Monday, October 30, 2006

Ronald McDonald, American Samoa Idol

What a weekend!

Unfortunately, Jaydn and I were under the weather this weekend, so we kept a low profile. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed ourselves. Our friends had the misfortune of being robbed last week, so we loaned them our cameras. Thus, no photos this week (sob).

We loaned the cameras so they could videotape their daughter in a dance recital. What was the occasion? The arrival of Ronald McDonald in American Samoa! No, I'm not kidding. In the morning, we drove over to McDonalds to see what all the commotion was about. There must have been over 500 people crammed into a small grassy area next to the McDonalds watching several dance numbers set to Disney songs. Samoans were smashed in all the way past the sidewalk and overflowing into the street adjacent to McDonalds, just to see this event that had been publicized for weeks by the local newspapers. Another 100 people were probably crammed into McDonalds, setting a new record and causing a terrible fire hazard. McDonalds was making some major dough.

Right when we arrived, a children's dance number was finishing and what appeared to be a very tall, muscular woman came onto the stage to perform the next number. Dressed like Pocahontas, she(?) did a dance number and lip sync to "Colors of the Wind" from, you guessed it, Pocahontas. But was she, a he? Yessirreebob, it was a man Pocahontas giving us our musical lesson on the environment. No offense, but that was weird--especially considering the overabundance of children glued to the happenings on the stage.

Most of the dance numbers were adorable, with young children and older junior and high-school aged kids performing Samoan dances. Others, I could have done without. Take for example the skinny Samoan high school boy and the over-overweight friend (no shirts, of course) doing a lip sync to the songs of "The Lion King," air-instruments and everything included. Which wouldn't be so bad if they had remembered to continuously lip sync, which they apparently on occasion forgot they were doing. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" really just doesn't work in this setting.

However, nothing could have prepared me for what came next. After all of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly dancing (were we the only ones recognizing the difference?), the emcee announced "the moment you've all been waiting for," and everyone screamed at the top of their lungs for Ronald. "Who do you want?" "Ronald McDonald!!!" And on to the stage gallumphed Ronnie himself! (I have to admit, when I was younger I thought that Ronald McDonald was really Ronald Reagan Jr. all dressed up. Every time I see Reagan Jr., I still think about Ronald Mc. Donald) He looked just like on his commercials--big red boots, yellow-red-white jumpsuit, white gloves, completely white face (except for nose), red wig, etc. He was the real McCoy. Until he spoke. Ronnie was an Aussie. And for the next hour (at least) he entertained the audience with magic tricks.

You've got to be kidding me. This is what American Samoa has been so wound-up about? This is what has caught front-page news for weeks? Oh, brother.

Even Jaydn, bless his heart, recognized how lame ol' Ronald was. When I recommended we leave, he whole-heartedly backed up my recommendation.

As we left, we quickly noticed that this 1/4 acre of land would end up strewn with cups, burger wrappers, fries containers, and McDonalds food bags as far as the eye could see. Too bad we didn't have a garbage bag (or maybe 50 would be more like it).

We did go snorkeling later in the day, but it was so uneventful I would rather not discuss it. Let's just say, we did not see anything of any significance.

I really want to end this blog describing our Family Home Evening activity. It was Jaydn's turn to organize the activity, and he decided we were going to have a "Who Can Draw the Scariest Guy" Coloring Contest. Jessi drew a pretty convincing "fire bull," which looked like the scary monster that takes down Gandolf in the first Lord of the Rings movie. I drew a muscle-ripped demon creature, which I called "The Thrasher." Ever since my mission, I have thought that the toughest word I could think of was to "thrash." It comes from Ether 10:25, which describes the people of Lib making "all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash."

I don't know exactly what to "thrash" means, but man, isn't that tough? It's tougher than to destroy, or to demolish, to obliterate, or to slash, trash, or pulverize. It's the toughest word, until someone convinces me otherwise.

Jaydn drew a scary looking guy. When he heard the names we gave for our scary dudes, he had to one-up us. Jaydn told me his guy was named "Scary-head-gun-hand-sledgehammer-hand-spikey-fire-foot-storm-trooper." Wo. Now that's tough.

I don't know who won the contest, since Jaydn just decided that "we all won." But thank goodness Halloween will be over tomorrow, because I just can't deal with all of this scary stuff!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fa'a Samoa

Samoans wear these skirt-like things, called lava lava's. We all bought one, but it's still kind of wierd for me to wear. I need to get used to it. Guys and girls both wear them. Here's Jessi's and Jaydn's. Once I'm comfortable with it, I'll show you mine.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but we have fruit trees all around our house. One fruit native to Samoa is the breadfruit. It is aptly named, for it has no taste (like bread). Samoans work at getting the fruit out of the high branches of the trees with long two-by-fours. Here I am trying to get a breadfruit out of the tree (why, I'll never know).

I know you're in the mood for more creature pics from our home. How about Larry the Lizard and Carol the Cockroach (with guts included):
On Saturday, we went snorkeling at Flower Pot Rock. The tide was really low, so it was difficult to do much there. But we had fun. Flower Pot is in the distance in this picture.

Now (as if this wasn't already the most random blog entry you've ever read) I'll show you some new pictures of Jaydn's school. Jaydn loves spelling words. Here he is doing words with his teacher.

Success!Just another day in American Samoa.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Our beloved home

This is the blog devoted to the best place on earth--our home. Due to the many requests for an inside look at our mansion, we have decided to allow you a glimpse inside the world of Coletti.

As we walk in the front door, you will notice the unusual cleanliness of the Coletti home.

Now, turning right toward the family "area," you will see two Coletti's having a relaxing evening. One is reading a magazine; the other, watching a movie.

Jaydn is demonstrating his eyes being closed to the icky world of "princess movie previews."

Turning 180 degrees, you see the dining room table and kitchen area. Absolutely marvelous.

Above our kitchen, bathroom and one of the bedrooms is the guest bedroom (wink, wink). Here you will find luxury amenities, including boxes left over from visits to Samoa's version of Sam's Club/Costco. The more prized items, however, are the gecko droppings, possible mouse droppings, the owners of those droppings, cockroaches, etc. Who knows what you might find in our guest area (I for sure don't, I wouldn't step a foot up there!).

Sparing you a trip to the guest room, we'll walk down the hallway. I'm sure you will notice the towels and beach clothes pinned to the shutter-like windows, which act as a great clothesline.

And here is the practically 5' square bathroom (who thinks a bathroom is interesting? The only interesting thing about the bathroom here is that the toilet seat is down! Oh, and I guess the fact that there are pliers in the bathroom is interesting, too).
Looking into the next room on the left, you will see Jaydn's room. Instantly, you are left with a feeling that you have met the next Crocodile Hunter--this boy sleeps with a snake, and reads shark books; his watergun tucked in carefully to the side of the bed! Watch out for Jaydn!
Don't miss his Triceratops poster, and shell collection box (in the bottom right corner):
Our last stop for the evening is in the master bedroom, at the end of the hall (I know, I know; what a mess!). Laundry "box" is next to the drawers, and water storage is to the left. I'm sure you'll also notice the absence of top blankets, bedspreads, etc. on the bed. If you don't know why, well, can you say 70-80 degree nights?
Turning to our left, you will see the closets that we keep shut as often as possible, to keep out as much of the humidity as we can. After all, humid environments lead to moldy clothes!
Well, thanks for coming. That's the end of our tour. I'll show you the door.

As I let you back out into the dark, rainy, tropical forest, don't forget--you're always welcome at the Coletti home!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Jail

Another interesting part of American Samoa is the jail. This isn't meant to scare anyone from coming to American Samoa. And I don't even want to fault the Samoans; each system has its benefits and problems, that's for sure.

Our neighbors down the street are both public defenders. They inform us that the front gate of the jail is never locked. Nice.

Apparently, the rule has been that if a prisoner is not back to the jail by curfew, the police go to their house and take them back. It's a simple system.

You might even notice that the sign on the gate that is covering part of the white van announces to the public that the jail has "fresh cabbage - $1" for sale. Yes, the jail has a garden! And the prisoners keep that garden up so nicely; it must be the nicest garden on the entire island (I have to say I have not bought cabbage from the jail yet).

Another attorney friend (you see, when you're an attorney, you have a lot of attorney friends) told us that before one of the hurricanes that hit the island, the prison guards, afraid they were unable to take care of the prisoners, sent them all home. On one condition. They all must come back after the hurricane. And they all did.

I'm telling ya, this is a different world down here.

When I drove up, prisoners (I'm assuming they were prisoners) were playing rugby in the rain on the prison grounds. They're usually playing basketball, rugby, or some other sport. Again, I emphasize: no guards.

I don't know if I mentioned that the local Ace Hardware sells machetes? Well, apparently the prisoners need machetes to occasionally trim the weeds, plants, etc. Strange? Dangerous? I haven't heard of any problems so far.

The judge I worked for last year will just love this next one. Recently, one of the judges I work for expressed his dissatisfaction with the police department. Why? He was frustrated that he was passing defendants in the hallways of the courthouse with no guards, no shackles, etc. I guess this practice has recently changed. However, I'm not so sure. I recently watched the arraignment of a young woman charged with one count child abuse, one count child abandonment. She had not posted bail; her attorney even argued for and was granted a very significant bail reduction. Yet she wore civilian clothes, was not handcuffed, and essentially looked like someone who had already posted bail. After she pled not guilty, she was accompanied out into the hallway with her family, who then handed her a young child (who I am assuming was one of her other children). The bailiff sat patiently to the side, waiting for family to talk, before calmly whisking the defendant away.

Other stories I hear are rumors, but worth mentioning. One toilet to a mass jail cell (a problem which I hear has been solved), and one female guard watching a building of many burly men (again, probably solved).

Recently, one of the judges I work for received a letter from the headmaster at the jail. The headmaster was concerned because he had not received the conviction/sentence paperwork of many of the individuals in the jail, and therefore had no idea when some of them were supposed to be paroled. I was to write a letter to the headmaster, asking for a complete list of names of individuals with this problem, and to send a copy to the attorney general and public defender's office to have the problem fixed within a week.

I don't want to come across as a complainer. I'm not. But the observations I make here are interesting, to say the least. I've never felt so safe in the United States as I do here. I think the Samoans are, on the whole, uniquely friendly, nonviolent individuals.

I have also never experienced the law like it is done here, and perhaps never will again. I think I will have learned many lessons once I finish my clerkship that will help me for the rest of my legal career.

"Slight chance of rain, with a high of 84 degrees"

Some readers of the blog may wonder what the temperature is in American Samoa (if you think it gets cold here, well, I've got some property to sell you...). Not long ago, Mike recognized that the weather guy on "American Samoa's #1 Top 40 Radio Station - 93 KHJ" (which happens to be the ONLY station that plays top 40 hits in American Samoa) has a similar theme to his weather reports. "Today there is a slight chance of rain, with a high of 84 degrees. Tomorrow, clear skies, with a high of 84 degrees." Next day, "tomorrow, expect rain, with a high of 84 degrees." And the next day, "tomorrow, sunny, with a high of 84 degrees." Yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the picture.

What Mr. Weatherman's real report should say, is something like this: "Today, there is about an 80 % chance of rain, because it almost always rains in American Samoa. And, although I always say that the temperature is 'a high of 84 degrees,' what I don't tell you is that there is about 90 % humidity, which makes the temperature ACTUALLY around 105 or so. But who cares? I've got the easiest job on the island; there's a 'high of 84 degrees' EVERY day!"

So, when you're feeling a little frigid in these cold months leading into winter, just remember: in American Samoa, it's probably "raining, with a high of 84 degrees!"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sliding Rock

Yesterday we drove out to the far southwest side of the island to go to a place called "sliding rock." It was quite a view from the road down to the ocean.

Once you get down to the water, you have to walk across a lot of "slippery" rocks to finally arrive at a pool that is constantly filled by ocean waves. The rocks are unintentionally slippery; although the intent of "sliding" rock, I believe, was that it provided a place for people to "slide" down the rock into the natural pool, it's really just a bunch of rocks that make you slip and fall and hurt your rear. We practiced some very delicate ballet across the rocks on our way to the pool to avoid any bruised coccyxes. However, Mike (the other law clerk) and Jaydn got their tailbones slightly injured nonetheless (but they're all right, mind you).

I was able to keep both feet on the ground.
The next blurry picture shows what the pool looks like, from a distance. Jessi is sitting on safe, high ground. The pool is behind her, and the wave is pouring into the pool.

We desperately wanted to swim and snorkel in the pool. We tried several times, but when a wave would crash over the rocks and into the pool, we just felt like we were being sucked out to the ocean. It created a dangerous river feeling. After trying and failing several times, we just focused on getting cool snapshots of us with the waves crashing behind us.
Jaydn took the next picture. When we noticed that my head had been cut off, he said that I "was just too tall!"
The next two pictures just fit together so perfectly. It looks like Mike is thinking about something, and is then startled by the waves.
Mike took the next two pictures while Jaydn and I were investigating a cave. Here is positive proof that Jessi sings her heart out when her family is not watching (look at the expressions on her face in both pictures).
I think I heard in the distance, "like a bridge, over troubled water," but I can't be sure. Although the next picture is sort of dark, I think it is one of the best wave pictures.
On our way back to the car, Jessi and Jaydn wanted to show you the lay of the land. Looks like they're walking on Mars or something.

Finally, on an off topic, Jessi took some pictures of Jaydn's school. If I hadn't said before, it's a Montessori school on a Catholic church property (run by the Catholic church). It's a pretty nice little area.

And, last but not least, Jaydn made a SCARY guy out of paper to put on our door for Halloween. I thought I'd get you into the holiday spirit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Family Gathering

Last night we went to a traditional Samoan family meeting. Families and villages are very important to Samoan custom, and the family will meet at various times as a large body (sometimes several families will meet in the "extended" family) in the "fale" (pronounced "fa-le"), which are large outdoor meeting areas right in front of the home. A traditional fale has a roof to protect from the elements, which is upheld by wooden beams around the sides. There are no walls, however.

This particular meeting was held to support our friend and fellow ward member Phil Pili, who is running for a second term in the Fono (Legislature). Family of the homeowner and friends and supporters of Phil were in attendance. Phil represents a district on the west side of Tutuila, which is the main island of American Samoa (the one on which we live). In fact, I believe the district includes Tafuna, the village where we live.

Much to our surprise, we were treated like honored guests. There was a big meal before the meeting, which included many different cooked meats, raw fish, salad, and taro (a potato-like vegetable). The family insisted that we eat first, even providing us with a table and coconut drinks (we drank the coconut milk straight from the coconut), even though most of the people in attendance did not have a table or a coconut drink. I don't think I've developed much of a taste for Samoan food yet; it is rather bland and extremely starchy. I'd much rather eat Asian foods, particularly Korean selections.

Anyway, it was interesting. The whole meeting was in Samoan, or rather, "Samoanglish." Samoans have a knack for speaking in Samoan interspersed with English, similar to when Hispanics speak Spanish interspersed with English ("Spanglish"). I made up "Samoanglish," and the term probably won't catch on due to its difficulty in pronunciation.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Palagi Beach

It suddenly dawned on me that the readers of this blog probably are getting tired of reading about beach after beach after beach.... I wish I could give you something else, but, really, that's about 99% of the fun that we have here.

We visited Palagi Beach (pronounced "pa-long-ee") today (Columbus Day). "Palagi" means a white-skinned person, or, literally, "those who burst from the sky" (pa = burst, lagi = sky). Wherever we go, we white folk are referred to as "palagi's;" we even refer to ourselves as palagi's (obviously, it doesn't phase us much). Maybe it was fate then that brought us to "Palagi" beach on Columbus Day (Columbus was, essentially, a "white" guy visiting a group of natives; we're a family of white'ees visiting native Samoa).
Anyway, I hope nobody gets offended by my use of racial terms; I don't know how else to describe it. I've been told that the beach is named "Palagi" because only palagi's would ever go there. Now I see why.
To get there, we had to drive to the westernmost edge of the island. From there, it is about a 20 minute hike on an extremely narrow path, over rocks, clinging onto vines to keep you from falling to your demise, until you reach the waterfront. Once you are there, you still have to walk across jagged rocks for another 5-10 minutes until you reach the beach. It is not for the faint of heart, or the acrophobic, of which I am. Some palagi's will probably say I am overreacting. So be it.
Anyway, once you are to the beach, it is beautiful.
The tide was really strong, and the snorkeling wasn't so great. But the beach was nice, and made for some nice photos.
Jaydn thought it was pretty funny to put sand all over his body. Until he realized he needed to clean it off.
After spending some quality time at the beach, we went for another hike further around the island. We stopped on a small island (an "island to the island," I guess) to take some pictures and see a blowhole (which wasn't outstanding, but looked cool).
I like this picture. It looks like Jaydn is checking out his next wave to tackle (if he was a surfer, that is).Like I said, we did a lot of walking on rocks!

At one point, we stopped on the rocks (shown above) and across from us was a huge rock island, with the waves coming in on both sides of the island. I got a great shot of the waves that I'll probably never replicate:

I stayed on this rock too long, and Jaydn saw something really cool because he moved on quicker than I. He was looking at a red crab in some shallow pools of water right by the shore, when all of the sudden a moray eel jumped out and swallowed the crab. He sat there, completely stunned at this live National Geographic clip that was unfolding before him, and I was kicking myself that I didn't hurry a little faster to see and take a picture of Mr. Moray. Oh well.

We got tired and extremely crispy-burned in the red hot sun. So we had to head back. Before we did, though, we took two more family pictures. I like the second one the best.

The sun was going to our heads.

After heading back over the treacherous path, and after making it back to our home, we didn't last too long before we were all asleep. Man, we were pooped!