Posts tagged ‘American Samoa’

April 4, 2015

Post 55 – Going Under Kava

“Your head is affected most pleasantly. Thoughts come cleanly.
You feel friendly…never cross…you cannot hate with kava in you.”
-Tom Harrisson, Savage Civilization, 1937

dedication1The borrowed jeep sped straight up the mountain, straining in first gear as the angle became more pronounced and the ruts became as wide as the pigs that frequently wandered across. The island had been living up to its 200 inches of rain per year promise and the road was more of a suggestion at this point than an actual thing. Jean held on to the window edge but it was canvas so it didn’t afford much stability. She was grateful not to be in their clunky rusted Datsun, for it would have given up miles ago. Larry had commandeered a neighbor’s four-wheel drive for today’s visit up the mountain and it was currently the only thing keeping them from falling backward down the rutted path.

read more »

March 25, 2014

Post 46 — An Awkward Stage

LittleMary poster“Musical theatre is the one true art form to come out of American culture in the last hundred years,” Chrissie argued at her friend as they biked furiously across the mushy terrain of Tafuna. A certain speed was needed to be maintained in order to keep the tires from sinking into the sand, and she did not seem to be achieving it.

Her opinion was not quite that well phrased, but it was essentially the gist of what she meant. Liz rolled her eyes and ignored her, for the state of the American musical theater was not high on the list of subjects she wanted to discuss. She was hoping to steer the conversation back to the fact that her dachshund’s poop had lately been in the shape of letters and she wondered if they were trying to communicate with her. But she knew even the turd Ps and Qs weren’t going to be enough to stop her friend’s monologue, because that Broquet family was insufferable since the Island Community Players had started rehearsal for that stupid musical.

read more »

March 25, 2013

Post 41 — Surf’s up! (Part 1)

The packing crate is at the end of the house on the right side.

The packing crate is at the end of the house on the right side.

The arrival of the household goods was the last step in the family’s assimilation. Although life before had fallen into a comfortable rhythm, now it felt like home. And while the girls were happy to have new additions to their wardrobes after wearing the same three outfits for the last few months, the most exciting thing was the actual crate itself. It was like an apology from the shipping company: “Hey, we’re sorry it took ninety-eight days to get your stuff to you, so here’s a tiny extra house for all your trouble!”

Once everything had been unpacked, a set of hinges and a cheap padlock turned the box into a useable storage compartment. The crate was built out of two by fours and plywood and looked fairly substantial. When it was new, it also had the advantage of actually keeping things dry since it was completely contained when the side was shut, whereas the house was eighty percent screens and frequently damp. People stored bikes and lawn chairs and any other overflow that might not have fit in the house.

The crates were fine for about a year until the humidity and mildew got a good foothold in the pressed plywood, and then they began to disintegrate quickly. You could tell how long people had been on the island by the condition of their packing crate. If it was standing strong with all the sides intact and kids climbing on top of it, the wood a bright yellow with a whiff of sawdust scent, the family had been there less than six months. A pile of rotting black splinters that meant a sure battle with gangrene should a puncture wound ever occur, next to a couple of rusted lawn chairs, indicated a veteran.

read more »

March 7, 2013

Post 37 — Two Hundred Inches

The caption Jean added reads, "We were doing better than we looked."

The caption Jean added reads, “We were doing better than we looked.”

Larry pulled his shirt away from his sticky back as he headed into the house for dinner. After spending the day in the air-conditioned studio, he sometimes forgot just how humid it was until he stepped outside. He was reminded as soon as he saw his wife. Jean’s dress wrapped around her like a moist towelette and her dripping demeanor would put a damper on anyone’s mood. December was just a cruel word on the calendar here because the temperature didn’t get any lower – the dew point just got higher. Her pot banging seemed to be louder than usual, and Larry discovered why as he entered the dark house.

read more »

March 3, 2013

Post 36 — Toga! Toga! Toga!

Tuffy Ware and Roger Evans.

The centaur of the universe.

Kathy and Carolyn set out through Tafuna as dusk started to close in, each headed for a different house. Both had babysitting clients waiting for them and the girls were deep in conversation about who had the best stuff to eat in the refrigerator. A boat had come in a few days earlier, and that meant there was probably a three gallon container of ice cream waiting for them in the deep freezers.

As the night grew darker, a figure emerged from the shadows and staggered toward them with a sinister lope. It appeared to be half man, half goat, with a bronzed, bare chest on the top and endless legs covered in long strings that ended in dark hooves. A wreath of laurel leaves balanced precariously on his curly head, held in place by small horns that emerged from his forehead. The creature gasped and gave a small scream when he suddenly came upon the girls.

“Oh my God, you two scared me!” he shrieked, clutching a dish of homemade stuffed grape leaves to his chest. “What are doing out here?”

read more »

February 11, 2013

Post 35—Not Humerus At All

The hospital shortly after it was built  by the navy in 1948. Photo by Dr. Jim Harris.

The hospital shortly after it was built by the navy in 1948. Photo by Dr. Jim Harris.

A thrilling game had broken out at a neighbor’s house, a family who was lucky enough to have already received their coveted household goods. The lid of the packing crate their furniture had been shipped in was leaning up against the side of the house and children lined up to take turns running up the slanted board and leaping off the top just before slamming into the wall. Lack of organized sports had fostered a certain creativity when it came to entertaining themselves.

Carolyn was in her element, running faster, jumping higher and leading the pack in scoring when her flip-flop got caught on the edge of the board and her trajectory suddenly changed from up to straight down. She hit the ground hard and lay there stunned, pretty sure she had just forfeited her gold medal.

read more »

February 4, 2013

Post 33 — Crate Expectations

Random palm tree that has nothing to do with post.

Random palm tree that has nothing to do with post.

Back in Detroit, a lifetime and a few time zones ago, the family had packed up their belongings and waved goodbye to the big wooden crate with a childlike belief that the government would deliver it to their new home in a few months. Maybe it would even be waiting for them when they got to the island! That was a bit unrealistic, but as the days, weeks and then months went by, they realized grimly that they were winning a contest that no one wanted to even participate in: Most Time Elapsed While Waiting for Your Stuff.

Some people had gotten lucky and had their household goods delivered within 60 days; the longest wait recorded so far had been just under six months, which was actually one-fourth of the contract to live on the island. It was a long time to depend upon the kindness of strangers, especially if you were washing your kid’s ant-filled underwear in their washing machine.

read more »

January 27, 2013

Post 31— Encroachment

Big cockroach picture courtesy of Dave Gillmore. Thanks, Dave - this is an awesome photo!

Big cockroach picture courtesy of Dave Gillmore. Thanks, Dave – this is an awesome photo!

Mornings became more complicated now that everyone had to be out of the house by 7am. Karen was picking the raisins out of her toast as Jean tried to subdue her humidity-induced riot of curls, while Kathy and Carolyn could be heard fighting in the bedroom over a pair of flip-flops that both were claiming as their own. Chrissie looked over her fractions homework and considered substituting hearts instead of dots over the “i”s in her name. Subtlety hadn’t been working very well and she hoped Mr. Regula would show some signs of interest if she made the first move.

“I don’t like raisin toast,” whined Karen. “I told you that yesterday.”

“And I told you it doesn’t have raisins in it, it’s just plain toast. Finish your breakfast.” Jean gave up on Karen’s hair and pushed the half-eaten slice back at her. She stirred a lumpy glass of powdered milk and Nestles Quick (which was the only way to make the drink tolerable) and turned around just in time to catch the horrified look on Chrissie’s face as one of the raisins Karen had picked out of the toast ambled across her homework. Karen chugged the chocolate milk and missed the moment when her mother decided she had consumed enough protein and swept the toast, crumbs and bugs off the counter into the garbage. She handed her youngest a banana and went to break up the fight in the other room.

read more »

December 9, 2012

Post 19 — The Aiga Bus

The route from Tafuna to downtown Fagatogo ran for 7 miles along the edge of the island, with ocean on one side and mountain on the other.

The route from Tafuna to downtown Fagatogo ran for seven miles along the edge of the island, with ocean on one side and mountain on the other.

After a few days, the family was beginning to feel a little more acclimated. Everyone had caught up on their sleep and the overwhelming sense of strangeness was starting to fade just a bit, although the children still kept trying to go into the wrong houses. School would not start for a few more weeks and the household goods weren’t expected until next month, so Jean was kept busy trying to keep the gang occupied with very few props. She thought about falling back on an old standby – mosaic pictures made out of dried peas and beans – but the cost of food was so exorbitant that it seemed wasteful. As an alternative, she signed the girls up for siva lessons so they could experience the culture firsthand.

read more »

November 8, 2012

Post 10 — The Family Goes Even Wester

We rented a car and drove around Hawaii. Up mountain roads with palm trees and the water was any shade of blue from sky to royal to bright navy. It is horribly commercial and any relation to Michener-like descriptions are few and far between. Everybody was either old and wealthy-looking or young, tan and looking for action. The thing that struck us was that it was so quiet at the beach. Very few children. Later on when we were riding around we hit some stretches of beautiful big beach where the poor people go. They were a little noisier. There are many O­­­rientals. Some look like they haven’t got a dime and others looked like James Shigeta and Nancy Kwan on location. As a whole, the mixtures come up with very attractive people. That little bit of information may not be new but it’s kind of interesting coming from one who is there instead of the National Geographic.


Hawaii had been exotic and dreamy, but the family was getting anxious to see what the real destination would be like. The longest part of the trip turned out to be the last twenty-four hours. The baggage handlers in Honolulu were negotiating a new contract and the flight to Samoa had been delayed three times. The previous night had been mostly sleepless as the family tried to find places to stretch out at the airport, where the few available couches were covered in complaining tourists wearing shirts that they would be embarrassed to be seen in as soon as they got back to Ohio. The Broquet children were crabby and their parents exhausted as they all pined for the end of the journey, which had been accompanied by six awkward and bent umbrellas (200 inches of rain per year!). The plane finally left, nine hours later.

read more »