SOUTH PACIFIC-02 Feb2017

GOOD MORNING! It’s a beautiful day on the ship (finally – we got on board yesterday, and it feels great… we’ve had some pretty HOT and HUMID days “on shore.”).

I know I posted a short note on FB (maybe from Samoa?). I now have a package of 1000 minutes for the next almost 3 weeks. I’m using it carefully. Being online is 25 cents per minutes. So I’m writing things “off-line” and then will jump on and get them sent/posted.  (I know, I know… it’s such a brilliant idea). I’m hoping I can post a picture or two eventually … we’ll see (no success on that yet).

My favorite thing so far was Fiji. I love that place! It’s not nearly as hot and humid as Samoa or Tonga … and of course some of that is because I was in the “infinity pool” for 2 ½ hours! I was breathing freely, no sneezing… just a great time. AND: We found our dear friend Liti in the dining room! We made friends with her last year. As we approached her (after she’d had 2 days off!… I was afraid we weren’t going to be able to see her), I smiled and said “Do you remember us??” And we just squealed and hugged, and it was SO GOOD to see her again. She was SO kind to us last year.

We’ve had these amazing blessings with people. We met several returned missionaries in Samoa, and one of them had served in Perth and is acquainted with my companion Jill Bousfield (2nd mission in the Philippines), now Grinceri. Small world! One brother had served in Alaska, and he said it was so COLD, but that he LOVES Alaska! (I’m thinking I may have told you some of these things before… sorry about that. I need to keep track).

An incredibly wonderful young man helped us as we were leaving Samoa! He served in San Francisco and loved his mission so much. And he went out of his way to be kind to us. His name is Benson; he was named after the Prophet when he was born. He wheeled me the rest of the way and we had some good chats. Also met a fellow who served in Manila! And it was fun talking to him (and singing a Tagalog folk song to him).

The place we stayed in Fiji is the same place as a year ago, and it’s incredible! Really wonderful. More great people, too (of course). We ran into some people from Leanne’s ward – they were just finishing the same tour we took last year (Australia and New Zealand, and finishing up in Fiji before flying home).

2 days ago we flew from Fiji to Tonga. I have to say that we were all SO FINISHED with having to have 50 lbs in our big bag and only 15 lbs in our carry-on… but at the same time I have to say we were SO BLESSED, because they didn’t weigh our back packs as part of our carry-on. That would have been disastrous (ha).

It was great to land in Tonga – another place I’ve never been. Very hot, very tropical. Total chaos at the airport. HOT, muggy. But I got another wheelchair, and it turns out that the woman who helped me had served her mission in the PHILIPPINES! (We just kept running across great LDS people; it was great having so much in common). But ALL the people (with very few exceptions) have been so kind, so helpful.  I asked this woman if she remember Staccie West, my good friend (whom I met when I was her nursing instructor at BYU those many years ago). She served a health mission to Tonga. This young woman was SO EXCITED when I mentioned her name! “OH! We LOVE HER!!!” Fun. Such fun.

We had a LONG time in the heat there… we had to pay $16 (and so first had to get money exchanged) in order to get out of the airport and onboard the ship. We got outside… HOT!! And VERY humid. And they had an old school bus for us. No air conditioning. But we had to wait over an hour, because some luggage didn’t arrive (our smallish plane was stuff full, but not all luggage made it), so LOTS of paper work had to be filled out. That was hard. We drove about 3 minutes to the “Scenic Hotel.” All I wanted to do was get inside and go to sleep (ha… quite a wimp I am). We were all HOT and SWEATY. I don’t know if anyone ate dinner – I didn’t even look at it. The report was that it wasn’t too great.

Leanne and I had decided to skip the tour and come to the ship early. It was a fantastic decision (made more so by the reports we had of how HOT the tour was; I’d never have made it). We had a fun taxi driver for the 4 of us (a couple joined us). It turns out our taxi driver is the husband of the desk clerk there in Tonga – and they’re expecting a little girl in 5 months. Leo, our driver (and Leslie) are wonderful. He served in the Philippines! As we drove towards the port, Leo showed and explained lots of things we were seeing. Fascinating. We saw at least 4 LDS chapels; one is a middle school.

We’re on Holland America’s Maasdam, Rm 729. Leanne and I had some lunch yesterday, and then we had our assigned table for dinner with our 4 friends: The Dilworths (from Arkansas) and the Beans (from Vancouver WA). We had a great time. Our servers are from Indonesia,, and that made it extra fun. Our 2 room stewards are also Indonesian. And I’ve run into lots of Filipinos too.

This is MUCH longer than I had imagined… but it’s just fun sharing some of the adventures, and some of the SWEET experiences with people in these “faraway places with strange-sounding names.” Oh, I forgot to say that Leanne got me a little magnet from the Robert Louise Stevenson home in Samoa – you may remember that he retired there.  And I have to say that I get to celebrate my sister Charlotte’s 75th birthday TWICE!… (Groundhog Day). We re-cross the international dateline sometime tonight.

We’re stopped at Vavau today, the on to places like Nieue, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia . . . And we start our fantastic lectures onboard the ship from Mike Wilcox (he’s the reason we chose this particular trip). He’s SO GOOD!!!

I’ll write again when I can.  Thanks for the notes from you. I’m sorry I can’t respond to all of them. I’m thankful for the blessing of being part of this group and having such amazing experiences.  I’m going to try to include a picture or two. We’ll see . . . . (I haven’t had much success with that yet).  With much, much love, MEE

P.S. I haven’t been able to get on the internet, so I have NO idea how long it will be before I can post this. “Stay tuned” (ha ha).

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