in the Heber J. Grant building on campus. Our Aloha exit assignment ended at 6:30pm. After that we went over to Prime Dining to have dinner and then went to the Grant building for FHE, to be there by 7:10pm if possible. Tonight’s FHE program was presented by Sister Jones who has done several humanitarian assignments with various non-governmental organizations. She told stories about some of the people she has been able to serve on these NGO  assignments in India and Peru. The meeting was very well attended, and rightly so as it was a very uplifting presentation.

So it’s now after 9pm and were just back in our home with a few minutes before we crash (head to bed) so we can do much of this all over again tomorrow. It’s been a very good day.

Life is quite sanguine….

Ordered a Replacement Social Security Card

Table Set for Dinner
Table Set for Dinner

I left my social security card back in the US in the “important papers” box. We can’t remember where we actually left that box! Did we leave it with our friends in Pocatello? Did I put it on the shelf in the guest bedroom at Heather’s in North Salt Lake, or is it downstairs in that house? Perhaps it’s in the safe in the storage unit. Obviously it’s in a Very Safe Place. However, in order to get a Hawaiian Residence Card (good for lots of discounts) and to get a BYU-Hawaii id card, I have to have my social security card. So today I bit the bullet and drove to Honolulu to the Federal Building to apply for a replacement card.

The office opens at 8:30am. Google said I’d need an hour to get there, so I left at 7:30am this morning which turned out to be about an hour later than I should have left. The rush hour traffic into Honolulu was absurd. I finally got to the building about 8:45am but there was no public parking anywhere around the building. There is a huge parking lot around the building, but nothing for the public. I circled three times trying different side streets until I found a parking garage three blocks away on a side street.

When I arrived back at the building at about 9:30am I got into a line of a dozen people or so waiting to go through the front door and through security. The security guard at the door first checked your ID and then let one person at a time through the door. After emptying pockets and putting that plus shoes through the luggage scanner I walked through the x-ray scanner and, of course, the suspenders and the titanium knees set off the alarms. That meant a hand scan. It was only when all that was done and I had collected my stuff that the next person was allowed through the door. Two hours later after I finished my task at the social security office the line to go through security was more than fifty people long. Absolutely absurd … our government working for us (not).

When I got to the social security office and checked in, I waited for an hour and a half until my number was called. Two minutes later the replacement card was on order. I had to show my passport as identification and turn in the form. The card will arrive in the mail in about ten days. He didn’t say “business days”, but I suspect that’s what was implied.

Because I was already down that direction, I drove over to Costco and filled up with gasoline ($2.729 a gallon versus $3.289 up near home), picked up a loaf of bread, bought a hot dog, and drove home. I arrived back home at 1:15pm, five hours and forty-five minutes after leaving this morning. It doesn’t seem like I got a lot accomplished for the amount of time spent….

We had a pair of sister missionaries over for dinner this evening. These two came out from Utah but are Tongan and do a lot of work with the Tongan community when they’re not at the Visitors’ Center. They are both top notch missionaries and it was delightful to get to know them a little bit better.

Preparation Day is over. It’s time to go to bed and get some sleep. We’re working the afternoon shift tomorrow and Saturday. I wonder how much tile still remains to be chipped off in the fountain pool?

Life is somewhat drowsy….