Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey - In About an Hour and a Half

Thanksgiving Day - Samoan Style was truly a memorable experience. We spent it at our friends the Peters' family home.

We started at about 10 am, and when we arrived, there was already work for us to do. We cut open coconuts and peeled rock-hard bananas for the feast. Jaydn helped a lot with opening bananas.

After learning how to cut the coconut shell open the proper way (unlike the slaughter of coconuts that occurred a few weeks ago), I drained the juice and shred the coconut meat into a large bowl for some coconut bread. Albert Peters took the juice and shredded coconut meat, added a little sugar, flour, etc., and made a really nice coconut bread.

Albert and some of his friends had already prepared the Umu pit. Which really isn't a pit at all - unlike a Luau, where the meat is cooked under the ground, Samoans cook their "Umu" on the ground. As you can see, Albert lay what is (I think) banana tree logs in a square, and filled the center with small rocks. He had extra wood and coconut husks to help with the heat.
Then they set the wood and coconuts on top and started the fire to get some good coals burning.
They let it burn for a while, working the coals to get out the most heat.
(Oh, by the way, you've probably noticed that they have a metal sheet on the bottom to help with the heat.) Once the coals were ready, we placed on the rocks the taro (kind of like a potato), bananas, bread mix tins, beef, and three large, stuffed turkeys. Then we started placing already-hot rocks on top of the food.

Once all the food was in and the rocks were placed, they started putting large leaves from banana trees, coconut trees, etc. over the pit.

I mean, they had gathered a lot of huge leaves to put on the pit (which is not a difficult thing to do around here).
After the leaves were in place, they put a black tarp over the leaves, and held it down with large rocks on all sides.

Then we waited for about ----- an hour and a half. The turkey; or should I say 3 turkeys, were finished! We took off the tarp and leaves,

and slowly (carefully) removed the rocks and food.

Dinner was served! No waiting for hours and hours for turkeys to cook. Not much hassle. And man, was there a lot of food!

After dinner, we had pies and played games until late. It was really fun. We missed our families, though. As interesting and fun as this Thanksgiving was, there is truly no place like home for the holidays.
(P.S. - No blogs next week - the Coletti family will be on vacation in New Zealand. But come again the week after for a recap of our New Zealand trip!)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Airport Beach II

Here's a funny little factoid about American Samoa that many people won't know about--small businesses that have more than one branch number the branches, and use that number in the name of the branch. For example, if I have a business called the Samoan Ski Shop in Tafuna, and I get another Samoan Ski Shop in Fagatogo, I call the first one Samoan Ski Shop I, and the second Samoan Ski Shop II. And on and on ad absurdum. What does this mean for small business in American Samoa? Well, if business continues to go well, eventually we are going to have Drug Store XXXVIII. Like the order in which the businesses were opened really makes a difference?!
Anyway, in traditional Samoan form, I label this blog entry, Airport Beach II.
A few weeks ago, we visited what I called "Airport Beach" (see past blog entry). But on Friday, we walked around the opposite end of the airport. We walked along the edge of the bay near our house. You could call the walk, shall I say, "The Walk of Neverending Garbage!!!" It looks like this:
Don't trip, Jessi and Jaydn!
And this lasts nearly the entire walk to the beach! Why, you ask, is this walk along the outer fence of the airport, about 10 feet away from the water, so disgustingly gross? I mean, we're talking about rotted out TVs, dirty diapers, toys, mostly sandals and coconuts, tons of paper and plastic products from processed foods, etc. Did it get here from people walking out to Airport Beach II? No, it washed up from the water! The water acts as the alternative dump for many residents of this island. So sad.

It is sights like these that have really made me evaluate my thoughts on protecting the environment. Airport Beach II is FAR away from any of this mess. I mean, who would want to swim in water that is filled with trash like this?

I mean, does it really look that messy?

We got out to the very tip of the airport, where we expected to stop and snorkel. But the water was just too rough. Fortunately, it did make a good spot to take a good picture of Jaydn.

You can tell from Jaydn's face what his favorite thing to do is on the island.

We walked further around the corner of the airport until we found a place that was protected by coral. And it got deep really quickly, which is always good for snorkeling. You can tell where the deep parts are by how it gets darker blue. It was another great snorkeling area.

Heck, I even saw a sea turtle here! It was so scared of me that I only saw it for about 5 seconds (or else I would have clicked a picture with the underwater camera).

Jessi and Jaydn came back in to shore after a while, and I continued exploring. I stopped for a moment and called for Jessi to take my picture. Kind of a dumb idea; we don't have a really good zoom on our camera! But if you're looking, I'm the small black speck out in the water.
I came back to shore, only to find it was extremely difficult to get out because there was not really a beach--it was just a whole bunch of coral and shells!
So, I guess I'm going back out in the water!

Jaydn is a very happy kid when we go to the beach!

Jaydn's Copyright Infraction

A few days ago Jaydn was watching Star Wars on the laptop. He told us he wanted to take some pictures of some of his favorite scenes, so his friends who hadn't seen Star Wars could see it for the first time. He said he wants me to put it on the blog. I couldn't bear to break it to him that this would be a copyright violation. But maybe George Lucas will have a soft heart. If not, I'm sure D.V. can take care of him. So, for Jaydn's sake:

Once Jaydn finds out I only posted three of his pictures, I'm never gonna hear the end of it!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pre-Stake Conference

Have you ever heard of Pre-Stake Conference? I hadn't either until I came to American Samoa. You know those semi-cultural things that you sometimes find members doing in foreign countries that are not official church meetings? Yep, that's what Pre-Stake Conference is. And that's what we went to tonight.

Of course, you could just call it a stake activity, but now I've already gone too far on this tangent. Honestly, it was very fun. No speakers. No church clothes. Just Samoan food, Samoan dancing, and a really good time. Tomorrow is when the real Stake Conference starts.

(Earlier in the day, I commented to Mike that we were having a stake dinner. I should have guessed the reaction. "Wow, so you're having steak?" Leave it to me to expect everyone in the world to know Mormon-lingo.)

We all met in the largest stake center in the South Pacific. This building is huge. With two chapels, one extra large-size cultural hall/basketball court with full stage, another full-size cultural hall/basketball court, and at least twice the class space a regular stake center has in the states, plus large outdoor gardened areas within the church, and a full size basketball court outside in the parking lot, which, by the way, is completely gated (Samoan style), and beautiful landscaping, this is easily one of the largest, most beautiful stake centers you have ever seen.

After going to church for a month in Hawaii about two years ago, I fell in love with church in the Pacific. It is just as wonderful here. We sang the opening song (in Samoan), and you could just feel the power from the Samoan people singing. Pacific islanders really have a beautiful gift of singing with strength that we don't have in the states.

Then they turned on all kinds of dance music, and everyone got out and danced! The first to start dancing were the Area Authority Seventy and his wife, Stake President and wife, and Stake patriarch and wife! Can you imagine this happening in the states? Then everyone got out and joined them. We all just had a good time.

And there was so much food! I am starting to like certain Samoan foods. My first impression of Samoan food is that it's a little too bland for my taste. I like food with a lot of zing (like Korean food)! But now I really enjoy turkey tails and Oka (a raw fish meal). I guess different foods just start to grow on you.

Throughout the night, different groups from the wards in the Stake performed Samoan dance numbers that they had prepared especially for Pre-Stake Conference. It was really fun. Our ward is the Mesepa International Ward, so we have members from all over the place. We have a very large Tongan membership in our ward, so our ward performed numerous Tongan numbers. Kids as young as 3 or 4 were doing these difficult hand and foot movements they had learned to perform with the teenagers and adults. This was absolutely my favorite part of the evening.

As I watched the dances, a very elderly Samoan woman kept tapping me on the shoulder every two minutes to ask me questions, "where are you from?", "is that your family?", "oh, you have a very lovely family! (I can't disagree there)", "do you want more kids?" In between, she left her hand on my shoulder. It was sweet.

Why didn't I bring my camera?

Oh, well I guess there's another Pre-Stake Conference--just like there's another Stake Conference--in the Spring. So I can tape it then.

It's nights like this that really make me glad I came.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Opening Coconuts - For No Apparent Reason

Yesterday we went to Jason and Krista Corry's home. Jason and Krista are good friends in our ward, and their kids are right around Jaydn's age. They invited us over during the heat of the day so Jaydn could play on their blow-up water slide. Jaydn had a blast, and even caught some air a few times.

Children are resilient; even a flop like that is a brush-off for kids. I remember a 2 year-old on my mission who was running down the road at full speed when splat!--he fell flat on his face. He just got up and started running again, like nothing happened! Why can't we do that anymore?

Anyway, we just watched him go over and over and over and over . . . . Eventually, I got tired of watching. Most Samoan homes have tons of fallen coconuts on the grass. I asked Jason, "so, you gonna cut open a coconut?" I soon realized I asked the wrong question. Jason went inside, got his machete, and started chopping up coconuts as if they were attacking-space-aliens.

I just watched in amazement. I'd opened two so far in my life, but within 10 minutes Jason had slaughtered five. I soon realized that my simple question had tested his manhood, causing sharp pains of inner turmoil; Jason was showing me--and everyone else--that he could open coconuts, hooah!

But Jason wasn't done. So I offered to help, seeing that I had nothing to lose but my manhood if I didn't help. I chopped by myself:

The coconut was too wobbly. So, I offered to hold the coconut.

Then, I offered to chop.

We were cutting a lot; just not coconuts. After we were successful in getting the outer shell off, how were we going to cut through the core to get the juice and fruit out? Maybe use machete, ugh?

The final result was this:

And this:

And this:

They say that coconut water is the "cleanest water in Samoa." They're probably right.

Once we got the core cut open, we could eat the coconut. The result was this:

And this:

Lesson learned: never trust a palagi to open a coconut correctly. We like destroying things more than we like eating coconut.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Airport Beach

On Friday we went to an excellent snorkelling beach. The beaches around here are really not named, they just get their names from crazy palagi's (white people) who visit them a lot. In fact, I think Samoans don't really go to the beach nearly as much as palagi's do. Some of our friends haven't been to the beach in years! And they live here!
Anyway, a lot of beaches we end up going to require a hike in order to get there. Airport Beach was no different. But this time the hike was fairly enjoyable. We went with our friend Mark Hales, who has been to this beach several times. We basically walked along the airport fence until we arrived at the beach.

We passed blowholes all along the way. We walked along the lava rocks that looked out over the ocean. Occasionally, a nice big wave would enter a blowhole and spit water up in the air from 5 to 15 feet. You had to kind of watch your step, or you'd fall into the water in an area that wouldn't be favorable to your frail body. We made it out all right though. Here I am looking down into a blowhole.

It's fun when the water shoots up and you have enough time to snap a picture!

A few times we had to walk through some kind of brush.

I was able to take lots of nice pictures.

I know I've mentioned the pillboxes on the beach from WWII. But here's an even better shot. And I could finally see inside the back hole where the soldier would shimmy in to get in place to protect the island (nothing ever happened in American Samoa during WWII by the way).

Finally we made it to the beach, which was wonderful. We mostly enjoy the snorkeling aspect of beaches (more than the sandiness). Perhaps it's because snorkeling here is good, but beaches on the whole are not so good.

And the snorkeling here was awesome! The water was the cleanest I've experienced, there were tons of fish and the water was super calm. We had a great time.

On the way home, I got a little more nervous about Jaydn stepping too close to the edge. He was safe, though.
So, we had a great day at the beach. I forgot the lotion, though. So I apologized profusely to Jaydn and Jessi, who did not have a swim shirt, as I had. But I still got burned. I even got burned through the holes in my Crocs! I couldn't believe it!

Here's a final shot of the walk back, on which you can see the Malia Mai resort (which is a terrible beach resort).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Family Pictures

Our family gets family pictures every year. And every year I'm griping and moaning about how much it's going to cost. Not this year. What a friend is Mike? With a good camera, he took ur family pictures, and didn't charge us anything! I know, it would be sort of strange for Mike to turn around and say, "that'll be $100.00," but that's just what I'm used to. Perhaps I've learned a new lesson for future family pictures: take them yourself! Here's a few samples:

Hey, he's not in our family!

That's more like it.

To any who are offended--please pardon my man-skirt. It's called a lava lava, and even the toughest, meanest men in Samoa wear them. So there!