Saturday, June 6, 2009

Visit from Pops

The past 10 days have been really fun. Dad was here for a visit so we went all around the islands seeing the beauty of Samoa. Dad got in on the weekly flight from LA at 5:00 am. We hitched a ride into town from another PCVs host brother and checked in the hotel. I immediately introduced him into the Samoan culture with a trip to Fugalei market for breakfast. I had him try panikeke (Samoan pancake), kokoesi (cocoa papaya), and vaisalo (coconut porridge). He liked it all, but thought the kokoesi was a little rich. We walked to the fish market to see what the early catches were and saw the bus stop. We walked through the flea market to see what the local vendors were selling and then headed off to see the wonderfully American hotspot, McDonald’s. We hung out there while drinking real orange juice and a Coke and then headed off to Magic Cinemas to watch “Night at the Museum 2.” We got some pizza at Italiano after the movie. He thought for Samoa the pizza wasn’t that bad. He especially liked the view of the harbor and sitting outside in the open air. We caught the culture show at Aggie Grey’s that night and hung out with Casey & his dad as well as John and his daughter. And all that was just day #1.

Day #2: We picked up the rental car and headed off to the south coast to hike in the jungle at the river fales Casey, Casey's Dad, & Erin. I recommend Lalo Talie River Fales to anyone coming to Samoa with a sense of adventure. The hike is amazing! Hiking through the Samoan jungle, wading through rivers, and face climbing waterfalls…can’t get much better than that. The hike was 3 hours or so of total outdoor fun. The falls are so gorgeous; I can’t wait to go back again. There is nothing like relatively pristine land where only a few adventure seekers go, as well as the Samoans who plant taro just about everywhere up there. It is really an awesome hike, followed by a nice meal and sleep in fales next to the gently trickling river. If you want even more fun, hike like Samoans do…in flip flops. It adds more fun to it trying to hold on to your flops with your feet while wading in rivers. Or you can do the smart thing and bring strap on flops, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Day #3: We took the ferry over to Savaii & drove up to Manase to hang out on the beach and on the deck of the beach bar in Jane’s Fales. Not really an exciting day I guess, just driving around, but the views you get are always amazing. We crossed the river we stayed next to the night before and headed off into the jungle. We passed through the hills and then came out of the little pass and were greeted by a gorgeous view of the villages and beautifully blue water.

Day #4: Scuba diving! We went diving with Casey, Briony, & the crew from Dive Savaii. They are great people, so nice and really take care of you. First dive was “Wreck Juno”, a ship which sunk on the reef back in the late 1800s. It was fun diving around the remains of the wreck and looking at all the fish, Christmastree Worms, & coral. When we started the dive the weather was nice and sunny. When we surfaced, rainy with a rolling sea…a bit of a change in weather. It calmed down after 10 minutes or so though. Second dive was “Coral Gardens.” We saw some really cool stuff this dive. There is an electric clam making its home in the coral here. It isn’t really electric but the way the phosphorescent light moves through the flesh of the clam makes the clam look like it gives off an electric current. We saw a turtle and anemonefish as well. Nice dives and a good day in the water as always.

Day #5: We drove all the way around the island, admiring the gorgeous views all over Samoa. We stopped at the Dwarf Cave to see if we could spot any dwarves. No dwarves, but it was still worth stopping. The entrance to the cave is only about 4 feet high, a head banger even for me. We only had one light so that made the cave even cooler. There is a shelf which is completely flat due to the lava which carved the cave. There is a lake at the end of the cave, which would be cool to swim in if my underwater light had been working at the time. We drove out past Falealupo and stopped by Tufutafoe to say hi to another volunteer. We stopped at the Taga blowholes. Awesome! There were at least 10 blowholes in the one spot, one goes up at least 100 feet. The noise of these blowholes is amazing, so loud and powerful. We had fun getting close to the holes, and then when a big blowhole erupted we ran away. We forgot to get a coconut to through in the blowholes and see how far it would shoot up, next time though. We stopped at the black sand beach. It was pretty and fun to see the unusual black sand. We drove back to Salelologa and stayed at Lucia’s. I love Lucia’s, not only do they take care of you, but the place is so cute. You walk on little paths though the jungle to get to your fale and can hang out on the dock, watching the fish or the stars. Plus they really know how to cook and will serve you great food no matter what you order.

Day #6: Back on the ferry to Upolu. We drove down to my house. I was surprised we weren’t immediately swarmed by my village, but I think that was due to me not telling them an exact time of arrival since I didn’t know exactly when we would arrive. Dad got to see the house and all the quirks of it. Like the sink faucet which will spray water everywhere if you aren’t careful and no matter how hard you try to turn it off, still drips anyway or the shower faucet which is extremely hard to turn on and off, especially if you don’t know the trick to it. He thought it was a cute house, Samoan open fale in the front and a little room at the back, and thought as I did when I first signed up for Peace Corps…a lot like camping, complete with an outhouse. At least I have a hammock now (thanks Dad) and as I’m writing this I am enjoying hanging in it.

Day #7: Ava Ceremony. Dad got the real Fa’aSamoa today. He got the traditional ava ceremony and was even offered a matai title. I had to make the ava since the village thinks I should be the village taupou. Dad enjoyed the welcome and was a little overwhelmed I think in the hospitality of my village. We got a breakfast after and then a bbq later. Dad enjoyed meeting everyone and I took him for a little tour of the village. I think he liked seeing all the things I had talked about and written about in my e-mails and blog posts.

Day #8: Happy Birthday Dad! We drove over to Togitogiga Falls and spent a little time admiring the falls. We also went over to To Sua Trench. Again, it is just a big hole…as Dad said, “in Florida, they call this a sink hole.” Well, then we came to the other trench with water in it and climbed down the 100 foot ladder. I think he was impressed by this hole a little more than the first one. The tide was up so there was lots of water crashing into the trench. It seemed kind of angry actually as it was a rainy day and not really the best for sightseeing. We then went over to the blowholes and lava field. Since the tide was up, the blowholes were really going and the waves were crashing on the lava field quite powerfully. It gave a feeling of something you would see in a movie about an evil scientist living on a remote island and the only way for the good guys to save the world from total destruction at the hands of the evil scientist is to shimmy down a blowhole in to a secret entrance to the scientist’s lair. But maybe that is just me and what I thought. Anyway, we walked around a bit and took some pictures. Dad was blown away by the view when you come off the little path and around a corner, and boom…there is the lava field with blowholes spouting water. It is a really impressive view. We drove over to Faofao Beach Fales for the night. He liked the beach and the view of the Aleipata Islands. Again, I had hoped for a good weather day, but it was rainy. We managed to work in a walk on the beach during a break in the rain though. We hung out and played suipi, even though I don’t think Dad is a fan of the game really. I think he will stick to Euchre and Michigan Rummy. I think he liked staying in a more traditional Samoan fale. He liked the beach bar, even though the view was ruined by the tarps being down due to the rain. Oh well, rain is something you can’t avoid here and at least it waited until the end of the trip and it wasn’t rainy the whole time Dad was here.

Day #9: My 1 year anniversary of coming to Samoa! We visited the host family in Amaile. They enjoyed meeting my Dad and seeing me since this was the first time I’d been back to see them. They feed us and we talked. The weather was really nasty this day and when we said we had to go during a downpour and strong wind, I think they thought we were nuts. We got back to Apia in one piece even though the water and potholes on Le Mafa Pass tried to prevent that. We did enjoy seeing the waterfalls pop back out from all the rain. Dad did some shopping and got some gifts for people. We caught the Siva Afi (fire dancing) Competition that night. What a way to end a trip. Nothing like watching people twirl and throw in the air sticks which are not only on fire at both ends, but also have a knife and a hook on one end. I actually think it would be cool to learn, but I don’t think anyone in my village knows how to fire dance. Oh well, at least that will prevent a heart attack on my mom’s behalf. I’m not sure she would be ok with me playing with sharp objects on fire.

Day #10: Really just a continuation of the day before. Dad’s plane left at 2:30 am so we drove out to the airport after the Siva Afi competition. He got checked in and we said goodbye. He had 36 hours of flying, so I’m sure he was looking forward to that. Not only does he have to get from the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific, but he had to get back to the middle of nowhere USA, aka Alabama. Some of us PCVs were talking one day about how every plane coming or going from Samoa is always at a really awkward time, like middle of the night or really early in the morning. Some one asked why that was…simple answer: Samoa is in the middle of nowhere so the airlines want to make the planes come into or leave civilization at a decent hour, making flights here start or end at inconvenient times. Dad’s journey started at 2:30 am in Samoa with a flight to New Zealand, 14 hour layover there, 13 hours of flying to Los Angeles, then to Denver, and then arriving in Alabama at midnight Saturday night. I’m sure he isn’t going to know which way is up Sunday due to jet lag and crossing the International Date Line two times and going forward and backward in time so many times. Oh well, he made it through the jungle waterfall hike, he’ll be fine.

I enjoyed Dad’s visit. It was nice to see family after a year of Samoa. I tried to show him the best of Samoa that I knew of and I think he got that for the most part. Samoa is definitely a change from Alabama and Dad loved it. Now it is back to work for us both. My village has the sewing clinic next week, so that should be fun. I don’t know how to sew, but I’m going to try to sew a puletasi. We will see how that goes.


  1. Looks like you crammed a lot into your dad's visit! There seems to have been a lot of us parental types visiting all you PCV in Samoa around the same time, and it was neat to see so many of the things you named familiar to us, since we saw them too. Or had intended to see them (the River walk....the water was too high for us the day we were to go according to Olsen, seeing your pictures, I am bummed).
    Sara's mom

  2. Greetings from Ada, OH! Aunt Pauline and I (your CA cousin, Kathy) really enjoyed your blog. Your pictures are fantastic, and we're glad you're having such a good time and doing such good work. Take care!
    P.S. We're going on a Kewpee run tonight--we'll enjoy one for you!

  3. I saw your story on the History Channel. Was happy to see someone from Alabama, and good to know you survived the tsunami. I read your story, and you are definitely living a life full if adventure! Take care.