Most of us think of December with regards to Holiday festivities, and while the time between Christmas and New Years is festive here it doesn't come close to excitement and grandeur for Flag Day! Yep, that's right, Flag Day is huge in American Samoa. Preparations began two weeks in advance and included; island wide clean-ups to pick up the abundant litter, landscaping, decorating and fresh coats of paint everywhere. Dad's company picked up litter, decorated the street near our offices and painted all the bus stops red, white and blue. The celebrating began one week in advance to the April 17th American Samoa Flag Day and included a festive tent site selling goods and food, as well as lots of song and dance performances. Many of the vendors and performers were from Western Samoa.
One of the first tents was selling hand ground kava from Western Samoa by the shell (and packets to take home). I had a few shells with the dude in the picture, he was manning the kava bowl the whole week. Just in case you missed previous posts, kava is a root ground up to make a sort of tea which results in a mellow feeling. That large wooden bowl with lots of legs is specifically for kava and coconut shells are used to drink the kava.
On Flag Day the festivities occurred at the island sports arena. We had one good rain shower in the morning, but most of the day was nice.
The Flag Day performances included singing and dancing performed by entire Villages or Schools from both American Samoa and Western Samoa. The groups practice for months and are usually excused from portions school and work to do so. I think six groups performed, but can't say for certain since we were only there a few hours. The event began at 7AM and went until at least 3PM.
After each group performed they each presented gifts to the leaders of American Samoa and neighboring islands. Typically these gifts are large mats (in Samoan "ie toga") woven from a specific tree leave, the finer the strands of the mats the more valuable they are. "Fine mats" were used as a sort of currency in Samoan history and are still presented today at ceremonies and events such as funerals. They are not actually used as mats, they are simply an item with cultural value. Some of the mats presented were so big they needed sticks to hold them up and show them off.
The big finale of the Flag Day events is the fautasi boat race, which this year was supposed to be held on Saturday (the day after Flag Day) but was postponed due to weather. The fautasi boats are a type of huge canoe. The picture below is of a boat being carried from the water after practice. The end of the boat is just being lifted from the water...
The race is seven miles long and lasted a little under two hours. Each boat has 52 people in it, one captain, one person steering and 50 people rowing. Ten boats competed in the race, they started offshore near the airport and finished in Pago Harbor. The race didn't happen until Monday morning so we could only watch on TV that night, causing the poor picture quality below. The race was controversial this year because the boat in 3rd place collided with the back of the boat in 2nd and knocked them both out of place. A final decision has yet to be made!
Up until now our adventures have been very limited by the fact we have a small car with a low clearance. That has all changed since we bought a used cross-over last week and we didn't waste any time putting it to good use. There are several spots we have wanted to go, but just couldn't make it due to very rutted and washed out dirt roads and this past weekend we went to Larson Bay.
We drove in to the point where you would need a monster truck to keep going and then we hiked the rest, which was only about 20-30 minutes through the jungle and some banana plantations. We had two minor stand-offs with dogs, but nothing serious... all bark, no bite. The walk was hilly and on loose dirt/rock so we got a little work out lugging Noah and all of our beach gear.
The trail ended at, surprisingly, a set of cement/rock stairs leading down to the beach. It's pretty tough having these beautiful tropical beaches all to ourselves, but we are getting used to it.
It was high tide when we arrived so the beach got bigger as we spent time there, but it was still a bit wavy the whole time. We are moving into winter here and in general the seas get choppier. We didn't do any snorkeling as a result of the rougher water and the fact that the clarity was poor. We are looking forward to returning on a calm day to check out the reef.
Unlike Airport Beach this beach has trees and therefore shade to keep cool in. Dad swam out and plucked a couple coconuts that were floating in the Bay and cracked them open for some coconut water and a little meat. By cracked them open I mean I threw them at a rock until they split a little and then pried them open. Maybe not the most tactful way of doing it, but hey the end result is the same.
The "accepting of donations" is not limited to Saturdays, but it's certainly the day it's most prominent. On each Saturday the roadside is full of people with their hands out, some are associated with churches, some schools and others... well, they want money too. The expectation here is that they stand on the side of the road and wave and then you throw bills out your window. This collection of pictures was taken today (Saturday) on a 15 minute drive to the store and back.
It's pretty common to see a "car wash" sign and yet never a hose or a bucket.
In the eleven months we've been here I have yet to see a car being washed at one of these "fund raisers".
It can be a little dangerous and you have to watch out for kids running into the road to grab cash thrown from other vehicles.
And last, but not least, my personal favorite... the folks who didn't even want to stand or wave. The guy in yellow just held up a dollar to indicate why they are sitting there.
NOAH NEWS: Noah is a sponge, copying all he sees and is energy level is through the roof!
Living on an island is a little to hard to understand unless you've done it, that fact is much more true on islands small than Tutuila (where we live). But to give you a little better understanding of things on our rock, this post is about how we acquire food. There are three "bigger" stores on the island; Cost U Less, Forsgren's and KS Mart. We have a weekly shopping day and make the rounds to each of stores as well as a few other stops. There are also lots of "corner store" places that we go for smaller items as well as farms and roadside stands No one stop shopping here.
Each place has it's strong points, but all the stores depend on the ship schedule and therefore so does our shopping. The shelves can be almost completely bare at times just before the next ship arrives. The most important lesson we have learned is "if you see it, buy it" because it definitely won't be there next time. So if you see that peanut butter you like, better grab 5 jars 'cause it's your only chance and you may never see it again.
I am focusing on food here, but if you were shopping for pretty much anything but hardware you would go to all the same stores mentioned. You will find food, furniture, clothes, office supplies, outdoor supplies, cookware, fabric and any other household stuff at all the bigger stores, and everything but the furniture at smaller stores.
Cost U Less is the BJ's or Costco of the island and the sell in bulk (mostly). Prices here are average and we usually get frozen goods, organic potatoes and organic carrots here.
Forsgren's is a bit on the expensive side and we only get a few special things here. This is the only place we have seen organic apples and they occasionally get specialty fancy-pants food we enjoy. They also carry a lot of meats from New Zealand, most of which are grass fed since NZ has much stricter rules on what they let companies feed people.
KS Mart is like a larger and cheaper Forsgren's, again they carry a huge variety of stuff from furniture to vegetables. They can sometimes be a surprise at the register, for example that un-priced little bag of tater-tots might ring up for $18 and end up getting left behind. KS also gets some novelty foods in and is the best place to find Kambucha. The outside was just remodeled.
"Corner Stores", these little shops are everywhere and have a little bit of everything (food, hygiene products, clothes, etc.). After lots of hunting Mom has found the ones with the best prices and vegetables. TSM is the best bet for organic spinach.
We can get imported or local eggs at the stores, but we live pretty close to the chicken farm so we go straight to the source. Not free range, but the eggs are literally still warm when we buy them. Maybe soon we won't need to buy so many if we can keep the dogs from eating all the ones laid around our house. Side Note: I hate roosters.
With the exception of pears and apples, all of out fruit is purchased from our neighbors or picked from our yard. This is our favorite stand where we always get coconuts, bananas, papaya, avocados, vi fruit, pineapple, cucumbers, and Dad bought Mom Valentine's Day flowers here too.
There are two hydroponic farms on the island, the one below is where we get romaine, herbs and eggplants. The other "farm" has kale and mixed greens.
NOAH NEWS: Noah's appetite has GROWN and he gained a taste for green smoothies.
The Jaskowiak Family
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