Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami in American Samoa

I have been back on the mainland for months so no posts. However, the tsunami that just hit is devastating. All of our friends are safe and accounted for, thank goodness. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those suffering from this awful experience.

Here's an account by my friends the Browns:

Photos from a friend on CNN:

Video footage of the water entering Pago Harbor and Interview with one of the local radio djs.

User video on The Weather Channel

MSNBC is constantly updating the story on their website:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tofa Markus!

Markus (and Einstein) have departed the rock. And you are hearing about this way after the fact, because I wasn't interested in advertising on the internet that I was without dog or husband.

There are two ways to check in at Hawaiian on flight days. Well that is if you don't want to stand in line for three hours. There is "early"-come at 5ish and stand in line until the desk opens at 6, be done hopefully by 7. Go out to dinner with friends and come back at 10pm. There is "late" check in-come at 9 pm and really, really hope you can be through the line by the time the desk closes at 10pm. Late check in seems to be working well these days. However, since we had to drop Einstein off at the cargo at 9pm, we checked in "early."

Chase was in line too. Notice all the bags holding places. This is the line before the desk is even open! Markus is on the phone to the cargo guys who are supposed to be there meeting us with Einstein. We can see them going in and out of the cargo building, apparently ignoring the phone.

We had a bunch of "lasts"
Markus' last dive with Paul & Melanie

Our last Mt.Alava walk (Markus did this every day with Einstein, sometimes even twice!)

Last dinner at Tisas with the Browns (we are a few coladas into the night)

Last amazing Candy Man Pina Coladas

Special island banana splits made by Emma for Markus

Tired Markus waiting for the plane.

Some lovely things our friends said about Markus for his departure:
Things we'll miss about Markus :
Someone to Pitch for us in Sloshball Games
Being the only person on the island qualified to fix our most complicated computer problems
A Dive Partner
Your steady, genial demeanor
We'll miss you big guy, and your little dog too!
Going all in on the first hand, and losing.
Emailing me seemingly every twenty minutes asking where his payment is and why ASG is so fucked up.
Being introduced to the always-humble Markus' alter ego on Ofu... Reno Markus. Thanks for the laughs during a great weekend!
Seeing him faithfully walking Einstein at Utulei Beach nearly every day
easy going, friendly personality His infinite patience with people who he is trying to help...

Dear Einstein,
I, and the Association as a whole, will miss you. Your sloshball abilities, relaxed attitude, and political insights will not be easy to replace. I hope you have safe travels back to Portland and don't get too cold on the flight. I only wish you could have spent more time with and helped Pu as he has some serious psychological issues to work through - like realizing that despite being fixed he's still male and shouldn't be so motherly to the cat or chirp like a startled 3rd grade girl.
Please keep in touch and despite the fact you lack opposable thumbs or fingers I hope you write often.
P.S. Give your owner Marcus my best as well. He will sorely be missed as he was one of the more upbeat and happy individuals on the island, probably because he gets to hang out with you. Happy travels to him as well. (No mention of wife here, hmmmm.....)
Now me and jeremy will need to find someone else to weigh as much as.
We'll also miss your laid-back style, and your dog... what's that Snowy? yeah, I mentioned his dog.

Tofa Markus!

Sliding Rock with the Girls

One beautiful Sunday afternoon just a few short weeks ago (hard to believe as I sit in multiple layers of fleece, freezing in unusually chilly weather in Portland) a group of us girls headed out to Sliding Rock for cocktails and soaking in the pools. It was the loveliest time I've ever had there. Beautiful skies, cool blue water and fabulous company. And a great idea for a Girls Spa Day was hatched here....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Palagi Beach

There is a magical place on the island that is only arrived at after a long drive and a long hike. Since only palagi's are willing to do this for sand and surf it is rightly called Palagi Beach. Markus had never been so we went on his last weekend on the Island.

Einstein sunbathing.

Find the treacherous trail to the left of this driveway-it's where the little palm tree is there. Follow the trail and the beach all the way to an amazing beach with great views and a small area that's good for soaking (snorkeling is not really an option here).

Get LOST Already Party

Barbara who's been here for three years left on Sunday for adventures unknown. Read her blog about her transition off-island. Since I leave this upcoming Sunday we had a shared goodbye party.

Again, Matt opened up his house to the festivities including filling up the pool!! Good thing he had an umbrella or he and Kayla could have gotten wet!

The theme was LOST and a few brave souls dressed up and there was lots of Dharma Initiative brand food. (Please ignore the fact I spelled Initiative wrong on all the labels!) Note the cool "The Rock" station logo that Paul Brown made for me.

And, of course, Fish Biscuits from the Polar Bear cage episode. They tasted horrible, just like you would imagine the ones sitting in the cage all those years would have. I need to find a new gingerbread recipe.

I made a special Crash Landing Cake (that's supposed to be Tutuilla there).

Kim and Mike as Kate and Locke

Lisa as Pregnant Claire admiring the LOST t-shirts

Ned sporting the back of the LOST tshirt.

Kelly sporting the front.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Getting LOST

I've been struggling with some angst this past month about leaving the island. I know, I know. "What about the count down? What about the complaints?" I think this happens to a lot of us who come here hoping for paradise, looking for change, needing some sun. We go through culture shock, we find things we like/love about the place, we adjust, and then we get antsy, thinking it's perhaps time for something different.

But what are we looking for? Often what was going on back "home" wasn't so great that's why we are here in the first place. So what are we running back to? Grocery stores and shopping? We all know, living in a consumer culture, that there will never be "enough". As soon as you have what you've been waiting to consume for two long years then you'll be looking for something better or different. Newer. Better. Bigger.

We know that inefficiency and corruption is rampant here. Efficiency is nice and so is customer service. But remember there are long waits in the states and stupid people everywhere. Is sitting in rush hour traffic for 1 to 2 hours better than having a blank stare when you need something done? I think I'd rather deal with the stare.

We don't make much compared to salaries back home, but you won't spend even a fraction of what you do in the states. You aren't bombarded with crap that you think you need. Your clothes are secondary, your car acceptable if you gets you from point A to point B, your house fantastic if it's not infested with termites or mold. We've learned to live within our means, unlike many unfortunate souls back home. And hey! We have a job.

Ok, so job satisfaction can be the "biggie" here. People get "in trouble" by superiors for "just doing their job" because it might in some unknown/unforeseen way be upsetting to the Samoan culture. Change is nearly impossible and when it does happen it's at a snail's pace. Your boss can be completely ignorant and never at work. You have to learn to pat yourself on your back and be happy if you are making small changes in people's everyday lives. This is not a big picture place. Living for today is really the motto. Future orientation is slow in developing here.

Yeah, the internet sucks. But really, should you be spending so much time on the internet? Yeah, the cable is delayed by two weeks and the commercials irrelevant (christmas sales after christmas). Will the world fall apart if you watch LOST two weeks late or when it comes out on DVD?

The schools are awful I must admit. If I had kids this would be one of the greatest challenges. When teachers drop curriculum because the "students won't read the book" (speaking of High School kids) instead of, oh, I don't know....flunking them, then there is a real problem here.

Health care is an issue, esp if you want any specialty services. However, there are more and more US trained physicians and health care providers. At $10 a visit, $10 a RX and many services offered free through Fed Grants, you can appreciate what we DO have. AND many, many, far too many, people in the states are without any type of health insurance. That $10 doctor's visit, is $150-200 out of pocket. That RX? Try $50-100+

I think I've learned a lot about slowing down that I NEVER would have been able to learn back home. It's impossible. I've also learned a lot about what I don't want back in my life when we get back. I wish we were going on to some new adventure, but there are a few practical reasons why we need to go back, at least for the time being.

Most people who leave Samoa, remember it longingly afterwards. Some say it was like a dream. They won't come back because we all leave for some very good reasons (because some people do stay for very long periods verging on "forever"-of course, we call these people "Tropo" ;), As the time nears to leave I think it's impossible to wonder if this is the right move and what are you gaining/loosing. I had very little hesitation on leaving and much more on returning.

I'm hoping this isn't like some episode of LOST where we spend two years connecting with people, trying to survive and figuring out life, the universe, and everything; all while desperately trying to escape at the same time. Then when we finally are "free" and back in the "real world" we are not quite sure what the big rush was to leave. And may just have to return to save our friends we left behind on the island. ;)

Yet another farewell BBQ

A tradition on-island is to see your friends off at the airport when they are making their final departure. The flight leaves late and it's always a school night, Sunday and Thursday (thanks Hawaiian!), so this takes commitment and love (esp from us as we live on the opposite side of the island). I have done this a few times but I'm rather choosy with my airport goodbyes.

Aaron and Naomi who fell from the sky around the same time I did were leaving this past Thursday and I really wanted to see them off at the airport. Matt opened his house for a BBQ with the plan to "do the airport" afterward. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with the plane (I've yet to find out what) and the flight was delayed until the next morning. Having to work, there was no way to make it all the way out there the next morning. I was convinced that this was some crazy plot development out of LOST where Naomi and Aaron wouldn't be able to make it off the island. And eventually, by extension neither would we. Which leads me to my next blog entry....Getting Lost. (Naomi and Aaron and there kitty did make it off the island afterall).

Aaron decided he wanted to do politician handshake series with everyone.