July 5, 1938
Dear Mom, Dad, and All,
Perhaps I should get you a letter written in case a boat leaves here soon, unexpectedly, for Papeete. From the different Islands, we have to send mail into Headquarters, and from there it is forwarded aboard the next ship for the States.
Do my letters seem to come quite frequent? My goodness, time passes so fast I never realize there is over a week between letters to you. If you get them as often as I seem to write, you average one a week. I don't mind.
Well, I'm all enrolled, acquainted and situated on Takaroa... the best Island of the South Seas. One week has passed since I arrived here, and it seems only yesterday. (Best next to Tahiti)
My boat trip getting here was the most punishment I have gone through. I was sick one day, but had to lay on my back upon the hard deck both day and night. Every bone in me ached, the ship pitched up and down, very stormy, and I practically fasted all the time. I did eat twelve bananas and as many oranges, but nothing solid.
Our bed (the passengers) was on top the Captain's cabin: There were fifteen passengers aboard, 13 Natives, 1 Chink, and me. On my left was a native, and lying head to head was the Chink, and on the other side, the edge. The rest of the passengers, woman and men stretched out over the remaining part. Maybe I wasn't glad to get on land again. Wow!
I was met at the dock by two Elders. Elder Kenneth Wilde from Canada is my companion. (Not even with an American citizen anymore.) The other Elder (Hunting from Vernal Ut.) left for Makemo yesterday. Elder Wilde is 32 years old, (he looks much younger, though) is only a few inches over five feet... he just fits under my arm, holding straight out from my shoulder. We get along swell, anyway.
Takaroa is an island that takes about fifteen minutes to walk around. There are nearly 160 people on it, all Mormons except a very few Catholics. We have a fully organized branch here, a good chapel, Amusement (?) Hall, and a hut (grass shack) and a cook shack for the Missionaries. (2)
Our cost of living here averages maybe two francs (5 1/2¢) a day, but that will only last a month and then we go to Manihi, an Island 60 mi West of here. There we must erect a shack, hold meetings, and try to convert. There are only six Mormons there, and none of them attend Church... no Church to attend. We have to get them started. Will be there possibly three weeks and then back here until a new assignment comes.
The Branch keeps the Missionaries here. Only yesterday natives brought a large box full of canned peas, P. and Beans, milk, jams, butter, sauce, corn, salmon, cocoa, etc. Fresh fish, cornstarch, fruit, (fresh) eggs, pork, chicken, vegetables are supplied as we want them. Such people! They give anything that Missionaries desire. Our only expense in line of foods comes in the bread we eat. This costs 1 franc (almost 3¢) a loaf. Two loaves lasts us all day.
Now I guess you wonder where the expense comes in. Well, there is our traveling such as from Papeete to here 150 F. ($4.50 not quite) mail sent to headquarters, travel to Manini will be about 50 F, and just minor expenses, fast offerings, stamps, (our laundry is done free,) and food, probably when in Manihi.
A few days ago a French official visited this Island. A big banquet was thrown in his honor. Only he and his wife, the Island Governor, important citizens, and Mormon Missionaries were invited. And can these natives cook! We were served a six course meal... chicken, pork, beef, liver, potatoes, salads, gravy, and canned and fresh fruits. Don't ever feel sorry for my missing any American dishes. We have all those and many different ones.
This Island even has a band and orchestra on it. At each special occasion such a that, they hold a dance. The natives dance as the people do there and once in a while they do a little shimmy, which beats "Truckin" all hollow. Phooey!
In Church last Sunday I administered to the Sacrament in Tahitian, bore my Testimony in English with an interpreter, sang a Tahitian song in a trio, and attended four meetings. Busy, did you say? My report sheet reads 14 hrs., 16, 18, 15, 16, 15, etc. for each day. Most of this time is spent in study, work, with natives. The days fly by so fast we just have time to eat two meals a day, and sleep six to seven hours at night. I sure like it.
I'm still intact. Live under coconut trees all the time; they drop occasionally, but there is nothing to worry about. Last nite I awoke with an awful pain in the back of my head. When I first felt it, it was just in one spot, then it began to spread. It covered the complete back of my head until it reached my ears. I couldn't take it any longer so I got up and walked a little, took two aspirins, then laid down again. Ten minutes later I was asleep. There was a slight swelling in the spot that first ached. I came to the conclusion that something must have bitten me. Believe me, I was hoping it wasn't a centipede or scorpion, but this morning, with the exception of a dull pain, I feel all right.
There are plenty of things around here I don't like. I killed a scorpion in our box of canned goods yesterday, killed a centipede 5 1/2 in. long July 6, in our house, have to step on large spiders every once in a while, watch out for crabs when walking down the trail, hold right still while a certain insect crawls around on me. This insect is a queer thing. It flies, is bigger, slightly, than a house fly. If it lights on you, it just has to be let alone until it flies off. If it is brushed off, touched, disturbed in any way, it gives off an acid type of fluid. It is painless but itches. In a few hours that spot turns into a good sized water-blister. The blister breaks and you have a sore spot for weeks at a time. The first one that lit on my chest I picked off. The result: I didn't know it left anything, I scratched the spot, broke the blister and am now waiting for a sore, treated for infection, to heal. It's a queer place, but one can't help but love it. For every bad thing there is three good, so I get along.
Yesterday an American private yacht docked here; Elder Wilde and I went to see it land. We just stood around listening to the people talk. It seemed so strange to us to hear English being spoken by anyone except ourselves, we looked and acted plain dumb. After awhile a few of them came ashore. As they passed, one said "How do you do," I bet I looked funny staring at him. Just about five seconds elapsed before I got out a faint "Hello." Even my English has a funny accent to it.
After awhile we walked away without saying another word to any of them. Today came the report from the natives that the Americans were quite put out because we showed no friendliness toward them and left them for English speaking natives (2). Now that we have thought about it, we are going to apologize and try to show them a little respect. How dumb we must have looked and acted!
Don't get the idea I speak Tahitian, but I have changed my ears so that they are trained on Tahitian, not English. I can once in awhile pick out a few sentences so that I know what subject is going on. As for speaking, I talk a few words here and there and make what is called "Chink Tahitian". They understand (?) maybe, but my sentences sound backward to them even though it is the straight way to say it in English.
Well, I'll close for today. If, within the next few days that I wait for a boat to show up, something happens, I'll write about it.
I still haven't heard a word from anyone. Mail is undoubtedly in Papeete but I won't get it until a boat comes from there to here. Keep the mail pouring in; I'll get it someday.
As Ever, Love
P.S. I wrote this letter today because it is Dad's Birthday. I was going to wait until near boat time, but just for this special occasion I write today.
July 7. Still going Strong. No Boat yet. Still working.
July 11. Took long walk along shore of neighboring Island. Saw many queer and interesting sights. Caught, bare-handed 3 good sized fish. Ate about everything there is to eat in Cocoanut line. Expect ship tomorrow.
July 12, 1938. Ship arrived today on way to Papeete. Same one I came here on, making return trip. I'll finish this letter for sure today.
Things aren't definite just when we care to leave for Manihi. My companion said he doesn't know for sure just what to do. There isn't any Mormons on Manihi now. (One of them is here and the other is on another Island.) If we go, we have no place to stay, so I can't say for sure. If I can talk him into going, we will go regardless of a place in which to sleep and eat.
Teneta (Kenneth) is quite a "slow" person. There seems to be no life in him. He surely isn't much company for me. If I want action I have to go with natives to get it. We play soccer, basketball, and football together; Teneta never participates. He is always sitting around talking with the old men; maybe I am forgetting he is 32 years old as compared to my 20.
I am learning by degrees how to cook. Dough po'i is quite a favorite dish, and I learned how to make that.
Well, now to begin on my lessons so I'll close once more. I'll keep posted as to when boats arrive and leave so I won't miss sending mail regularly. I haven't any pictures yet.