Monday, November 16, 2009

A Year on the Rock

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it may be hard to believe it, but as of today, November 16th, 2009, I have been here an entire year. And I mean that in almost the most literal way possible- I’ve spent a totally of roughly 48 hours of that year off of the island, and most of that was in Upolu, the next island over.

I’ve decided to mark this occasion with an educational experience for all of you, and so here is my list of:

Random Facts About American Samoa

  • John Williams, the first missionary to the island, landed in Leone in 1832. His statue is one of the only things in that village to have fully survived the tsunami, despite being right next to the water.
  • He later drew on that experience for inspiration while composing the musical score to the Star Wars films.
  • Due to the 25 MPH speed limit and the existence of only two or three passing zones on the entire island, it is very common for a dozen drivers to get stuck behind a single SUV with flame decals going 17 MPH.
  • All of the traffic problems are actually caused by a single really slow driver. He started on the east end of the island in 1997 and just recently made it up to the mini-mall in the middle.
  • Apollo 10, 12, 13, 14, and 17 all landed in American Samoa waters. All of these astronauts flew out of here via Pago Pago International Airport.
  • According to some rumor that probably isn’t true, LBJ Hospital was built mostly with said astronauts in mind. Although that would explain why they built when it was and why no one seems to care about it anymore.
  • Wikipedia seems to think that this map does an adequate enough job of showing everyone where Tafuna is.
  • Speaking of Wikipedia, there is a Samoan language version of it here with nearly 400 articles. Please contribute if you can.

  • Water is really, really powerful stuff.
  • A solid ¾ of all world maps either cut off the Samoan Islands entirely or mark Pago Pago with a star that covers up the entire island.
  • The ads for KSBS-FM are actually made by an LSD-using gecko who thinks the chipmunk effect is the funniest thing he's ever heard.
  • Most Google results for "chipmunk effect" are instructions for how to avoid making audio sound that way accidentally.
  • The territory consists of five islands and two atolls, for a total area slightly larger than Washington, D.C.
  • According to legend, Ottoville, the village where I live, was founded by the original Otto Haleck of Haleck Enterprises. Depending on who you ask, he either got the land by immigrating here from Germany and basically squatting it in the late 1800s, before it was really sorted out by any colonizing Western governments, or got it through a series of debt defaults. Or so the legend goes...
  • It is very bad for one's sanity to be confined to an area that size for more than six months at a time.
  • No matter where you are in the world, there will always be a neighbor who will wake you up at 7 AM on a Saturday mowing their lawn, be it with a lawnmower or a weedwhacker.
  • Visitors to the island can do just about everything there is to do here in about a week, and this includes things like the all day hike up and down Mt. Alava.
  • The average monga-monga, or Samoan cockroach, is big enough to terrorize a Japanese city for several hours.
  • Pisupo, despite its pronunciation, is not pea soup, but corned beef. And Samoans will never tire of eating it.
  • I’m not at liberty to say how I know, but CNN is not done with G.A.S. just yet.
  • With the destruction of the Leone post office and presumed layoffs of the people who worked there, at least half of the mailboxes on the island have been removed. I now have to drive 20 minutes just to mail something. Take a moment to look to the end of your driveway or maybe even your front porch and be thankful for at your at-home service.
  • At least one of the doormen at the Tradewinds Hotel does not know the difference between a real mailbox and a cardboard box for sending Christmas cards to troops stationed overseas.
  • Someone somewhere decided that people here were driving too fast and that there weren’t enough bumps in the road, so they had speedbumps installed.
  • The Governor's personal assistant was shocked, SHOCKED to learn that not everyone likes him. More on that one another time.
  • Sitting on the porch at dusk and watching bats fly overhead is really fascinating.
  • The first Google result for "American Samoa facts" goes to a site that appears to have been written by a failing middle school student. One that used really outdated sources. Either that, or the U.S. Navy has retaken possession of the territory.
  • Said student also heavily confused American Samoa with The Independent Nation of Samoa™, and just went downhill from there. Either that, or "Queen Elizabeth the II is the most famous New Zealand member of the Crown."
  • It's also written like a string of random facts, with almost nothing connecting them. I mean, who does that?
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