Things are beginning to feel normal, we have most of out stuff unpacked and our driveway/road is almost complete (when we moved in it was in the process of being converted from dirt and potholes to concrete). We will definitely post pictures of the house early next week. Our neighbors are great, a few times a week someone will bring by food they have just made, everyone shares and we are returning the favors the best we can. Bananas for sauerkraut seems fair right ? (They had never seen sauerkraut before us!)
It's Dad's second week at work and projects are already underway to help improve the water/wastewater systems and hopefully peoples lives. Great strides are being made to give everyone here clean drinkable water straight from the tap. A side bonus is getting to see new places on the island, here are a couple pics I took at lunch....
Mom has been super busy making the house a "home" while keeping little Noah happy. She has also begun to figure out cooking with local ingredients and made some delicious things. I am sure we will eventually begin to post pictures and tell you more about food so stay tuned.
This weekend we are hoping to have some quality beach time and unwind from the whirlwind that has been our lives for the past 3 months.
NOAH NEWS: Noah put his toes (and butt) in the Pacific Ocean for the first time! I promise to have some pictures of his pearly whites up soon. He also seems to be settling in a little more (less whining).
TIPS FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: The cost of food here is higher than on the mainland, but there is no sales tax so that helps a little. Additionally, as long as you are open to the local food it can be quiet cheap and even free. For the most part organic food is out of the question, but we have been able to get organic romaine and carrots (small victories), not to mention that all the bananas, taro, breadfruit and coconuts are organic. An interesting note is that the Samoans seem to think poorly of the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Several farms here are run by Asians (Chinese and Koreans) and I have heard multiple Samoans them criticized for using such things.
Gas (at the pump) is also a bit higher, $4.25 as of June 25, 2014, and it is all full service.
Upon returning from our Father's Day drive around the island, our neighbor asked me if I wanted to take ride and get some fish. We hadn't determined what to do for dinner and the thought of some fresh fillet's sounded good, so I hopped in. It wasn't until we hit the main road that it crossed my mind I had no idea how far we were headed and upon inquiring learned we were headed to Pago Pago (about a 30 min drive). "Oh.... the trip will take a little longer than I figured, but that's cool I don't have too much to do" I thought.
So we get to Pago Pago and pull into the main Port, it's at this time I realize we aren't going to a store or even meeting some dude with a fishing net and a cooler. Once in the Port we were surrounded by mountains of shipping containers, giant fork lifts shuffling them about and cranes swinging them over head. I asked how commonly fatalities were as we drove past a leaning tower of containers and I begin to wonder what I got myself into. I was told "not many".
We meandered through the stock yard and arrived at a fishing boat (think Perfect Storm sorta fishing boat) docked behind a massive cargo ship. My neighbor jumped out of the truck and off the dock onto the boat without a word of explanation. I followed behind... my sense of confusion growing by the second. At this time I noticed there were six such boats side by side away from the dock. We climbed over and jumped across each until we reached the last boat.
Now I am surrounded by rough-neck Samoan sailors having conversations I can't understand and I am beginning to think I might need an escape route (still no explanation from my neighbor).
I stood there ready for "flight" (fight was not an option) as a couple guys went into the bowels of the ship and reappeared 15 anxious minute later with heavy duty garbage bags full of fish. I was a bit puzzled and wondering if they were going to lay everything out and give us the pick of the catch, but five bags seemed excessive. Then they handed me a bag and, going with the flow, I helped relay the five HEAVY garbage bags of frozen fish to the dock. Now I have no idea what the heck is happening and am really hoping these guys aren't going to look at me and demand several hundred dollars for fish. Without a word more my neighbor and I hop back into the truck with the fish and drive off! What the #$%?? Needing an explanation, I asked him what the heck is going on, why did we have so much fish and why didn't we pay for anything?!
"Oh.... my cousin is the Captain of that ship" he sais as if this were common knowledge to me.
So over three hours after leaving, and stopping on the way home to hand out our pile of fish to friends and family, I arrived back home to a wife who had begun to worry quiet a while ago (no cellphones yet).
In the end I got a new "fish story" and some extremely fresh Swordfish and Marlin for free!!
Take nothing for granted in A.S.
We "moved" in last Friday and are slowly settling in. Today is the big day that our container arrives at the port and we can't wait to finally have our things back. This week we should really be settled and I will have pictures of our place posted soon. Internet is still lacking at our place and may take 6 months only because they are in the process of switching to fiber optic and are not allowing new connections in the interim. So for now we are forced to stop at McDonald's for WiFi or use internet at my office. The first night in Leone we drove around the corner to look at the sunset...
For Father's Day I chose to force the family into a long bumpy car ride around the western point of the island. We didn't get the best weather, but the sun poked through long enough to make a little rainbow...
Father's Day also included a trip to get some fish, that adventure will be posted soon...
We have moved into a house and have been super busy getting situated. We don't have internet yet so posting has been difficult but I should have pics of the place and a longer post soon. We live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in the town of Leone.
NOAH NEWS: Noah got his second tooth on June 11, 2014. He now has both of his lower front teeth and he was not happy about it.
TIPS FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: DO NOT hire SOS Overseas Shipping. Contact an agency on the island before anything else, there info is hard to find so just ask me.
More to come soon!
Each Friday evening there is a market in Pago Pago (the capital of A.S. and pronounced Pongo Pongo), we are told that on the first Friday of the month it's a bit bigger than most so we headed out. On this particular evening we also heard they were also having a lantern floating, at which time I got excited at the thought of all those beautiful lanterns floating off into the Pacific sky...... nope. The floating was done on the water and was underwhelming but noteworthy none the less. Each lantern was fastened atop a styrofoam block which caused me to panic and desperately seek out someone to assure me that they would not be allowed to disperse into open water. I was told each one would be collected and disposed of properly, so we obtained one ourselves even though the use of styrofoam in any manner perturbs me (for those of you who don't already know, Dad is a bit of a tree hugger). We were instructed to write the name of a lost loved one and/or a prayer on the lantern after which it would be lit and set afloat.
While the intentions of this event were great, let's just say things weren't thought through all that well. Once released from the short dock, a rather strong breeze took the lanterns straight for shore as the unsecured candles shifted and set fire to the lanterns and styrofoam blocks below. The aroma of burning plastic and styrofoam soon covered the entire crowd and we decided to head for the market area located up wind. I did manage to capture a somewhat pleasant image.
The market was smaller than we are accustomed to in Western NY, but certainly contained more exotic foods. In greatest abundance you could find taro root and leaves, bananas, coconuts, coco, bread fruit and an assortment of prepared food.
I bought a few coconuts to drink and had a heck of a time getting a straw from the local women's stock. The coconuts were thirst quenching, but taste a little different than those in the stores back home or off the trees in the Caribbean.
We had octopus in coconut milk again.... I promise it tastes better than it looks!!
TIP FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: Get on the "dissociates" Google group mailing list ASAP. This is a great group of off-islanders who help out other newcomers. Unfortunately you have to be invited to the group and therefore must know someone on it, but if you're reading this blog you do!
NOAH NEWS: Noah tried taro root and didn't hate it (it's kind of like a potato).
NOAH NEWS: Noah went swimming for his first time! He enjoyed it and really got into splashing.
He also performed a magic trick this evening, while sitting on Dads lap he somehow managed to poop and completely miss the diaper. Mom found this delightfully amusing and continued to laugh as baths were taken and clothes changed.
TIPS FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: Rent here ranges from $650 to $1200 a month for decent places to live. The price is NOT directly correlated with what you get, we saw a beautiful 3 bedroom house for $750 a month and a tiny, dirty one bedroom for $950. There are a lot of places listed as "1602" which means income limits apply so watch out for those, the owners will bend the rules but the gov't won't.
RANDOM STUFF: We have tried at leas 5 varieties of banana so far, most of them have to be cooked. The tastes vary from that of a boiled potato to what we all know in the States. They grow everywhere and I picked some of our own... I don't think I was stealing but there is enough to go around, trust me they are everywhere.
Apparently no matter where you go in the world the water is better from somewhere else. Back home (Western NY) we drink water from the South Pacific (Fiji) and here this is what is everywhere...
We have been very busy all week trying to procure a rental house or apartment. While we have moved many times before, nothing compares to this challenge. You see, the only real way to find out about places is "word of mouth" and in addition there are no street names much less addresses. We spent day after day driving around all the villages asking everyone we met if there are any rentals available, luckily almost everyone is extremely nice and has offered up any leads they may have.
On one particular occasion, I was out after dark looking for a place located "on the dirt road across from the yellow store" and ended up far from my destination since most of the stores are yellow. It was then I happened upon a Samoan man (Fana Povi) out closing up a school gate, when asked for directions he was more than happy to hop in the car, translate on the phone, and direct me to where I needed to be. He even checked the place out with me and told me there was a better place nearby. So nice!!
Unfortunately the nicest places we have seen so far are on the worst roads, no way our Civic makes it down some of these roads (see below). We are still looking, but have developed a plan to stay at a beautiful place on the water for 3 months while a house on the golf course is refurbished. We are keeping our fingers crossed this comes to fruition.
TIP FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: While I previously indicated you should bring your own "car", I must revise this and say only bring your own "truck"!
I say "quest" because that is what most things become. You can't simply go out and grab whatever your hungry for or even open a bank account in any short time. There is one bank on the island (ANZ) and in an attempt to open an account we waited 45 minutes just to make an appoint which was scheduled eight days later. I have yet to understand the reason for this, but we are rolling with it and tempering our frustrations with the serene beauty all around.
NOAH NEWS: Noah has become accomplished at launching himself forward from a sitting position on to his belly, as well as performing a double roll over. This extends his range of motion greatly and decreased any chance of setting him down on the bed for a moment.
We are wrapping up Day 3 on the island. The biggest challenge so far has been figuring out where to get meals. Since we are still in the hotel we are relying on prepared food and this is obtained in small shops which are everywhere you look and resemble a small inner city corner stores. Some have food, some don't, some are are good others... not so much; it's figuring this out that poses a challenge for the newcomer. Asking local people for tips is much less productive than one might imagine, since you will NEVER get collaborating opinions.
Pictured above is our Sunday dinner collaboration, that's roasted pork on the right, the green stuff is taro leaves which are wrapped up and filled with coconut milk, the white bread looking stuff is taro root and the 3 containers along the top (left to right) are octopus in coconut milk, wahoo in coconut milk and kimchi. With the exception of the kimchi this is all part of a traditional Samoan Sunday meal prepared in an "umu", and it was all very good (including the kimchi!)
We have also gotten registered at the local medical center and taken two sight-seeing drives.
TIP FOR FUTURE A.S. RESIDENTS: You must be registered at the medical center (LBJ) to be seen as a patient, so to avoid doing paperwork and finding ID when your in need, visit the center soon after arrival. You will need passports, your employment contract if applicable, and patience.
On our first drive we headed East from Tafuna, which I now realize I have neglected to mention is where we are staying and where I will work. This drive consisted of many bays and beaches, we also headed UP at one point.....
On our next drive we headed West and discovered old lava flows and waves. Then we stood on a large rock where Samoans stand and sing to the Turtle and Shark.
It's all surreal at this point, sometimes we stop and look around and feel like we are on another planet! We still haven't gone for a dip, but as soon as the "to do" list is done we are headed to the beach.
NOAH NEWS: Today (June 2, 2014) Noah got his first tooth!! It's on the bottom right and explains hours of crying on our sight-seeing drives. He is still adjusting to the time zones and is ready to play at 1AM every night, fortunately I don't start work for two weeks and we can take shifts.
The Jaskowiak Family
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