Friday, September 18, 2009

History Made

Well, Samoa had the historic road switch last week and as far as I can tell it went off without any real problems. There was some minor protesting (a village in Savaii put rocks in the road so cars couldn’t pass), but that was all resolved quickly. I got a ride into town on Friday and driving on the left didn’t seem odd, but traffic on my side of the island is quite light. When I got to town though and saw all the stop lights, intersections, and roundabouts I thought it was weird. I have to pay extra attention when walking around now so that I don’t walk out into traffic. Oh and the big shipping container is off the reef in Apia now (see previous post for story). It was sitting at the wharf last time I was in town, didn’t look so good though, still keeling to one side. The little fishing boat is still stuck on the reef; it might be permanent.

I had the most uncomfortable bus ride back to the village last week as well. Apparently, there is only one bus for the whole district that has the door switched to the proper side so passengers don’t exit out into traffic. This makes for extremely full buses. I was waiting with some others in my village for the bus at the bus stop by the fish market when the bus arrived. There was a mad dash for the bus as it pulled in. It was kinda funny to see a swarm of people walking very quickly, nearly running to get to the bus. We all piled on and so began the process of sitting on laps. I ended up on a guy’s lap, which is not really a good thing considering how cheeky Samoan men are and I try to avoid this as much as possible, but what was I supposed to do when the bus had at least 50-60 people on it (keep in mind the proper amount is 33)? I couldn’t even see the door, driver, or out the front window and I was only a few rows back. Since the bus had so many people on it, driving up the mountain nearly killed it. The bus somehow made it up the mountain, not quickly as it took me almost two and a half hours to get home, but indeed it survived.

Church is an interesting event here in Samoa. I live near the church so every Sunday I wake up to the sound of the church bell ringing, announcing there is one hour until church begins. Wake-up really isn’t a good term because usually I nearly jump out of bed I am so startled and it isn’t really a church bell it is an empty gas tank. It goes on for five minutes and during that time I’m holding my fingers to my ears so that I don’t go deaf. At the end of the service the church offerings are announced. Anyone who donates to the church has their name read aloud and how much they donate. This past Sunday was really cute. I was sitting in the pew listening to the endless names and amounts when I heard “Aliitasi Onofitu, 20 sene.” The whole church burst into laughter; not because it was only 20 cents, but because the donor was a four year old. I guess she decided the church needed a little something extra this week.

I went out to monitor the MPA a few days ago. The village is raising clams and they are getting quite large, some at least a foot long. I saw some really cool fish out there as well. First, a Snowflake Moray Eel, pretty cool to see just sitting there letting me take as many pictures as I wanted. I saw another eel briefly which I swear had a head bigger than my hand, but it shot into a crevice before I could get a good look at it. I also saw a Scorpionfish. This is why walking on the ocean floor really isn’t a good idea, highly venomous (lots of pain if you step on it). I also saw a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips. The juvenile of this species swims really peculiarly, undulating rapidly more like an eel. I was perplexed when I first saw the fish as to what it was, I was hoping for a baby shark, but no luck. I even saw cuttlefish in the MPA a few weeks ago. This is why I became a marine biologist; I get to snorkel around all day in the South Pacific and technically be working…awesome!

Funny story while in the MPA: I was swimming around seeing what I could, when I felt something take a little nibble. It wasn't a real bite or anything, just a little peck of a nibble on the back of my knee, but enough to creep my out a bit. I turned around to see what it was, but couldn't see anything. So I turned around and started swimming again. I felt the same little nibble. Now I was curious to find out what little thing was trying to eat me. I looked around for a while, seeing nothing but regular reef fish who I knew didn't want to have me for lunch. I kept searching, when I spotted these little fish poking their heads out of holes in the coral. They were aggressive for their size, only 5 in or so. I could identify them as blennies, but didn't know the species. They were funny to watch because they had more guts than some of the bigger fish. They would poke their heads out of the holes and when you weren't paying full attention to them would swim out of the hole and attack. I got back to my house and looked them up. They are Piano Fangblennies and feed on the skin and scales of fish, or in this case human skin.

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