Monday, April 20, 2009

Flag Day

No, not the mainland American holiday that you mark entirely by flying your flag and have a 50-50 chance of forgetting entirely, or the name given to holidays in a lot of lesser countries listed here. I'm talking about the REAL Flag Day, commemorating the day that Tutuila became a US territory and when the American flag was first raised here in 1900. This is a day celebrated with low-budget parades and fautasi races.

This is a fautasi:

Except that that image doesn't begin to do it justice. It's a bit bigger than that. THIS is what a fautasi really looks like (plus, that one has been sitting there long enough to have grass grown out of the dirt that's collected in the edges):

So now that we've got that cleared up, let's start with my experience of Flag Day. On Wednesday evening, I was enjoying beverages of a refreshing nature with Bob Wehie of MYD Samoa, who has lived here for quite some time. He told me that I ABSOLUTELY MUST be out there at 5:30 the next morning to see the aincent Samoan rituals surronding the warmup to the preliminary Fautasi races, because it's ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and will COMPLETLY CHANGE THE WAY I SEE THE ISLAND!!! He also taught me some intresting factiods about fautasi races, such as how fautasi means "village war," and how in aincent times, fautasis were the way of getting from village to village or island to island, especially for war-related purposes.

So the next day I woke up at a brain-damagingly early 4:15 AM and dragged myslef to the fautasi storage building by 5:30 to find that no one was there.

But at 5:45, the entire school buses came and let off the fautasi team. This team was called Satani (after a village somewhere, I think), and they had a chosen the obvious mascot, and done a good job with it:

Did I see any ancient Samoan warrior rituals that would ABSOLUTELY BLOW ME AWAY!? No, but it was certainly worth getting up early to see, at least once. In fact, aside from a few things, it was mostly the same as watching a high school football team warm up before a big game. A prayer, a pep talk, a run to the other side of the harbor and back, and not a whole lot else. Easily, the best part was seeing them lift up, flip over, and carry the gigantic fautasi from it's storage hut to the water as a team. And, lucky you, my digital camera has a video function. And lucky for you, I obsessivley photograph or film everything unique that I can. And even luckier for you, they had two fautasis, so I got two chances to get it right. My, isn't this your lucky day?

Here's the first one, which more than anything else gives you an appreciation for how massive a fautasi is. As it passes by, I'm reminded of the comically lengthy spaceship in the opening scene of Spaceballs. I practically expect the back of the fautasi to have a bumper sticker reading "we brake for nobody."

Here's the second one, which I think looks a lot better. This time, you get to see the massive fautasi being flipped over, which is no easy task.

And being out there so early gave me the chance to get some amazing sunrise photos.

These are the Hawiian-style canoes that I do most of my Paddling Club paddling in.

Also, I'd like to thank Blogger for sucking most of the amazing sunrise color out of a lot of these photos. I guess you'll have to see them in their full splendor when I upload them to a Facebook album, which at the current rate, should be some time in August.

So after this, the racers took off in their fautasis, and I sat around for quite a while with all the other spectators (with hours still to go before work began), wondering what was next. The voice of Island 92FM's Tonka Man came excitedly from a nearby radio, only it sounded like it was coming through a drive-thru speaker that was underwater. I later learned that he was actually announcing via a cell phone that they had placed next to the microphone. Yeah. There were several times when I wasn't sure if he and his co-announcer were speaking in English or Samoan.

As it turned out, the thing that was next was the actual first heat of the fautasi race. But it's definetly not one of those sports to watch live the first time you see it. I sat there for about 30 minutes seeing nothing, then saw about ten minutes of the fautasis racing off in the distance before they vanished around another part of the coastline that jutted into the water.

This is seriously what I could see. And I've enhanced the image so that the fautasis show up better.

I then went off to work a bit early and watched the remainder of the race on TV, which was a lot more fun to watch, thanks to multiple cameras, a few of which were following them in boats, and zoom lenses.

Well, I know this post was entitled "Flag Day" and I'm still up to the preliminary races that took place the day before Flag Day, but I'm really at a good stopping point in terms of post legnth and time of night (almost 11! :0 Shocking!), so, I'll just have to end this with, as we say in television,

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