Thursday, October 30, 2008


For the last week and a half I have been in a weakened condition.

One of my life long nemesis has been poison oak. Growing up in poison oak free Siskiyou County I didn't encounter this dire enemy until I went to college in Santa Cruz.
(So harmless looking...yet so deadly...ok, not deadly, but I want to be dead (ly))

I had no idea what had happened to me the first time I got the stuff-it vanquished me immediately . I continued to loose the fight with this foe through out my four years in the poison oak friendly Santa Cruz environment. The week before finals my last year of college I swear I got it from dust on the trail in Big Sur, evil and wily that poison oak.
(Scientific explanation of why I want to rip my flesh off.)

I stormed into the Student Health Center demanding, yes, DEMANDING, prednisone. The poor medical Resident had no recourse. He fled the exam room for his preceptor (in those days to get steroids you had to twist people's arms) but he returned, first waving a white presription paper into the room as a sign of surrender before daring to enter the room. I won that round with poison oak and had the added benefit of not needing much sleep and having a lot of extra energy for finals week. Though I do remember eating my body weight that week as well. Steroids, they'll do that to you.

(Tecnu-my old friend)

I would continue to encounter ol' P.O. occasionally for years until moving here. Aaaha! At long, long last a poison oak free environment! A place of lush, safe folliage, and tropical fruit.
(Good mango)
It is mango season and lucky us our friends have a mango tree. Last Monday I decided I'd indulge myself and picked a bag full of mangoes. As I pulled them off the tree, sweet smelling mango sap oozed from the stem. MMMMMM, I inhaled deeply. Lovely mangoes. I've eaten mangoes and mango flavored everything my whole life.
(Bad mango)
I was not prepared for what was to come. Two days later my face was red, two days after that my face and eyes were nearly swollen shut. And then my arms and legs-blistering and redness. WHAT was happening? This looks like poison oak! How can this be! A little internet research and low and behold what did I discover? Mango sap and peel contain the exact same chemical as poison oak. If you react to the sap that doesn't necessarily mean you have a food allergy to mango, which is very good news, but I'm going to wait until I'm stateside to have an allergy test before I risk it. Apparently mango is very rarely a primary sensitizer, but if you've had a reaction to poison oak, ivy or sumac beware the mango tree! For good reading while recovering from your a case of mango contact dermatitis, check out this page. Misery loves company (and case studies).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

White Sunday (and Monday)

(Markus and our fancy drinks at Aggie Greys)

We headed to Western as an early birthday present (for myself) over the three day Columbus Day weekend. This was to be our last trip to Western and I had luxury, good food and some heavy duty shopping on my mind. Western Samoa had something different in mind. White Sunday (aka Children's Day) to be precise. This is actually a nice holiday where children are all dressed up in white and are lavished with attention and sweets. They perform plays and dance and song recitals for their proud parents. In a culture that really values the elder (and the newborn) time off from scolding is really a pleasure for these kiddos.

It's a well known fact that everything in Western Samoa shuts down on a Sunday. I realized that on White Sunday this would be even more of the case. However, I did not count on the Western Samoan's love of a day off, err I mean of their children!
(Coke is only available in Giant Glass Bottles in the Bush Stores)

Hey, don't get me wrong, I too enjoy a good three day weekend (thus this very trip). But what's this about closing up shop? Haven't they caught on to the fact that a three day weekend is a retailer's best friend?!? They could easily pull the consumer in with White Sunday Specials-20% of all Lava Lavas, White Sunday Dresses slashed to 75% off! Pisupo 3 for a $1!
(No one wanted by pretty tala)

And don't people want to go out to dinner and spend $$$$ for the treat? What's the point of staying home and cooking up a feast with family and friends when you can pay someone a lot of tala to grudingly serve you when they'd rather have the day off themselves?

Oh no, these folks want to hang out with their families on a three day weekend. Geesh! How are they ever going to become dissatisfied consumers? Oh well, what are you going to do?

So Monday was a day off despite my argument that White Sunday should be celebrated on SUNDAY! Not Sunday AND Monday! Or really they needed to change the name.

So I only got a little shopping done on Saturday. We did have a fabulous meal at Bistro Tatau, which I highly recommend. Gourmet meal made with local ingredients-wow what a concept. Are you paying attention American Samoa? You don't need to be ruled by fast food chains! The waiters were really attentive and polite and wore no shoes though they were dressed to the 9s. The inside of the restaurant is very nice though the location (across from the market) isn't spectacular.

We saw a movie for about $2 (Tropic Thunder-yawn) but it was a night "out on the town" and no one was talking through the movie so this was a huge improvement over the theater in American Samoa.
We went to a nice beach on Sunday with decent snorkeling in Mantareva (it can be a challenge to find beaches that are open on Sunday) and stopped for drinks at Coconuts and GASP, saw my first kiteboarder in Western Samoa.

I knew it was possible to kiteboard in Western, but I hadn't seen anyone in all the times I'd been there. It looked like heaven. He was the only one on the water and the water and wind looked perfect. I was insanely jealous. Someday ... someday...

We hiked the hill, Vailima, where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried (though not to the top, I was too lazy), entering through the Vailima Botanical Gardens.

We stayed at a nice hotel, Manumea Resort in Apia, which has the added benefit of being nearly directly across from The Curry House (too bad it was closed!). I wanted to be in town to be close to the market and the restaurants-though this ended up not really being an issue. But I really enjoyed this place. The rooms are beautiful.

The rooms are in bunaglows (two suites per bungalow) there are private outdoor showers with rockery. This is a new place and they are still working out the kinks so we changed rooms twice (first room the fan didn't work, the second room the curtain rods broke with a strong gust of wind).
This did earn us some free drinks at the hotel's restaurant. Their complimentary breakfast was really good and they offer an American Samoa resident price discount.

It was a nice trip despite being deprived of my final Samoan shopping spree and Indian curry. I was hoping the planes would be in need of maintenance and we'd not make it back so I could shop on Tuesday. But in a rare instance of efficiency the planes left on time and without incident. Foiled!