Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some old videos from Samoa

Classic mustache day clip featuring Maximo

Hurricane conditions outside the mobile vet tent. 1000 dogs and cats were spade and neutered by volunteer veterinarians over a 3-week stay. A much needed event that I hope continues!

Traditional dancing at the Flag Day celebration 2005

Fautasi Boat Race in Pago Pago Harbor during Flag Day celebration 2005

more to come...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Off the island

We left!

January 18th was our last day on Tutuila. We're now back in California planning our 4-month honeymoon trip around the world. Things are quite different back on the mainland. It was even noticeable on our 8-hour layover in Honolulu. We went to Duke's at Waikiki and got the all-you-can-eat buffet. They actually had fresh fruit!!!!!!!!! It was gooooooooooooooood.

The weather is a bit cooler here in CA and the water is a lot colder! We do miss some of the luxuries of the south pacific...sloshball saturdays, BBQs with the Lion's Park Crew, short walks to pristine snorkeling sites, and of course Friday's at Sook's Sushi! Mainly we miss the people though...and of course Ed the dog.

My last Sushi Bowl at Sook's

New Years Eve party in Pago Pago...and saying goodbye to Jonas

Cynthia and me in our Samoan attire

Visiting our Samoan friends at Waikiki

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Manuia le Kerisimasi

Manuia le Kerisimasi ma le tausagafou!

Just returned from a few days in independent Samoa. Went to a wedding on Upolu, then spent a few days in Savai'i. Cynthia and I went scuba diving while in Savai'i as well.

It's been a fun few weeks lately. The tennis tournament I was in turned out to be somewhat uneventful. Not nearly as many folks turned up as last year and it simply wasn't as fun. I only had one match which I won, then ended up getting sick later that night so didn't attend the closing festivities and party.

The soccer tournament was more fun however. We made it to the finals only to lose 3-0. It was fun to get back on the soccer field again though, it had certainly been a while.

Both Cynthia and I sang in the annual American Samoa Government Christmas Program last week. That's a good time for sure! Nothing like taking work time for choir practice! Can you spot Cynthia in the photo? She's the only palagi in the whole choir!
We've decided on a departure date! Looks like we'll be outta here on January 18th. My contract is up and we're heading back to California...most likely the Bay Area. We're still hoping to take a trip although it may not be as long as hoped. Looking to go to southeast asia for a month or so instead of the anticipated 3-month trip. So the next few weeks will be spent packing, mailing things home, and selling a lot of stuff....hopefully!

The blog will continue as I still have some old stories from this place that I've been meaning to post so I may have a retrospective series the meantime...Manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tousagafou!!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Uneventful events

Not much happening in these parts lately. It's been raining...a lot. When it rains here, it rains hard. Before I moved here I lived in San Diego and I think it rained more in the first month I was here than it did the entire 3.5 years I lived in San Diego...seriously. So when it rains, one tends to stay in doors.

The sun did peak through last weekend for a little bit though, which was nice since we had a 3-day weekend to celebrate Veteran's Day. Last weekend was also the big palolo weekend. The annual palolo hunt is a Samoan event that occurs once or twice a year (read more about palolo here: It usually occurs about a week after the full moon in October and November. It is quite an event in the Samoan islands with nearly every village participating in the hunt. A group of us were in Sa'ileilei last weekend enjoying a nice beach cove while villagers were installing lights out over the water in preparation for palolo hunting. They basically ran an extension cord from someone's house out to the lights that were installed on a couple of poles sticking out of the water. As they were doing this we all wondered how far salt water could conduct electricity. We thought we were safe at about 50 yards away, but not surprisingly we didn't stay much longer after their lights were installed.

I'm involved in an international tennis tournament this weekend hosted by our Lion's Park Tennis Club. This event occurs twice a year, November here in American Samoa and February in Apia, Samoa. It's quite fun, and the real competition is who can provide the nicest spread of food. I must say that the folks from Apia set the bar pretty high back in February. We'll see what we can come up with this weekend. There's also a soccer tournament that starts this Saturday. This is typical for the island, nothing happens for several weeks and then one weekend will be jam packed with events. Decisions, decisions.

Cynthia will be dancing at the community college tonight in support of the Big Man On Campus competition. Can't wait to post photos of that next week! She's also going out on her second diving excursion for her SCUBA class on Saturday. Should be a fun weekend, hopefully the weather will cooperate. I hope to have photos of all these activities posted soon. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tropical Halloweeeeeeeeeeeen

The room is dark. I sit in silence at the desk and try to keep my keystrokes quiet. The night has been ruined by the most powerful four letter word in the English language. When coupled with candy, it brings hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids into the street, most in costume, many not. Free candy!

The government housing area we live in is mostly occupied by palagi's. The kids know this and they know that Halloween is a palagi custom. Truck loads are dropped off, the small, usually quiet roads are bumper to bumper with pick up trucks and SUVs carrying as many as 20 kids in each of them. Last year I bought several bags of candy and they were gone in under 5 minutes! And I was being piece per kid! There were so many that I couldn't tell if they already been by the house! Many had the same costume or no costume at all. The littlest kids didn't even know what they were doing singing some song to a strange palagi!

Cynthia was already home when I got pulled into the driveway. We had planned to go to a movie, or out to dinner to avoid the masses and figured we had until dusk to make a plan. As we were contemplating what to do, we could hear the first wave coming! They were early this year! Our minds raced, we didn't have candy, we were supposed to be out of the house by the time they came around! "Get in the car!" I shouted. I could hear the kids singing their terrifying song as they walked up our street and closer to our house..."Halloween, trick or treat, give me something good to eat!" It was barely 5pm and still light out. We fumbled for the car keys and bolted out the door and could see the SUV in front of our house emploring their kids to continue singing that hideous song..."HALLOWEEN, TRICK OR TREAT, GIVE ME SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT!" "We don't have any candy" we pleaded! They sang louder!

We were seated for dinner by 5:15, not surprisingly we were the only people in the restaurant. We tried to eat slowly. We sauntered around the shopping mall. We went home. We were only going to stop by the house for a minute. Drop off the leftovers, grab the flashlight and walk to a friends house, then the bank. I killed the lights as we pulled onto our street. We quickly got out and ran into the house. No lights, can't risk being noticed. We were in and out in less than a minute and started walking to our friends place. It was dark now and the streets were crawling with kids and trucks full of more kids. Literally as many as 20 kids in the back of the trucks. As we walked down the road to the house, there was a line of trucks, most of the houses were empty, people knew to flee. Two kids asked us where we lived, "around here" we said. We asked where they were from and they said "Nu'uuli" which is the village next to ours. "No candy there" they said. I asked what they were dressed as and they said nothing. Just after free candy!

Our friends weren't home, we walked to the bank. Kids on bikes, kids walking around, kids in trucks, they were everywhere. "Halloween, trick or treat, give me something good to eat!"

We figured it would be nearly over by the time we returned from the bank. As we neared our neighborhood there were still kids loitering about. It felt as though they were following us just so they could sing that song...THAT SONG...GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!!! We didn't walk down our street, instead deciding to walk up the grass around the back of our house and sneak in the back door. No lights, still too risky. The dogs barked, chased some kids away.

Now here I am sitting in darkness. The dogs are still barking occasionally, but its slowing down. Still no lights though, too soon. Perhaps a movie, if we keep the volume low. We can always mute it if we hear the dogs bark, a sure sign that trick-or-treaters are nearby. Just another tropical Halloween!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Glazed Walnut Shriimp

I should have known. Obviously, I wasn't thinking when I ordered. Cynthia and I went to dinner at the ever popular Hong Kong House last night. One of several Chinese restaurants on the island. The place was deserted when we walked in, but it was 6:00pm on a Wednesday evening. Nevertheless, Cynthia and I were enjoying being out together. Talking about our day and our future. We're still undecided about what our next move is so there is lots to discuss and consider in the next few months.

Cynthia ordered the Vegetable & Tofu Chow Mein right away, before I was ready to order. I was a bit flustered. I have eaten at the Hong Kong House several times in the past and have a couple items I enjoy eating, but last night I wanted to try something different. I know the fish cubes with garlic sauce and the fish cubes with black bean sauce are good. There are also several chicken dishes that are nice, but I was in the mood for shrimp. As I hurriedly scanned the shrimp menu items, the usual suspects yawned off the menu at me...Kung Pao Shrimp has peanuts, which I'm allergic to, Shrimp with vegetables sounds ok, but the vegetables here aren't too exciting. The menu item that jumped out at me in the shrimp selection was the Glazed Walnut Shrimp. Sounded exciting and different, something one doesn't typically get here, so without a thought, I ordered the Glazed Walnut Shrimp with a side of steamed rice and went back to discussing the future with Cynthia.

Another couple arrived in the restaurant and sat down at a table out of our site. Our drinks arrived as we continued to talk. Then Cynthia's chow mein was delivered to our table. The vegetables in the Vegetable & Tofu Chow Mein consisted of carrots, cabbage, and spring onions. Not the greatest selection as I mentioned. It was good chow mein though, love those noodles, may not be healthy, but damn they're good. Then the kitchen doors opened and as the other couple had only just arrived, I knew it was my Glazed Walnut Shrimp. As it neared the table I was a bit excited to eat something out of the ordinary.

As it was placed on the table I scanned the dish and was a bit confused at what I saw. Fried shrimp on a bed of cabbage, sprinkled with walnuts, with a carrot garnish was somewhat expected, but what was the white "sauce" covering the shrimp? It looked creamy, certainly not like a "glaze". "Is that mayonnaise?" I queried the waitress. She replied with a slightly embarrassed "yes". Mayonnaise!?! MAYONNAISE!?!??! On fried shrimp?!? My Glazed Walnut Shrimp which sounded so exciting and different was actually fried shrimp sprinkled with walnuts and covered...and I mean covered, dripping, thick...with mayonnaise?!?! I couldn't believe it...and yet, I should have known. I simply should have known. You can never let your guard down and must constantly be suspicious of things, especially food, that sounds too good to be true. Last night I suffered the consequences and cursed myself for doing so as I used the steamed rice to wipe the mayo off my Glazed Walnut Shrimp. I got through half the shrimp and could go no further. The dogs didn't seem to have a problem with it though.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Girl Named Ed

Dogs are a big problem on many small islands. American Samoa is no exception. There are literally thousands of stray dogs running around down here. On top of that, it is often difficult to tell the difference between a stray and an "owned" dog, for even dogs that are considered pets are often not fed regularly and have mange or other physical problems. Nearly every dog has a severe limp, broken tail, and numerous cuts all over their body from fighting with other dogs or being hit by cars. These dogs roam the streets and parks, barking at cars, barking at people, fighting other dogs, looking for food, fornicating, urinating and defacating as they please. Passers by will throw rocks at them, waive sticks at them, kick them, or toss scraps of food at them. Some are aggressive and some wince in fear when people pass by. Those that are agressive are the ones that get rocks thrown at them or sticks waived at them. On numerous occasions I have been surrounded by up to 10 dogs barking and nipping at my feet. Not a fun experience, but we humans are generally smarter than the average stray dog, so we've managed to come up with methods of outsmarting them.

There are the occasional exceptions to the rule however. I have also witnessed this. It all started about one year ago when a stray dog showed up on a friends porch. This dog seemed quite friendly. She didn't bark, didn't growl, didn't really even beg. She was just content to sleep on the table under the carport. Perhaps this dog knew what she was doing, for she had chosen the right house. The person living at this house, Chris, just so happened to be the president of the American Samoa Humane Society, but was leaving the island in 3 short weeks.

While one person cannot save every dog on the island, with 3 weeks left here, feeding this dog was easy for Chris. The dog slowly began to grow on us...she was a sweet dog, with a good personality, which key to winning over humans. She became friends with Chris' dog Utu'fiti (samoan for "flea bag" right) and his Steve's dog Moana (samoan for "deep ocean"...below left). Once Chris left, this new dog knew where both Steve and I lived and so began hanging around our houses.

That summer, Steve had a house guest named Ed. Ed was in American Samoa doing some work for his masters degree and training for a marathon at the same time. Ed would occasionally throw this dog some scraps. So naturally, when Ed would go on his 15-mile training runs, the dog would follow with the hope of getting some bread or even a chicken bone out of the deal. This dog had barely eaten for weeks and was running 10 to 15 miles with Ed every other day!!

After Ed left, we realized that the dog and Ed had similar hair color, and perhaps from running 15 miles in equatorial heat together, both often smelled a bit. Therefore, the dog has since become known as Ed (below right on her back). Ed now runs the neighborhood, she knows where everybody lives and where the BBQ's are. It's simply not a legitimate Lion's Park BBQ if Ed doesn't show up!

She has since been legitamized as well. Ed got pregnant several months back, but luckily it was during the time that there were volunteer vets here from Oregon. Cynthia and I struggled to get Ed into a kennel and took her in to get fixed. Ed does not do well with leashes and will simply run away if she suspects something is up...she's still a street dog at heart. The volunteer vets did a fantastic job on the island. They fixed more than 1000 dogs and cats in little over a month. Pretty impressive considering there typically is no vet on the island at all.

A few days after we returned to the island I got a phone call from Cynthia at work. She said she was feeding a stray puppy. I frowned on the idea because if we fed every stray that came around, we'd have over 50 dogs by the end of the month! Cynthia replied saying that she can't be expected to stay at home and not feed a cute puppy that comes up to the door! So, within less than Cynthia and I returned to the island less than 2 weeks ago, we've already adopted another puppy that is quickly becoming Ed's protege. We've named her LaFawnDuh...see below. Her hind legs are longer than her front legs, which makes her look a bit like a kangaroo. We dewormed her and picked about 8 ticks out of her ears. She follows Cynthia everywhere she goes.

As I type this I'm watching Cynthia use a machete to attack a coconut and trim a banana tree in the yard...she's quickly adapting to island life! I'm sure LaFawnDuh will get some of the coconut meat...if she ever breaks through the shell!

Back on the island promoting PBS!

Well Cynthia and I are back in American Samoa as a married couple!! AND, we have a new laptop computer that I have sworn not to spill water on so it should remain operational. Stay tuned for exciting upcoming blogs relating to dogs on the island, my friday lunch routine, and perhaps even a tidbit about our fantastic wedding. In the meantime, here's some information about a remarkable television series airing soon on your local PBS station!

On Wednesday, September 20th & 27th, PBS will be airing a 2-part series on America's Underwater Treasures. In this two-part, two-hour episode, Jean-Michel Cousteau, his son, Fabien, daughter, Celine, and his team of expert divers set out to investigat, for the first time, all 13 of our National Marine Sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument. While discovering what makes them unique, the group explores how these sites are conservation challenges for the country. Traversing thousands of miles, the Ocean Adventures team ventures below and above the sea off the coasts of Michigan, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Hawai'i and American Samoa on a mission to introduce Americans to these fragile sanctuaries.

The portion on American Samoa will air on Sept. 27th. If anyone is curious about where Cynthia and I are living at the moment, check it out. It shows American Samoa's Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary as well as other parts of the island we live on. While the series is narrated by Robert Redford, several of my co-workers and colleagues from American Samoa are interviewed. I work, or have worked, with all the folks interviewed in the American Samoa section.

So again, the American Samoa portion airs on Wednesday, Sept.27th and I think it will be at 8pm. Please use the links below to check your local listing for the correct air time in your time zone. The series is very well done and should be a good program for all. Hope you watch!

For more information, check out these links:
America's Underwater Treasures
Check your local listings here: