Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 29 April – 21 May 1915

Venus in Tahiti: 29 April – 21 May 1915

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 10, 2013

(Previous installment)

Thurs. Apr. 29.

The rain poured down all day, so we sat on the front porch and studied. In the evening some neighbors came in and we took turns singing English and Tahitian hymns to one another.

Fri. Apr. 30.

Still raining and native children have come to the house to learn a few English words and phrases. In just a short time they learned the names of everything in sight and memorized the words to “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam” and “Tipperary” which is all the rage here now as well as at home.

Sat. May 1st 1915.

Studied all day and in the evening went for our usual bath in the sea, this time learning to keep my head above the water and move a little forward without the help of the vaa.

Sun. May 2nd.

Spent the morning in study. In the afternoon we held a Sacrament meeting with Toma and his family.

Mon. May 3.

We took a walk along the beach to look at the beautiful scene across the bay and to rest our eyes from study. We saw an immense shark swimming about in the water just a stones throw away from us. We also [took] some excellent pictures of the natives at their work.

Tues. May 4.

Pouring rain. Spent the day in study.

Wed May 5.

We left Vairou, much sooner than we intended but we thought it best on account of the terribly diseased condition of Teri a little native girl who was staying at the same house, taking with us three immense baskets of oranges, four stocks of bananas and a smaller basket of avotas, given to us by Toma and Ioane. The sea was rough and all day the rain poured down on us in torrents We traveled slowly for the boat was over loaded with fruits of all kinds, pigs and chickens, and inconve[en]iently crow[d]ed with natives who smoked incessantly, altogether making a very disagreeable odor. All this accompanied by my usual seasickness I spent a very disagreeable day. When night came on the sea grew much heavier, sometimes splashing up over on us & our only light was the occassianal glimmer from a species of fish that followed the boat. I felt anything but comfortable as we tossed about in our little craft through the utter blackness. As we neared the reef an old native man offered a prayer, and all the time I had a silent prayer in my heart that we night get through the pass and land safely in Papeete. At length we sighted the welcome lights of Papeete, where we landed about 9:30 o’clock, a very dejected looking pair. We hurried to headquarters through the pouring rain, finding Bro Killpack & Bro Orton who had returned from Riatea, also Bros. Shaw and Pierson from their trip around the island.

Thurs 6. & Fri 7.

Were spent chiefly lying down for I still was uncomfortably ill from seasickness.

Sat. May 8.

Bros. Chadwick and Neilson arrived on the Maitai from New Zealand. Bro Pierson took them around Papeete, while we prepared a real Tahitian dinner for them. At 3 o’clock we held our priesthood meeting with the visiting elders, who gave a glowing report of the New Zealand Mission. Soon after dark we all walked down to the boat, returning to the house we spent the evening in music and relating missionary experiences

Sun. May 9.

Arose bright and early to accompany our visitors and Bro Montrose Killpack (our brother who was ill) to the boat leaving for America. Returned to the house in time to prepare breakfast before Sunday School. Sacrament Meeting at 3. pm was conducted by Bro. Otto Stocks.

Mon. May 10.

Boat day, the one day of the month, when we receive our mail from America. We were at the docks at 6: am to meet the ‘Marama’ and were surprised to find eleven missionaries bound for New Zealand, also Mr & Mrs. David Howells (Addie Cannon) who were going to Australia to attend to business interests.

After showing them about Papeete in a down pour of rain we returned to the house, where we served them a Tahitian dinner, in Tahitian style, which they seemed to enjoy very much. In the evening we carried four baskets of fruit to our friends on board the Marama, where we spent a very enjoyable evening. For it certainly does seem good to see some one from home.

Tues. May 11.

In thinking over our two pleasant days experiences one can not help but compare the vast difference of the spirit displayed by the returning missionaries and those who are going to their field of labor. On one hand we find them overw[h]elming with the spirit of their labors while on the other hand they appeared to be on a jolly pleasure trip.

Wed. May 12.

There are a great many Indian people in Papeete, in fact it is the Indians and the Chinese to [who] do a greater part of the actual work on the Islands for the native people are too lazy to do any more work than is required to keep body and soul together. While at Tepo’s house this afternoon a little Indian girl called, she was very pretty, if you would call her so, with her jet black skin, hair & eyes and pearly white teeth. She is the nurse girl for a little French baby Blanchette Cassio, who she had with her. In just the short time that she stayed she talked fluently in the English, French, Tahitian and Indian languages.

Thurs. May 13.

For our mutual benefit I have organized a sewing class to be held Thursday afternoon of each week. While teaching the native women to sew, I have the opportunity to speak in the Tahitian tongue. Every new word or phrase that I hear during the class, I jot down in my book, also learning the names of each article used. Today being our first class the attendance was rather small however those who did come learned very readily to cover buttons and weave cobweb designs on them for trimming.

Fri May 14.

The only thing in the way of public amusement in Papeete is a picture show held three times a week. Early in the evening the town band rides through the streets in a large automobile to arouse the people, finally driving up in front of the theatre where they hold a band concert. The native[s] soon gather, dressed in their holiday attire, and promenade up and down the street. The girls with flowers in their hair and their bright silk shawls tied round their hips or thrown over their shoulder, remind one of the Spanish girls with their easy swinging gait, their long black hair and their laughing eyes. The carnival spirit reigns in the merry crowd as they chatter, smoke, drink and sing to-gether, and the Chinese merchants ever on the alert, gather in many a coin in exchange for the wares from their little stands that line up on either side of the street for the occasion. When the performance begins the band stops playing and the lights go out, and the street is soon cleared

Wed. May 19.

Few of the natives in Papeete prepare their own meals but eat at the little tumble down Chinese rest[a]urants scattered all over the city, and many of the carry the food to their homes which usually consists of sweetened water or coffee, and bread for their eleven o’clock breakfast, and soup and bread and ocassionly a little fruit for their five o’clock dinner. There are two reasons for their so doing first. Because they havent ambition enough to cook & second because the Chinese merchants know it and sell their stuffs almost as cheap as it sells for at the market unprepared.

Thurs. May 20.

Conducted our second sewing class with the attendance just doubled. Continued covering buttons.

Fri. May 21.

Whenever I sit at the organ to sing in the evening, I know what is sure to follow, for the natives are a music loving people, and they noiseless[l]y slip in from out of the darkness, one by one, until the parlor is filled. They love to sing by the hour, in fact until the wee small hours, unless they were told to go at ten o’clock.

(To be continued)



  1. I just tried to get Google Maps to tell me how far it was from Papeete to Tipperary, but it wouldn’t tell me. I’m pretty sure that it’s a long way, though.

    It’s kind of fun to think of all those little Tahitian children singing about the sweetest girl they know, back home in Tipperary.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 10, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

  2. Actually, I just discovered that you can fly from Papeete to Shannon, Ireland (through Los Angeles and New York) in a mere 35 hours (with a total of 14 hours of layovers) and another hour’s drive from Shannon will get you to Tipperary.

    It’s still a long way. And expensive.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 10, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

  3. This is not the first time that I have wondered how terrifying it must have been for her to undertake these journeys without knowing how to swim.

    Comment by Matt — March 11, 2013 @ 8:07 am

  4. These journal entries are priceless! I love that Venus taught her first sewing class the art of covering buttons and decorating them with woven cobweb designs. I’ve been an avid seamstress all my life, and it would never occur to me in a million years to start a basic sewing class in such a fancy way. It just strikes me as so charmingly Relief-Society-ish! Like the long-ago Homemaking Meetings where women made those purple glass grapes. Does anyone else remember the purple glass grapes? My grandmother had the bunch she had made on display in her living room all the years I was growing up.

    I also love Venus’s description of the native people creeping in at night to join in the singing around the organ.

    Comment by Marilyn O. — March 11, 2013 @ 11:09 am

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