Monday, November 30, 2009

THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday of the year for my family.  We have been hosting the annual family reunion/Thanksgiving gathering at my parents home in Georgia for as long as I have been alive.  We generally have around 30 friends and family stay at my family’s small Georgia farm for 5 days of gluttony and general merriment.  This is the only time of year that I get to have both my bothers together in the same room.  But this year I missed it because I moved us halfway around the world.  So since this was the first year my wife and I have ever been away from home for Thanksgiving we decided to do something fun and of course new. 

On Thanksgiving day we went to two separate dinners.  The first one was at Kevin and Corinne’s house.  Kevin and Corinne are from Texas (which is Southern I guess but really Texas is just Texas) and so they know how to make some classic home cooking.  They made BBQ and fixings and we brought the Turkey and some cornbread dressing.  It was a great meal and we were all stuffed.  After that we went our neighbor, Sarah’s house and had a light dinner.

The day after Thanksgiving Ashley and I hopped on a plane with our friends Jamie and Philip.  Our destination was Savai’i, the largest island in Samoa but the least populated.  In order to get there you must take a plane from Pago Pago to Upolu and then get a taxi and drive 45 minutes to a ferry.  Wait in line at to buy tickets to the ferry.  (Side note:  Lines in Samoa are an amorphous concept; generally speaking a “line” is never formed just a mass of people pushing each other in order to gain access to a desired commodity.  They will push each other despite the fact that there is plenty of the commodity for everyone)  After you purchase the ticket you go and wait in a line for the ferry to come to take you from Uplou.  When the doors are opened to board the ferry the line you are waiting in quickly becomes the mass of shoving and pushing as described above.  This is comical and you should just be prepared to do some pushing yourself if you plan on actually getting on the ferry.  The ferry ride is quite pleasant.  There is air-conditioning and a flat screen TV on this voyage.  On the TV was the Miss. South Pacific Pageant.  Much to the groups dismay Miss. American Samoa did not win.

Upon Arriving to Savai’i there is a horde of taxis and buses willing to take you to your destination.  The buses quickly fill up to the point of over flowing and if you are not willing to sit on a large man’s lap you need to take a cab.  Instantly a cab driver offers to take us to our hotel for 70 Tala.  But, another man steps in and offers to take us to our hotel as well for 70 Tala.  Philip goes into negotiation mode and plays one cab driver against the other.  By the time Philip gets done negotiating the “winning” driver has agreed take us to the hotel, pay us 20 Tala and invite us over for a Sunday umu.  Philip is an amazing negotiator. 

We stayed in a beautiful beach front resort with an infinity pool, Le Lagoto.  We were living very well and the price was very affordable.  We spent the first night just lounging by the pool.  The next day we had a wonderful breakfast and went SCUBA diving.  That was a new and exciting experience for Ashley and I.  We did not really enjoy the underwater scenery because we were so focused on breathing and not drowning.  We are looking at giving it another go though.  During our second day we rented a car (Samoa is a left hand driving country so I got to practice those skills) and we circled the island.  We enjoyed a swim in the ocean, acted like monkeys, saw beautiful waterfalls, went to the Western most point in the world (before you cross the international dateline), had prawn chips (gross), big cokes & stale peanuts, tossed coconuts into blowholes and just enjoyed seeing the country (including a horse in a tree).  After our ride we enjoyed dinner  at a tiny restaurant run by a German couple.  We had a wonderful fresh fish dinner, homemade bread and a likely the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten.  The rest of the time we just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company until we had to return to American Samoa.  I must say I missed my family on Thanksgiving, but Savai’i is a beautiful place, and if you get a chance you should stop by and see it.IMG_7559

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TSUNAMI

As you all know there was an 8.3 magnitude earthquake that triggered a deadly tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa.  The destruction was thorough and complete in the areas that the wave hit.  In some places the tsunami’s wave was over 30 feet high.  In total 34 people from American Samoa and another 119 from Samoa lost their lives.  Needless to say this even impacted the lives of everyone on island.

In an attempt to help groups of us went out and helped remove debris, one truck full at a time, from areas that the the heavy equipment could not reach.  We distributed water, food, clothing, school supplies and generally just gave support to people that needed it.  Additionally, members of the local bar association volunteered to aid individuals with various legal issues.  It is hard for me to express this event in words, so I have included a very limited number of photographs of the devastation caused by this tragic event. 9721_776651287533_10203849_45338922_4012628_nA Friend took this photo from his apartment when the wave hit Pago Pago.

IMG_6679IMG_6683Scenes from Pago Pago  

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The pala in Leone

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A Co-worker’s home

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Now We Know…

So we went out to Sliding Rock a while back to take a swim in the Tidal pool.  While we were there two boys came to enjoy the pool as well.  The boys also brought there dogs, all 11 of them.  No lie they had 11 adult dogs following them! On the way back to the cars, these boys were running and siding on the rocks, all of us were like, Oh, that’s why it is called Sliding Rock.  We just thought it was because you come close to falling on the slippery rocks with every step you take.  Well here is a video of the fun.  You will notice that the boys had no fear and earned maximum style points.  Us on the other hand….

Sliding Rock

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My 27th on the 27th

This year was my Golden Birthday, turning 27 on September 27th.  Jeremy threw me a beach birthday party at 2 Dollar Beach.  Here rented the fales and cooked a bunch of food for us and our friends.  It was the most beautiful day and it is now one of my favorite birthdays.  The only thing missing were the people I love back at home. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Raft Regatta and Talk like a Pirate Day

So to celebrate “Talk Like A Pirate Day 2009”  some genius proposes to have a Raft Regatta.  This genius was Charlie Lee, an attorney in Jeremy’s office.  Teams were created and people gathered their raft supplies.  Jeremy teamed up with Brian Peck, new found fishing friend, to construct and paddle the boat.  They decided to build the boat using nothing but trash picked up around the island.  With a little bit of design help from me and Sue Peck, the raft was constructed and beautified a bit with a a table cloth, “Team Skinny Guys” flag and a mascot.  They tried out this heavy pile of trash and it floated! 

All the teams lined up at the starting point and set off on the race.  Every team made a pit stop at Pala Island, then headed for the finish line.  And Team Skinny Guy won!  Sue and I were so proud of our guys and their paddling skills. 

Then it was off to the “Talk Like A Pirate Party.”

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Magic Circus of Samoa

The MAGIC CIRCUS OF SAMOA (said in a very boisterous, circus master type voice) came to American Samoa.  It was here for around 3 weeks and was the talk of the island for that time.  It was actually a very entertaining circus,  with trapeze artists, contortionists, a live band, a little person clown, and the “cage of death”, which had five motorcycles in it at once.  There was also the show stopper, Fountina, the Human Fountain.  This woman could voluntarily regurgitate water like a fountain.  Gross!  It was exciting to have this entertainment on the island, since there is very little live entertainment at all.  The show lasted three hours and only cost $7 or $9 for VIP tickets (VIP seats are so close you can touch the stage). The circus performers did it all.  Each performer was in at least two shows, and when the performers were not working they would sell refreshments. The one disappointment with the circus was that there were no t-shirts to buy.   Everyone really wanted one. 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jeremy & Ned’s Matafao Peak Hike

Matafao is the highest point on the island, 2,142 feet above sea level.  Ned, a former High Court clerk, and I  went on a day hike to the very top.  You can see this beautiful peak from our house.  The hike takes around 4.5 hours.  You begin by climbing an old rusted ladder through a banana field.  Next you spend a few hours walking through a rain forest.  Then finally you climb out of the forest, above the tree line, and into were only small shrubs can cling to the minimal soil.  From there Ned and I had to make a slippery and mostly vertical climb to the summit.  The view is well worth it.  However, on the way down Ned fell off the side of the mountain when we were just a few hundred feet from the top.  Luckily, he fell and rolled into a group of bushes and he was not hurt.  But we were both scared.  But by time you make it back down you are very glad the hike is over.  We were both tired and muddy.  I will go back again but not for a few months.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Umu at Tisa's with the Humane Society

We went to Tisa's for a traditional Samoan Umu with a group from the Humane Society to celebrate having Tanya, a visiting veterinarian from Australia, on the island. An umu is a method of cooking food by using hot rocks to slow roast the meal. Enjoy the pictures of the event.

Samoa

Since Mama was here on our 3 month anniversary of being in American Samoa we decided it was time to ditch this rock and see another rock. So we set off for Samoa (an independent nation) where we could see a larger city and some different sites. We hopped on a tiny plane and took a 20 minute ride over to the island of Upolu which is much larger and much more tourist friendly. We stayed in Apia, the capital city, our first night where we walked around and smelled the aroma of no emissions standards and had a fabulous dinner at Paddles. One of the big perks of going to Samoa is eating, they have lovely restaurants that compare to 4 star restaurants in the states and the service is impeccable.

The next morning we headed out to see the island in the last available rental car on island (I won't mention how it was infested with roaches, enough to populate Florida all over again, YUCK). So we headed up and over, right through the middle of the island seeing one of the few Baha'i Temples in the world, the beautiful 300’ Tiavi waterfall, and Robert Louis Stevenson's house.

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By the time we made it over to the other side of the island we realized that it was pretty much impossible to have lunch anywhere so we stopped for a huge Coke, Sprite, and chips and asked directions for the Aganoa Black Sand Beach. Down the road on the left where there is a man with a sign. Great, a guy with a sign and a mere 10 Tala that lets us know that it is ok for us to be there. The road there was long and bumpy but the beach was fantastic. It was black sand and some fairly easy swimming. Mama may not agree since she was kind of drug back onto the beach with a suit full of sand, but snorkel fins can have that effect on a person. The local kids really enjoyed the show, they also enjoyed finishing off our drinks and chips while we were not looking. We wished we had more to give them.IMG_5467-1 IMG_5481-1

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Then we were off to the National Park Water Falls. This is a very nice park where there are 3 stages of falls that you can jump into and from one to the other. The kids had no fear and so that put Jeremy up to the challenge, so off he went over the edge of the largest jump. Me, I took about 20 minutes to work up the guts to do the first small jump and about 20 more for the next slightly larger jump. But I did it and now I can say "I did that." We all enjoyed the cold water swim at the bottom of the falls.

Off the cliff he goes!


Working up the courage.

Oh Crap I am out there now!

“I did that.”

Enjoying the pool.


After this it was off to To Sua Ocean Trench. This is 2 huge holes created from Lava tubes, one you can climb down into and swim around where the ocean comes into it. Jeremy was gung ho for climbing down and I gave it a try but chickened out. So Mama and I watched Jeremy climb down the huge ladder and swim around a bit. Then we checked out the beautiful views of the ocean there.

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Then it was time to find our spot for he night. Lupe Sina Fales, a nice group of Fales on the ocean with individual restrooms and "walls" made out of lattice. The couple that owned the place were from Oregon and had recently purchased the place after coming there a number of years. They had a nice restaurant where we chowed down on some Fish and chips. The stars were amazing that night even with a few clouds. I don't think any of us slept too well but we all enjoyed the complementary pancakes and French toast in the morning.

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After that busy day we had a Sunday to finish our drive back around to Apia. Sundays are a bit harder to do and see things on these islands, you have to be very respectful of their customs. We did get to stop at some places fortunately. We hit up two more waterfalls. At the first, Fuipisia Falls,we had our own personal tour guide, a boy of around 12 who said he was 20. (Lost in translation I believe.) They had a beautiful path lined with all types of flowering plants and a magnificent waterfall that dropped 180 feet down.

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At the next waterfall, Sopo’ga Falls, the family had all of the plants labeled with their Samoan, English and Scientific names. So we were more interested on the plants than the waterfall here. And the woman gave us a demonstration of how you make coconut cream (or how she makes coconut cream). She was very kind and helped us to better understand some of her culture. She also had some very fat chickens who loved to eat the coconut after it had been squeezed.

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The we just enjoyed the ride back to Apia, where we checked into the Pasefika Inn, where a sweet lady from Georgia was the manager. What a small world! Jeremy and I left Mama there to read and headed out to Sliding Rock. Where you slide on the Rocks down the different waterfalls. Of course Jeremy did not hesitate but I was a chicken again. But I did it and now I can say, "I did that."

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After our return we went to Giordano’s for some pizza and pasta! I love Italian and we do not have it in American Samoa unless Pizza Hut counts? The next day was all about the shopping and a little bit of snorkeling and Palo Deep marine Reserve. We all got some great souvenirs to take back with us. I was a great trip and now I can say "I did that" and "I want to do that again."

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