Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Big, Fat Samoan Wedding (Reception)

Ok, before anyone can get offended. . . that title is merely a play on the very popular movie about weddings with very strong cultural overtones.
Which is exactly what Markus and I were treated to last Saturday. The staff I work with felt sorry for me for missing out on the typical (American) Samoan wedding traditions. So they threw us a wedding. We were treated to two custom made wedding outfits. This is our first outfit. It was hand painted with glitter. Super cool. Markus calls it his Samoan Miami Vice outfit.

We do our siva (dance):

John sings for us:

The bridal party enters (they all got special bride's maid's puletasi's made for the occassion)

My "Dad" (aka some random guy named Eddy who was at the bar that says we are to name the first baby after him, sorry Eddy, I think not):

John marries us:

Then the Groom's Siva (he dances with his "family" (aka random people at the bar-I told him his family is just a bunch of drunks!) That woman in the middle was really into him, too. She picked him up like she was going to sling him over her shoulder and carry him away. That's MINE sista! Our palagi friend, Cliff, even got into the action, though when he got his dollar bills out, Julia intervened, finding it inappropriate for him to throw money at another male-no worries though, she did it for him!

The Bride's Siva (I got all the nice bride's maids as my family). Here's an action shot of them throwing money at me. I originally thought this was a traditional Samoan thing, until a friend from Western Samoa said she was shocked the first time she saw this at a wedding in Am Samoa. It's fun to dance in a pile of money in my opinion.

Then cake:

Gifts (yes this whole party AND $$-these guys are amazing):

Some of the sentiments on the card:

Then dinner:

Some of our palagi friends showed up for the festivities:

Dress change (many weddings end up with multiple costume changes. Bride's family's dress, groom's family's dress, etc.) This was a dress made from lovely traditional print material that John (my boss) brought from Apia where he lives when he's not at work. This was to signify our more traditional portion of the evening where we dance with the taupo (village virgin-signified by her leg tattoos)

Family Shot:

Then the after party:
Gangsta Shot (if you ask any Samoans, except a perhaps a group of women to pose, you will get this shot here):

And this is what you get after dancing barefoot in bars (it's impossible to siva in shoes):

My Samoan Wedding was fabulous. As always, more photos on my flickr site.

Coconuts and Paint

go a long way here in American Samoa. The Pacific Arts Festival with it's 26 Country representation (unfortunately Vanuatu couldn't afford the trip or it would have been 27) has begun here on the island.

There has been an amazing effort to clean things up (even the beaches) and to decorate Samoan style. Everyone is in party mood. More on the actual performances later.

For now, just enjoy the roadside decor:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Presenting: Party A/Party B

Here we are: A & B

California is now "allowing" same sex marriages. This law doesn't apply to my marriage, but it made for a cool application form.

No longer is there a line for "husband" or "man" and "wife" or "woman"

We are now Party A and Party B

I got to be Party A.
Here's the official document (thanks Leanne)

Though we got there right after the office opened, we were not the first Party A&Bs for the day. There were two men in line and they had brought in a copy of the Siskiyou County News with a front page story of the first couple in Siskiyou County to get their marriage certified.

The Party A and B in front of us looked a wee-bit confused when the clerk pulled out a booklet with a typical bride/groom picture on the front that was basically a "how to be married" pamphlet. She prefaced her presentation of the book with, "The State of California requires that I present you with this pamphlet."

When it was our turn we of course, ran into the "oh my god, there's no code in our database for American Samoa, there's one for Puerto Rico, Guam, CNMI, Area 51, The Moon, but nothing for American Samoa."

In an example of exactly how it would NOT have worked in Samoa, the clerk got on the phone with someone in the state government, who added Somoa (yes spelled like that) to the database. Then five minutes later, they corrected it to Samoa (spelled correctly). Wow. We were so impressed and happy. The clerks were happy because we weren't pissed with them as would other customers to their office in a similar situation. Living here definitely makes you appreciate efficiency. Sure there are glitches everywhere you are in the world, there are um just "different" ways of dealing with them.

As we were waiting for the database engineer to Google American Samoa (seriously that's what the clerk told us he was doing, and thus the Somoa (didn't he get the "did you mean SAMOA?" query?) I imagined how this would have gone down in American Samoa, "OKA (uh, oh). No code for American Samoa in the database." Followed by long, blank look, indicating this is your fault and you should do something about it now. Then, "Can you come back tomorrow?" Or "Go home. We'll call you when it's fixed (no call, ever)." Or "How about we use the state code for Alaska? That's close." Then, "No? Ok. We can't get you the certificate then. You can't get married. Fa." You think I'm exaggerating? You ask ANYBODY, Samoan or palagi and they will attest that this could have happened.

Another "funny" story related to our marriage certificate (hi, Jim!):
I get an email yesterday from Markus, subject line: "not married yet", but with "I still love you in the body of the message" to take the sting out of the situation I presume.
What The!
When you do your marriage certificate the clerks make you sign the thing in their office. I think they are afraid you might have one too many at the wedding (perhaps confusing the "Party A" and "Party B" not as a title but more as a command), sign the wrong name or something, scratch it out, and write something else. This usually voids a legal document. They allow the officiant to sign their name at the time of the ceremony, they are, after all, the person "doing" the wedding.
And, of course, the officiant won't have had one too many because, well, he's the "serious" guy at the wedding. The "official" dude. Sometimes even religious and stodgy. Well not our officiant. PAAAARTY!

Apparently, the clerks office does not take kindly to: The Universal "Search" (scratch out) and replace with "Church", and will reject your marriage license in this case.

It's interesting that our officiant did not email both of us, but instead emailed only my "husband" . . .
(hmmmmmmm, perhaps my reputation precedes me"-said in the manner of John Stewart)

Apparently, we are still married in the eyes of the Universal Search but until our officiant does his paper work (hopefully sober this time) we don't have the papers to prove it. Good news, though we'll still be "married" on July 6, 2008.

And along the lines of officialness, names etc. I will be Ms. EliZabeth Weltin (not to be confused with Mrs. EliSabeth Weltin, Markus' mom). However, I will not change my name officially until we are off-island. I refuse to relinquish my passport while I am in American Samoa, as the idea of not being able to get off the island if I need to makes me want to run screaming for the hills. And, if you have some official documents in one name and some in another there is much, much, much confusion here which I'd like to avoid.

Here's a funny random photo that says it all, which I got in Mount Shasta (this was NOT staged-well, ok, I did turn one of the bottles around so you could see the label). Addendum: The bottles are Vodka and MD 20/20 (a.k.a Mad Dog, a.k.a Bum Wine).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Favorite Holiday

is the Fourth of July and this year I got to spend it in my favorite spot to celebrate, Mount Shasta! It's also a special time because it's the weekend Markus and I got together.

I'd been "training" for the Fourth of July run prior to coming back to the states, but the altitude, lack of sleep, and general malaise made me decide the two mile run was more my speed.

Markus, on the other hand, who had not been training, decided since he'd just gotten to the states three days before, was still jet-lagged and hadn't trained at all, that he'd do the 5 mile run.

Two years before on the weekend we got together, we had run the five mile together. I'd been training then, too, and had a slow but decent pace. Markus hadn't trained or exercised for about a year is my guess, since he'd been finishing his Master's. He didn't seem to feel that run too much and apparently it went to his head, and two years later he nearly killed himself. Two days before our wedding, too. He could barely walk for the next two days.

The run is cool. Everyone, and I mean everyone comes out for it.

This is Reed finishing the two mile. Can't you just hear the Chariott's of Fire in the background?

And here's Pearl, who kicked it up for the camera.

There's music and free food along the course. Though Burger King doesn't really sound good when you're trying to get a little O2 to the lungs.

And the retirement home brings out the residents for a little flag waving action.

I wanted to stay for the raffle, they give away a car every year, but we had to go get to the lake. Luckily, I didn't miss my chance, someone else won as they've done every year I've been in the run.

We skipped the parade (even though I love seeing Smokey the Bear-I think this is the same Bear from my childhood) but couldn't talk the kids into passing up the crappy candy the multitudes of public service vehicles throw out their vehicular windows.

We rented a boat (party barge) at Siskiyou Lake and drove around the lake. It was pretty windy (making for a smoke free day) so it was a little chilly at times but we found a place to jump in. Surprisingly, my heart didn't stop at the temperature of the water. In fact it was quite comfortable! I guess the island living hasn't turned me into a total whimp.

We could see the fireworks all lined up on the beach. You can also see the action here (credit for the fireworks photo is there).

We had a BBQ at the resort. Joe and Erin brought their garbage can o' beer.

Then we headed up for the best fireworks EVER over the lake. Good friends, good day.