Friday, March 26, 2010

Some assorted pics of our island vista :)

KC and I hit up a church siva in Ta'u- dancing ensues...

KC's eighth grade class: Hooligans

I ate a delicious and ridiculously large Samoan crab.

Fa'alavelave Funeral Reunion

A few weeks ago, KC, Kaitie and I participated in a funeral reunion. Our neighbor, Leafa's, father died a year ago. In Samoan culture, the year anniversary of a family members death is a big deal. They have a huge gathering of dozens of family members and friends. The family cooks enough food for the whole village, there are loads of presents given to the guests, and the new tombstone is revealed. In Samoa, there are no cemeteries to my knowledge- all family members are buried in your front yard on your family's property. The graves are often housed in elaborate shelters, which are meticulously taken care of. Often, because Samoa is ridiculously hot and humid, these cool cement slabs are the perfect and preferred places for an afternoon nap, especially after Sunday to'onai. Leafa's funeral reunion for her father was really wonderful. It was like a big family picnic, with a lot of praying, hymns sung a capella and delicious samoan food (each person was served a serving tray sized portion- in true Samoan fashion). The family wore matching puletasi and i'e made at the local taylor's. We also got to meet Leafa's son,Keith, who was an amazing college football player- played for UHawaii and was on the cover of sports illustrated a few years ago! He's the man. All in all, it was a really incredible experience I was honored to be a part of!

KC and I chill at the Fitiuta siva (dance). Our "papa" To'o drove us (pictured below)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

KC and I get to feel young again!

Last Friday, KC and I went to Manu'a High School's Senior Prom. KC was asked by Luo and I was asked by Eli, both seniors at Manu'a. They were very sweet & both endearingly excited taking "older" women to their prom. I thought it had the potential to be an awkward night, considering you have to enter prom on stage, Lei (pun intended) your date as he gives you flowers and then walk arm in arm through the auditorium to your table, where you sit and eat with his ENTIRE FAMILY! Well not entire, considering most Samoan families have about 10 people on average. But, I had to meet his mom, older sister and younger siblings (the younger ones I happen to teach...not awkward at all). But despite this recipe for awkward hijinxes, the night was really fun. It felt more like a wedding than a faux first date, but there was something very endearing about that. Samoan culture is EXTREMELY family oriented, which I love. So, once you live here, it's not surprising to learn that many of the seniors took their elementary aged cousins or siblings as their dates. Not something I witnessed at my prom back on the east coast, but it works here. And it was a really great night. Eli was so sweet, and his mom enjoyed KC and I so much that she baked us homemade donuts and two loaves of fresh bread! I think I won out on this deal :).

Prom Portraits: Don't we look dashing?

Monday, March 1, 2010

So I've been on a little blog hiatus...

The pictures above are from my lovely, rejuvenating holiday vacation to Independent Samoa. KC, Julia, Thanh, Rosemary and I (and for some of it John and Cynthia) spent a wonderful week and a half gallivanting around the beautiful country and their capital city, Apia. As you can see, Thanh and I were a fan of the beautiful, transparent coastal waters (to clarify..we are not ACTUAL models, I know the picture deceives...). Since my lovely vacay across the way to "the other Samoa," I have been a lazy blogger. January and February just "flew by" as I finished up my grad school apps and attempted to get back into the swing of teaching. SO, this past weekend, bombarded with 100 degree temperatures and unable to move my body across the room to the freezer to stand in front of the open door (which I often dreamed of doing...), I instead used the minimal effort it took to type and caught up on my blogz! *SEE BELOW!

You're welcome....

Random pictures from January...

KC and I hanging out in an open fale with a kid from our village, and MJ and I practice our Algebra (is he not the cutest kid you've ever seen...I'm in love).

Hurricane Rene Hits Manu'a

KC and I huddle in her cement bathroom, reading Harry Potter by candlelight, and praying to the South Pacific gods that the most intense wind I've ever heard does not blow our little fale away.

(PS- I am not naked in that picture, I am just snuggled behind the largest "blanky" in the world fully clothed and fearing for my life..."

"The Perils of Paradise"

... January and February Bring a Tropical Depression, A Hurricane and a small Tsunami

It began in January when Tropical Depression Nisha paid the island of Ta’u a visit. Because her winds were “only” in the 60 mph range, she measured out to be a Tropical Depression. But, her presence did do a lot of damage, taking down small trees and raising the surf levels so high it washed out our only roadway, the waves rising just 50 feet from our front doors. We thought we had weathered the worst of it, until just two weeks later, Hurricane Rene made a special V-line for AmSam. This time with wind gusts up to 90 mph, large trees were demolished, high surf levels flooded the road with coral again and some roofs in Fitiuta were lost. KC and I spent the long 24 hour ordeal hiding out in her fale (house). During the worst of it around 2 am, we locked ourselves in her bathroom (the only room in the house with a cement roof and walls) and read Harry Potter, while attempting not to listen to the howling wind that was slamming large, unknown objects against our house. We were lucky and the storm only registered as a small category 2 hurricane- by the time it reached Tonga, it’s winds had increased to 150 mph! I’m hoping that’s all the hurricane action we get here- it was certainly enough for me. The season goes clear through March, though, so there are no promises. And considering I’m apparently a magnet- my natural disaster magic eightball would probably say “outlook not so good.”

Finally, just yesterday (on my Aunt B’s birthday!), an 8.8 earthquake and at least another dozen large aftershocks in Chile generated a small tsunami that did minor damage throughout the South Pacific. Thanks to my awesome Aunt, I had a NOAA weather radio that woke me and KC up in the middle of the night to a blaring warning that said we needed to evacuate for a tsunami. KC and I woke Kaitie up and made calls to the rest of the Manu’a volunteers. We roused Aso’s family awake and went to alert the town Mayor. We then, perhaps brazenly, took it upon ourselves to ring the town bell for an emergency evacuation. It was 1 am, and because of our radio and my team of expert meteorologists I was able to contact via cell phone (aka my parents and Aunt B who summoned the powers of the internet back in the US), we were some of the few in town that knew what was going on. Luckily, everyone made it safely and calmly up the hill within the hour. We spent the next twelve hours at the high school, waiting out the residual effects. Our island was safe from any waves generated, but Pago Pago harbor on the main island did get a fairly mild, 2 foot surge. Easter Island and Tahiti were hit much worse than Tutuila was, but after the earthquake and tsunami here in October, we considered everyone very lucky- it could have been much worse for the South Pacific. My thoughts are with everyone in South America and the Pacific right now affected by the natural disaster- it takes a certain kind of person to live in the Ring of Fire- I guess I’m earning my street cred here for sure.

Pictures from hike to To'a Cove: You can see the sunset, the islands of Ofu and Olosega and KC and I, inspired by the vista, waxing philosophic

Julia Visits: We take a hike to To’a cove, go for a hike to a hidden beach past Ta’u and swim in the Ta’u wharf

Last weekend, the lovely Julia from Leone, Tutuila, flew over to our little island of Ta’u to visit again. She surprised us with a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables and cheese, which we created into delicious stir fries, pizzas and pasta dishes. But we don’t just love Julia for the amazing food she brings us (nay, that is only half the reason hehe), she also brings the FUN. She arrived on a Thursday afternoon and stayed until Sunday.

Thursday, Julia, KC, Dan, Zac and I took a hike to our favorite cove, To’a (pronounced toe-ah). We hung out on the rocky cliff and watched the sunset behind the islands Ofu and Olosega.

Then Friday, we had class all day, spent the afternoon swimming in our front yard and then enjoyed an awesome town siva (dance) that night. Julia got some solid bonding time with the always adorable toddler, MJ. We busted a move to many traditional songs, as well as sweet Samoan versions of American classics like “The Twist” and “Get Down Tonight.”

Saturday, KC, Julia and I took a wonderful walk over the hill into Ta’u, past the wharf and another plantation to a hidden beach. It was about an hour walk in total. We didn’t explore it in its entirety because the tide was coming in, but the walk through the jungle and along the coast was beautiful. On our way back, the three of us met up with the doctor’s daughters, Atamai and Alia, and jumped in the beautiful aquamarine waters of the Ta’u wharf. It’s quite deep there, but the water is so beautiful and incredibly transparent- it’s wicked fun and refreshing!

I was sad to see Julia go that Sunday- but KC and I are excited because she should be returning for Easter weekend with a bunch of our friends from Tutuila! I’ll cross my fingers and hopefully have another update for you then.