He called us from a member’s home and was using their i-Pad. He was seated at a table inside the house with the i-Pad flat on the table, so we could see the corrugated steel roof inside the house. There was an opening at the top of the wall where the roof connected to allow air to flow freely. He looked good. His face showed signs of perspiration and he constantly swatted at mosquitoes as we talked. We could hear birds chirping and he actually showed us the view outside.
They had had a Christmas Eve gathering at the mission home the night before. All of the missionaries from the zones surrounding Papeete participated. Districts of about 6 missionaries were responsible for a musical number or a skit. Elder Molinari said that their initial plans were too complicated to do successfully, so they just sang a simple hymn arrangement of a Christmas song. He said it was the best because it was serious and the others tried to be humorous or clever, but weren’t.
Their plan was to spend the night in Papeete. Instead they chose to drive home after the celebration. He said it was a long ride home, but that didn’t stop him from opening his Christmas package from us that he received while at the mission home. He got to bed very late that night, but he said it was worth it!
He plans to be in Tautira until February. That is when he will finish training his new companion, Elder Kokona. They seem to get along very well together. We were able to speak with Elder Kokona. He thanked us for the chocolates and the goofy Christmas tie we sent. He was as friendly as Elder Molinari had reported previously.
Elder Kokona, which means coconut, said Elder Molinari is very funny. They shared with us some Biswali or Bismali or ??? language (we asked three times), which is what Elder Kokona speaks. It seems to be a hybrid of English and I-don’t-know-what. “Nehm blonga meh” and “Nehm blonga u” translates to “My name is” and “Your name is”.
At some point in the conversation, Elder Molinari’s sister, who is serving a mission in Tokyo, joined the conversation. She didn’t want to hear anything about how hot it is in Tahiti. She says it’s freezing in Japan right now. It is actually in the high 40’s which isn’t very cold at all compared to winter temperatures in upstate New York, where they grew up. It was about 87 in Tautira, which is a bit higher than the usual 84. It is summer there and always hot and humid. Tautira seems to get a lot of cloud cover and rain to go with it.
It was fun to hear Elder Molinari speak in French and to see that he is doing well. He says he has lost about 10 pounds while being in Tautira. They bike everywhere they go. Since the area they work in is not very close to their house they burn a lot of calories biking 25-30 kilometers a day (15 to not quite 20 miles).
Elder Molinari commented that he has completed his full calendar year in the mission. During a two-year mission, you typically spend one entire year (from January to December) on your assignment. For him, that is 2014; which is drawing to a close. He will remain in the mission field for another eight months until August 10, 2015 (giving him two extra weeks in Tahiti). Then he has to come home!
He clearly loves being in Tahiti. He loves the people, the culture, the food, the work, the languages, the scenery; not so much the mosquitoes and the heat and humidity. In order to be successful on a mission assignment like this, one needs to learn to love the people. I think he has been very successful in accomplishing this. As with most people who spend extended periods in island cultures, it has become part of him. It is going to be very difficult for him to leave.