Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Night at the Movies in American Samoa

Well, it's almost February, so I feel like I'm almost at the top of the slide. I'm sure that the rest of our experience here will just fly by.
Yesterday Jaydn and I went to the movies. Jessi dropped us off at the theater (which only shows 2-3 films at a time--because it's kind of small). We brought our share of snacks stuffed in our pockets. We walked up to the door about 10 minutes before the movie was supposed to start. A lady ran out of a side door and called out "can I help you?" like we were trying to break in or something. "Oh, we just wanted to see a movie. It starts in 10 minutes, right?" The doors of the theater were locked, and we could see that no one was inside. "Well, it's going to be about 30 minutes before it gets started; we just got robbed," the lady said.
Once we could buy tickets, we went inside and walked into the theater. We were the first ones inside. Jaydn, however, was cautious. "Daddy, can we really come in here?" he said. "Sure, once you buy tickets, you walk into the theater." "But, daddy, shouldn't we ask the lady if we can come in here?" "No, I promise we can come in here. It's fine." "But can't we ask the lady?" "We're OK, Jaydn. Don't worry." "But can we please ask the lady?" "Jaydn, trust me, we can come in here and sit down. Other people are going to come in soon." Finally, he relented.
We saw "Night at the Museum." Jaydn and I laughed so hard all the way through the movie. We really enjoyed it. Jaydn especially liked Mickey Rooney. Whoever thought that ol' gramps on Pete's Dragon could still be so funny?
I enjoyed watching Ben Stiller comfort Ghengis Khan by getting to the root of his anger--Little Ghengis's mommy and daddy didn't show him enough love.

Jaydn enjoyed the Neanderthal men (who had a bad first experience with a cigarette lighter).

He also liked the Tyrannasaurus Rex that wanted Ben Stiller to play fetch with him (just not in this picture).

So, all in all, it was a fun night at the movies. Surprisingly, the theater was probably the cleanest one I've ever been in. It was quite a nice theater, even by American standards. And we really recommend "Night at the Museum." We were constantly laughing, and I found nothing really offensive in the movie. Gosh, I think this is my first film review!

Monday, January 22, 2007


We have about five or so banana trees growing around our house, and about once every month we get to take down a bunch of bananas for our family. Some of the bananas are more starchy and not as sweet as others, but we also have at least two trees that grow baby bananas, which are really sweet!

One of the baby banana bunches was getting ready to be taken down, when one of our neighbors drove by and came up and lopped it off with his machete. Jessi was keenly watching what happened, and she ran out and said, "no, stop! Those are our bananas." Samoans think communally; most things are considered to be communally-owned. So, I'm sure this guy didn't think anything of it.

Anyways, we tied the bunch of bananas (still green) up to the corner of our roof outside, so they could turn yellow. You have to cover them so the birds, bugs, and other creatures don't devour them before they are edible.

But, after about a week, they all turn bright yellow and are ready to eat. On Saturday, we had about 100 or more bananas to pick, cut up and put in the freezer for our morning fruit drinks. The best thing about it is, we don't have to plant or take care of anything--they grow by themselves!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jaydn Swallowed a Tooth!

One of Jaydn's bottom teeth has been loose for quite some time now. Jaydn talks about it all the time, and today in the car he queried Jessi: "What if I swallow my tooth?" Apparently, a boy at his school somehow swallowed his tooth, which brought on Jaydn's question.

So tonight, we got home for the evening and Jaydn had a bite to eat before going to bed. Then he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and called out, "hey, my tooth is gone!" Really? Jessi asked, "where did it go?" "I don't know. I think I swallowed it!" We looked for it, but we're pretty sure that he did indeed swallow his tooth when he was eating his food, without knowing it. Isn't that crazy?

He's pretty sure he won't die.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our Trip to Vatia

Before we get to Vatia, I have to show you our most recent creation. A few days ago, I came home from work and Jaydn enlisted me in doing a craft out of one of his books that he got from the library. I picked a fish mask. Jaydn decided he wanted to make one, too. So, after he saw mine, he made his own--no help from me.
Here we are, the fish guys!

I should also say that we have really been sick this past week. Jaydn first caught something, then Jessi got it, and finally I have it. On Monday, however, we all felt good enough to go to the beach again.

I called in advance because I had been told that the best beach is owned by a lady out there, and you need to ask permission to go. Her name was Unita. She told me that everyone forgets her name "so you can call me 'United States of American Samoa.'" OK....

Anyway, we made our way over to Aua, a city just past Pago Pago. There, we had to take a really steep road that went straight over the mountain. At the top, I got a picture. I don't know why I didn't get the mountain top in the background!
We took Jaydn's friend, Oliver, on the trip. He's Christine Peters's son. In the background, you can see (from left) Faga'alu beach, then Utulei beach, and finally, Pago Pago Harbor (with a huge boat docked). If you look really far to the left, you can kind of see out to Nuu'uli and Coconut Point area (which is close to our house).
Then Jessi took a picture of me in front of Rainmaker Mountain. It really doesn't look as nice from this view. When you are at the bottom and rain comes over the mountain, it can be breathtaking.
On the other side of the mountain, little Vatia was a nice village. The bay is really nice, and we enjoyed the beach and the water. Here, you can see Oliver and Jaydn snorkeling in the water, and Jessi is waaaaay out at the edge of the reef. We decided not to go past the reef because it was a little too strong of a current that day.

The beach we were on was really nice. You start to appreciate really soft sand after you've gone to so many beaches that are covered with shells.

I was standing on the beach when I saw some guys come down into the water and start slapping the water with shirts. Beats me what they were doing! Jessi, Jaydn and Oliver were out by the reef edge when I took this picture of them with the saddle-back mountain in the background.

Here, Jaydn and Oliver are playing on the beach with the village in the background.

Jaydn likes to dig his legs into the sand.

Here I am coming out of the water. I checked out the edge of the reef, too. Really beautiful, but too scary for me. Maybe we'll come back when it's not so rough.

After the beach, I wanted to quickly take a look at some cool rock formations on the other side of the bay. But we only drove a short distance before some kids on bikes were riding up next to us and pointing at the right front tire. Yep, a flat.

I stopped at the closest house and asked if I could use their carport to fix the flat. Jessi took pictures of me without me knowing. I guess she thought it was pretty amazing.

Here you can see how close the house is from the water.

With all the up and down it takes to get here and back, a flat in Vatia is not recommended. Thank goodness it was just a slow leak caused by a small nail, and the local garage fixed it for $3.50.

The views on the road back home were awesome.

Now that I think about it (and look at these pictures), yes, we will come back, and soon!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who's Afraid of Mitt Romney? - One of Linker's Former Students Speaks Out

OK, it's time to take a little detour from life in American Samoa. While we are here sweating our eyeballs off, the world still turns, and a very interesting political story is developing on the mainland--a Mormon is being considered as a serious contender for the President.

Some people probably won't see the implications of this, but Mitt Romney's presidential bid is bound to cause huge ripples in many aspects of American life. He is, by far I believe, the most talked-about candidate for the 2008 election. And nearly every commentator is focusing their attention on one thing--his religion.

For the most part, evangelical Christians are making the biggest fuss. And should we be surprised? They have, since day one, labeled the church as a "cult," and decided that we were unfit to be called "Christians." The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been attacked on all fronts since its inception.

I really don't want to discuss doctrine here. Which is precisely the point--Mitt Romney is running for the Presidency of the United States, not the Pastor of the United States. I have read Art. II, Sec. 1 of the Constitution, and nowhere does it mention that a person's religion is relevant to whether they can be the President. Why should his religious beliefs be controversial in this context?

Now, let's take a step back. In 2000, I was a student at Brigham Young University. My major was political science, with a focus in political philosophy. I took three classes from the same professor that year--Western Political Heritage 1, Western Political Heritage 2, and a class on Friedrich Nietzsche. I enjoyed the professor, Damon Linker, who I found to be intellectually stimulating. Linker was, and still is, not a member of the church, finding himself in a very small minority of BYU professors. At the end of my Nietzsche class, Linker announced he was going to take a job as Editor of the conservative Catholic magazine "First Things," a move I thought was a good step for him, albeit somewhat odd considering he struck me as a liberal.

Recently, Linker wrote an article in The New Republic, entitled "Taking Mormonism Seriously--The Big Test." In it, Linker describes why he feels a Mormon President would be a dangerous thing, essentially stating that a Mormon President would take orders from the Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. Hence, the Prophet would be running the country, according to Linker. I am REALLY paraphrasing, mind you.

Linker talks about an experience he had as a professor at BYU in which he posed the question to his philosophy students, "If the Prophet told you to murder someone, would you do it?" Purportedly, at least one student responded that they would do anything the Prophet told them to do.

Linker tries to get his readers in utter shock and disbelief that BYU students would kill in the name of the Prophet. I mean, will we do anything if the Prophet tells us to? Linker apparently intends that his readers believe that he, too, was in such shock at receiving the answer.

However, I believe that Linker already knew the answer he would get. He knew that he was posing a "Catch-22" to BYU students which, he thought, they could not get out of--if they said "yes, I would kill" they would look like fanatics; if they said "no," they would be denying an important aspect of their faith--the importance of following the Prophet. Of course the students would say that they would follow the Prophet.

But the student(s) that responded actually dodged Linker's question. The students didn't say, "I would kill," or "I wouldn't follow the Prophet," either of which would have really satisfied Linker. Instead they said, "I'll always follow the Prophet." Linker should have recognized the answer for what it was--the students called his bluff. They knew what Linker was trying to do, and gave him the standard line which we learn in Primary.

So does Linker's question make you want to run in fear when you meet a BYU student? For goodness sakes, I hope not. I must be one scary dude, then.

Likewise, Linker's article is devoid of instances in which the Prophet has "commanded" individuals to do illegal or immoral acts. Even more important, Linker does not discuss any instance when the Prophet has commanded a political leader to act or vote in any particular manner. While prophets of the past have called upon leaders of the nation to repent, or uphold the family, this is a far cry from Linker's fearmongering that, under a leader like Romney, we would have an American Theocracy. Linker apparently disregards any unequivocality from the Church as to its neutrality in political affairs. Who among Mormons would doubt that the Church adheres to this policy?

Furthermore, Linker does not explain how the most powerful Democrat in America, Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, who is a Mormon, can keep his political composure when he has to follow the commands of the Prophet and his party at the same time. Why does Romney's run concern Linker, but Reid is given a clean bill of health? And what about other Mormon Senators and Congressmen--Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and our own Eni Faleovamaega (D-AS), to name a few? Do they vote as they are told to by the Prophet? What if Christopher Dodd, Democratic senator from Connecticut--who is also running for President and has a devout LDS wife--is elected? Would the First Lady receive commands for the nation by the Prophet that she would have to pass on to Pres. Dodd? Certainly there must be more at issue here than just religion (namely, politics).

Neither does Linker explain how a President Romney would make President Gordon B. Hinckley in charge of the country. I understand how the power of the President has gradually grown over the last 200 years (some may debate that point), but can anyone honestly say that the President runs our country? Last time I checked, it was the Legislative Branch of government that wrote the laws. Heck, we even have a third branch of government. How could anyone say that the President runs the show?

Should Americans take Linker any more seriously than the recent Congressman from Virginia who argued the negatives of allowing a Muslim in Congress?

Now seriously, folks, are you afraid of Mitt Romney? Or any other member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for that matter? Do you have any logical, explainable reason for your fear? Do you think that we want to rule the world? We can barely even manage our church callings or our home teaching, for crying out loud!

No, as a Mormon, and a former student of Damon Linker, I beg Americans to see through Linker's thinly-veiled attempt at scaremongering. Just like a recently elected Muslim Congressman is no threat to our country, you can take away only one thing from the fact that Romney is a Mormon--and that's simply that he is a Mormon. Mormon does not equal lunatic, it does not mean fanatic, it does not mean potential-dictator. It just means what it is. Just as if a Catholic or a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or, dare I say it, an Athiest was running for the Presidency. So let's get over religious beliefs and get on with the issues of the election, OK?

I have no wide-eyed belief that someday people will suddenly stop believing doomsday foretellers and scaremongers. None at all. But if you really want to know what a Mormon is like, or believes, or if they are planning to take over the world, please talk to one. Find out from him or her. It's just like buying a car; if you want to know about a Toyota, don't ask the Ford dealer.

You have to admit it's a crazy world we live in when, even all the way down here in American Samoa, I can read my old professor's article the day after it is posted on the Internet, know that he's up to something that he may not even himself believe, and make a defense of my beliefs on a blog. I'm currently reading "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald, and I'm convinced that Abraham Lincoln would go absolutely nuts in our political environment!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More Crazy Signs from American Samoa

I just had to. I know I must have a weird sense of humor, but these signs make me laugh every time I see them.

Does he mean that mannequins are for sale? Or that they, as a mannequins, are for sales? I mean, is it sort of like a picket sign or a campaign slogan? (Notice the praying mantis on the window.)

The other one is just priceless.

This sign is, of course, put out by the "Office of Safe and Drug Free Programs," which seems to be a leg of the Department of Education. What's the "Office of Safe"? I think it's supposed to say "Office of Safety," but who knows? Maybe it means that the programs are meant to be "safe free" and "drug free," whatever that means. Or maybe the programs involve drugs that are safe and free. Probably not.

Whatever it means, the sign is on the fence surrounding construction of the new Tafuna Polytech High School. The same sign was on Samoana High School a few weeks ago. I hope the students who attend those schools can spell better. Just imagine parents telling their children, "kids, I need to talk to you about drugs and alcohols." It's great, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Snorkeling in the Rain

On Saturday we jumped out the door to go snorkeling. Clouds in the sky? Who cares. A few rain drops? Bah. We were determined to get out and swim.

Just like a Looney Tunes cartoon, we got out at Faga'alu, and the rain just started pouring! Two teams were playing cricket (or the Samoan version of cricket) on the rugby field next to the beach. Samoans ALWAYS play sports in the rain! They don't care. In fact, I think they enjoy it more when it rains.

Anyway, we got our stuff set up on the beach when WHAM! It just rained like there was no tomorrow. Should we leave? Nah. We got in the water and did some snorkeling. It feels kind of weird to swim when it's raining. You realize that, "hey, those fish never know that it's raining!" The fish in the ocean are kind of like Samoans when it comes to snow, "rain (snow), what?"

I'd never seen people play cricket before (except on TV). It's an interesting game. I have no idea how they play it, but it looks interesting. The annoying part is that a guy is blowing a whistle incessantly for the entire length of the game, like a "cricket." Hmm... I wonder...

I think the guys playing on the field had their sons come along to fetch balls. Whenever they'd hit a ball into the ocean, the boys would jump out into the ocean and swim and swim until they'd retrieved the ball. Like they were dogs. It'd be like if we asked our sons to come to the golf course to fetch the balls that went into the ponds. But the boys loved it!

One thing about swimming in the ocean when it rains--the runoff from the surrounding homes starts to fill in the swimming area. And that's not good. It's never good when you are snorkeling and you run into a brown fog of water. That's not dirt or mud you're swimmin' in, brother!

Once we realized we just didn't want to spend our time snorkeling in pig-poop-water while it was raining, we got out and left. It took THAT MUCH to get us to leave. We must be addicted to the ocean or something.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting Sworn in to the American Samoa Bar

Today I was sworn in to the American Samoa Bar. No pomp and circumstance, just a simple oath, raise of my right hand, and that was it. No one was even there but Chief Justice Kruse and Ardie, the techno-dude, to take the pictures. Heck, I just wore my island wear to get sworn in! Now that I am an official attorney in American Samoa, I guess I'll... well, do nothing new. As a law clerk, I can't take on any cases. Oh, well.

Now, back to work!

Happy New Year!

Thank goodness for an early ending to the year 2006! Jessi and I stayed up until 9:30 pm, then crashed happily into bed. Sleep is much more enjoyable than staying up past midnight! See ya next year...
So what did we do on the first day of 2007? Go to the beach, of course! We went over the mountain to Sailele, a quiet little town where the roads are sand and the beach is, too. It was just beautiful. Jessi had been there before, but I'd never been so we went with our friends, the Corry's and Mark Hales.

Here's a picture that gives you a good idea of just how much sand there is here. This church sits right on across from the beach, and is practically the last stop on the paved road until it turns to sand.

Jaydn loves digging in the sand. I guess he just dug a little too deep. Here he is frantically asking his friend Trey for help. Trey responds, "I'll help. Do you want me to put sand here, or here?"
The water was kind of rough on this particular trip to the beach, so we spent a lot of time just body surfing. In this picture you can see the line of the top of the wave coming onto the beach. Jaydn and Trey love dodging the waves. I just love to scare them.

Before we made our way home, I pulled the car onto the sand up to where we were so we could load all of our stuff. Gotta get a picture with our car on the sand. Such tourists!
And of course one last picture with the ocean! (Don't get this picture confused with a swimsuit catalog, please.)

On the drive home, we pass the Starkist Tuna factory. This place has gotta be on the top ten list for stinkiest places in the world. Whew! Each time I pass it I need to roll up the windows, but even that isn't enough! Maybe I'm not so sure about global warming yet, but I am a firm believer in and advocate of smell pollution prevention! Maybe I should take my case all the way up the ladder to Charlie the Tuna himself!

(Professional picture taken by Jaydn Sean Coletti, out of the back seat window.) Whoever would have thought that tuna had arms, glasses, and a hat?