Is There Such A Thing As a Winter Cold in Hawaii?

A Chamber of Commerce Day
A Chamber of Commerce Day
I’ve come down with another cold. Definitely not on the list of things I’m fond of doing…. We’re having some of the best weather of the year and I just plain feel lousy. Of course, it won’t last and soon this cold will be history (and the only memory will be this blog post). And, at the same time, we’re busier at the Visitors’ Center than we’ve ever been. Last Saturday is a prime example!

Elder Jeffery R. Holland, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was in Hawaii and scheduled a devotional for all of the missionaries on Saturday afternoon. The big question was what to do about the Laie Tram Tour coming from the Polynesian Cultural Center to the Temple Visitors’ Center that afternnoon. After a lot of discussion with the PCC and the Hawaii Honolulu Mission President, Elder Swinton, the Visitors’ Center Director, finally decided to keep the Center open but send all of the sisters down to Honolulu. He recruited another senior couple, Elder and Sister Noels, to come over an help out. So Nina and I worked the morning shift (and the sisters left about 11am). Elder and Sister Andrus (the other senior missionaries at the Center) together with Elder and Sister Noels worked the afternoon shift while Nina and I went over to the PCC to load the trams. Lance, the main tram driver, agreed that he’d drive that afternoon and give the dialog to the guests. So, Nina and I put on our Aloha attire and spent the afternoon recruiting people for the tram. Lance drove them on the tour and the Andrus’s met the tram at the Center to invite folks to come inside while the Noels manned the desk and helped out inside. The Andrus’s took them on a tour and put them back on the tram so Nina and I could meet them when they returned to the PCC. It actually worked pretty well!

Fortunately, the sisters were back from Honolulu by 6pm and they came over to the PCC to help with the 6:20 and 6:40 trams. That was a great thing, as about 6pm everything at the PCC became just plain bedlam! Getting people to line up and not jump the lines for the 6pm tram was difficult and we only had 25 people for that tram. The 6:20 and 6:40 trams were full (70 people each time) and we had to turn people away. I was sure glad the sisters were there!

Saturday was made even more interesting as it was the Hawaiian Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the morning. The Hall of Fame is at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Sai Sikahema, very well known and popular running back at BYU, then with the Cardinals, the Packers, and finally with the Eagles, was being inducted, and there were BYU football fans galore at the PCC. Also, the next day (Sunday) was the NFL’s Pro Bowl game at the Aloha Center in Honolulu and half of the players in the game were staying at Turtle Bay, just up the road from the Polynesian Cultural Center. The players and entourage spent the afternoon being hosted at the PCC. It was a very busy day at the PCC overall, and for us complicated by the fact that we didn’t have any sisters available and that we really didn’t know what we were doing!

Elder and Sister Jensen
Elder and Sister Jensen
With a brand-new freshly minted Visitors’ Center Director and his wife along with a brand new set of senior missionaries, we’ve been going through a whole lot of reflection on why we do certain things at the Visitors’ Center. That also means doing some experimentation to test out ideas. Most don’t pass muster! The new director is doing a great job and is really concentrating on how we can do the best possible job of meeting our mission. Part of that is figuring out what needs to be measured, since things that get measured get done. We’ve been capturing a lot of statistics, some of them quite subjective and a couple others just plain guesses. We’re doing away with some of those as they don’t really tell us anything useful.

Elder and Sister Jensen completed their mission a couple of weeks ago and have gone home. We took the picture outside in front of the Temple on the last Monday that they were here. They’ve been great missionaries and a lot of fun to work with. We definitely miss them as we also do Elder and Sister Priday, the previous Center Director and his wife. Both couples say that they’re adjusting to “civilian life” and slowly getting used to not being at the Visitors’ Center.

OK. The Guard Has Changed!

Elder and Sister Swinton
Elder and Sister Swinton
The new Laie Temple Visitors’ Center Director and his wife are here! They arrived very late Friday evening and have been running ever since. Elder and Sister Swinton are delightful people … definitely people people. We shall really enjoy working with and for them at the Center!

Further, Elder and Sister Jensen completed their mission on Wednesday and Elder and Sister Andrus from Rexburg, Idaho arrived very late Wednesday evening as replacements for Elder and Sister Jensen. They are also delightful people and we’ll have a lot of fun working with them.

As a result, we’ve been busy. We didn’t have a Preparation Day this week because of all the changes and people coming and going. We also worked very long schedules on a couple of days and have been quite consumed training Elder and Sister Jensen and supporting Elder and Sister Swinton as they’ve taken over the reins at the Visitors’ Center. But, that’s why we’re here and we’re enjoying all the change that’s happening.

Change is often quite invigorating, particularly when good continuity happens during the changeover. The sister missionaries seem to be working very well with the change in people … combined with this being the last week of the transfer. Saturday evening they’ll learn who’s being transferred, who will have new companions, who will move into different apartments and be assigned to different wards. Three sisters are completing their missions, one new sister is coming from the MTC in Provo, and at least one sister is returning from her three-month prosyliting assignment. So that’s a lot of change happening in a two-week period! Good thing the work we’re involved with is true!

On Tuesday we learned that a very good friend and former boss, Karl Anderson, is in Hawaii. He also knows Elder and Sister Swinton quite well. So, Karl and his wife Joyce came to the Visitors’Center on Wednesday about noon and we all had a great visit. I really enjoyed catching up on all the things that are happening with the Kirtland area and the plans for the recent property purchases the Church has made in Kirtland. Karl is the definitive expert on Kirtland and even has his own Wikipedia page! As Nina has often remarked, special experiences like this are clear signs that the Lord knows where we are and demonstrates that to us.

Hopefully we’ll get some pictures of Elder and Sister Andrus in the next couple of days. That’ll make good blog material as well. Meanwhile, I’m tired and it’s time to get ready for bed.

Ta ta for now!

The Changing of the Guard

Elder and Sister Priday
Elder and Sister Priday
Their two-year assignment as the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center Directors is now finished. We bid them farewell in the driveway a bit ago as they prepared to drive away. Sometime later this evening the new Director and his wife, Elder and Sister Swinton will arrive … no fanfare or special activities. They’ll move into the house that the Pridays just vacated, drive the car the Pridays left behind, and take over the reins. We are on duty at the Visitors’ Center tomorrow morning from 9am to 2:30pm and I expect that we’ll meet them sometime tomorrow morning and a new phase of our missionary assignment will begin.

Today was a very unusual day of rain. It was drizzling when I got up at 5:30am to go take a walk (and I got wet), raining when we went to have our car inspected, a downpour when we got to the Visitors’ Center for our shift at 9am, continued to rain throughout the morning, and was drizzling when we were at the Polynesian Cultural Center taking tickets this afternoon. It seems to have stopped, finally, as I sit here writing this post. The wet weather has brought with it massive waves offshore and also seriously hampered the search efforts for the crew of the two military helicopters that collided mid-air yesterday about ten miles north of us over the ocean. While debris has been located, bodies have not, unfortunately.

Today was Zone Conference for the Laie Zone of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. We didn’t go as we were assigned to be at the Visitors’ Center. Elder and Sister Priday went to their last Zone Conference, as did Elder and Sister Jensen (they’ll complete their mission next Wednesday). At every Zone Conference, the mission-owned automobiles are inspected. The inspection starts about 7:45am so the cars can be inspected for cleanliness, maintenance, etc. before the conference begins at 8:30am. They check the lights, fluids, tire pressures, tire wear, documentation, cleanliness, etc. We got there at 7:45 to learn that they weren’t going to inspect the senior missionary cars so they could pay more attention to the cars being driven by the young missionaries. Our car was definitely ready for inspection, but I could have easily used the extra half-hour of sleep this morning had I known my car wasn’t going to be inspected….

We were assigned to take tickets at the Aloha Luau at the PCC this afternoon. Despite the weather, there were a lot of people at the PCC this afternoon. Fortunately, there is a lot of cover and shelter available … and the rain is not cold. We were able to visit with some people at the PCC waiting in line for dinner that we had met earlier in the day at the Visitors’ Center when they were there. That is always fun. One fellow at the Visitors’ Center this morning had come over to Hawaii on a very limited budget, rented the cheapest car he could rent, and was literally living in his car for the week, sleeping on the beach (or in the car) at night, eating breakfast and lunch from things bought at the grocery store, and the eating somewhere for dinner. He wanted to know about the PCC and the cost. We talked through the various options and when I told him the price for a luau, he chuckled, “That’s more than half of my food budget for the week!” We both laughed when he showed up in line for the luau. As he came out afterwards he said, “It was definitely worth it!”

So, the directorship at the Visitors’ Center is changing even as I write this sentence. Because it has been a well-run place, directed by priesthood authority and under priesthood leadership, little will change, we’ll just keep on getting better at greeting and inviting visitors when they come in. We’re having fun … life is quite pleasant.

Ta ta for now!

Time to Get More Frequent!

Sliver of Moon Over the Temple
Sliver of Moon Over the Temple
I wonder if it’s possible to take too many moon / temple pictures? When the night is as pretty as this one was, it’s hard not to fill up the camera card with pictures. I also chatted this afternoon with a fellow who is here taking pictures of the temple; he’s flying to the Big Island tonight to take pictures of the Kona Temple. He said he’s traveling around the world taking pictures of all the temples. A fellow I know on Twitter, Scott Jarvie (@jarvie), has recently published a coffee-table type book on the temples … this fellow is working on a website that’ll include lots of video, including drone camera video. He spent more than an hour flying his drone all around and over the Laie Temple. He said he’d let me know when he’s published something.

Speaking of pictures, I’ve decided that the most often used phrase in the front area of the Visitors’ Center and outside on the courtyard is “One – Two – Three”. That’s what everyone says when they’re taking a picture of someone. I hear it over and over and over again … and in several different languages during the day. I wonder how many pictures of the temple are taken each day. It’s got to be a big grundle!

I’ve noticed that the posting frequency has gotten less and less often. I’m going to change that … hopefully. Ta ta for now!

What A Great Day!

Sunset Tonight at the Visitors' Center
Sunset Tonight at the Visitors’ Center
Now that we’re in a new year and our Church schedule has changed, our duty hours at the Visitors’ Center have changed as well. We now have our Church meeting block from 8am until 11am and then are to be at the Visitors’ Center from 11:30am until 4pm. Last year we were at the Center from 9am until 11:30 and then Church from noon until 3pm.

The Center is Very Busy on Sundays! We have a goodly number of tourists who stop in because it’s a site they want to see or they were driving past and decided to stop. That’s pretty normal every day. We also get a few tour buses, but not like on week days. The big difference is all the locals as well as visiting Church members who come over to the Center and spend much of their day there. On the earlier shift we weren’t very busy at the Center until about 11am. Now there are quite a few people at the Center when we get there at 11:30am and the number increases throughout the afternoon when we leave at 4pm. All of this is just background information, though.

The special part about today is that President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was here in Laie at BYU-Hawaii today for a worldwide devotional (it’s available here). Elder Priday, the Center Director felt that all the sister missionaries should be able to go over to the Cannon Activity Center at BYU-H to be at the devotional, so at about 2:15pm, all of the sister missionaries on duty left. Elder and Sister Priday came over to be with Nina and me to handle the crowds. But … there weren’t any crowds! From 2:30pm until 4:30pm we had a total of eight visitors to the Center. The Devotional was being streamed on the Internet, so we put it up on the screen in one of the theaters so we could also watch and hear an Apostle. His remarks were oriented towards young people, a group he classed as “millennials” (somewhat similar to the classification being used by sociologists already). He had very pertinent advice and counsel not only to the young people, but for everyone. Take the time to listen if you haven’t already.

Because of the Devotional, we were flooded with visitors when it was over. People from all over the Island had come to the Devotional and afterwards stopped at the Visitors’ Center before making the trek back home. I had a great time talking to lots of people from all over and exercising my talented point-and-shoot camera skills.

Around noon we also had another interesting and fun visitor. He is from Vienna, Austria and is in Honolulu taking an English class (he spoke very good English already, but was taking a two week class to improve his English). He’s an architectural Engineer by trade and loves to travel. He spent well over an hour at the Center visiting with Nina and me (giving us a great opportunity to exercise our German) and some of the other sister missionaries. He left with a Book of Mormon and some other literature and said that he’d be back next week to visit again. Definitely something to look forward to.

So, we’ve had a very nice Sunday. Sacrament Meeting was excellent, followed by outstanding Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society meetings. We had a great afternoon visiting with guests at the Center (including the fellow from Austria), got very valuable counsel from an Apostle of the Lord, all followed by a tasty dinner. It’s been another great day in this little corner of paradise!

Ta ta for now… .

There’s A Last Time For Everything

Elder and Sister Priday
Elder and Sister Priday
Every six weeks or so the three senior missionary couples at the Visitors’ Center get together for lunch. Since one of us is on duty, we enlist the help of another senior missionary couple serving over at BYU-Hawaii or at the Polynesian Cultural Center who have previously served a mission in a visitors’ center somewhere. Fortunately, there are currently two couples that fit the bill and one of them was available yesterday (Friday) to substitute for Nina and me for a couple of hours. That made it possible for Elder and Sister Priday (the Center Director), Elder and Sister Jensen (the other senior missionary couple), and Nina and I to get together for lunch for the last time. Elder and Sister Priday complete their missionary service next Friday, January 15th. Elder and Sister Jensen complete their service five days later on January 20th.

We had lunch at the Turtle Bay Resort Lei Leis snack bar. They have a limited, but very tasty and well-prepared menu and everyone can find something suitable for lunch (and, they have complimentary fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies). Friday was one of those incredible “chamber of commerce” days. A bluebird sky, upper 70° temperatures, and no wind. We were seated on the patio looking out over the putting green and the mountains to the west. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with both the Pridays and the Jensens. They have been model missionaries and have taught Nina and I more than they can ever imagine. I’m sure both couples are right ready to go home and play with the grandkids, but they will certainly be missed here.

So, how does the turnover work? The new directors, Elder and Sister Swinton, will spend a couple of days in Salt Lake being oriented to this new assignment. They’ve been Mission President before and he has served as an Area Seventy, so there’s not much to tell them before they get here, I guess. They’ll arrive mid-afternoon on Friday from Salt Lake City and will be picked up at the airport by the Hawaii Honolulu Mission President, who will bring them here to Laie. They should arrive here sometime around 6:30pm. Just over 90 minutes later, Elder and Sister Priday depart. The incoming and outgoing directors will spend about an hour and a half together. From there it’ll be up to the Jensens and Nina and me to fill in the gaps. When Elder and Sister Jensen leave, the turnover will be even shorter … at most 20 minutes … and possibly no overlap at all.

So, a big topic at lunch was, what did Nina and I need to know about the Center? I have no idea what we don’t know. Donald Rumsfield, former Secretary of Defense, famously said this:

The message is that there are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

I’m actually worse off than Mr. Rumsfield! There were unkowns that he knew he didn’t know. I don’t even have that luxury. The saving grace is that no lives are at risk, no careers are at stake, and the Church will neither falter nor fail based on what happens in the next few weeks as we all muddle through.

Elder Roland and Sister Nina Smith
Elder Roland and Sister Nina Smith
As part of the going-away activities, the sister missionaries are putting together a small remembrance book with a page for each of the missionaries. We attach a picture and a few words and they bind the whole thing together to give to Elder and Sister Priday (and will do something similar for Elder and Sister Jensen next week). So, we had a few pictures taken at the Visitors’ Center and printed them at Longs Drugstore. I liked this one well enough that I’ve put it on the blog header (see above). It was time to update the blog header a little bit, anyway. Next is to get a better beach picture. So, here we are, in our missionary attire (Nina in her muu-muu and me in my shirt and tie. I don’t get fancy duds…). We’re not quite ready to say goodbye (is anyone, ever?). Things will definitely be different next week!

Ta ta for now!

Surf’s Up!

Surf's Up!
Surf’s Up!

On our way home from Honolulu yesterday, which happened to be our Preparation Day, we noticed that the surf was coming in quite strongly on the northwest beaches. We finally found a place to stop and park for a few minutes. The beaches at Sunset, Waimea, and Hale’iwa were all roped off for swimmers as the surf was just too dangerous. On the other hand, scores of die-hard surfers were out in the water just beyond where the waves started to break waiting for just the right one to come along and give them a ride. This sport can be very dangerous, I think. I’ll never know more, as attempting to even stand on a surfboard will never be in my future….

The place where we stopped had some fishermen, but no surfers. It isn’t much of a beach, actually. It was very rocky and a steep climb to get down to the water’s edge. It was also low tide. The tide had turned just about 45 minutes before we stopped. However, the waves were still pretty spectacular. I took a short 20 second video and posted it on YouTube:

It may do a bit of justice to the surf! While we were stopped there, Nina met and talked to a couple from Texas who had also stopped. They were here on the twentieth wedding anniversary and seemed to be having a great time.

 Sister Missionaries Putting Up the Flags
Sister Missionaries Putting Up the Flags
We’re on the morning shift on Thursday through Saturday currently. That means putting up the US and Hawaiian Flags every morning. We “draft” a couple of sister missionaries to help with this process, which all of them enjoy doing. The process really takes three people to accomplish as cranking the flags all the way up to the top of the flagpole is quite a workout, so they always want to “share” the workload. The sister missionary on the left is Tongan and the sister on the right is Laotian (specifically Hmong). They are a lot of fun and are great missionaries. Neither of them ever turn down an assignment.

Taking Down the Christmas Tree
Taking Down the Christmas Tree
The holiday season is over … the Christmas Trees in the Visitors’ Center have all been taken down and put away for another year. The documentation as to which tree was put where and decorated by whom has been updated. Sometime next November the process will start all over again.

Another major clue that the holiday season is over is the change in the number of visitors to the Visitors’ Center! While a significant percentage of the visitors during the holidays were families on vacation, now we’re primarily seeing adult couples, many celebrating some important life event such as an anniversary or birthday. Many are retired and taking advantage of the slow season prices to come to Hawaii. We enjoy visiting with them and like that we can spend a little more one-on-one time with them. Today we had two couples from Turkey come into the Center and we had a nice visit with them about our way-too-short visits to Istanbul and Ephesus. We certainly have people visit from all over the world!

Another year is well underway. We’re coming up on ten months in Laie. It really does seem like it was just last week when we got here. Ta ta for now!

Rabbit Rabbit … The Year 2016 Has Begun!

Breakfast for the New Year
Breakfast for the New Year
This year certainly came in with a BANG! Fireworks of all kinds were going off most of the afternoon and into the evening yesterday (New Years Eve). I went to bed around 10pm and slept fitfully for a couple of hours, awakened often by the big bangs that happened every once in a while. Nina came to bed around 11 pm and went immediately and soundly asleep. Just before midnight fireworks went off all over the town and particularly near our house. When that much gunpowder is going off and that much noise is happening, it is strangely reminiscent of some of the rocket and motar attacks I experienced (and survived) at DaNang AFB in Vietnam. I don’t have any PSTD issues from those days, but know some folks who do. I enjoy fireworks (a lot) and am also happy to have survived Vietnam with my mental faculties (mostly) intact.

The Laie City Park lies just to the northwest of our home. A number of very large families had taken up space, including tents, chairs, tables, and cooking equipment in the park. All of them had a grundle of fireworks, most of which were expended around midnight. Nina slept soundly through the entire thing. It took me quite a while to get back to sleep. The reason for wanting a reasonable night’s sleep? We needed to be up around 6:30am this morning to assist with breakfast for all the missionaries in our zone at 7:30am. Breakfast consisted of French Toast with a variety of toppings, sausage links, a fruit bowl, and a variety of drinks. Elder Priday (the Center Director) and I did most of the French Toast cooking, Nina and Sister Priday took over near the end so we could enjoy some breakfast. We had twenty-three sister missionaries, six elders, and four senior couples for breakfast. It went well; everyone had plenty to eat. By 9am we were done and back to the house (and a nap for me).

Putting Up the  Flags
Putting Up the Flags
The Visitors’ Center didn’t open until noon on New Years Day, so before leaving this morning we put up the flags. Most of the time the sister missionaries assist with putting up the flags, but this morning I was able to enlist the Zone Leaders to put up the flags. They seemed to have fun even though it is a lot of work! Once the flags are attached it’s about 130 turns of the crank to get the flags all the way up the pole.

The amount of daylight in the day is starting to increase again now that we’ve passed the Winter Solstice. Over the year the number of daylight hours varies about 3 1/2 hours between December 21st and June 21st. A few times a week I go out for a walk around 6am in the morning and right now it’s quite dark at that time. The other morning as I was walking down our street I could make out that there was something that came out of a house on the left side of the street and was headed right for me. It kind of looked like a big dog or something. I moved to the left, off the road, but it continued to come straight at me. When I could finally figure it out, it was a lady in a motorized wheelchair … and she was moving along at a pretty good clip. I exclaimed something just as she saw me. She missed me, but nearly had an accident with her wheelchair!

Sister Watson In Her Mighty Fast Wheelchair
Sister Watson In Her Mighty Fast Wheelchair
A couple of days ago the wheelchair lady came into the Visitors’ Center. She came zooming up the sidewalk and flying through the door (which was being held open by Sister Castaneda, one of the sister missionaries and the other person in the picture). We were finally introduced and laughed a bit about how fast she drives that machine. She was on her way to work that morning and needed to go in early. She usually doesn’t leave the house until 7:30am or so. Meanwhile, I’ve located a reflective vest in the garage and now wear that when I’m out walking to give Sister Watson and anyone else the ability to give me a wide berth!

The new year is underway. We both remembered “rabbit rabbit” when we got up this morning, so perhaps good luck will follow us for the entire year. It’s a funny superstition, but has become pretty much a family tradition for many years. While I’ve no idea what the year will specifically bring, we’ll be here in Laie for the entire year. We’ll get a new Visitors’ Center Director in January and a new Hawaii Honolulu Mission President in July. So there will be some change during the year. It should be a great ride!

Ta ta for now!