Archive for December 2009

The Squirrels

December 13, 2009

This is another  musing from when Patty was off on one of her trips.  I found it while organizing my document files, which is an indication of how aimless my existence is when Patty’s not here to keep me on an even keel.

This morning, as I was making coffee, I noticed two squirrels running around the oak tree outside our kitchen window.  I watched them for about 5 minutes and finally gave it up.  They were going around and around the oak tree varying from about two feet above ground to about ten feet and one was always right behind the other.  I’m assuming the chaser to be the male (a la Pepe le Pew).  He never caught the other squirrel but sometimes he would get close enough to fluff her tail, which really sent her off in a burst of renewed energy.  I’m thinking, “How does this species survive with this kind of courtship ritual?”  Maybe the male figures he has more stamina and he’ll eventually exhaust the female and have his way with her.  I can tell him that’s a bad idea.  From my experience, that’s not going to happen. 

Well, they must be doing something right because we’re being overrun with squirrels.  A few years ago, when we started feeding the squirrels, there were only one or two.  When we witnessed a squirrel get hit by a car we were worried that they were on their way to extinction in our neighborhood.  We’re not worried now.  They’re all over the place.  I heard a banging on the deck last week and went out to see what the commotion was and a squirrel was trying to get the lid off the milk can we use to store peanuts.  He was close to getting it off, too. 

Another resident we have is a big raccoon. We used to have two but lately I just see the one.  But he is BIG!  He’s about the size of a mid-size dog and he can really tear up the place.  Very destructive.  We’ve got an electric fence around the neighbors pond because they have fish in it and that seems to work.  We’ve got two small ponds and the most we have in them is gambuches (mosquito eaters) and some plants but sometimes he decides it’s worth the trouble and he gets into the ponds and tears them up. 

We’ve had up to 15 deer hanging out but lately we’ve only had a few.  There’s some building going on above us and that probably has affected them.  Also, a few dogs have moved into the neighborhood.  They aren’t a nuisance so far but they can sure become one if they start chasing deer and using the yard as their toilet.  I like having deer in the yard, although you have problems with them eating plants and trees that you might want to save. 

I just checked, the squirrels are no longer running around the oak tree.  I wonder what THAT means?
 

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Heaven and Hell

December 6, 2009

Patty’s off on another adventure, this time to Paris with Susan, and I’m left with time on my hands.  I got to looking through some of the stuff I’ve saved on my computer and found this item I’d written when Patty left me before…

I’ve been thinking…

Probably a result of Patty being gone and too much time on my hands.  Anyway, today being Easter and all, I was thinking about Heaven and logistics and the fact that there are now six and a half BILLION people in the world.  It took us all of history and until about 1850 to reach one billion but, exponential curves being what they are, we’re now tacking on another billion every decade or so.  It’s getting pretty crowded.  The Creationists figure that the world population exceeded today’s figures by several billion but were reduced to a world population of 8 about 3500 BC during the flood.  This is fascinating stuff. 

The point of all this is that the Creationists figure that there have been about 300 Billion people that have ever lived.  How many of those do you figure matriculated to Heaven?  The Southern Baptists don’t figure there are any Methodists there and probably only other Southern Baptists.  Northern Baptists say, “They ain’t no Hell!”  Southern Baptists say, “The Hell they ain’t!”  (Quoted from Brother Dave Gardner, Circa 1960)   But, supposing that the entry requirements are more lenient than the Southern Baptists think they are, won’t it be pretty crowded up there?  What about the logistics of taking care of up to 300 Billion souls?  What are the Civil Engineering requirements?  Assuming plenty of water and adequate sewerage facilities, do people eat?  Cows?  What do they do all day?   I know I’m getting a little bored right here (ergo this mailing) and I can watch the Sci Fi channel all day now that Patty’s not here.  And I’ve got the Internet and e-mail jokes from Joe.  (Will Joe have my e-mail address if I make it to Heaven?) 

But wait a minute, I shouldn’t be worrying about Heaven because I haven’t been saved!  There are murderers on death row that found Jesus and GWB with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands is apparently a shoo-in but I can’t go because I don’t think right.  Jerry Falwell and Jim Baker are OK.  Some of the others that apparently made it are Tomas Torquemada, all of the the Borgias, and Vlad the Impaler who fought on the side of good against the Turks.   I’m not sure I want to go there but I also don’t want to burn in Hell for eternity.  Seems a little harsh.  What did I do that would warrant such a vicious punishment?  Was Hell invented by the same God that invented the Universe and Heaven?  Why? 

OK, Patty is going to have to stop leaving me like this.  I really need to be anchored to the real world.  Patty always stops me from going off on these tangents.  She’d tell me to go for a walk and get some exercise.   Maybe I’ll do that.  I would have done that yesterday but my horoscope wouldn’t let me.  Something about the Moon being out to get me so I stayed hunkered down and watching Sci Fi all day.  I don’t know what the planets have in store for me today because I didn’t get the paper.  

Well, I see that Joe is back.  He’s been off somewhere and now has hundreds of e-mails backed up and they’re starting to hit my inbox. 

Susans Samoan Journal

December 6, 2009

This is a journal that Sue kept when she visited us in Samoa.  I kept it and want to present it here, I hope she doesn’t mind.  It’s a little long but she keeps it interesting and it covers over a week of our time there.  

This journal is also posted on Susan’s webpage www.susanware.com  and has pictures and a video of the blowhole incident.  It’s much better with those additions. 
 6/25/03

Susan at Aggie Grey’s

The flight here was long and uneventful. Security in Seattle was intense, taking over an hour to get to my gate; but the staff was remarkably pleasant and in good humor. The first employee I encountered at the ticket/baggage check took my itinerary and then asked ‘you travelling alone?’ When I confirmed that I was he then demanded ‘WHY?’ I was a little taken aback. My eyes, previously heavy from lack of sleep, got wide and my jaw loosened as I checked to see if I had heard correctly, ‘why?’ He looked at me sternly for a second before the gleam in his eye brightened to melt the rest of his face into slapstick laughter. The rest of the process was full of smiles and bad jokes.

My five hour layover in Hawaii did not fly by nearly as quickly as one of the jets that had landed me there. Honolulu International is nearly void of amenities, but I was in a pleasant mood the moment I stepped off the plane into the warm towel feel of the island air and the splash mountain smell of enjoyment. I had a seat at the 4 stool length bar and leisurely nursed a Blue Hawaiian, which marketing and a penchant for cliché had prompted me to order.

When I boarded the flight from Honolulu there was an instant shift in my reality. 90% of the planes’ passengers were Samoan and their cultural attitudes were easily squelching the grumpy isolationist ideals of plane travel the rest of us adopted so comfortably. It was more like taking a high school bus trip than a commercial flight.

Arrival in Pago Pago was less like wrapping yourself in a warm towel and more like taking a down comforter out of the dryer too early and smothering yourself with it. A lot of this had to do with the concentration of body heat in and around the airport however as half the island turns out for the biweekly landing. Upon leaving the airport around midnight local time, I suddenly recalled a revelation I’ve had several times when visiting Hawaii or Florida – the best thing about tropical days is tropical nights. The air was warm and balmy – balmy being a word indescribable to life long citizens of the Pacific Northwest except in the context of a lover’s breath – but here in the self proclaimed heart of Polynesia, it’s merely a tired adjective at best.

My home here in Samoa is about a block from the ocean. Picture your standard Hawaiian beach house, backed by lush jungle and framed by wind bent palms – and stretch in into a duplex and multiply it by 6 around a central yard. The owner of the complex lives between here and the water in an island mansion – sort of a cross between a Hemmingway abode and Scarlet’s Tara. The driveway to this masterpiece is framed by a big ranch style gate with giant crossed swords held high above it – sort of a John Wayne meets Ali Baba lawn ornament. The only person I can imagine capable of blending in to this environment gracefully is Yul Brenner.

Next door on the rocky beach is Maliu Mai resort. Well, there are no rooms, and more bartenders than patrons, but the owner is a confident man. My father and I passed most of the afternoon at Maliu Mai reading in the shade by the jealous (jalousie) windows.

I live in fear that the jealous windows, in all their bitterness and spite, are going to let big giant bugs into my room while I sleep – namely big giant roaches, though I haven’t seen any yet. (The doors are more likely to admit the big giant centipedes)
Hehehheh. Who can tell that I’ve been reading too much Tom Robbins on this trip?

Everything’s moist. Fabric is damp, paper products are lust plain limp. I’m afraid my hair is going to mildew, and my skin always looks like I’m oiled up to compete for the Mr. Universe title. That might be why all the women here have such beautiful skin though. Seriously, their skin is so creamy and like butter.

A close-up map of Pago Pago harbor on our wall looks shamefully x-rated. Especially in the cartographers use of pinks to explore the islands anatomy. I pointed this out to my mom and she immediately removed the map from our wall.

I have become most concerned about the damned spiteful windows letting in big giant centipedes, though I’m still not thrilled about big giant roaches. I haven’t seen a centipede yet (knock on moist wood), but I’ve seen a few millipedes. Millipedes aren’t as ominous looking with big pointy teeth, and they don’t make that arcade game noise when they crawl around your room. Centipedes are probably silent too, silent but deadly! But I always enter my room with the apprehension of hearing that arcade game sound and then getting bit and hearing that downward spiral noise like when Q-bert falls off the pyramid (not like Trent reznor).

Western Samoa

Speaking of bugs in my room… Savai’i is even more vivid (as Switters would say) and beautiful than AS (American Samoa), which means of course that the windows are twice as jealous and let in three times as many bugs. But they also let in geckos! I _love_ geckos! Check the photos for a picture of Ta! My new best friend. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Let’s see…. where should I begin telling you about my 5 day trip to Samoa (aka Western Samoa, aka Independent Samoa, aka Upolu & Savai’i)? Well, I guess the roach infested plane ride is as good a place as any.

Yes, roaches. In the plane. Living behind some wall seam panel which of course I was scrunched up against and belted in to. I didn’t see much of the scenery out the little window. I didn’t see much of anything except for a very narrow little field of vision encompassing the multitude of roaches two inches from my lap for 45 minutes. It did take my mind off of the sunburn I had just discovered before boarding though.
When we landed in Apia Friday night, the rental car guy was waiting for us. He took us to our hotel, Aggie Grey’s, and also informed us of the flaws in our plan to take the ferry to Savai’i the next morning. We needed to get a local drivers license at the police station which didn’t open ’til an hour after the ferry left, and we needed to have reservations because the ferry fills up. The next morning after taking care of business, we ventured to the craft market and started the shopping part of our vacation. Items are about half the price they are in AS, and you buy them with ‘Talas’, the Samoan dollar (~3 tala to 1 USD) so it’s a surreal spending experience and easy to splurge. Talas are colorful w/ banana trees and such on them (pronounced tah-lah not tuh-luh which means story).
Next we headed cross-island in our four wheel drive SUV w/ broken automatic windows but by the grace of Pele, fully functional A/c. BTW – Samoa is highly christianified. There once was a polytheism present, but the primary deity prophesied that a more powerful god would come along and usurp her (him?) If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes, dammit! So now there is absolutely no separation of church and state, and there are evening vespers every night around six for an hour.

On our trip to the south side of the island, we stopped at a couple of waterfalls, Papapapai-tai and tongasomethingerother where we took a couple pictures and then leapt back into the car. My collection of mosquito bites was rapidly growing. We found our lunch destination, Boomerang Creek, on the south coast and happily partook of their vegetarian menu. I also ordered young coconut juice in the spirit of adventure, my friend Lorien has often embarked on conversational tangents about how delicious young coconut juice is and how much she misses it from her days on Tuvalu when she was a child. I was presented with a coconut with a straw in it and took a big enthusiastic gulp. After suppressing my gag reflex, I continued to sip my coconut grudgingly throughout the meal thinking the taste might grow on me.
We continued our trip around the south east corner of the island, stopping occasionally for a picture. Local children would run inside and yell ‘Palagi! Palagi!’ when we’d pass by (which is a Samoan version of ‘gringo’ but nicer).
By the time we got back to Aggie Grey’s, my arm was getting tired. The island of Upolu (Savai’i too) has basically one road. Villages are conveniently situated around these roads and when you drive through one, everybody waves at you. I waved to every person on that island by the end of my trip, I guarantee. By the end of the week, I felt like the grand marshal in a one car parade.

Dinner at Aggie Grey’s consisted of a veggie burger (burger with no patty) and fried breadfruit with cinnamon flavored ketchup. A lot like french fried, very tasty. It was a very nice hotel to stay at, central location, multiple restaurant options, big pool, clean, A/C and television. My only problem was with the shower that night as I had a bit of a reaction to the soap. It was probably Ivory soap or Ivory-like soap as that brand always gives me a rash. My rash didn’t go away completely ‘til I got home. Also, I still couldn’t get good nights sleep for unknown reasons.

The next morning it was off to Savai’i – but first we must wait in line to have out car sprayed for the infamous giant African snail. We parked in line along the road and waited. My parents got out of the car because of the intrinsic oven quality of a car w/ broken windows sitting on a tropic isle, even in the shade. My dad tried sitting in the car w/ the door open, but that let in a mosquito and I was not pleased.
My mom quickly made friends with the Samoan parked in front of us, leaning on his piki-apu (pee-kee-up-oo) truck. His name was Fitu (Seven) and he studied agriculture at a University presumably in Fiji. He was not the seventh child in his family, and my mothers other questioning proposals on what might have led to the name were only met with laughter and we were forced to conclude that the name was randomly assigned. He had the ideal giggly, warm laugh that we had heard so often on the islands and I got distracted with thoughts of how a laugh can be cultural. It seems like a laugh is a natural process that would sound the same no matter where you were raised, but I guess not. My mom asked him if he could climb coconut trees – somehow it came up in conversation – and he told us a story about some palagi friends of his who had visited the island – colleagues from the University perhaps. There were 3 couples and he had been socializing with one of the couples on the beach while the other two were in town. They asked him if he could climb a coconut tree, and in generous Samoan style, he demonstrated his ability to do so – even though he insisted that it was a chore his mother could never get him to do at home. The couple was notably pleased and quite impressed. Shortly after, the others returned and were told all about it. They were disappointed they had not been there, and the first couple was disappointed they had not captured the moment on their camcorder. They all gathered their cameras and turned to Fitu for an encore performance. He laughed and told us they were trying to kill him. He didn’t say, but I bet he climbed it again anyway.

After our car was thoroughly sprayed and all the giant African snails hiding in our radiator had no doubt fallen dead onto the ground, Fitu helped me buy passenger tickets for my dad and I – my mom was included with the car. On the ferry, my folks sat inside watching some sort of Japanese parliament proceedings on tape while I stood on the deck marveling at the blueness of the water. The vividity here is sometimes overwhelming and it’s like being on psychotropic drugs. After oh I’d say five minutes, my mom sent my dad out to check on me. Since I was fine he went back inside.
One of the young Samoan men scattered across the deck informed me that I could sit down too, so I did. I struck up a conversation with him. He was going home to Savai’i since it was Sunday. He works all week in Apia and returns home on Sunday to his mother’s fale. He was quite shy and conversation was peppered with silences – but never awkward as he had the good humor of any Samoan. He finally asked me – and I could tell he had been waiting to – if this was my natural hair color. The fire engine red I dye my bangs in the states had somewhat faded to a coppery tone, but I was still a little surprised. I pointed to the back of my head and said this was my natural color, brown, the front was dyed.
Occasionally I’d mention my amazement at the color of the water. The look on his face prompted a lengthy explanation about the color of the water on my side of the same ocean until I gave up and quit talking. Conversation continued however, about my trip and life in the states and his commute between islands until his shyness wearing thin, he asked me if I had a friend. Well sure, I thought, I have lots of friends. But I suspected that ‘friend’ in this context had similar meaning that ‘special friend’ does when used by members of Kai’s family. I instead said ‘a boyfriend? Yes. He works on computers too.’ My new regular friend, who had told me I could call him ‘chief’ or ‘matai’ then startled me with a burst of unselfconscious bluntness. ‘Darn. I am looking for an American girlfriend.’ I laughed and told him I’d introduce him to Mary if he visited the states. (Don’t worry Mary; he’s not going to visit the states.)
I later borrowed a pen from another palagi on deck and gave him my email address. He said he had email access from a computer training school he attended so this was not a case of Australia sending computers to Tuvalu arrogance. He invited me to his mother’s house and gave me his number. Samoans invite you to their house and church abruptly and often. He asked when I’d call. I had not thought of giving a specific time, but I guess that probably makes sense seeing as how there’s probably like one phone in his village and it’s not likely to be in his mother’s fale. I said I could try around 8 that night or if I didn’t make it the next morning sometime. He said he was going back to Apia the next morning at like 7: am so I quickly cancelled the next morning idea.

Leaving the ferry, we followed our map to the first stop – a waterfall my mom’s co-worker Steve had raved about. We turned right, down a track several yards before encountering a creek. There seemed to be a bit of track to the left along the water and what looked like the remains of a track continuing on the other side of the creek, so we turned left. We got about 2 car lengths before giving up and getting out to peer around the next bend on foot. While peering, two small boys materialized behind us and asked ‘where are you going?’ I walked back to them and asked ‘is there a waterfall over there?’ They said ‘it is here’ and pointed to the water flowing over the broken track we had opted against. ‘This is the waterfall?’ The boys nodded. ‘Ok, thanks.’ The boys ran across the creek and up toward the plantation house on the hill. I returned to the car and told my mother that her friend’s definition of waterfall was very broad.

Next waterfall on the map was more interesting. We had to leave dad in the car parked in the middle of the road while mom and I paid two tala each to walk through an old woman’s yard, past a wall-less house of people watching us, to the ocean. There, a creek plummeted straight down from a cow under a coconut tree into the ocean.
While we took pictures, the woman’s granddaughters ruthlessly hounded us for tala. Frenchmen in train stations and hippies on the Ave have nothing on these girls.
Our third and final detour on the way to the hotel was the – much touted by my moms now unreliable in my mind friend Steve – Savaiian blowholes. We took a track to the left through a village until we found the little fale where we paid our 6 tala each to see them.
Past the fale, the track continued quite a ways along the beach to a turn around where a little old man in a skirt ran up to our car with a coconut. His English was choppy, but he was eager to lead us down the beach, so we were eager to follow. We didn’t really know what was going on, it looked like there were blowholes right there, but he was pointing and down the beach and chattering away as much in Samoan as anything. We stopped mid-step when he half turned around and, holding the coconut out in front of him at head level said ‘coconut!’ He paused for a minute and then ‘blowhole!’ and he lowered the coconut quickly to waist level and bending his knees, he sprung up lifting the coconut above his head ‘sppllooossshh!’ He resumed his pace and chatter until he reached a spot where he pointed at the ocean. A huge wave crashed against the rocks and a second later, a jet stream shot up from the rocks of frothy, salty water which the wind promptly shoved in our faces. Tofa (Goodbye) handed my mom a coconut and ran into the jungle. We looked at my mom and she looked at the coconut. A moment later, Tofa came back with four more coconuts and shuffled them between my mom and the sand like a Bob Hope comedy act. My mom was still holding one of the coconuts and deciding whether or not she was going to follow this guy onto the slippery wave beaten rocks to drop it into the canon of brine when he took off running toward the hole. ‘Big wave come, I drop coconut!’ he explained several times complete with mimicry. A big wave came and he ran back to the sand, coconut still in hand. He ran back out and waited out a few smaller waves, and then he tossed the coconut and ran! The coconut, on a pedestal of furious sea water, shot up from the rocks and got lost in the clouds!

He did the same with the other four coconuts with less impressive results and then returned to us, laughed with us, and said ‘forty tala, please.’ We could have paid less, some other tourists told us later that they had paid five, but I had been gritting my teeth waiting for this guy to get washed out to sea and was happy to pay forty tala to him as a reward for surviving as long as he had. Going back to the car, my parents walked ahead talking and laughing about the experience while I kept pace with Tofa, politely smiling and nodding at his chatter. Then he said ‘Tofa has no wife.’ I said ‘hmmmm’ and nodded sympathetically. THEN he said ‘What is your address. You give me address. You be Tofa’s friend.’ Well I had already learned the meaning of ‘friend’ on the ferry ride over. I considered the prospects of marrying a seventy year old guy in a skirt, living in a house with no walls in the jungle, and throwing coconuts into blowholes for a living. ‘That’s ok,’ I said. ‘No… That’s ok.’

Vaisala

That afternoon we checked into Vaisala hotel in Savai’i. Vaisala may be the nicest accommodations on the island even though some rooms (ours) lack hot water. Some water is heated via solar panels (popular system on both islands) but apparently not every room is sun kissed. The water for each room has its own tank feeding it. If your tank runs out of water, that’s that. There was also a distinct lack of ambiance and the beds were kind of bowl shaped… but we were right on the private beach which was cool, we changed into our suits and took a dip. We waded out around the cement skeleton of what was once a walkway to the overwater honeymoon fale.
The walkway supports and a cement staircase next to the hotel which dead ends mysteriously in the treetops are reminders of two devastating hurricanes which ravaged the unfortunate island in the last decade. The hurricanes were also responsible for a dangerous decline in the flying fox population – blowing many a furry cutie out to sea never to return. Villages were destroyed. People drowned as the ocean crashed higher and higher up the mountain. The rainforest project was seriously hindered. Dr. Paul Cox wrote a book about the establishment of the rainforest preserve. The book is called ‘Nafanua’ and discusses the damage from the hurricanes and their effect on the environment.

That evening the hotel was serving dinner upstairs from seven to nine. We shared a balcony overlooking the ocean with four other guests. A sudden rain and wind storm chased us all inside and gave us the opportunity to share a table with two of the guests. The young blond honeymooning couple kept mostly to themselves. The two women were on island on business, they worked for an Australian aid department which helps develop and monitor education on some of the more remote islands in the pacific. One of the women was a Samoan from Upolu, the other was Australian.
The women were delightful company and gave us loads of information about the island. We also learned that the Australian woman found nothing amiss with the ketchup – leading us to believe it might be cinnamon flavored in the outback as well.
Dinner for my mother and I was bread and butter, a huge pile of miniature spring rolls, and some dry slabs of taro. To everyone’s dismay, desert for all of us was a papaya. The Aussie woman showed us hot to douse it in lime which made it much more palatable to my mother and me, but not to my father who didn’t find it much of an improvement. I’d take papaya over coconut juice any day though, Lorien.
Back in our room I was delighted to make the acquaintance of a tiny little gecko, barely two inches long from tip to tip. I watched for the rest of the evening with rapt attention as he darted out from behind the headboard catching the little winged bugs that would land on the wall by the light. I flipped through my Samoan language book and found him a name – Ta! means strike. But maybe it means to go on strike or to strike out in baseball, I can’t be sure, but I chose it anyway.
I continued my streak of nearly sleepless nights, even with the comfort of Ta! being busy at work, and by morning I had succumbed to a sinus infection that had been threatening since the plane ride from Honolulu. My parents went to breakfast the next morning, but I felt too ill to go. When they got back we drove to the rainforest canopy. We were excited about a long hike and a strenuous climb into the trees. I even brought my backpack with platypus pouch to keep me hydrated in the heat. We paid the mandatory guide at the entrance fale, walked a few yards into the jungle on a well cleared path, climbed a short staircase to a platform, walked across a suspended bridge one at a time, climbed another staircase and we were done. The banyan tree was huge and the view was beautiful, but we were a little confused. Also, a fire a few years back had wiped out a lot of the forest and the new growth was relatively not tall. Thanks to the hurricanes, the trees weren’t exactly dripping with flying foxes either.
After our morning of adventurous bushwhacking, trudging through the jungle and climbing to dizzying heights, we got back in the car and drove further along through the lava fields to a nice spot we’d heard about for lunch. At least, the map said we drove through the lava fields. I think the slightly less than solid wall of jungle area where there might have been one less tree per acre must have been the lava fields. Vegetarian lunch for my mom and me was French fries, garlic bread, and salad; the only three items listed under ‘sides’ on the logato resort menu. I maintained a steady level of drugs all day to try to comfort myself from the sinus infection. I had left my just in case antibiotics in American Samoa and we were days away from going back there.

I elected to skip dinner and watch Ta! again because of the infection. There was a live band at the hotel however, so I eventually went upstairs to listen. The wind was cooperating, so we all sat on the balcony with the four man band – three guitars and one of those broomstick sticking out of an upside down washbasin style basses.

What’s brown and sticky?

They sang some songs about Samoa as well as some international favorites in Samoan – The Boxer, Iko Iko, and something by the Beatles.
There was a commotion at the next table as the Aussie woman jumped in her seat and made a sound of surprise. My dad started laughing and I looked over in time to see a gecko scurry off her plate. She looked up at a gecko that was still looming on the ceiling and we all laughed. Gecko fights on the ceiling can really interrupt a meal.

Back to Upolu

The next morning I skipped breakfast again. We drove out to see the turtles on the northeastern corner of the island. I was definitely feeling better by the time we got there, but not energetic enough to put on my bathing suit and swim with said turtles. I didn’t see much difference in sitting in two feet of water next to the turtles or standing there next to the turtles anyway.
I really enjoyed photographing the turtles while my mom sat and chatted with the turtle lady, Aiga (family). I would take a few photos and then walk away for a few minutes, and then walk back and take a few more. The reason for this coming and going was that the turtles would swim over when I approached the lagoon probably to see if I had food, then after a while they’d get bored and swim away again. My constant disappearing and reappearing however kept both me and the turtles amused for an hour.
Aiga was very nice and even gave us food; a strange fruit that tasted like a cross between an apple and a flower. Noni or nano or something. Quite tasty anyway. When we left the turtles, we decided to skip the ‘virgin’s tomb’ attraction and try to make an earlier ferry back to Upolu. The virgin’s tomb and neighboring church were spared in a lava flow. The lava stream split and went around each of them on its way to the ocean. A different church was burned though, as was the rest of the village. I was curious as to the denominations of the favored church and the smited church, but never found out. Another attraction we had skipped was ‘mosas footprint’. This was supposed to be a big indention in the rock shaped like a giant’s footprint. Oh, and the corresponding dwarfs cave – which is a little cave that is supposed to be inhabited by mischievous leprechaun type people.

On the ride back to Upolu, we all sat on deck. It was very windy and I became concerned when an Aussie ran over to the railing upwind from me. I was getting rather seasick myself. I waited patiently for the moment when Aussie vomit would fly into my face like the ashes from his cigarette where doing. Fortunately it never happened.
We didn’t have hotel reservations for that night, but I didn’t care. For those of you who are keeping track, I now have a sunburn, an ever expanding collection of mosquito bites, a soap-allergy induced rash, a raging sinus infection, and motion sickness. I would feel equally apathetic about being burned alive on a stake or staying at the Ritz Carlton. It simply did not matter.
We drove down the west coast to investigate the Samoan Resorts overlooking ‘Bali Hai’ island off the coast. The west coast was littered with fishing villages and many people were in the water, some in outrigger canoes, some wading and gathering. There was less waving from the people who were still on land along the road – perhaps fishing is a harder life? The resort was nice, but very overpriced with nothing to do so we turned around and headed to Coconuts. On the drive back I saw some children playing tetherball with an empty plastic coke bottle on a string.

BTW – a stick is brown and sticky. A stick.

Coconuts gave us a tree house room for the night. We ate a spaghetti putanesca from their vegetarian menu and I ordered ‘Coconuts: the drink’. It was a delicious pina colada type mix in a giant coconut. Infinitely better than the last coconut I had with a straw in it. I also had a ‘pink monkey’ and a banana dessert. I had enjoyed vacation drinks all over the island – ‘apian sunset’, ‘clouded love’, ‘green fantasy’ and ‘firefly’ were all fruity, strong, and delicious.
The tree house room was fumigated for our convenience, well air conditioned, and had a hammock on the patio. They also have large beach fales and glass bottomed over-water fales for rent. My mom enjoyed a hot bath in the jacuzzi tub, but I was miffed when I tried a shower in it. The circular tub had curtains 360 degrees around it with a shower head straight down the middle. As soon as the water came on, I was sealed in a shower curtain cocoon which clung to me on all sides.
A friend of mine back in Seattle told me she had travelled through Samoa, but she couldn’t tell me much about American Samoa because she had spent most of her time on the Western islands. At the time I was quite impressed. I pictured her hacking her way through the jungles of an undeveloped island eating grubs and braving snakes. American Samoa would clearly not be enough of an adventure for such a person with all its western luxuries and conveniences I thought. I’m on to her now.
I never got a chance to enjoy the gecko shaped pool with swim up bar, but my mom and I accompanied Faleono (six houses) on a sea kayaking trip down the coast and into a bird estuary. My mom and I shared a double kayak. I made numerous threats about what would happen if she rolled us, and I took the back where I thought I might have more control over where we paddled.
Faleono glided along ahead of us, stopping every so often to twiddle his thumbs until we caught up. By the time we got to the estuary, I imagined my arms were so inflamed that I must look like Popeye. We headed into the estuary and down the middle path of three choices. The estuary winds into the village that surrounds Coconuts. We paddled past a lady on the bank that was doing laundry in one of the fresh water springs that bubbled up into the estuary. At the end of the finger of water, we stopped to say hi to Faleono’s uncle whose fale was located there. We turned around and went back to explore another finger. When that dead ended, we turned again and tried the last finger. On our way back out, Faleono had us wait near shore while he got out of his kayak and climbed a coconut tree. With bare feet and hands, Faleono agilely inched up the tree with a machete in his mouth, cut down a number of coconuts which plopped into the water near our kayak and then came back down. He jumped in the water and threw the coconuts back onto shore and then hacked a branch from another tree into a sharp point which he impaled each coconut on several times, husking it. Then he gave two of the coconuts a few well aimed hacks at the top and made a little flap which he pulled back. Then he handed us the coconuts and hacked one open for himself. He downed about three of them while my mom and did our very best to pretend to enjoy ours while suppressing our gag reflexes. He climbed the tree to get us coconuts. He climbed the tree! I had to drink it. I poured a lot of it down my chin when he’d turn his back though. I hate coconuts!
We kayaked back to the resort where he generously presented us with four more coconuts to take with us. We explained we were flying out soon and so could only accept two, and we thanked him repeatedly. Back in Apia we checked into the Pacifica hotel, and offered the receptionist, Jennifer, some coconuts which she happily accepted.

Our last day in Independent Samoa was kind of slow as we recovered from our travelling. We went to a fiafia that night at Aggie Grey’s. A fiafia is kind of like a luau. There’s a big feast and native entertainment. In a fiafia however, there is turn taking as the group of men compete with the group of women. Each sing and dance and try to out do the other gender. The women do a ‘siva’ – like a slow graceful hula, the men jump up and down and slap their thighs a lot. Afterwards, there are flaming swords thrown around. The fire show moved out to the pool with one man in a canoe on the water, several around the pool, a few on the balcony, and one on the roof. All were spinning flaming things and you could feel the heat.
The big excitement came when a flaming coconut flew off of the spinning fire the guy in the canoe was controlling, and a little girl’s deck chair caught flame. The girl, I think she was extremely clever and fast thinking, leapt into the pool almost instantly. The show continued and everyone was fine. The performer gave the girl his soggy banana leaf hat afterwards – so clearly, that made it all better and prevented her parents from suing.

In order to leave Western Samoa, you have to pay a departure tax of $10/person. Can you imagine if Vegas had such a thing?

When we got back to AS, it was Flag Day observed. Flag Day is really big in AS – who knew people actually celebrated Flag Day somewhere? It had to be postponed this year though due to the governor’s death just before the real Flag Day – so no one felt like celebrating I guess. My folks and I went to the Veteran’s Memorial Arena and watched at least two hours of a church group dancing and singing in the blazing sun on the field. The event was kicked off with a procession of police escorted cars dropping off dignitaries. The last car with the most escorts was black with tinted windows. The door opened and a guy that was dressed like a Japanese steakhouse chef got out as well as a guy in a suit (well, a skirt suit). Everybody clapped.
After the first church group, we couldn’t take any more and we went home. The next day was the fourth of July and there was to be six more hours of the same at the arena. We stayed home on the fourth and read books. I was disappointed that there were no fireworks over the harbor. It’s hard to have the fourth without fireworks – Bastille Day came and went without a peep.

Samoa

Written by dad explaining why he was a vegetarian

December 5, 2009

 

Dad

Why I am a Vegetarian

Samuel Parker Ware

10/18/1892-8/4/1962

The anatomy of man is wrong to be anything but vegetarian.  If he were intended to be a carnivorous animal, his teeth should be like the cat and dog.  The carnivorous animal has a very short intestine.  According to our weight we have the longest intestine of any animal.  Meat is not our natural food. 

We learn to eat meat.  If you witnessed an animal butchered and were handed a bloody, unsalted piece of meat, you would be revolted.  Before you would eat it you would want it salted and cooked, its taste disguised in various ways, usually using something from the vegetable kingdom.  But a nice apple, peach, orange does not need to be disguised to be palatable.  Good things grow from the ground all over the world.  We do not need to learn to like them, they are our natural food. 

If millions of people had to spend a day in a slaughterhouse, they would be vegetarians ever after.  For instance, a hog comes by on a conveyor, hanging by the heels.   The butcher drives a knife into its heart.  In a few seconds it is being dragged through a tank of scalding water.  That scalding water is in its mouth, nose, eyes and ears.  They often swim and struggle clear through that tank, still feeling the torments of hell. 

On two occasions in my life I have been injured and lost so much blood that I could not see well enough to distinguish a face.  A white blur was all I could make out.  I was frightened and hoped they would soon get me to stop bleeding- could hear any whispering, could feel the slightest touch.  Believe the nervous system is the very last to die.   Would rather go hungry than eat anything that was tortured. 

Can you feature our Savior, Jesus Christ, working in a chamber of horrors like that?  Not for a minute!  Remember His prayer “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Can you imagine a slaughterhouse in Heaven?  God gives his creatures more intelligence than we give them credit for.  They all have the emotions of love, fear and sorrow.  The death cry of a poor creature is its prayer.  God hears those prayers too.  “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”.  We send trainloads of creatures to the slaughterhouse every day.  Every generation our best boys are taken away from their loved ones and sent away to be slaughtered and maimed on the battlefield. 

Boys that won’t come home. 

Three hundred thousand men are sleeping there. 

They have laid aside all cares.

The noise of battle ceased.

And now they rest in peace.


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