Thursday, December 1, 2011

The frozen turkeys and the Tutuila Trio visit Manu'a

It is December 1st. I’m sure it feels like December to all of you. The winter chill is slipping under your covers at night. The tip of your nose turns pink when you walk outside. Your snow boots are creeping closer to the front of your closet. You might even be stocking up on hot chocolate mix and soup. I, on the other hand, am experiencing none of those things (besides the fact that I made my own chicken noodle soup the other night). To me, December 1st is a balmy, humid, roasty-toasty kind of day. It's also quite rainy and wet. I’ve got my slippers (flip flops) on, a skirt, a t-shirt, and my hair up because it’s just too hot to wear it down. To me, it is still July, and it will continue to still feel like July for the next 6 months. I’m not complaining or anything, I’m just stating the fact that it does not feel like December and that it is extremely hard for me to believe that Christmas is literally right around the corner!

Thanksgiving came and went and my holiday was spent island hopping throughout the outer islands of American Samoa. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was our last day of school. Barely anyone turned in their homework that was due. All my classes were chaotic. More than half of my students were missing in my last class. I, for sure, was ready for a few days off of school! On Wednesday, Abby, Amber, Allison (last year’s WT Field Director) and I were up at 3:45 a.m. for the Turkey Run at the high school! We got to school around 4:30 and the race actually started at 5 like it was supposed too! I am guessing that around 30 people either ran or walked the 4.3 (approximately) mile long race. Running through the streets of Leone when it was still pitch black and somewhat cool was exciting. Actually, just being around other runners was exciting! I stuck with a palagi man and woman for the first mile or so, then dropped the woman (yeah!) and stayed with the man for the rest of the race. I ended up finishing in 4th place and was the first woman in! I had a lot of fun, and came home with a frozen turkey as my prize.

I think that a turkey might be the coolest thing I've ever gotten from a race! Also notice the fancy ribbon race bibs that we had to wear!

Shortly after the race, Abby and I rushed to finish our last minute packing for our trip to Manu’a (aka the name for the outer islands). We both wanted to bring our frozen turkeys, so we threw them in a bag and took the bus to the grocery store to stock up on some Thanksgiving staples, and then met Khoa at the airport. An hour or so later, we had our tickets, checked in, and got on the plane. We had a flub with the turkey’s and had to rush to find a cooler bag to carry them in, but in the end, we were on the plane and ready to go! Shortly after the plane took off, steam started pouring out of the air conditioning vents. Only in AmSam, right?

It was kinda spooky!

25 minutes later, we landed on the island of Ta’u (pronounced Taa-ooo). Ta’u is the home to Courtney, Erin, Wes, Cat, and Mitch, our WT friends who are teaching out there. Courtney met us at the airport and it was so good to see her after being apart for almost 4 months! We hopped in the back of a truck and drove along the coast back to the village of Ta’u, where she and Erin live. When I say that I live in the middle of the ocean, I really mean it, but when I say that Ta’u is a remote island that feels like its own little world, I mean that even more. Ta’u is absolutely beautiful. It is rugged, tropical, lush, mountainous, and beach-y.

Shortly after dropping off our bags (and sticking those turkeys in the freezer!), we were off for our first adventure: a hike to Second Beach. What an adventure it turned out to be. This is not a hike for the weak. What’s funny is that it’s not even a hike where you have to climb up a mountain. Instead, you have to climb up and over huge, massive, slippery rocks…again and again and again and again. I was doing alright until I lost my grip on a really slippery rock and fell in between two other big rocks. It was one of those times where the fall feels like slow motion and you know it’s going to hurt like heck. I ended up slamming both feet into yet another rock, and my right ankle crashed into another rock. Eeeeaaahhh. For a few short seconds, I thought I had broken my ankle. It hurt SO BAD. I was a bloody mess but I hobbled over those darn rocks and kept going. In the hour or so that it took us to get to the beach, I ended up falling three times. All three times I hit my same bad ankle. By the time I got to the beach, I really hated life. After I took a few deep breaths and looked around, I realized that I was still in paradise and that I was lucky that I 1) had not broken my ankle or leg and 2) had not hit my head on a rock when I fell. Ta’u Hike from Hell for the win! To quickly sum up the way back, Courtney stuck with me as I hobbled back over the rocks again. We left as the tide was coming in, and pretty soon, the tide was really picking up. We had to walk through the water on our way to the beach, but on the way back, walking in the water would have gotten us sucked out into the ocean. No good. We had a few scary moments about not being able to safely get over some massive boulders, but after squeezing through a tiny hole, one more fall (leaving me with a bruised and scratched arm and armpit- this hike was really good to me, as you can see), we made it back to flat land. What an adventurous start to my weekend! We ended our hike with a much needed swim in the nearby wharf.

The view from Second Beach. If you stepped anywhere near those trees, your entire body was swarmed with namu (mosquitoes)

Looking the other way at Second Beach. You can't see the deadly rocks in this picture but you can see the islands of Ofu and Olosega!

Erin, Courtney, Myself, and Abby at Second Beach

Thanksgiving was a fun day. We spent it in Faleaso, the village and home to the three other teachers on the island. We stuffed our faces with turkey (Wes cooked it up for us and it was delicious!), stuffing, green bean casserole, cheesy veggies, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread, and cucumbers. We ate like kings and queens! We even had brownies, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pudding for dessert. We spent the rest of the day hiking, reading magazines, relaxing, and enjoying our time together.

Hooray for Turkey!


This was our centerpiece on the table! A pineapple, green peppers, starfruit, and a koko pod. Tropical and classy, right?

All of the Thanksgiving fixin's. It didn't feel like Thanksgiving for any of us...probably because were were sweating!

There were puppies at Cat, Wes, and Mitch's house. This one was the cute one.

I found a creature shell on the beach in front of Wes, Cat, and Mitch's house. It's some sort of lobster. I thought it looked cool.

We hiked to this little cove on Thanksgiving. We went swimming and soaked in the view. 

Courtney, Myself, and Abby after our hike and swim

On Friday and Saturday, I was lucky enough to visit Ofu (Oh-foo) and Olosega (Oh-loh-sen-gah), two other islands that make up Manu’a. 9 of the WT volunteers, and 4 Samoan men piled on a tiny fishing boat and crossed the water. It takes a little over an hour to get to Ofu from Ta’u. The Samoans fished as we cruised and they were reeling in massive Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna. The fish have to be sasa’d (hit) once you catch them or else they flap around and are loud and annoying. The man steering the boat let me sasa one of the fish. I took the big stick and hit it (be proud of me Dad and Connor!). I was TERRIBLE at it. It took forever for me to kill the stupid thing and it wouldn’t stop flopping. I finally got it and I couldn’t stop laughing. ONLY IN AMERICAN SAMOA. Later on, the Samoans filleted one of the fish and passed it out to everyone. I took a bite of raw fish straight out of the ocean. I felt like Gollum gnawing on fish from the Forbidden Pool.

The tiny fishing boat that we all squeezed on to.

My feet hung out with some smelly fish on the way over. P-U!

A bird swarm = a heck of a lot of fish!

Sasaing the fish. I am hitting it's back. Hitting in the back will not kill it. I am terrible at this.

Approaching the island of Olosega

Ofu on the left, Olosega on the right

Pulling into the Ofu wharf and catching the sunset!

Highlights from our trip to Ofu included staying at Erin S. and Jessica's house (the two volunteers that teach at Olosega Elementary School), jumping off the bridge that connects Ofu and Olosega (it was such an adrenaline rush!), snorkeling and lounging on one of the top beaches in the world (literally…it’s made the list!), eating some of the fish that the Samoans caught on the boat (once again, thanks Wes for filleting and cooking it!), enjoying the serene beauty and peacefulness of the small village, and hanging out with friends that I had not seen in a very long time!

Swimming, wading, and enjoying the cool night in Ofu
Yum, dinner.

The bridge that connects the beautiful islands of Ofu and Olosega.

Abby and I on the bridge. We have many exciting adventures together!

Just about to jump off the bridge. I'll admit that I was having a crazy adrenaline rush...the water was pretty far down!

Mid jump!

Made it! The current was pretty strong so it took a while to get back to the white sandy beach! : )

This is the beach on Ofu that has gotten a lot of attention on beach lists. It was kind of cloudy but it was still paradise in every way!

The snorkeling was INSANE. I'm not very good at underwater photography and I don't think this picture looks too exciting but the coral was HUGE and beautiful and every color you could think of!

My view from the water. Yup, paradise.

We took the same fishing boat back to Ta’u on Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the weekend relaxing, watching movies, eating, and finding ways to entertain ourselves. It was in fact Sunday, and just like on Tutuila, Sunday is the day of relaxation and church. We ended the day with cinnamon bread from the one place on the island that bakes bread. Delicious.

Here is a "bell," aka an oxygen tank used in the village of Ta'u.

The original plan was to fly home on Sunday, but I live in American Samoa. Of course the flight was cancelled. Khoa, Abby, and I were put on stand by to fly back on Monday. Thankfully, we made that flight. I did have to miss a day of school (which surprisingly bummed me out!) but hey, I got stuck on a tropical island in the middle of the ocean. Seki a!

The airplane view of Ofu (left) and Olosega (right).

The WT volunteers that live on Ta’u and Ofu deserve a lot of credit for spending their year in Manu’a. The islands are remote, quiet, barely civilized, and even more so in the middle of the ocean. I am happy that I was able to visit them! Besides these obvious differences, here are a few more things that make Manu’a a whole new world: everything is expensive in Manu’a. The stores are the size of a bedroom. Seriously. Small jars of peanut butter are $6+. A small box of pasta is $3. A bag of Cheetos is $6. Cereal is almost $8. A can of tuna is $2-2.50. I would have a very difficult time with limited food options. I don’t know if I could do it! Manu’a is home to twice as many mosquitoes and ants. You have to wear bug spray 24/7. They will swarm you the minute you step outside. Gross. While there, I got to try some new things: starfruit (surprisingly delicious), the Samoan koko (not quite sure about the spelling - see a picture of it from our Thanksgiving centerpiece), and koko Samoa (the Samoan drink that is made from the koko pod).

All in all, I had a wonderful weekend. While I came home with some bumps, bruises, and a little sunburn, I am so happy that I went. Re-uniting with my friends was a great way to spend Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to see them again in just a few short weeks.

Can I just end this post with a little bit of bragging….I WILL BE IN AUSTRALIA IN 3 WEEKS.  

Keep warm, friends and family!


Anonymous said...

The next time you Sasa a skipjack, you'd better be able to kill it on the first hit. Poor tuna!

I am amazed and proud of the life you are living. You are not the same young woman who left Sycamore 5 months ago. Now you can cook and fly off bridges. You eat raw tuna! Your approach to adventure is so open-minded and that is commendable, Quinn!

Jovan and Rich said...

What a great Thanksgiving weekend! But jumping off bridges and raw tuna?! Bleck! hehe I keep saying it, but I'll say it again.... It's an amazing adventure you're on Quinn! Love youuuuuuuuuu!!!

Mom and Dad said...

Quinn, the annonymous above was from me. Your mom!

Dad says, "The scarey jump off the bridge? You wouldn't catch me doing that! In regards to your future skydiving!"

Anonymous said...

These images are AMAZING. I don't know what else to say!

Except, I'm wondering what brand of turkey you got? Everyone else got a Butterball huh?

Love you Q

Anonymous said...

Quinn, I'm going to Matafao peak (the highest one in this island) tomorrow (12/04/2011) by myself, I can't find any other crazy person to go with me. If you want to join me, give me a ringing at +16842565969. I will back to Australia before Christmas as well. Again, very nice to read your blog.
Tony Ouyang

Anonymous said...

Quinn ~ you are amazing! And so are your pictures! You must have learned from your mom!;) Such an exciting time! Have a blast in Oz! Jan:)