I realized while lying in my hammock in our fale listening to the rain yesterday that it had been awhile since I blogged. I kinda forgot that I even had a blog for awhile there. I took time out of my extra busy Sunday (I had to take 2 naps and watch a few TV episodes on my computer and play with the puppies) to type of a long post of all the things that have happened the past 3 weeks or so.
The week of Halloween was spirit week at Manu’a High School. Every day had a theme and the students were encouraged to dress up to earn points for their class. Monday was ‘black and white’, Tuesday was ‘twin/triplet’, Wednesday was ‘favorite celebrity’, Thursday was ‘career day’, and Friday was ‘opposite day’. Friday was by far my favorite day since opposite in Manu’a seems to be interpreted not in terms of inside out clothing, but in terms of gender reversal. The boys went all out and came to school in stuffed bras or coconut halves shoved in their tops, make-up, dresses, and heals. The week culminated with class games like egg toss, line dancing, flag races, water balloon toss, and a dance battle. I took plenty of pictures, although I’m not sure they capture the ridiculousness of the my students adjusting/restuffing their chests in class and another running in during break wearing only a bra and miniskirt and dancing before sprinting back out before you can make him put on some clothes. Did I mention that was also midterm week? And that on cross-dressing Friday a TV film crew for the Samoan TV station showed up to film the school? We happened to be at a Cat and Wes’s house when the footage aired last week. They took a strange video of the staff standing with the school sign in which we all look ridiculous, but nothing beats Matt making his TV debut in a puletasi.
Since Halloween fell on Career Day Sahsa and I spent a little extra time on our costumes. We chose to be super heroes and used a piece of extra white fabric and duck tape to make ourselves and the puppies capes. My parents had sent goodie bags, pencils, and candy so I made some treat bags for the kids in the village and handed those out to the younger kids. Sasha and I spent the evening at a Haloween/Birthday party for Jonathan, the guy I helped on palolo night. We ditched the superhero costumes before the party, but not without spending some time roaming the village with our super puppies trailing behind us.
Now that you have enjoyed the sight of dozens of cross dressing teenage boys I will throw in a few other school highlights. Midterm week means I have been teaching for ¼ of a school year. We have been booking our plane tickets and hotels in Apia, Western Samoa for Christmas break which is now right around the corner. I offered my mainstream classes some simple extra credit a few weeks ago to boost midterm grades – catch and bring me a coconut crab. Three students took me up on the offer which resulted in four coconut crabs. They are all on the small side but each provides plenty of meat for a meal. I shared my bounty with Sasha and we cooked up some crab for dinner. Coconut crabs are land animals, which, in my opinion, left them with less of a crab/fish flavor than traditional crab. The meat is sweet, and while I really enjoyed eating it plain I think it would be great to cook with. I have 2 left in our freezer so I will be experimenting soon.
This weekend Saunoa, who happens to be somewhat of a local legend and a Vietnam Vet, took a group of us on a hike to the Saua site on the East side of the island. We loaded in the bed of Saunoa’s truck around 6:30 Saturday morning he drove us past Fituita (the village on the far side of the island) until the paved road ends. After the pavement ends there is a clearing just wide enough and tall enough for a truck to fit through as long as you are willing to get out your machete and remove tree limbs and vines along the way. We bounced along the ‘path’ for a bit picking countless spiders off of ourselves and arrived at the Saua site shortly after. Saua is the place where Tagaloa, the sky god, created the first humans before sending them into Polynesia. I took a photo of the explanation in the guide book for anyone interested in the whole story.
From there we got back in the truck and continued along the path until it became too narrow for the truck to pass through. There was a nice beach that led to a stunning view of the south side of the island. We hiked along the coast and then into the jungle for a coconut crab hunt. Saunoa gave us a quick lesson on how to sneak up on a coconut crab, grab it from behind to avoid the claws, and pull up on an area behind the head to paralyze the crab. He took one path through the jungle and sent us down the other. We were skeptical we would actually find anything, but before we knew it Diana had spotted a coconut crab. We continued looking around for a minute before we realized we were hunting all wrong – we had targeted our search to only the ground, but when we looked up we found several coconut crabs in the trees above us. Armed with big sticks the crabs were brought to the ground and killed. They are surprisingly strong and holding it down before you kill is not easy. Saunoa was very proud of his palagi hunters and our large catch. The crabs were all very small but still enough for a dinner.
After we finished hunting we walked back along the coast to the truck where Saunoa and Wes went and got coconuts for a snack and drink. If you get fresh coconuts they are good for the meat and water. If you get coconut that have been on the ground for awhile and have begun to sprout the inside is like a sponge cake. We enjoyed the snack before making the trip back along the path to Fitiuta and then along the coast Ta’u. We stopped along the coast when Chris saw something out in the water. We watched for a minute and suddenly a blow spout appeared and a humpback whale jumped up out of the water. It doesn’t get much better than standing in the back of a truck driving along the coast whale watching after a hike to a place very few people ever get to see. But the fun didn’t stop there. Saunoa took us back to his house to show us his garden. He is part of a ‘cocoa revolution’ group that are working to harvest cocoa in American Samoa. The cocoa that is grown here is some of the purest in the world because there has been no crossbreeding like in Central and South America and Africa. So far a company in Italy has requested cocoa from the group, who have planted several hundred young cocoa plants. Saonoa is expecting them to be mature enough to harvest in the next 5-6 years. We checked out the cocoa plants along with the rest of his garden, which consists of several types of flowers (including sunflowers), cucumbers, green peppers, corn, mountain apples, star fruit, nectarines, papaya and much more.
Finally, pictures of the puppies and the kids. The puppies are no longer being fed by their mom so they are always hungry but they seem to be doing okay. Barksly got an infected bite on his face which is nasty but doesn’t slow him down. Howler is the cuddler of the 2 and climbs in my lap the minute I sit down outside or get in my hammock. The kids are equally as cute. My dad sent a few coloring books and crayons in my last care package, so I surprised Talofa and Aiga with one on Friday afternoon. We sat outside in the sand and colored for a long time. They were also really excited when they had to go do their chores that I was letting them keep the coloring book and crayons in their house.