Nina and I have approximately 285 days left on our mission to the
Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors' Center! That translates to approximately 9.35 months.
There are 240 days until Christmas, which translates to 7.87 months. Enjoy!
Each week on Monday Evening the senior missionaries serving here in Laie, whether at the Temple, the Visitors’ Center, the Polynesian Cultural Center, or BYU-Hawaii, get together at 7:15pm at the Heber J. Grant building on campus for a Family Home Evening (FHE). There are around 90 senior missionaries here. Quite often the program consists of testimonies of missionaries who are completing their missionary assignment and will be going home before the next Family Home Evening. Every other Transfer our schedule allows us to go to FHE (on the other schedule we’re on duty at the Visitors’ Center on Monday evenings). Tonight three missionary couples bid their farewell. We don’t get to see the other senior missionaries very often because our assignments are so different, but these three couples have been here the entire time we’ve been here and we’ve had the opportunity to get to know them a bit. They’re moving on to something different and it kind of makes me realize that it’s not very long before we’ll be the ones saying goodbye!
Whenever missionaries are leaving, either at FHE for the senior missionaries, or at our weekly Visitors’ Center Training Meeting held for the Visitors’ Center missionaries, we sing “Aloha’oe”. This is a piece of music written by the last Queen of Hawaii and is revered and loved dearly by the Hawaiians. Whenever someone moves out of the Ward, the entire Ward sings “Aloha’oe” after the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting to the departing family. It’s also sung as the last number at the Polynesian Cultural Center luaus. Over the past 14 months we’ve sung it or heard it sung quite often and pretty much have it memorized. It’s one of those pieces of music that becomes an “ear worm” … you can’t get it out of your head!
This afternoon we had another assignment at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We were assigned to the exit at the Hale Aloha luau. We enjoy this assignment. Our job is to direct people to the restrooms or people to the entrance when they come in through the exit. We get to see the luau program and generally just sit and enjoy the late afternoon. This week we have two assignments. On Wednesday afternoon we’ll be taking tickets at the other big luau, the Hale Ohana luau. We also enjoy that assignment as (1) we’re in the shade and (2) there’s a lot of people traffic both on foot and on the boats in the canal that bisects the PCC. Meanwhile, this morning was one of the slowest mornings we’ve had at the Visitors’ Center. Fewer than 30 visitors between 9am and 2:30pm came in. I took advantage of the slow time to install a couple of kick-down door stops on a couple of doors that we need propped open fairly often and we’re always looking to find the rubber wedge that seems to regularly disappear. Three more doors need these door stops, so hopefully this week on Preparation Day I’ll be somewhere around a Home Depot to pick up the hardware.
Today was another beautiful day. The trade winds are blowing bringing inland nice cool ocean breezes. The skies are partly cloudy with bright sunshine. It’s a pleasure being here!
Our Preparation Day is on Thursdays this transfer (which ends on May 27th), so today was our Preparation Day. We decided that we’ve been too busy the past while to take time to really enjoy life, so we elected to make this a close-to-home Preparation Day with no hectic. We started the day by going to the Temple for the 9am session. The Temple was very peaceful and refreshing and we saw a couple of people there that we really enjoy.
After the Temple we took a lot of clothes and stuff over to the BYU-Hawaii Give-n-Take facility. At the beginning of each transfer we open up our garage for the sister missionaries to put anything that they don’t need anymore but is still useful or serviceable. They can also sort through whatever is there and take anything that they can put to good use. Whatever is left we then take over to the BYU-H facility. They like getting our stuff because it’s usually fashionable, clean, and in good shape.
After that we drove fifteen minutes to a neighboring town where there is a Taco Stand for lunch. We’ve not eaten there before, but it came highly recommended. On the menu they offered a pineapple drink so Nina ordered it along with a taco salad. I ordered the two-taco meal combo and a medium soft drink. The bill was surprisingly high … and when the pineapple drink came, it became clear why the price was so high. First and last time for that drink! We will eat there again, however. The food was quite tasty.
We then came back home to do some laundry and whatever (after making a quick stop at Foodland). On the way back home our son Daryl called on FaceTime to chat for a few minutes. We stopped at a beach along the way to take the FaceTime call. We had a great chat with Daryl and granddaughter Lilly.
About 3pm I got a text message from one of the sister missionaries about the refrigerator in their apartment so Nina and I drove over there. The fridge is definitely having problems so I called the landlord to get the problem resolved. The resolution may require the fridge to be turned off for 24 hours to thaw out, which will mean more work to do to keep the food cold or frozen as needed. In that apartment was a bunch more stuff to go over to BYU-H Give-n-Take so we made another stop there on our way home. I could finally start ironing my shirts.
Except I had run out of spray starch. We chatted on Skype with Jared and Tania and then I drove once again to Foodland to pick up some starch. The white shirts are all now ironed.
Two of the sister missionaries stopped by for a quick visit on their way back to their apartment after their afternoon shift at the Visitors’ Center. We had some ice cream and chatted with them. Now I’m writing this short blog post and then headed for bed.
Even when we stay close to home, it still turns out to be a Very Busy Day!
Every six weeks our schedule at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center changes in conjunction with the missionary transfers. Essentially our schedule switches with the other senior couple, Elder and Sister Andrus. Where they had the afternoon shift the past six weeks we now have the afternoon shift. The same with the morning shift. It’s regular as clockwork … and confusing as well.
We volunteer at the Polynesian Cultural Center to take tickets, count the attendees, or guard the exits at one of the eating venus at the PCC. A senior sister missionary over at the PCC puts together the schedule each month and works very hard to publish the schedule on a timely basis. That means that around the tenth of the month I have to give her our availability for the following month. So, a week or so ago I sent her our availability for May. Except I got it exactly backwards … telling her we were available on the afternoons that we were scheduled to work at the Visitors’ Center.
So my big headache right now is arranging swaps with other missionaries. Most of our assignments were on Saturdays in May. We’re among the very few missionaries where Saturdays aren’t any different than other days of the week since we have our preparation day either on Wednesday or on Thursday. Almost all of the senior missionaries except those three couples of us at the Visitors’ Center have their day off on Saturday and they don’t like giving up their Saturday afternoon unless it’s almost a dire emergency. I’ve been able to arrange a swap for one of the weeks. Three more swaps to go.
This afternoon we were assigned to take tickets at the Prime Dining dinner venue. The lowest price dinner is a buffet meal at Island Buffet. Next up the ladder is Prime Dining which has the same buffet as Island Buffet but adds prime rib to the menu. The top of the ladder is one of the luaus. All are priced accordingly. The result is that Prime Dining usually has the fewest number of guests for dinner. Island Buffet usually takes the top spot with the luaus coming in second. Today the total attendance at the PCC was around 1,200 people and 88 people signed up for dinner at Prime Dining. There were some later ticket purchases after the preliminary numbers are published around 10am and a total of 96 people had dinner this evening at Prime Dining. A little over a thousand other people were at Island Buffet, or at the Ohana Luau, or at the Aloha Luau. Some people don’t add a dinner onto the general admission ticket but instead either bring their own food, or get something from one of the food trucks in the area, or go down the road a couple hundred yards to McDonalds.
This week is transfer week so we started our new schedule today for the next six weeks ending the last full week in May. On Wednesday one of our sister missionaries finishes her eighteen-month mission, returning home to Hong Kong, and a new sister missionary arrives from Korea. The sister missionary going home is on the right in the picture to the right helping to raise the flag. She has been an outstanding missionary. She and her companion (the other missionary in the picture) came over for dinner the other night and after the meal she asked us to identify one thing that has changed in us since we came on our mission. We had quite a discussion about that topic. One thing I can say about her (we’ve known her since we arrived) is that she came out on a mission as a daughter of our Heavenly Father, has grown and matured, and is returning home as a Woman of God. We shall really miss her … as we do all of the sister missionaries when they leave.
We’re still waiting for when our smashed-up car will actually be repaired. The Windward Autobody shop prepared an estimate (a bit north of $3,700) which was accepted by the Church’s insurance adjuster, but not accepted by Geico’s insurance adjuster. That meant another trip back down (an hour each way) to Kaneohe for many more pictures so the two adjusters can “duke it out.” Fortunately the car is still quite driveable, it just looks ugly.
As I came home this morning to pick up some things we had forgotten, I saw this Very Large Snail near the front door. This is the largest snail I’ve ever seen (but I don’t think I’ve actually seen very many). It was gone when we got home from our shift at 2:30pm. It didn’t seem to be moving when I saw it this morning, but it definitely sped away or was snail-napped by some other creature.
We got an email from a long-lost friend! When we were living in Krefeld, Germany, way back in 1974, an English army enlisted man, Peter Chasteauneuf, was assigned to the British Krefeld Barracks. He was a very young recruit, single, and a member of the Church. He spent a LOT of time at our house and we really enjoyed him. A few years later when we were living in Chardon, Ohio he flew over from England for a few weeks. A year or so later we lost contact. However, thanks to this blog, he tracked us down and we’ve re-established contact with him! He’s married, several children, and active in the Church. That was a very pleasant surprise. Glad to get to know you again, Peter!
Even when I thought it wasn’t possible to be more busy, we figured out how to make it so! One of the primary sources of visitors to the Visitors’ Center in the afternoon and evening come from the Polynesian Cultural Center on Laie Tram Tour vehicles that make the trip every twenty minutes. The Director has been working to increase the ridership and that work is paying off, so much so that one of the senior couples needs to be at the PCC from 5:45pm – 7:00pm coordinating the trams and busses taking people back and forth. That’s a new set of work for us on an already busy schedule. But, it’s working great and between 100 and 150 more people are visiting the Temple Visitors’ Center every day because of these changes. That’s a sizeable number of additional people who will walk on sacred ground and be touched by the spirit of the Temple and the Visitors’ Center. The only downside is somehow finding the time to write in the blog more often!
We’ve now become another missionary accident statistic. On Tuesday Nina had to make a quick trip to the grocery store to get an ingredient for tacos that we were having for lunch with a couple of sister missionaries. Oncoming traffic caused her to have to stop on the highway to wait to make a left turn onto our road. She’d been stopped for several seconds when BAM! a Saturn minivan plowed into the back of our car. The other driver figured out too late that Nina was stopped and couldn’t get her minivan stopped before hitting Nina. Nina was alone in our car; a mother and daughter were in the other car. Fortunately, no one was injured and both cars were still drivable.
I was in the shower and didn’t hear the phone (and couldn’t have done much, anyway, as I had no transportation). Nina then called Elder Swinton, the Visitors’ Center Director who drove over and helped take charge of the situation. He’s a lawyer and knew everything to do. The other driver is well insured with Geico.
So, yesterday (Wednesday) was our Preparation Day and we didn’t have anything in particular planned. That all changed with the accident. We drove down to Kaneohe (about 45 minutes south of Laie, see map on the right) to an autobody shop to get an estimate to repair the automobile. The estimate came back at about $3,700 for the repair. Of course we’ll require a rental car while the repair takes place. I’m thinking the total bill will be around $4,500.
Since we were already two-thirds of the way there, we decided to continue on into Honolulu, go to the mission office to pick up needed Books of Mormon, pick up a few things at Walmart (a couple of blocks away from the Mission Office), and then go to Costco for a few more things. That put us in rush hour traffic coming home.
The weather here has been cloudy with frequent rain showers and high trade winds the past couple of days. The route from Kaneohe to Honolulu goes up the mountain chain the bisects the island and through a long tunnel to come out on the Honolulu side. Quite often (and yesterday was no exception) the weather on the Honolulu side is quite different than the weather on the Kaneohe side. We drove from clouds and rain showers into mostly sunny skies and ten degrees warmer weather! We’re both pretty sure that Honolulu has more sunny days than we have here in Laie.
Driving home we ran into another coincidence. I’m convinced that there are really no coincidences, actually. I read somewhere that “a coincidence is an appointment made by God and kept by man.” That definition seems quite appropriate. Driving back home, Nina decided as we came into Laie to get an ice cream cone at McDonalds. She was driving, so we swung into the drive-through and bought one ice cream cone. The McDonalds ice cream cones are very good and are a bit lower in calories than other comparable cones. Then she decided to drive past the Visitors’ Center on the way back to the house.
So, we came out of McDonalds and made a left turn off the main highway onto Naniloa Loop, which goes past BYU-Hawaii, the Visitors’ Center, across Lanihuli Street (where we live) and then curves back around to the main highway. Hopefully that is clear in the map to the left. As we came past the Visitors’ Center we saw two sister missionaries running down the sidewalk calling to us. We pulled over to learn that they were on their way to the Polynesian Cultural Center but the tram they were going to take had left early and they were now stuck. Then, at that moment, we drove by! They recognized the car from the dinged up back end and hailed us. Of course we drove them over to the PCC so they could fulfill their assignment over there. It was the sudden decision to stop for an ice cream cone that put is in front of the Visitors’ Center at the right time. As Spock would say, “fascinating!”
The Polynesian Cultural Center is 42 acres of fun and culture. The Center opens for business about noon every day except Sunday (the Center is closed on Sunday). The map give a kind of an idea of the general layout. On the left side is the Hukilau Marketplace, a collection of souvenir stores and food establishments. No ticket is required but spending money is highly encouraged. There’s something for everyone available there. On the upper left is the “Pacific Theater” where the ninety-minute night show is held at 7:30 pm. The show tells the story of a oung man being born and growing up in the various Polynesian Islands. It’s a fun show with lots of music, dances, native costumes, and dramatic moments … along with plenty of fire!
A ticket is required to get into the cultural displays and experiences on the right side of the map. Several types of tickets are available. General admission gets one into the ticket-required area and a reserved seat at the night show. An “Ambassador” ticket adds a guided tour. The ticket holder is grouped together with other Ambassador ticket holders speaking the same language and with a very knowledgeable guide speaking the same language. A “Super Ambassador” ticket puts the ticket holder into their own tour group with a knowledgeable guide, but no one else is included. People who take the Ambassador or Super Ambassador tours generally rave about their experience and their tour guide.
There are three dinner options available.
Add a luau to the ticket. Depending on how many visitors are at the Center, one, two, or three luaus will be available. The Aloha Luau is always available and is the largest venue, seating about 800 people. If sufficient guests are at the PCC, the Ohana Luau will be available. This luau can seat about 400 people. Finally, the Kuai Luau may also be available which seats about 200 people. The Luaus have an excellent buffet along with a show that lasts a little more than an hour. One highlight of the luau is pulling the roasted pig out of the “imu” (earthen oven) and making it available to the guests as part of the buffet. The luaus open around 4:45pm and it’s a good idea to be on time so as to not miss any of the show.
Add one of two buffet dinners to the ticket. The Island Buffet is the most popular and can seat up to 2,000 people. The Prime Dining buffet has the same food as Island Buffet, but adds prime rib to the menu. Both buffets have Asian as well as American food choices along with food choices suitable for children. Neither buffet offers a show and one can show up anytime between 5:00pm and 6:30pm to eat dinner.
There is also in the Hukilau market place a couple of food trucks, a restaurant, and a hot dog stand. Quite a few PCC guests opt for getting something from the food trucks. Be aware, however, that these trucks aren’t set up to handle crowds, so the wait for the food can be a half hour or more after ordering. None of the food trucks take a credit card, but the Pounders Restaurant takes all major credit cards.
Throughout the “islands” are other souvenir shops and each “island” has a show and other activities periodically during the afternoon. Tonga and Samoa are by far the most popular “islands” with Tahiti and Fuji close behind. There simply isn’t enough time in the afternoon to see and do everything that might be available.
Because of that, the PCC offers a “bounce-back” ticket. Before leaving the PCC, stop by the ticket office (top left of the map) and get a “Free within Three” pass. That’ll get you back into the PCC Islands any day within the next three days at no cost. Food is not included but can be added on.
The PCC has an IMAX-style theater which shows a fifteen-minute quite tame large-screen video about Hawaii (no vertigo!). The scenery is stunningly beautiful. At 2:30pm there is a canoe pageant in the canal in the middle of the Center featuring dances and performances from the various Polynesian cultures. Some of the dances are quite vigorous and the dancers take some delight in spilling the guy pushing the canoe with his long pole into the water.
The canal through the middle of the “islands” offers a couple of boating opportunities. Larger groups can board a double-hulled canoe with a fairly buff young man standing on the back pushing the canoe up and back on the canal. A one-way and a round-trip tour is available. There is no cost for the canoe ride.
There are also kayaks and paddle boards available in the later afternoon for a price. Finally, at the far end of the Center four-man canoes with an outrigger are available to paddle around the canal. All of the canoe rides are popular and a lot of fun. They all shut down between 2pm and 3pm for the Canoe Pageant at 2:30pm.
The PCC is first and foremost a museum showcasing the music, dress, culture, and ecology of the Polynesian Islands. Secondly, it is the means by which 1,700 students from Polynesia and Southeast Asia earn money to fund their education. These students work about 20 hours a week in addition to carrying a full academic load and have jobs as dancers, wait staff at the luaus and buffets, photograph helpers, cleaning crew (a very large cleaning crew works every night to make the Center spiffy for the next day), and many other things. Thirdly, it is also a “gateway” to the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.
Every afternoon (except Sundays, of course) between 3pm and 6:40pm 35-minute tram rides are available to PCC guests. The trams leave every twenty minutes, drives through BYU-Hawaii, through the town of Laie, and then lets everyone off at the Temple Visitors’ Center for fifteen minutes. During that time guests can tour the Visitors’ Center, walk around the Temple grounds, take pictures, or just sit, relax, and enjoy the beautiful spirit of the place. Between 150 and 350 visitors a day take advantage of the tram tours, depending on how many guests are at the PCC. The Temple and Temple Grounds are beautiful and very serene. I’ve often heard it called “The Taj Mahal of Hawaii” … a very fitting description. After fifteen minutes the tram picks them back up and returns them to the PCC.
Nina and I volunteer most every week at the PCC at one of the luau’s helping with tickets, counts, or helping people find their way around. It’s a beautiful, interesting, and intriguing place to visit. Every visitor to Oahu should plan for an afternoon and evening at the PCC.
Before I get into the details, a couple of important things to remember for people visiting in the future. The visit to the Battleship Arizona Memorial is free but has a limited number of tickets. Reservations can be made in advance (a long ways in advance!). The other three exhibits, the USS Bowfin, the Battleship Missouri, and the Pacific Aviation Museum, require tickets which can be purchased individually or as a group. These three don’t seem to have visitor quotas.
We didn’t think about getting a reservation until a couple of days before going and all advance reservations were taken for that day as well as all the rest of the days in March. The Park Service releases 1,300 tickets every day at 7:00 am in the morning. We were there at 7am and got in line. We were able to get tickets to the 8:00am tour to the Arizona. By 8am the tickets were gone for the entire day. According to the website, everyone going on the tour has to be there to get the tickets, however no one checked to see if we were all there when I asked for four tickets.
The Battleship Arizona Memorial:
First we attended a twenty-minute video presentation in the theater. Then boarded a ferry boat run by the US Navy to go out to the Memorial. Visited the memorial, reboarded the ferry boat, and returned to shore. The entire process takes at least an hour, including the video, and that’s actually hurrying.
The memorial itself is a large building built on top of the sunken battleship with open areas to look down onto the wreck. The crowd was quite subdued and very respectful while we were there and the tour we were on had a number of foreigners, including quite a few Japanese tourists. We rented audio tour headsets, which I would recommend as there is a lot to see both in the memorial itself as well as on shore. The tour is narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Curtis’s daughter as well as a well-known actress in her own right. She gave a brilliant commentary. On shore are a couple of souvenir shops and snack bars as well as a number of other static exhibits. The audio tour also covers all of the static exhibits.
The USS Bowfin:
The submarine was a delightful visit and the tour goes all the way through the much-decorated submarine. The ticket price included audio headsets and I highly recommend getting the headsets and using them. The tour was not only very entertaining, but very educational as well. One thing that stood out to me from the tour was the importance of spying and intelligence on the enemy. One example had to do with depth charges. Intelligence had ascertained that the Japanese depth charges (unlike the German version) had a maximum depth of 300 feet. So, to avoid a problem all the sub had to do was get down to 400 feet or lower (and hopefully the ocean bottom was below that depth).
The Battleship Missouri:
This battleship was the last of the big battleships commissioned by the US Navy and was the site of the unconditional Japanese surrender that ended World War II. The “Mighty Mo” represents the end of World War II while the Battleship Arizona was the beginning of the war. They’re fitting bookends! It’s moored on Ford Island, an active naval base. To get there one has to take a shuttle bus (part of the ticket price). To say the battleship is huge is a massive understatement. There are audio tour machines available but we elected not to do that as there were also guided tours. We started the guided tour and bailed out after about 15 minutes as the guide was too much into himself and how he knew all this stuff that we wouldn’t know and not enough into doing the actual tour. The walkthrough can be long or short. I opted for the long tour, Nina opted for a shorter tour. There is a lot of signage on the tour explaining the various parts of the ship. Unfortunately for us, there was some kind of a private event being held on the so-called “surrender deck” and we weren’t able to go there.
The Pacific Aviation Museum:
I was very pleasantly surprised at this museum and the number and type of aircraft on display. The museum is in two hangers with static displays between the two hangers. There is an active renovation/restoration facility at the back of the second, larger hanger which is also open to walk around. One of the aircraft being restored was a B-17 bomber pulled out of a swamp in the south Pacific after being in the swamp for almost 50 years. Another restoration project was the front end of a B-52 bomber including the flight deck and the countermeasures deck. By the time we got to this museum some of our party were tired of walking so they stayed in the cafeteria while allowing me the time to walk through the entire exhibit. I would like to go back again.
All in All it was a very nice, long day. Nina and I left Laie at 4am, picked Jared and Tania up at their hotel in Waikiki about 6:15, and then drove over to the memorial park to arrive right a 7am. We got back to the parking lot on the shuttle bus from Ford Island (standing room only, not a great ending for very tired feet) right at 4pm. It is possible to do different parts of the tour on different days. For instance, do the Arizona Memorial and the USS Bowfin on one day, then come back on another day to take the shuttle over to Ford Island for the Battleship Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum. All four sites are well worth the visit!
Every week, usually on Friday, we have a “walk about” up on the hill above and to the south of our apartments. Because of other conflicts, this week’s walk about was held on Thursday morning and was an Easter Egg Hunt. For at least half of the sister missionaries here, they’ve never seen or heard about such a thing.
We prepared 150 plastic eggs with candy and a scripture inside (actually, Elder and Sister Andrus stuffed the eggs, we bought 100 of the eggs to be stuffed) and then at 6am this morning the three senior couples distributed the eggs across the hill. The sisters met at 6:30, lined up, and off they went to find the eggs. They were told that when they had found six eggs, they should then help others who hadn’t reached the six-egg limit. It was a lot of fun. These activities are intended to help foster unity and mutual support as well as provide a bit of outside exercise in the fresh air. This morning’s activity succeeded on all fronts!
Last Thursday while Jared and Tania were here we spent the afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The place opens at about noon. We knew that there was plenty to do … more available than time would allow … but were quite surprised at how little we were about to do in the afternoon. We had a great time, however! We started with a BBQ lunch at the Aloha venue then walked to the far end of the PCC to the Tongan village. That was great fun and probably the highlight of the afternoon. We were able to go to the Samoa village, the Tahiti village, do the 15=minute Hawaiian Journey movie, and watch the canoe pageant. Nina and I had a ticket-taking assignment at the Aloha Luau while Jared and Tania had tickets to the Ohana Luau so we went our separate ways from 4:30 to 6:30. Then we went to the evening show, “Ha — The Breath of Life” at 7:30. It was a very good afternoon and evening and we finished the day right ready to get some sleep.
On Wednesday afternoon last week we visited the Valley of the Temples cemetery and the Byodo-In Temple in particular. This was a replica of a well-know Japanese Buddhist Temple that was built in 1968 to commemorate the hundred-year anniversary of the first Japanese emigrants to the Hawaiian Islands. The temple was so reminiscent of the Buddhist temples we had visited when living in Japan it was kind of like deja vu all over again! There were a goodly number of people visiting the temple and all seemed to be quite impressed with the building and the immaculate grounds.
More later on some of the other things we did last week when Jared and Tania were here! Ta ta for now. I’ve got laundry in the dryer that needs to be taken care of.