Monday we traveled to Tonga (and Tuesday … and Wednesday). In the interest of full disclosure, I need to include that we crossed the international dateline. In all, from the time we left our home, it took 29 hours until we were at the Mission home in Liahona, Tonga.
Our journey was mostly uneventful (mostly that is). The agent helping us check our bags at the SLC airport just happened to be Tongan and our baggage was right on the maximum allowed. We made it to our gate a few hours early, ate some lunch and waited for our flight. We used light duffle type bags for our carry-ons to minimize the weight as they were weight restricted to 15 lbs. as well as our backpacks which included our laptops and iPads. Our backpacks were actually a little overweight but we thought nothing of it at the time.
Our departure out of Salt Lake City was delayed due to the storm. Our plane arrived late and we had to de-ice prior to take-off. In all we were delayed about1 hour and 15 minutes. This made our layover in Houston a bit dicey (yes, we connected to Air New Zealand in Houston). We had 20 minutes to scurry through the airport and catch the tram to another concourse. We also had another senior missionary sister who was traveling to Australia with us.
We arrived at the gate just as they were paging us overhead to check our passports, load our luggage, and board. It just so happened that the agent helping us recognized our missionary badges and she said that helps! So we sailed through and made our flight without delaying the take-off.
We flew from Houston to Auckland on a roomy 777. It was full but had more leg room than other aircraft so even though it was a 13+ hour flight we were about as comfortable as possible.
We had a 4-hour layover in Auckland prior to our last leg to Tonga. We had lunch and waited as our gate assignment was listed as “relax”. About an hour prior to our flight our gate assignment was posted and we proceeded to the gate. The agent at the gate immediately told us to weigh our luggage as there was a zero tolerance for overweight bags.
We must have looked funny as we scrambled to put out jackets on and start trying to figure out what we could do without. Switching things back and forth in bags to get us to the magic number (7kg). For some reason the agent took pity on us and said you’re okay. Just put it all back in and go! He said they are mostly looking for the people that load up with 20kg of chocolate. We felt blessed again. It’s amazing to overlook the small things but we know the Lord put people in our paths to help us.
We arrived in Tonga to the cheers of about 15 -16 senior missionaries. What a warm welcome feeling we had. We must have been grinning from ear-to-ear as we walked across the yard into the terminal. We zipped right through customs and started waiting for our luggage. I wasn’t sure that it had made it due to the short time we had in Houston but Becky was confident it would be there. As we got towards the end of the luggage, our bags showed up … every one of them.
There was a missionary couple assigned to show us around and by the end of the day, we had shopped for food, found a blow dryer, received our car, and obtained our Tongan driver’s licenses. The test was difficult … do you have 120 pa’anga? (about $30 US each). We passed.
Everyone we have met is so friendly and welcoming. Our apartment is very nice and comfy. We both slept very well last night and are ready to serve! Thanks for all the prayers and loving sentiment. We are safe and sound.
Here are a couple of photos ... I’ll add more once we more settled in.
|View from our front door Thursday morning Jan.26th|
|Doo Doo Doo lookin' out my back door. LDS Temple is behind the tree and to the right. |
The white van is ours to drive ... at least for now.