American Samoa relies on tuna, not just for food but for work as well. Two large tuna canneries are the biggest private employers on the island; Starkist and Samoa Tuna. Pago Harbor serves as home for both canneries and allows safe port for the tuna boats.
The canned tuna is sold locally as EatWell Tuna and it's better than the stuff you can buy on the mainland, less mushy and more flavor.
When the boats come in, Tuna not only goes to the factories but the stores as well. The fishing trips can last over a month so it isn't a constant, but we can get fresh sushi grade tuna for cheap prices.
The restaurants also get stocked with fresh tuna when the ships arrival. Sometimes the signs ships are in aren't very subtle...
This was the scene at one of the local restaurants when I stopped in for lunch. Unless you're on a boat, you can't get fresher sushi that this! The owners gave me some free sashimi, which I assume was compensation for the butcher operation going on in the middle of the dinning room. Good timing on my part!
The tuna fishery here is always getting more complicated as actions are taken to conserve fish populations. As you can imagine the conversation efforts are not viewed favorably locally due to the potential loss of work from less fish. Boats coming to A.S. must abide by the U.S. laws and obey fishing restrictions which should be beneficial and help sustain fish populations, the catch is that boats going to port in other countries are not regulated in the same way and therefore can fish as they please. It's a catch 22 unless everyone gets on board with conservation, but as long as there is money to be made they'll keep fishing until populations collapse... such is the way of the corporate world...
Our trip back to Tau was on a little pontoon boat, which would have been fine with me if it wasn't for the fumes. I kept my head over the water as much as possible to avoid feeling like I was huffing gas... nothing like a little nausea to cap off my awesome night. On the bright side there we dolphins guiding the boat and leaping out of the water as we approached Tau.
The boat owner had his boys with him and they fished as we went along, unfortunately they didn't catch anything.
I spent the rest of the week working on Tau. There is little to do on Tau and even less when it is raining, which it was. The community is small and everyone knows each other. Each year more and more people leave Manu'a, drawn away by the modern conveniences of the larger islands and the mainland.
The week we were in Manu'a was apparently a good week for mackerel, it seemed that everyone was either catching or cooking mackerel. The picture below is the second small wharf on Tau and the dark shape in the water is a school of mackerel. Word spread fast and everyone was turning up with a fishing pole.
As we drove around, I was surprised to suddenly feel more like I was back home more than a tropical island. The road was lined with what looked like pine trees. I am not sure what they are, but it was nice to have a change of scenery.
By the end of the week work was done and I was back on the plane for the 30 minute flight home.
Ofu and Olosega are two separate islands connected by a small bridge. We arrived at the western side of Ofu and took a 10 minute drive to the bridge on the eastern side where we crossed to Olosega and our accommodations.
We stayed in a four bedroom house in the middle of a small Village on Olosega. Just to give you an idea of the populations; Tau (the biggest island) has around 250 people on it, Ofu and Olosega combined have roughly the same... probably a little less. There are really only two stores on Ofu/Olosega and the house we stayed in was directly behind one of them... directly.... you can touch both buildings at the same time.
My room was very simple, just a bed and an air conditioner. I dropped of my stuff and went for a walk, which turned out to be the most relaxing walk of my entire time in the South Pacific. There was a beach directly behind the house and the calm water and amazing scenery made it so tranquil.
I just sat on that beach and was perfectly content. I headed back when it started getting dark and was surprised to find dinner was prepared for us. Just to back up a little, prior to the trip I was warned by everyone that there is very little to eat in Manu'a and what you can get in the stores is very expensive. As a result, more than half of my suitcase was food enough for the whole trip. No meals were supposed to be included in any of our stays, but because we helped out at the port with moving some of the shipment we were treated to a feast which included lobsters and a skip-jack (fish) caught just off the shore. I did briefly note the a lack of soap and raw meat strewn about the kitchen as I passed through, but dinner looked great.
The foil contained the skip-jack pictured on the right and there were pork chops under that gravy. By the time I ate the lobster and pork I only had room for the delicacy bits of the fish... the eye and the cheek, but those are the best parts anyway. At this point things were going great and I was feeling optimistic about he trip.
That positive attitude was gradually crushed into misery. After dinner I got washed up for bed, this was a little tricky with no sink in the bathroom but I managed. Then I jumped in my extremely firm bed with a pillow that felt almost as if it were filled with sand. "Eh.... who needs a pillow" I thought and tossed it aside. As I tried to drift uncomfortably to sleep I was suddenly drawn back to consciousness by a horrendous ripping sound, it as if someone was pulling out a roll of duct tape in front of a loud speaker. I couldn't see anything in the narrow alley next to my room (which help amplify the sound) and figured that the store owners where just unpacking something and it'll all be over soon. An hour later I was getting dressed to head out and confront the repetitive tearing. A crew of store employees were wrapping up meals in styrofoam boxes with plastic wrap, BIG rolls of plastic wrap, like the kind to wrap furniture. They look at my bleary eyed face and asked "Is that keeping you up?" to which I replied "Yes, are you almost done?", the response was "No" and they went back to work. End of conversation. Super
I went back to my room, accepted defeat and read for the next hour when the noise stopped and I drifted off.
One hour later... Sharp pains in my stomach, a flash back to the kitchen condition. Not good. As I attempted to throw some shorts on and run for the single shared bathroom, I discovered a second reason for my sweaty feeling... no A/C because the power was out!! I made my way through the dark praying nobody was in the bathroom and regretting what was about to happen in complete darkness.
THIS PORTION OF THE STORY HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR THE READERS SAKE
...so all in all, I slept about one hour.
In the morning we packed up and then got word that the boat which we were supposed to catch at 2PM was not leaving a 10AM. The rest of the time in Ofu/Olosega was spent rushing to get our work done, but I did squeeze in a couple minutes to take a few pictures and play with my camera. The picture directly below (HDR) was taken on the beach which achieved top ten status, I am disappointed that this was all the time I had to spend there.
The stay in Ofu/Olosega was brief, but certainly memorable. At 10AM we headed to the wharf to catch our much smaller ride back to Tau.... more to come.
The Jaskowiak Family
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