Nina and I have approximately 224 days left on our mission to the
Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors' Center! That translates to approximately 7.35 months.
There are 179 days until Christmas, which translates to 5.87 months. Enjoy!
Ham Radio Field Day occurs the last full weekend in June every year. This is one of the hobby’s best liked events and ham radio clubs and operators take their equipment to the field, set up in a temporary location, and attempt to get as many contacts with other ham radio operators around the world as possible.
Last year in June the Honolulu ham radio club held their field day activities over on the western side of the island and I wasn’t able to get over there. This year the event was held at a regional park on the ocean a few miles south of Laie. Even better, I had a few hours in the morning this morning available, so I drove down and “played radio” for a couple of hours.
The club had set up two ham radio stations. One was operating CW (that is, morse code) and the other operating single sideband (that is, voice). Several antennas were set up along the seashore pointing generally northeast to southwest (towards North America on the northeast and towards southern Asia to the southwest). The CW (that stands for ‘continuous wave’, meaning it is just sending a tone. Single sideband, or voice, sends a modulated signal so that the voice can be extracted from it by the receiving station) station was connected to an amplifier running several hundred watts of transmitted power. The voice station’s amplifier was broken, so it was running “barefoot” … putting out one hundred watts of power. There was a LOT of static and band conditions were generally pretty poor, but I was able to make several contacts in the few minutes I was able to sit at the transmitter behind the microphone. Being setup on the seashore beside a huge body of salt water is a major benefit to radio transmitters. Even with a small amount of power, the location helps the antennas to be much more efficient.
I then assisted putting up the last of the antennas, a trapped dipole set to work in an inverted V configuration tuned for the 75/80 meter band. Thats a lot of words describing a wire hung on a pole about 40′ in the air with either end stretching down to the ground at about a 45° angle. The radio that would be using this antenna hadn’t arrived, yet.
While I was there, the other missionary ham radio operator here in Laie, Paul Crookston KB7ZIH and his wife stopped by the field day location. He had been the radio operator on the Iosepa double-hulled canoe that I’ve written about previously, the one that I reported as having capsized. Paul clarified that it wasn’t the Iosepa that capsized, it was the pilot boat! It wasn’t anchored properly, was very tail heavy, and just before midnight last Saturday night, it flipped over. The Iosepa weathered the seas just fine … the modern-technology boat didn’t. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere….
I’ve mentioned previously the Mainland Chinese tourist phenomenon that started a couple of months ago and continues non-abated. I’m not sure what the traveling times are for the Chinese. For instance, we will see the most Europeans during July and August when Continental Europe pretty much shuts down while people take 3 to 4 week vacations. We see a lot of Koreans around the Lunar New Year and the Japanese during the January new year.
The male senior missionary goes out to every tour bus that stops at the Visitors’ Center to meet the driver and/or the tour guide, to thank them for coming, answer any questions, and get a passenger count. That seems to have had the desired effect in that we’re coming to know the drivers / tour guides, they’re getting to know us a little better, and are willing to turn their passengers over to us for a longer period of time. Some of the tour guides are starting to bring their passengers into the Visitors’ Center rather than sitting in the bus reading Facebook, or sleeping, or smoking.
What I’ve learned is that these tourists have arrived the previous evening and are flying onward this evening. They may be on their way back home having flown in from San Francisco last night and going on to Beijing tonight, or are just starting their vacation having flown in from Beijing last night and going onward to San Francisco later this evening. They have one night and one day in Oahu. Their tour company has already booked those that are interested onto a around-the-island all-day tour. Others may book a different tour. The ones that come here on the around-the-island tour have started their tour at Pearl Harbor for a very abbreviated stay and then make six or seven stops, returning to their hotel about 5pm in the evening. Depending on which route they take (that is, clockwise or counter-clockwise), the size of the tour (meaning how big the bus or van is), and which variation of the tour they want (there seems to be three different variations of places they stop on the tour) the tour group will arrive at the Visitors’ Center in the late morning or in the mid-afternoon. A few come around 10am. Most are from 2-4pm. I haven’t seen any later than 4pm as it’s an hour from here back to their hotel in Waikiki.
In any regard, we’re very happy to have them stop. We’re also starting to get other tour companies that aren’t Chinese-specific to stop. Today we had a small group of Germans and another slightly larger group from France stop on their around-the-island tours.
The kidney stone issue seems to be behind me. The intravenous contrast agent used during the CAT scan has an impact on my kidney function, so my doctor ordered a blood workup last Wednesday. The results came back today and the agent did have an impact, but not serious. My kidney function is down around 50% and was improving until the issue with kidney stones. Hopefully we can regain that ground. I’m still waiting for the lab analysis of the three kidney stones. All I know right now is I don’t want to do that again! A heavy dose of ibuprofen knocked down the pain followed by an oxycodone pill to make life bearable. I’ll hang onto some of that for a while “just in case”.
In addition to our normal shifts at the Visitors’ Center, we now have added work with the Laie Tram Tour. Two nights a week Nina and I go over to the PCC between 6 and 7pm to coordinate the couple-hundred people who want to take the tour. The other two senior couples also go over two nights a week. On the two evenings that we are on shift at the Visitors’ Center, I spend the time from 6:30pm to 7:10pm out front helping coordinate the loading and unloading of the trams and busses. During most of the afternoon one tram makes the circuit every twenty minutes. However, the demand is large enough at 6pm that we usually need two trams. At 6:20pm and 6:40pm, the last two tours of the day, we need two trams and two twenty-five passenger busses (and still turn folks away). Those last two times means juggling four big vehicles in very small spaces, both at the PCC and in front of the Visitors’ Center.
When I’m out front at the Visitors’ Center, I like to visit with the people waiting for the trams/busses to come back. I ask them about their day, what they thought of the PCC, how was their visit to the Temple Visitors’ Center, and did they have any questions. I’ll usually talk to fifteen or twenty people with more than just “Aloha!”.
On Tuesday evening, a young couple (picture to the left) were waiting for the tram. They were having a great time on an around-the-world tour. While they weren’t interested much in religion, they were glad they had stopped, but both of them had no more battery power so they couldn’t take any pictures. She was particularly dismayed because they were in such a beautiful place. So, I offered to take their picture and email it to them. I took the picture, he entered the email address, and away the picture went. I told them about the France temple that’s under construction and encouraged them to watch the news in a a couple of years for the open house. This morning I got a very brief email back: “Merci … we had a great visit. You are very kind. We will watch for your new temple.” Now that I have a verified email address, I’ll be sure to let them know when the temple is completed and the open house starts. Maybe we can go to France and go with them??? Miracles can happen!
Sunday morning I woke up about 2:30am with a significant pain in my lower gut. I got up and walked around which had no affect on the pain. It definitely wasn’t anything associated with the GI tract. I thought maybe it might be appendicitis since I haven’t had that out, yet, but it symptoms didn’t match what the Internet said about that pain, either. The pain was getting worse and about 4:15am Nina woke up to begin her day.
We talked about it for a bit and decided to go to the emergency room at the Kahuku Medical Center. The hospital is about ten minutes at the most from here and is the closest hospital. We got to the ER about 5am and by that time I was in excruciating pain.
It took a bit, but they finally did get the pain under control. A couple of CAT scans later along with blood tests and urine tests, they determined that the problem was a kidney stone. They sent me home with pain killers, nausea medication, and a pill to help the urine flow. They gave me some screening material, a paper funnel with a very fine screen at the bottom, into which I was to urinate so as to catch the kidney stone when it finally passed.
A couple of hours later, a tiny stone showed up in the screen. I didn’t need any of the medications, just the screen.
As we were wrapping up at the ER, Dr. Bamber told me that I now had an inkling of an idea of how painful child birth is. Thanks, Doc! I don’t want to do that again. I’ve captured the stone and will take it to my primary care doctor Sandi Uchida at the VA Medical Center on Wednesday when I have an appointment with her. The lab can apparently analyze it and determine if any lifestyle changes are warranted.
It’s still amazing to me that a kidney stone the size of a grain of sand could cause that much pain.
UPDATE! I wrote this earlier today before we went to the Visitors’ Center for our afternoon shift. Around 3pm while we were there, the pain returned. I took four aspirin and the pain subsided somewhat. Next bathroom trip yielded two more small grains. There might still be more to be delivered.
I talked previously about the Iosepa double-hulled canoe that was recently launched for it’s summer tour. It’s back in the harbor having capsized over night. I’ve no other details at the moment. The seas are pretty rough at the moment with strong westerly winds. As far as I understand, no one was hurt in the capsize.
A few years ago when I finally got back into Amateur Radio and regained my license, I met Glen Powell, the head of the local Amateur Radio Emergency Services club (he was at that time also a firefighter / battalion chief at the Pocatello Fire Department. He’s since been promoted to be in charge of code enforcement). Emergency preparedness has been an interest for many years and ham radio plays an important part. Since that time, Glen and his wife Joni have become delightful friends.
When Nina and I received our mission call to the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center, Glen promised that he and Joni would pay us a visit. True to his word, they flew into Honolulu last Saturday and came up to Laie yesterday (Wednesday). We spent the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center and had a grand time.
We were able to spend time at five of the PCC Island: Tonga, Samoa, Aeotera (New Zealand), Tahiti, and Fiji. We watched the canoe pageant, went to the Hawaii Journey movie, ate dinner at Island Buffet, and closed out the day at the Night Show, Ha, The Breath of Life. Among all of that we visited, talked, laughed, and generally caught up on our lives over the past couple of years. You know when you’re spending time with good friends when conversations just flow as though we’ve been together the whole time. Thanks, Glen and Joni, for coming by and helping us have a truly refreshing Preparation Day! It was over way too quickly.
The other excitement going on right now is the biannual launch of the Iosepa. This is a double-hulled canoe built as a replica of the great canoes that the Polynesians used to sail across the huge expanses of the south Pacific Ocean. The canoe is stored at the Polynesian Cultural Center in between sailings. Besides being a tourist attraction, it is used to teach BYU-Hawaii students the navigation techniques used anciently to navigate by the stars, the sun, and the moon. Because it launches only every couple of years, getting it to the water and actually launched is quite a process. The picture to the left is the boat positioned at the top of the beach waiting to be dragged down to the water.
From that position, a large track-driven backhoe shoved the trailer carrying the Iosepa down to the water’s edge. Then a line was taken out to a pilot boat which pulled, helped along by a gazillion people, the boat into the water. The picture to the right is the Iosepa in the Hukilau Beach cove ready to sail as soon as the weather improves. It is very windy today with very high waves out beyond the coral reefs.
As I was walking around the beach early Wednesday morning, the day the Iosepa was to be put into the water, I saw an older woman pull up a chair and sit down with a drum. Every few minutes she’d beat out a rhythm on the drum and chant something in some Polynesian language. I took the picture to the left and continued my explorations. As I was leaving to go back home (to meet up with Glen and Joni), I walked past her and she beckoned my to come over. I did and asked her if she was there to bless the launch. That she was, she told me, but she needed a man to stand beside her. The beating of the drum was a call for a warrior to come and stand beside her. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to take the time. So, I’ll just keep a memory of being a symbolic representation of a warrior for a few fleeting moments.
Meanwhile, the Iosepa is planned to set sail tomorrow and the navigation training begins. Good Luck and Safe Voyages!
Nina and I were married in New Haven, Connecticut on June 12, 1964, some 52 years ago. We “celebrated” our anniversary yesterday by having a very busy Sunday. The day included going to Church in the morning and serving at the Visitors’ Center in the afternoon with time to take a Very Short Nap in between. The absolute highlight of the day was a fireside at the Visitors’ Center featuring the BYU-Hawaii Choral. That group is leaving for a tour of Japan this week and were kind enough to provide an hour-long fireside as their last performance before getting on the airplane. Dr. Michael Belnap is the director / arranger and my goodness does he have a talent!
They closed the presentation with a stunning arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” The choir was arranged around the feet of the Christus statue that we have in the rotunda with people crammed into every nook and cranny. The rotunda has magnificent acoustics which really complemented the choir. They ended with a very long standing ovation. This group will be a great representative of the University.
By the end of the day when we finally collapsed into bed we had had a record attendance day at the Visitors’ Center and we were both bone tired and needing to be up and moving by 5:30am this morning. So that’s how our 52nd year of marriage ended.
Today is day one of the next year. It started with a training meeting at 7:30am this morning which consisted mainly of going on the Laie Tram Tour route in a tram and reviewing the dialog along the way. The purpose of the tram tour is to bring people to the Temple grounds and to the Visitors’ Center and expose them to the Church’s teachings and doctrine. The purpose of the dialog is to transition the tram guests from the holiday atmosphere at the Polynesian Cultural Center to the sacred nature of the Temple and the surrounding grounds. It is very helpful to get all the sister missionaries together from time to time to review the tour and the dialog and correct any bad practices.
After that meeting, I helped Elder Swinton, the Visitors’ Center Director, take the dead battery out of his car, get a replacement, and get that installed. One of the wire connections to the battery was corroded so badly that it just fell apart as we took it off the battery, so the installation required putting together a replacement capability … a lot of cutting, grinding, and splicing. It all worked out in the end.
We then had a great Skype call with our oldest son in Kentucky, a nice lunch, and back to the Visitors’ Center. Our day at the Center is coming to an end. The doors are closed and locked. Nina and I are sitting in the back waiting for the last of the sister missionaries to complete their work on the computers. They’ll wrap up in the next fifteen or twenty minutes and then we’ll be headed home. It has been another 900+ visitors day at the Visitors’ Center. While not a record, it’s still a very large number and included around 350 Chinese-speaking tourists coming on a dozen tour busses this afternoon. It’s been a good start to a new year!
As we were taking tickets at the Hale Ohana Luau yesterday, a big procession started coming by which included the King and Queen of Tonga along with a number of their retineu. Nina used my iPhone to take a few pictures. Unfortunately, it was later in the day and there wasn’t a goodly amount of light so everything is pretty dark.
Later we were talking with the Visitors’ Center Director’s wife, Heidi Swinton, who expressed my thinking exactly: He didn’t look like how I picture a King. There was no crown, for instance. Nevertheless, he was there in person and the Polynesian Cultural Center was certainly very happy to have him and his entourage at the facility. I’ve now been in the near presence of the King and Queen of Tonga yesterday as well as the Queen of Denmark back in June, 2007. We had just arrived in Denmark to take a cruise up the Norwegian coast and spent part of Sunday afternoon at the Tivoli Gardens in downtown Copenhagen. While we were there, the Queen of Denmark came into the Gardens to attend a function. While I couldn’t get a picture of the Queen, I did get a picture of a number of women enthralled at the opportunity to get a glimpse of the Queen. So those are my two encounters with royalty.
Today has been a Very Long Day! Nina’s heading for bed and I won’t be far behind her. All of the sister missionaries went to Honolulu today for a special meeting with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve (we had a very special meeting with him yesterday). We opened the Visitors’ Center at 9am and were there until 5:30pm. We were the only missionaries there until about noon when Elder and Sister Andrus came over early for their shift which would normally start at 2:30pm. That gave us four missionaries there for the afternoon until the sister missionaries returned from Honolulu about 5:30pm. During the afternoon we had seven or eight (I lost count) Chinese tourist busses come to the Visitors’ Center. At one time I had counted 165 total Chinese visitors and at least two more bus loads came after that.
I used Google Translate to make up a little sign that said, “Welcome to the Visitors’ Center. You’re welcome to come inside. You may take pictures everywhere, both inside and outside. There are free religious materials inside. The restrooms are available inside.” I printed that out on a piece of paper and as the people came off the busses, I would hold the sign so they could read. That worked well enough that most of them at least came onto the Temple grounds and many of them made their way into the Visitors’ Center. We usually have at least one Chinese-speaking sister missionary on duty, but not today. Google Translate to the rescue!
We made a quick trip to the house for Nina to change out of her Visitors’ Center muu-muu and then we went to the PCC to coordinate the loading and dispatch of the Laie Tram Tour vehicles at 6:20pm and 6:40pm. That’s the time when we have two trams and two busses and the loading process can be quite a bedlam. We got home about 7:30pm, where fortunately we had some leftover spaghetti in the fridge for dinner. It’s now time to get the feet up and into that bed. It’s been calling increasingly more insistent for the past hour!
Today was a very special day for us here in Laie and for me in particular. Several General Authorities are here in the Islands on various assignments, including Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve. Because of the Polynesian Cultural Center and BYU-Hawaii, General Authority visitors come fairly regularly. A few months ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was here and held a missionary devotional at the Tabernacle in Honolulu. We stayed behind in Laie to keep the Visitors’ Center operating while all the sister missionaries went down. Elder Renlund is doing the same tomorrow and we’re doing the same as well; that is, staying here to keep the Visitors’ Center operating so all the sister missionaries can go down for the meeting.
Today, however, because Elder Renlund and his wife are good friends with Elder and Sister Swinton, the Visitors’ Center Directors, Elder Renlund and his wife came a day early and spent almost two hours with the Visitors’ Center missionaries in a private, personal meeting. It is impossible to describe the feelings and atmosphere during that meeting. Suffice it to say that I have a personal witness that he is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were all richly blessed this morning.
When Nina and I got to the Visitors’ Center this morning to open up and get the building ready for the day and the visitors (we were on the morning shift today), when I checked the equipment in the large theater where we would be holding the meeting with Elder Renlund, half of the lights were not functioning. Four row of lights, two in the front and two in the back, were dark. Resetting the system made no difference. I called the Temple engineer, a very capable fellow, who hustled down and went through everything he knew about the lights to no avail. We concluded that the problem most likely had to do with the lighting controller for the room. When we start a video, the lights automatically lower and at the end of a video they automatically go back up. There’s also two buttons, one in the front and one in the back, that when pressed, cycle the lights. If the lights are up, pressing the button lowers them. If they are down, pressing the button raises them.
The problem was, the engineer had no idea where the light controller was for that room. The help desk person in Salt Lake wasn’t able to help either, as he was out of the office at a different Visitors’ Center and didn’t have any of that documentation with him. So, after trying everything the engineer could think of, we just decided we’d have to proceed with the partially darkened room.
Elder Renlund and his wife arrived, everyone sat down, one of the Coordinating Sisters (kind of like a Zone Leader) stood up to conduct the meetings … and the lights came on. All of them. No one had done anything in the previous twenty minutes. I later talked with the engineer who said he was just as surprised as we were. An hour or so later I talked with the help desk person in Salt Lake City about a different problem we were having and asked if he had done anything. He hadn’t. Somewhere there’s possibly a logical explanation. Meanwhile, for me it was a very small miracle letting us know that our Father in Heaven knows our exact situation and wayward lighting controllers are not a problem for Him.
Later in the afternoon Nina and I had an assignment at the Polynesian Cultural Center to take tickets at the Hale Aloha Luau. While we were there we were treated to watching the King and Queen of Tonga come into the PCC for a special event. The Tonga village at the PCC has been completely rebuilt and the new venue opened up a couple of months ago. Tonight was the formal dedication and official opening ceremony of the island (the largest of the Polynesian Islands at the PCC) was this evening. Royalty as well as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ in one day. It’s definitely a day for the blog!
People who read this blog on their computers see a banner area that counts down the number of days / months to Christmas and to our scheduled release date (today it reads 7.97 months to our release date and 6.49 months to Christmas). This week we completed fifteen months on this mission and have just eight months remaining. That doesn’t seem like very long! Before I can turn around, it seems, the time will be gone and we’ll be headed back stateside.
For some reason, people who read this blog on a mobile device don’t see the count-down banner. I’ve no idea how the software makes that decision.
Some very good friends in our Ward in Colorado Springs came into the Visitors’ Center today, Peter and Rebecca Burnette. They now live in American Fork, Utah but Rebecca has friended Nina on Facebook so they knew we were here. We had a fun, short visit and just after they left Nina and I both realized that we hadn’t taken a picture! That’s unfortunate. Meanwhile, next Wednesday some friends from Pocatello will be here and we’ll go with them to the Polynesian Cultural Center. He’s a top-drawer firefighter and she has her own physical therapy business. Both of them are ham radio operators and over our time in Pocatello we’ve worked a lot of ham radio events together. We’re really stoked about Glen and Joni Powell arriving on our doorstep for a day. Life is grand!