Monday, May 28, 2007

Back to Ofu

For Memorial Day weekend, a group of us decided to go to the Island of Ofu. The Ofu seven were Naomi, Liz, Markus, Fred, Niki, Aaron and myself. The last time I went to Ofu I almost died, so I hoped for a better visit this time around. I am pleased to report that it was a great trip and I had no near death experiences. I did get a nice sunburn, so perhaps that will later cause me to develop skin cancer, but I think that would be unfair to blame it all on Ofu. It was sort of an adventure to get to Ofu. InterIsland Air is the only airline that flies to Ofu. I first attempted to book a flight three weeks before we left. They were not able to tell me if we could leave on Friday or Saturday. I had to call back. Two weeks before we were to leave, I was able to confirm a flight for Saturday morning, and I was told that we might be able to get a Friday afternoon flight, but I would have to check a few days before we left. Aaron checked for us on Thursday. They said that they might be able to get a Friday afternoon flight, depending on the pilot, but we would only have about 30 minute notice to get to the airport to get the flight. We said that worked for us. For better or worse, the Friday flight did not work out, so we left Saturday morning. When we left, we were not sure when the Monday flight would pick us up - I was originally told that when we heard the plane land in Ofu, we would know it was time to go. Can't argue with that logic. The trip to Ofu was beautiful, but uneventful except instead of providing an in-flight beverage, they tried to put us out with knock-out gas. Once we got to Ofu, Marge and the family greeted us warmly. We dropped of our bags and went right to the beach, which was only steps from the airport and the lodge - perfect. We spent the morning at the Lodge Beach and then went down to the Hurricane House Beach in the afternoon. It is so named because their is a Fale that is used as an example for the island residents of how to build a house that will survive a hurricane. [Thanks to Kim for the fun fact]I am not sure why they have a stop sign - I think Ofu has about a dozen cars and one road. A few yards from this section of the beach is where I got caught in the ava last time and almost drowned. yikes. I went out snorkeling again, but kept relatively close to the shore. Safety First! After a great Thanksgiving dinner (including homemade stuffing) prepared by Marge and her family, we spent most of the night looking at the stars on the runway. Not a picture of stars, but still cool, no? It did storm a little, and we got to see a water spout (tornado) in the clouds. Later on, we decided to take a midnight skinny dip in the ocean, which was great. It was full moon, in more ways then one, that night. On Sunday, we drove through the National Park to the Bridge Beach. Liz, Markus and Naomi decided to walk - silly palagis. We didn't see any buffaloes (look at the sign again), and Aaron didn't see any giraffes, but I think he was still impressed with the beauty of the island. Ofu is part of the Manu'a Islands, which also includes Olesaga and Ta'u. A bridge connects Ofu to Olesaga. Below the bridge is a nice beach area. The water was deep enough, so we were able to jump off the bridge. Somehow I was selected to go first - great. But now I know that if I jumped off a bridge, my friends would as well. The jump was a lot of fun, and each time got easier. However, at first it felt like you were falling forever, which was both a pretty cool and scary sensation. Here is Aaron taking the plunge.Video of Fred & Niki (aka Adventure Girl).

Here is Aaron, Fred and me jumping.
My Solo Jump
After a great day at the beach, we went back to the Lodge. I took a nap in a hammock on the beach falling asleep as I listened to the waves. I really love my life right now. After another great meal by Marge and Co. - we played some poker and then decided to try to start a bonfire on the beach. A pit was already dug and we had collected some wood earlier, however, we realized that we did not have much to start the fire. In an amazing MacGyver style move, Aaron and Fred were able to start the fire with a match, a cereal box and a Lysol spray can. Amazing. Fred keep the fire going for a long while - we were all impressed. The next morning, we heard the plane land around 11 am, so we checked in at the airport, and it was time for us to leave this island paradise and return to our other island paradise. Yes, I have a tough, tough life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nippon Maru

Our last cruise ship for the season visited Am Sam today - it was the MS Nippon Maru. It was the first time a Japanese cruise ship visited Am Sam. My friend Sharon, who speaks Japanese, was very excited, but sadly, she got stuck at work and was not able to practice her language skills. News reports indicate that it was "not easy" to convince the Japanese to visit. According to a member of our Tourism Office, the Japanese "are very particular, very fussy and they want to make sure that things occurred as scheduled or on time." Things occurring on time in Am Samoa? Ha. That is a good one. No wonder it took forever to con, um, convince them to visit.
I am sure they will visit again, especially after our Governor gave them a kava bowl and then played on their piano - I guess he is pretty good.
I do hope they come back, cause any ship that as a song about it, must rock...

SSEAYP's Nippon Maru Song
Lyric and Music by Augusto Francisco Jasmin Meyer

Nippon Maru , sailing the blue , blue ocean.
Riding the waves over the deep blue sea.
Can you tell me how much you can cover a day?
Can you tell me how long you have gone with the purpose of bringing together young heart and mind?

Nippon Maru , sailing the blue , blue ocean chasing the wind over the deep blue sea.
Can you take me with you to the ports of the world with the message of love and peace?
Can you take me to the nations where caring is only a word to say?

If you carry us over and out to the world.
There's a chance we can speak to them all.
There's a chance we can tell them the world's but home and all people's family!

(repeat first two verses , then fade away)

Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 Vailima Torpedo Challenge

File under: When stupid people do stupid things. Vailima is Samoa's Beer. It is actually the "Produce of Samoa" - that is not at typo - the label says it the Produce of Samoa, not a product. While it does rank above San Miguel, which doesn't say a lot, it does not taste that good. It is made in Indy Samoa, but they ship it to Am Sam - lucky us. As a special treat, the Indy Samoans ship to Am Sam a special export lager. It is 750 ml with 6.7% alcohol content - we call it a Torpedo aka a bad idea. A good Samoan can knock off a couple of these with no problem, while it can cause serious damage to palagis. For whatever reason, we decided that it would be a great idea for us to see how many we could drink in a night. It might be the worst idea we have ever, ever come up with. To met the challenge, each participant had to finish Five Torpedoes. We settled on a sunset to sunrise time period. We got six cases and went over to New Guy's for one crazy night. Now THAT is a Samoan beer fridge. Eight of us entered into the competition - Here is us at tip off time with Don as the official official. We decided that a nice game of "High - Low - Red - Black" would be a great idea to start off the night. For some it was, but for New Guy - it wasn't. He had no luck in picking the next card. I think the pictures describe it all. Fred was the first to finish - but as this was not a speed race, the speed caught up to Fred in the end. The rest of the night devolved quickly. Some call him the Mexican Tom Cruise. Here we are at hour five. The photos trail off at this point for obvious reasons. I called it a night - or at least my body called it a night - after I polished off Torpedo Number Six. Nate was the big "winner" finishing ten minutes before the sunrise deadline. New Guy and Nate were kind enough to wake me up at 7 am so I could witness the last slurp of Torpedo Number 10. Thanks guys. Minus Keyser, who actually might be the smartest one of the group, everyone completed the challenge. Everyone had a great time, even though the next morning was not the best. We also decided that his would be the last Vailima Challenge for a very, very long time. The final stats:
Nate - 10
Justin - 9
Aaron - 7
Fred - 7
Gonzo - 6
Weaver - 6
Maximo - 5 5/8
Keyser - 3 1/2

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Man's Best Friend

Am Sam has its share of wild dogs, and some are better then others. I have now acquired my own set. I have always had a special place in my heart for my Samoan neighbor's dog, Roscoe.Well, that is once he stopped barking and growling at me. About two months ago, two new dogs showed up in my yard. I had some extra food, so I fed them one day. They haven't left since that time. At first they were still a bit skittish, but now they don't even move when I get home. They also like to dig holes in my garden/dirt strip and lay in the them, which kinda makes a mess of the house, when the wind blows in the dirt. However, they are decent guard dogs cause they still bark at strangers, as well as my neighbors. They also get along well with Roscoe, so they can't be that bad. But I think they still pick fights with the other dogs in the hood, but those dogs are mean, so they are just asking for it. I was going to name them Sidetracks and Cocktails to go with Roscoe (my Chicago friends should get that joke), but thought those names were too long - so now I just call them Blackie and Brownie. I recently noticed that Blackie's belly is hanging a little low - I think she is going to have a late mother's day. Mommy, can I keep the puppy, please!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa died on Friday at the age of 95. The king succeeded the Malietoa title in 1940, when his father passed away. He was made Samoa's joint head of state with Tupua Tamasese Meaole when the country gained independence from New Zealand in 1962, and he became sole head of state a year later when Tupua Tamasese passed away. He was the world's third longest-serving sovereign after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended to the throne in 1952.

Many American Samoans considered him to be the father of the two Samoas and he was a frequent visitor to the U.S. territory's annual Flag Day festivities.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dancing Palagi

Nate has been taking Samoan language classes at the local Community College. As part of their grade, the class had to do presentations to the rest of the class. Aaron and I heard that part of Nate's presentation would be a dance routine. We did not want to miss it. So, we went to the class to cheer him on. We had to sit through an hour of other presentations, and some of them were not that good. However, I did learn the Samoan legend of the coconut tree - A Fijian King tries to find the most beautiful women in Samoa, turns into an eel and basically becomes a stalker, and then she chops his head off (at his request). She plants it, and wam-o - coconut trees. I also learned that there are 170 different types of breadfruit and someone actually sponsors a symposium on breadfruit. wow. But I digress. It was well worth sitting through the other presentations once Nate took the stage to dance. Absolutely Brilliant. Sadly, I didn't realize that my camera was full of pictures, so I was only able to get the start and the end, but you can still absorb the full talent of Mr. Mease.

As is tradition during a Samoan dance, people throw money at the dancer. Nate made six dollars - one from Aaron and five from his teacher. That reminds me of an old Van Halen song...

Friday, May 11, 2007


Our groups has found its own "Cheers" bar in Am Sam. It is called Pilcher's. Sure it is an interesting name, but you can't beat it. Neil, our bartender and friend, takes good care of us, mainly laughing at the silly palagis. The bar is never that crowded, unless we show up, and I think we might supply at least 25% of the profits for the place. He actually labeled our group - "The Association" - which is a great moniker for us. Almost everyone has an nickname in our group - so it only makes sense that the group should have one as well. We have quickly adapted the Association title. We now host Association events and even have an Association email list. Do I need to remind you that we live on an island only 25 miles long? We find our entertainment any way we can...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cinco de Mayo

The Argentinians (and a few others) hosted a Cinco de Mayo party at the yacht club. It was a fundraiser for the Junior Sailors, the local teenage sailing team. It was a great party - with homemade enchiladas (thanks Sandra) and a lot of dancing. Forgot the camera, so no photos, which is just as well cause they had buckets of five Corona beers for $8. As Philip Murphy would say - 'Nuff said.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Guys & Dolls

The students of Am Sam's Community College staged a production of "Guys & Dolls" on Thursday and Friday. Being a glutton for punishment (still having nightmares about the Nutcracker production by ASCC), I talked a group of us into going on Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised. We had the smart idea of getting the "VIP" seats - an extra $5, yes we are high rollers. It was well worth it cause we were actually able to see the stage. We also got a commemorative program (the others were not in color, suckers) and a free room temperature bottle of water, which was very important because they did not stop for intermission or anything else - three hours with no stops. Not a fan of sitting on a folding chair for three hours. ouch. The star of the show, in my humble opinion, was Jessica Afuola who played Adelaide. Many of the performers had really great voices, others, not so much. They did go hi-tech with headset microphones, but they had not figured out to control their breathing, so at times it sounded like Darth Vader was in the production due to the heavy breathing. I enjoyed reading the program because it gave little bios for each of the performers as well as their motivation for being the production. The best one was the guy who joined the play "because he haven't been doing anything good in school." Outstanding. The dance scenes were amazing - very well done. At times, it was hard to focus on the main performers because they had the entire cast walking behind them,I guess in an attempt to simulate a busy New York City street. The props were also not always to scale. I think the hot dog is as big as his head. Nevertheless, it was a really good performance, and you could tell the students worked very hard. Overall, I think everyone enjoyed their time at the Hot Box.
The sign actually lights up. Awesome.