It has been three and half years since we arrived here in American Samoa, our time is up but we are continuing our adventure in the Pacific and heading to Guam! The move will happen during the first week of January, more to come as we say farewell to A.S.
About a year ago American Samoa was finally given an option when it comes to flying to Samoa. For the longest time if you wanted to go, your only choice was Polynesian Air.... and you suffered for it. Now we have Talofa Air and are thankful!
Now if you want to fly to the outer islands of American Samoa (Manua) you're still stuck with Polynesian, but going to Samoa, and now Tonga, you can (and should) take Talofa Air. Talofa Air is slightly more expensive and their planes are seven seat-ers as opposed to Polynesian's fifteen passenger plane, but Talofa flights are faster, on-time, less hassle at the airport and your luggage goes with you.
While it may sound weird, the luggage thing is a huge deal, Polynesian always leaves bags behind. I have yet to fly Polynesian Air without a problem.... broken planes, delayed planes, no luggage etc. We have never had a single problem with Talofa Air and have flown them ever since they came to the island. I was prompted to post this because we very recently tried Polynesian again, thinking maybe competition has forced them to improve..... NOPE. I would have gladly paid the thirty bucks I saved on our flights at any moment to switch back to Talofa. Instead, I was sweating in an 85 degree airport after hours with no available food or water.
Take heed, and take Talofa Air..... man, I sound like I work there!
IN OTHER NEWS......
It has been a long time since I've posted and I thank those of you who encouraged me to get back to it and am very happy that people are getting something out of this blog.
Since we last posted... Noah is a growing island boy who loves swimming and climbing any rocks he gets near.... he has also gotten up close and personal with a fruit bat!
Dad has been to Saipan... and he has gotten too greedy when fishing for sea urchins. Here's a tip, don't touch sea urchins but if you do, just keep a vinegar wrap on it and monitor for an infection. It's not that big a deal.
We have all been to Fiji!
.... and my father passed away. I guess a lot can happen fast. Miss you Dad.
LIFE starts with such good intentions and joy, but Life trips us up and we stumble down paths we're unsure of. It's always a one way street, no chance to try again... we can only press on and hope to find, again, what we had in the beginning. - me
Ever wonder what happens when the cargo ship misses a delivery to our little island?
Apparently there were some mechanical issues, but we are hoping to see the shelves full within a week.
Ship or no ship, we always have fruit, coconuts and awesome sunrises!
In recent months we have branched out a bit more socially due to more families moving to the island. It has been nice to adventure with others and still find things on the island that we haven't done, even after almost three years. We recently found a new area near sliding rock with a great swimming hole and spent the whole weekend there, first by ourselves and then with the whole crew.
Having other people to venture with has also expanded our capabilities to swim out a little farther. Dad has gone over the reef several times now, on one of those occasions we swam within 25 ft of a humpback whale which you could hear singing under the water. On our recent trip to the swimming hole I jumped in the ocean where I never would have thought to before....
Posting this now I realize the perspective in the picture above is pretty horrible, that water spray is at least 15 ft in the air.... anyway we jumped in the water off the cliff just above the wave breaking the picture. That ledge that looks about two feet above the water line was actually a 10 ft jump, nothing special but it's not getting in that I was worried about it was getting out. If a friend hadn't have gone first like it was no big deal, I wouldn't have done it... if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you...
Anyway he had assured us we'd make it out alive and we did, using the surging water to lift us on the rock and holding on to not get sucked back in. So it's pretty groovy we are still having new experiences on our tiny island.
On the family side, Noah is getting so big! We miss our little baby, but love watching him become such an individual. Noah and Mom spend there week exploring the island, paddle boarding or hanging out at the library. A true islander Noah has mastered snorkeling and paddle-boarding and is Mom's official turtle spotter.
Healthy island snacking!!
We have just returned from our trip to NY (Buffalo and Rochester). Noah got to visit all his family members and see snow for the first time. The travel time each way was 30+ hours, add a 6 hour time difference and you have recipe for exhaustion, but we had a great time visiting home.... Dad enjoyed the cold, but he was the only one!
One of the best parts of the trip was taking Noah skiing on the same hill that Dad learned on. He absolutely loved it and took right to it, I think all the paddle boarding with Mom have given him great balance.
We are back home now and able to watch our beautiful sunrises.... this seems backwards though doesn't it?
Back when Dad took a trip to Tonga I posted a picture of my meal which included a delicious variety of seaweed. Not your typical seaweed, this stuff consists of little green balls that are the plant equivalent of caviar. Until now I have not seen or eaten that seaweed in American Samoa, although it is common in Western Samoa.
While attending a birthday party at "2 Dollar Beach" I went for a snorkel in what was a rather unwelcoming surf. Much to my suprise I found a large mat of seaweed growing near the edge of the reef.
That water looks milky at the top of the picture because 5ft waves were breaking right where I wanted to be! So in a battle to remain stationary long enough to collect seaweed (and continue to breathe) I managed to fill a bucket with this delightful stuff. Everyone at the party snacked on the seaweed and most people took some home. It tastes great right out of the ocean, and I don't recommend rinsing in freshwater. We jazzed a little of it up with some sesame oil, vinegar and liquid aminos (soy sauce substitute).
Next time we go to "2 Dollar Beach" we'll just have to bring the rice for a sushi meal of urchin and seaweed!
Soon I will have someone new helping me "hunt".... snorkel buddies rule! It is really great to be able to snorkel as a family now that Noah can hold his own.
Once we returned from New Zealand we had a quick two weeks at home in American Samoa and were off to Australia. Dad participated in an organizational meeting of water and wastewater professionals from 27 island nations in the Pacific... Mom and Noah tagged along for the ride. We had a two day layover in Sydney and did some exploring, we made sure to visit the opera house....
Sydney is a busy City and we were quick to realize that the rushing and stressing of "non-island" life is something that we DO NOT miss. We could literally feel the anxiety of the people all around us rushing to where ever it is they couldn't wait to get.
I think that once you live on a little island for more than a year your perception of "normal" life or even the American way changes a lot. That first year is definitely key, during my first year in American Samoa I thought I would be gone the second my contract ended. The slow pace and difficulties in accomplishing many tasks were very frustrating to someone who feels the need to constantly be moving and working. I now realize that, even with all the rushing and e-mails until midnight, my work back home wasn't getting me anywhere fast and I certainly had less of an impact than I do here. Being able to bring technical skills and professionalism to such a small community has given me the ability to see major changes and improvements that are a direct result of my work. I am still one of the most highly strung employees at my place of business, but a stop in Sydney was a big reminder of how much calmer life and myseld are now.
OK... digression over. We may not have enjoyed the city anxiety level, but we do love having so many more choices of food than on our little island! Knowing very little about Sydney prior to this trip, I was suprised at the mix of old and new. Sydney has some very cool historic features.
After our stop in Sydney were went to Canberra, the Australian capital, which has the feel of a deserted Washington D.C. as it is design for a larger population than is currently sustains. Dad didn't see much more than the inside of a conference room, but Mom and Noah did a lot of exploring. Below is a picture of the Parliament House at sunset.
Our trip home afforded us a layover in Samoa where Noah got some serious pool time. He was able to better master his swimming skills without dealing with ocean waves.
Noah has also mastered snorkeling and it's awesome to hear him yell from his snorkel tube when he sees a cool fish.
So, I have been a bad blogger again, but in my defense things have been crazy lately. After returning from three weeks in NZ we had under three weeks before a trip to Australia, that's not much time to catch up on things and get ready to go again.
As I left it, we were still in Auckland, NZ... from there we rented a car and headed south of the city to a rather rural area called Cambridge. The first few hours of driving on the opposite side of the road was intense, but I only almost killed us once.... I did however turn the windsheild wipers on ever single time I turned the car, and then did the same for a week when we got home!
In Cambridge, we stayed with friends for two nights and enjoyed the amazing scenic and animal filled home they have. Not only did they have two horses and a dog, they were fostering two goats as well. Goats are certainly charismatic creatures, these buggers tried to do everything you wouldn't want them to.
From Cambridge we went to Rotorua, this area is geothermic and includes a redwood forest. On the drive over we also stopped a the "Blue Spring", a pristine spring-water stream where many people get there drinking water supply from. Rotorua has thermal vents EVERYWHERE with many parks and geysers to check out, be warned though... the whole place does smell like sulfur.
After dinner you get to take a brief stroll through Hobbiton once more and see it lit up at night. Every was give lantern style flash lights to add to the ambiance.
After Hobbiton we drove back to Auckland and flew to Queenstown on the South Island. We spent nearly two weeks driving to nearby towns and taking in the amazing scenery. I felt a bit like Clark Griswold as I enthusiastically drove all over the place and always wanted to drive just over that next ridge.... Mom and Noah didn't share the enthusiasm for long car rides :(
Tomorrow is our last day in Auckland, Friday morning we jump in a car and drive to Cambridge... on the left side of the road... from the left side of the car. We paid extra for car insurance.
We have wandered all over, around and through Auckland the past few days eating the whole way through. A few places have really stuck out, so we thought we'd point future visitors in the right direction!
If you like Indian food and you like Asian food, well then you will like Malaysian food. We decided to try simply because we've never dined at a Malaysian restaurant and I am glad we did. It was flavorful and spicy, a great combo! The curry bowl in the picture was so delicious and rich that Mom and Dad said very little until it was gone... only slurping and clicking chopsticks.
If your looking for a healthy, plant based meal then Revive is the place. They have a selection of salads and hot meals which change weekly, just pick the size platter you want and make your choices. This isn't the most photogenic meal... that's pink hummus for breast cancer awareness.
A perfect place for a sweet snack is The Little Bird Organics Unbakery, not only is it delicious but they accommodate vegan and gluten free diets. The passion fruit cheesecake and chocolate truffles are absolutely awesome.
Last but not least is Snow Man, they serve a "premium ice dessert" which if you've been to Korea you may have had before. They serve a shaved ice cream, the only way to describe it is to compare it to Dippin'Dots except it's not little spheres but very fine slivers of super cooled ice cream. The go the extra mile and create a masterpiece of toppings. We, as always, went with the chocolate!
We are spending a week in Auckland before moving south on the north island and eventually making it to Queenstown on the south island. We decided to use airbnb for this portion of the trip and are staying in a great little apartment in Freeman's Bay hosted by Louise. It is a great place, especially if you have a little one, fully equipt with toys, crib and more. It is only a 20 minute walk to Queen St. so the location is great. The first leg of the walk is up a pretty good hill so you can get the blood pumping to start the day, but take a bus if you're unable to handle the climb it's right across the street.
It is a two bedroom, ground floor apartment with a queen size mattress in the master and a twin and a crib in the second room. There is a great big living room, washer/dryer, eco-friendly products all around and everything you need in the kitchen. We arrived to find bread, eggs and milk in the fridge which was great because we had gotten in late. On top of all that the place is grooved out with a retro-funky feel, a record player and the vinyl to go with!
We have spent our first two days roaming the streets and realizing how accustomed to the island heat we have become.... it's COLD! We have found plenty to do here so far, attending the Be Well Festival and the Diwali Indian Festival too. We really don't require much excitement to entertain us, I was laughing at how excited we were just to explore a shopping mall food court... island isolation will do that to you I guess!
Tomorrow we hit the zoo, but we have no plans beyond that, we'll just roam the City until Friday when we get in a car and drive to Cambridge.... but too much roaming can wear a little guy out!
The Jaskowiak Family
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