Monday, September 24, 2007

Going Native

So what do wild and crazy girls on the island of Tutuilla do on a “Girls Night?” Palm frond weaving of course!

Samoans have a rich history of woven products. Their traditional “currency” is actually fine mats. These mats are not used as household objects but as a form of barter. They are also worn as part of a traditional costume. Mats are exchanged at major events like weddings and funerals. Large mounds of fine mats will get stacked high in the fales as they are formally presented for the event.

The mats are usually woven by women elders. Baskets and purses are woven as well, but this is usually only done now in Western Samoa. These products are made of pandanus leaves. A good description of the culture of Samoan weaving .

Historical picture of women wearing the fine mats (from
Cotten shirts courtesy early missionaries . . .

Historical picture of chiefs wearing fine mats (from Note, no cotten shirts.

Coconut palms don’t last so are used only to make disposable items. In Samoa they are only woven into baskets that are often used for trash (yard debris, garbage).

When I was in Honolulu I came across a book for coconut palm weaving and thinking it’s about time to learn some native crafts, I asked some gal pals over for some weaving of the palms.

It was fun, though apparently the palms in Hawaii are better and longer as all our projects are turning out smaller than the ones in the book. It was fun but I think we have a long way to go to make the projects that are actually pretty and useful. I’m not a big fan of the hanging basket and the projects are heavy on the hanging basket.

Soon I think I’ll be weaving my own clothes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stateside-“Provisioning” or Consumer Culture Binge

Me at my first Starbucks in 6 months! Don't get me wrong-I’m not a Corporate Coffee lover, but after such a long hiatus with only the occasional homemade latte or Koko Samoa Moka from the local version of Starbucks I had no problem thoroughly enjoying a bagel and an espresso, especially after a five hour flight in the middle of the night.

Here’s a picture of me about ten hours (with a five hour layover in Honolulu and a five hour flight to Portland) enjoying my first microbrew in six months (excepting Markus’ very own homebrew). Oh, man was that beer great. It was the first of many, many, many more beers to come on my trip home. I think I came home from Trader Joes with three six packs at one point-apparently I was still in the island frame of mind (they may sell out and we won't see beer in the stores until the next ship comes in!)

After landing I began my nonstop shopping spree that scared my hosts to the marrow. Old Navy, Target, Fred Meyer, Nordstrom, Dollar Store shopping bags stacked high around the house. They couldn’t imagine how I would get all of this home.

No problemo. Three forty pound packages made their way home without me-courtesy the USPS. Two fifty pound checked bags, a carry-on and a backpack accompanied me on the plane. After six months I knew what I needed to bring home with me and I didn’t leave the mainland without much. I’ve decided to call this credit card maxing, shopping extravaganza, “Provisioning” making it sound sensible and necessary.

My island bound friends accept this process without question. Markus, despite slightly raised eyebrows, thought it was Xmas once again, and wildly approved of most of my purchases (interestingly more enthusiastic about the items for himself than for myself). My friends back home thought I was bonkers.

I must admit that I did find the large number of shoes and flip flops purchased as a more than over the top-those end of summer sales got me. At last count, I came home with ten new pairs of shoes. And a few for Markus on top of that.

What else does someone frantically purchase on a trip to the mainland? Sunscreen, bug spray, toiletries, swimming suits, t-shirts, snacks (oh, Trader Joes how I’ve missed you . . .), gifts (many), weird stuff like Vanilla Extract (there is no pure vanilla on this island!), Dry-Z-Air,
Oregon Chai (special request from on island friends), art supplies (it gets boring here sometimes!), wedding magazines (yes, I’ve succumbed),

a covered cat box (yes, can you believe it-this darn “outside” cat won’t go outside! I thought that was the main benefit of an outside cat! And can you believe I brought a cat box home with me? That's how much I hate looking at a cat box), a banana hook that when I opened the box didn’t have the supposedly included hook (what the !!!!), every pre-made Indian Restaurant-in-a-Box food stuff I could lay my hands on, my new ipod Shuffle (yeah!), a scale (can you think of a more depressing item to bring home? Especially after a food and beer binge?) and many more things I can no longer remember. After six months these are the sorts of things that become important to lug 5,000 miles to a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific. Robert Louis Stevenson would have understood.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Catchin' Up-Western Samoa

Sorry for the long hiatus. The past month or so has been a series of rock (island) fever; a frantic, unplanned trip off island to Western Samoa to represent the American Samoa Humane Society at a conference; and a very busy trip home for wedding planning, visiting, shopping and some kiteboarding lessons. And then a slooooow transition back home.

I have discovered that every three months or so it will be a medical necessity to take a trip off-island. The island is great, but it’s small. Just as one would need to leave a small town, so one needs to leave the island. Also, knowing that you can’t just get in a car and three hours later be somewhere completely different contributes to island fever. If I got into a car here and drove for three hours I would be back and forth across the island 3 or four times depending on traffic (that is if I turned around-if I didn’t I’d be underwater in 1 hour).

So needless to say, I have some catching up to do on my communication!

At the end of July I was able to see Western Samoa for the first time. It was wonderful seeing a big island! W. Samoa is what we call a “real” island. Meaning you can go through the middle of it and around it.

My trip wasn’t a real vacation because I was representing American Samoa’s Humane Society at the World Society for the Protection of Animal’s (WSPA) South Pacific Conference; but I was definitely able to see what potential exists there. Cafes, restaurants, resorts, roads where you can travel 45 mph!

At the conference I got to met representatives from organizations in the South Pacific dealing with companion animal issues (i.e. stray dog populations). It was very informative to hear everyone’s experience. We even were able to go into a school and watch a Humane Educator from Australia teach Samoan children about caring for dogs. The children were lovely and seemed to have a good time and get the message. The program includes a puppet of a dog and I got to help with the puppet during one session. The children and even a teacher thought it was real!

I really look forward to going back to Western Samoa for some real vacationing and more shopping. I was able to get in some shopping while I was there but it was very hurried and not as enjoyable as it could have been. Western Samoa has great wood carving crafts. I was able to buy a few gifts for my trip home, which was good timing.

Every night we were there we ate at a nice restaurant and the final evening we were at a beautiful resort and watched a couple get married at the end of the pier . It was beautiful.