Saturday, September 30, 2006

Coconut Point

Today we got up at the wee hour of 4:45 am to set up the computer for general conference. Due to the time change, we had to start listening at 5:00 am! But it was a wonderful way to start the day. My favorite speakers of the Saturday sessions were Dallin H. Oaks (speaking on the Atonement), M. Russell Ballard (serving in church callings), and James E. Faust (discipleship). I also enjoyed Robert D. Hales and Joseph B. Wirthlin's talks. And Dieter Uchdorf sure is fun to listen to.

After conference, we headed out to the beach. We couldn't decide on whether we should go to the Flowerpot Rock or Coconut Point. Since Coconut Point was closer, we went there first to see how it was. We were lucky; I guess the best part of Coconut Point is on private property, but a lady was there to let us in right when we got there.

I thought public beaches were badly polluted, but this was a private beach with another bad garbage problem. The water didn't seem too bad, though. We were secluded from society, and the pictures almost look like Ofu, even though they were Tutuila.

It's Jaydn's beach:

Tutuila (see Ofu pics for comparison):

WWII pillbox(?) and fisherman who was having absolutely NO luck next to us:

This has become our weekly routine: go to the beach, go get ice cream. Today was no different. Another nice picture of the beach (some trees had fallen down from the wind/rain/waves(?):
I swear, if Jaydn keeps his bright blue eyes, he's going to have all the girls.

We had a fun time, and we even found the best ice cream place on the island!

Row, Row, Row the Boat

Jaydn and I go to the park next to our house just about every day. The view at the park is wonderful. And the tennis courts also have this view. Launa and Angela, eat your heart out!

Of course, the water here is nothing to get excited about. I purposefully did not take a picture of the beach here. Or should I say, landfill?

A few days ago, Jaydn learned to swing without being pushed. It was a big day for him, and every day since then we have gone to the park so he could swing.

Mad Jaydn:

Happy Jaydn:

Silly Jaydn:

Before we came to the island, we were told that Rugby and American football were the most popular sports in Samoa. However, they forgot to mention that Samoans play a lot of volleyball:

Yesterday evening I took up a new hobby. Mike and Mary (another neighbor) and I went to Utelei beach and went long-boat paddling. Each boat had six people, and we paddled the boats out into the ocean. It became a little scary when we got out pretty far and the waves were big like you see on the movies. We paddled up the wave and down the wave. And it was really, really hard work! I suppose I will get the hang of it someday. I think we went about 3 1/2 miles. When I got home I had several sore muscles, and desparately needed to sleep!

On another note, we bought airline tickets to New Zealand! We're really excited. If anyone has any suggestions for our trip, we welcome them.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Last night, I was at the Korean class and Jessi and Jaydn were at home. In the middle of the class, some of the students said, "hey, did you guys feel that? The table was shaking. It was an earthquake!" I must have been talking, because I didn't feel anything. When I got home, Jessi said that the house shook during the earthquake, and the dogs and birds outside were going crazy! She called Mike who said he was feeling it, too. I checked it out online and found that a 6.7 quake hit about 180 miles SSW of Pago Pago (the capitol of American Samoa) about 27 miles below the sea floor, but that there was no risk of a tsunami. Today, I read that there was a small tsunami that hit American Samoa in the Pago Pago harbor due to rising ocean levels.

If there ever is a large earthquake that could trigger a tsunami, I'm pretty sure where we would go. We have some friends in the ward that live on much higher ground, and I bet they would let us stay at their house for a little while. Anyways, we haven't asked them yet... hmm..., I guess I need to do that, huh?

Monday, September 25, 2006

I'm just swimming in rain!

So, we wanted to go to the beach on Saturday, but instead we experienced probably the rainiest day so far. It poured buckets! Jessi, Jaydn and I took a tour of the nickel-and-dime shops, 75% of which are run by Koreans, so it was fun to talk to people in Korean. We didn't take any pictures, but Jaydn did. He's becoming a pretty good photographer. He wanted to show you how much rain there was.

I thought rain water was going to seep in through the doors a couple of times. On Sunday, we all spoke in church and Jessi and I did a musical number. I also got called to serve in the Elder's Quorum. We rounded off our Sunday with a dinner invite to the Pili's home; both members of our ward.

Today, I went to my first free Korean class on the island. Of all the random things you'd find in Samoa! I ran into Mr. Lee Hyun Hwi at a store on Saturday, and he told me about his class. I was the only guy there besides Mr. Lee that could really speak. It was fun though.

When I came home, Jessi said that another long-horned beetle dropped from the roof--this time landing on our bed. I'm really looking forward to the night when one drops into my open mouth while I am fast asleep! Anyway, apparently this bug was the brother of the one that dropped down Jessi's overalls. Jessi took a close up of bro:

He was so cute we had to take another face shot, just like with the big frog:

I don't have any other really big news, besides this bug. Oh, and it's raining now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Slimy creatures

Last night, we saw two large lizards (which isn't really anything new, we see at least 2-3 a day in or on our house), but we thought everyone would like to see what crawls all over our house all day long:

We're actually pretty happy to have lots of lizards. Lizards eat bugs. We hate bugs. We like lizards. Or, should I say, "Hallelujah for lizards!!!"

Today we saw a huge frog outside. Not new either. Some wise guy several decades ago thought he could help the mosquito problem in American Samoa if he brought thousands of frogs onto the island. The frogs are not indigenous to the island. Now, we have a huge mosquito problem AND a huge frog problem (the frogs aren't really a problem, there's just a whole lot of them. They're probably also our friends (I hear that frogs eat bugs, too?)).

He was so pretty I thought he deserved a close up shot. He didn't smile.

I think I've got Snorkelitis

Is that what happens when your snorkel gets permanently connected to your mouth so you always have to use it? No, it just means you REALLY enjoy snorkeling. And if I took our friend Paul's diving class, I'm sure I'd get addicted to that, too.
On Saturday we went snorkeling again. Jessi and I are getting better at it, which means not getting so antsy when you feel really close to coral. Once you lose it, you scrape your knee and then have a gash that takes weeks to heal.
We went to a place much closer to my work. The last time we went here, I could see a sea turtle stick its head out of the water. I ran in, and watched it for a while. This time was no different. On our way back from a long path of snorkeling, Mike and I ran into what I'm thinking is the same turtle. We watched him for quite a while. Then Jaydn had the guts to come out and have me hold him in the water while he watched the turtle. Every so often, the turtle would swim up to the surface and get a breath of air; then he would glide back down to the bottom to eat. It was magnificent.
Jaydn was being pretty goofy in the water:

And Jessi gave me a good idea for putting on snorkel gear: do it in the water so you don't get so much sand in it!

It was probably the best snorkeling day we'd had. The water was so clear and calm, and the weather was great.
Jessi was so tired from snorkeling, she passed out on the water!

No, I'm just kidding, she just wanted to show you how she could float on the water. (You didn't actually believe me, did you?)

Here's a funny (OK, maybe not so much for Jessi). We were watching a movie on the laptop (because we don't have a TV), and a large beetle dropped from the ceiling right into Jessi's overalls! She shrieked, jumped up, and started un-clothing very quickly. We've been here long enough to instantly know what just happened. She got it out, and we smashed it. So much for beetle. Now Jessi's nerves are frayed!

Life just won't be the same in the States when we don't have bugs dropping on us. What a shame.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Getting used to life and work

A new day; a new blog. Since Ofu, it has gradually become easier to live here in American Samoa. Jaydn is enjoying his school and meeting new friends, Jessi has enrolled in a Samoan and Tahitian dance class (boy, can she move those hips!) and plays piano at ward members' homes, and I have taken up blogging and reading when I'm not working. But the thing we love to do the most is to sightsee and travel. We also go to the park frequently; it's ironic that we now live closer to a park than we ever have. Jaydn loves to go and play ball at the park:

One of the first things I noticed when we got here was that I now had the most beautiful drive to work I will ever have in my lifetime. Practically the whole drive borders the ocean, and when the waves are big, it is difficult to keep your eyes on the road. Thank goodness, my co-clerk and I carpool. So, I was able to take a few pictures of part of the drive a few weeks ago:

Here's a picture of the drive in Pago Pago harbor:

Now, I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression of my job; I work hard. But the clothing here is more casual than in most clerkships. I can't imagine wearing a nice white shirt and tie every day to work here. In a month, the white shirt would probably be brown due to the moisture and my own sweat! Yeah, law clerks wear hawaiian shirts and casual khaki pants to work here. And, I forgot to mention, SANDALS. And so do the judges!

I've worked on a small taste of everything since being here (only a month so far). The laws here are quite different; there is no UCC or UPC, and no equal protection. Probably the best example is that only Samoans can own land. If I decided to live here for several years (which I won't), I'd want a better place to live. I'd have no choice but to rent, unless I adopted a Samoan child and bought land in his or her name (that just causes a whole host of other problems, which I won't go into).

The High Court is part trial court, part Appellate Court. It's strange, but sometimes one High Court justice will hear a case at the trial level, and it will then be reviewed on appeal by the other High Court justice (there are only two). There are several associate "judges," who are, from what I can understand, high 'matai' chiefs in American Samoa. So, it is possible that Mike, the other law clerk, could write something for one of the justices for a case at the trial level, and I could then be asked to write an appellate opinion, essentially reviewing Mike's work!

Mike and I are also responsible for making sure that the American Samoa Reporters are published, the library is kept up-to-date and in good condition, and we have to work on the hiring process of the new law clerks for the next two years. So, there is a lot to do when you're not writing for the judges.

Well, it rained virtually all day today. Jessi called me and said she was experiencing a small river running through our front room. The light in the living room is broken, our kitchen faucet is leaking, and now apparently the roof is, too. But life is good, and if I were to complain, I know who would make sure I'm kept in line:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ofu - (Part 4) - Saying Goodbye!

(Used without permission from Mary, the photographer.)

Monday was the best day for snorkeling on the island. We found some information in the hotel lodge that told us exactly where we needed to go to have the best snorkeling experience. So, Jessi, Jaydn and I trekked off to the area.

The water was clearer than Evian! And we saw huge schools of fish, and all kinds of coral (probably the biggest single coral I've ever seen). It was neat. Jessi and Jaydn loved it as well. And we were the ONLY people on the beach for miles and miles and miles.

The beach was wonderful. It also had large rock formations that were quite fun to climb on.

After swimming for a while, we found a surprise under our bags. It sure startled Jessi.
We tried to get him, but he got up and ran sideways into the ocean. Never saw him again.

Did I tell you Jaydn would be a shell collector? I found the shiny one on the bottom of the ocean.

Shortly after swimming at the beach, our plane was supposed to arrive. However, the airline called the lodge about an hour before the plane was supposed to arrive and said that they weren't going to come to Ofu that day; maybe tomorrow they could pick us up! The only problem was, we were running out of money, and some of us had to WORK tomorrow! We finally convinced them to bring the plane out that we were SUPPOSED to have ridden in to come to Ofu, the 14 seater instead of the 6 seater. That way, he would only have to take one trip. But you see how difficult it is not only to get on the island, but then to get off it as well!

We all gathered in front of the bigger plane before we took off and took a group picture.

We had lots of fun and some scares, but it was time to go home.

Goodbye, Ofu and Olosega! (One of Mike's amazing pictures):

Whew! Don't know how he got that picture. Although I think it was when he exited the escape hatch for a few seconds during the flight. He also amazingly got this shot of Tutuila (the main American Samoan island--where we live):
So glad our flights were safe. So glad those who were swept out to sea came back alive. It was a wonderful trip, until we were informed that we would perish upon entering the airport :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ofu - (Part 3 - Sunday)

On Sunday we woke up not knowing whether we could make it to church or not. Church was on the opposite island, the two being connected by a bridge. But to get there, we had to take a vehicle. Thankfully, Marge (the owner of the hotel) let us rent her truck for $10.00 an hour (not bad)! It was a stick shift, so Jessi drove. Jaydn provided a big yawn.

The water at the bridge is clearer than a swimming pool:

Jessi hadn't driven a stick for a while, but she still did better than I would have (I've NEVER driven a stick!). At one point, we had to go up a steep hill, and we stalled a few times. But we eventually made it over.

Olesega (the island that church was on), was about as far away from normal life as we've been. The streets were sand, so it seemed like everything was just built on the beach. And, like I've said before, it was SMALL (probably a little like Milo, Idaho feels, but on an island).

Church was wonderful! It was run by the missionaries there--Elder Christensen from Utah and Elder Butterworth from Australia. They conducted the whole meeting(s) in Samoan, and since it was testimony meeting, they asked Jessi and I to bear our testimonies. We did, in English, and most of the people there understood a little English so it worked OK. It was a powerful meeting, even though it was in a different language.
The missionaries lived in the basement of the home of their only member. That home was owned by the preacher of the L.M.S. church--no joke--the London Missionary Society. This church was one of the first to introduce Christianity to Samoa. Not only that, but their member was the preacher's son. But the preacher didn't mind. He has a very open-minded view of Christiantity. Were that everyone did. He was even helping the missionaries build their first home on the island.

The missionaries had just baptized their first member a few months before. He was there, along with his wife and kids, and a group of about 10 other people. But only one member!

Would you get frustrated? I know I was frustrated at times when we would come together for church meetings in Samchuk, South Korea, and we'd only have 4 people there--the missionaries, a sister, and the bishop. Once, I remember the sister walking out of sacrament meeting in tears because she didn't know how to get the branch going. I felt the same way.

But the feeling was different here. There was optimism in the missionaries' eyes. There was happiness in the eyes of those in attendance. It was a good feeling that I'll never forget. Afterward, we all took a group picture.

What an incredible story Jaydn has to tell his friends. Apparently, he says that all the kids were trying out their English on him in sunday school. He didn't mind.

We made our way back, driving in the rain. I felt bad when I saw that everyone in the congregation had walked home in the rain. I could have provided them with a ride. But I guess I felt bad too late.

We got back to the lodge, played games, read books, watched movies, and had an incredible dinner cooked by the lodge (they made breakfast, lunch and dinner for us for $20 a person, mostly because if we don't eat with them, we won't eat! There's nowhere else to eat.) The staff of the hotel (just a family living on the island) hung out with us and we enjoyed their company. They felt like family.

That night, we walked to the end of the runway, with the understanding that the plane only comes once every day or so. It was really nice at the end, on the beach. You can see our family picture we took there if you look at the first picture on the very first blog I wrote. The next picture on the runway didn't turn out that great (didn't use flash), but Jessi still looks fabulous.

And every time I look at this next picture, I can't see what's comfortable about Jaydn's position. But he sure loves his mommy. (Who wouldn't?)

And the final picture of this bunch is telling of what my mind was on--getting a cool picture of myself. Oh brother.

I was trying to stand up, but each time I did, I almost lost my balance and fell into the ocean. And I forgot to mention that we did swim for a while on Sunday (I know, probably not appropriate, but we had fun as a family).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ofu - (Part 2)

The first thing we did (after putting our stuff in our room) was go straight to the beach! Jessi and Jaydn checked out the hammock,

While I tried out the lazy chair.
The water at this beach (which happened to be right next to the hotel) was nice, almost like a big wave pool, and Jaydn and I had lots of fun with the waves. And it was really safe.
But it was not the best spot for snorkeling because it was really murky, so later in the day we moved on. Our rooms were like small buildings, with two hotel rooms to each building. They were surprisingly comfortable for an island so small. Jaydn thought he'd show you one.
To get to the really nice beaches, the eye poppingly beautiful beaches, we had to walk a ways down a dirt road. Once we got there, the walk was certainly something we could do again. It was beautiful.
It was soooo beautiful. We were ready to relish in this lush paradise, relax on the beach, snorkel, read my book, etc.
Jessi, Jaydn and I set out with snorkel gear (after applying sunscreen, of course). The water here was supposed to be clear. But it wasn't. So I kept swimming out more and more. I had my fins on as well, so it was hard to stand up.

Then disaster struck. I looked up, and one of our friends was coming in, saying that my co-clerk, Mike, had been sucked out to sea. I stopped and looked, and I could barely see him. He was waaaay out there. I thought I was going to come back to work at the courthouse alone. It was scary.

Then things got worse. Two other guys were further out than me in the water. They saw that Mike was out really far, getting tossed and thrown by the waves. While watching him, one of them ALSO got swept out. In the meantime, Mike was finally making his way back. He was completely drained of energy, because he was trying to swim with the waves when they would hit him so they would push him in somewhat. He was also clinging white-knuckled to his snorkel gear. When I saw him come in far enough, he was walking on the coral and looked like he had just been hit by a missile. But thank goodness, he came in safe.

The other guy that got pulled out, Fred, was still in the water. Then, a third guy, Nate, got pulled out. We all thought we were experiencing our worst fears at sea, and worried that someone, or two, were going to die in the ocean. Fred started to come in finally, but Nate was still out in the water. Nate was farther than either Fred or Mike had been. He got to the point that I almost couldn't see him. I was really worried for him.

All three waved for us to come and help, but I was worried. None of us went because we knew it would be a terrible idea. We would all be out in the ocean. So we tried to point to them which way to swim to get out of the terror. Needless to say, I think all of us were praying a lot.

What we didn't realize was that we had picked a spot with an 'Ava'. What's an 'ava'? Well, it's kind of like a stream of fast-moving water, that sucks right through reef on both sides, and anything that is in its path it brings out to sea. It just so happens that WE were in its path. If we had stayed about a quarter-mile down the beach, we would have had the best snorkeling, and NO ava. But you live, and you learn! Fortunately, we all did!

It was truly a miracle that Nate finally made his way in. They each exerienced a lot of getting pounded against the coral, going under the water and losing their orientation, and thinking that they were going to die. After they came back in, it became a very quiet, somber day, with a lot of reflection. Mike was in good enough spirits to show me his war wounds.

The three survivors!

Afterwards, no one wanted to enter the water again. Jaydn and I just built sandcastles.

We finally got tired, and walked back to the road and left. Marge, the owner of the hotel and a real gem, drove her truck out to pick up the wounded. Then she came back and picked the rest of us up! Free of charge!

We spent the rest of the day in the lounge, playing games and reading books and talking. Most of us said we weren't going out again. We knew better. We came here to swim!