Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This may have worked better as a Carnac the Magnificent joke

A few things I never thought I'd see in the same news article:

-Swains Island, a fairly remote part of American Samoa that I've never been to.
-Good, coherent journalism
-Something by the Samoa News

And yet, you can find it all here.

Real entry coming soon. It's time I started wrapping this blog up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Electile Dysfunction

Note: This post was originally written on the night of November 2nd, 2010

It's almost 11 PM local time, and I'm still at work. Such is the life of media employees on election night. And no, we don't have an 11 o'clock newscast, or even a 10 o'clock one, or even a 6 PM one. Heck, as far as TV is concerned, we don't even have a newscast at all.

But I digress. I'm here to give continuing coverage on our "slideshow channel," Island Info Channel 13. A few individual polling stations have yet to submit their results, and for all I know they've already gone to bed and plan on counting the ballots tomorrow afternoon. But now I've been told that I can go home as soon as the channel is back to normal, so now I mostly just have to wait for most of the night for the computer that runs it to finish loading.

Anyway, the voters of the Rock have roundly rejected a number of "revisions" to the territorial constitution. Revisions, not amendments. Amendments would require approval by the United States Congress. And I don't think they'd approve of all of them, particularly one that basically says that the Governor and a 2/3rds majority of the Fono can nullify any Federal law they feel like. Come on AS, we in the Carolinas tried this once before, and it could've gotten really ugly.

Though instead of a serious standoff, it probably would have been more like the following conversation where I imagine the Federal government talking to ASG via text message for some reason, probably because they know the Feds can't be bothered to actually call down here:

ASG: No $7.25/hr. minimum wage for us, LOL!
ASG: Yeah, we dnt want it. So it dsn't count.
ASG: We said we cld nullify laws that we don't like in our cnstitutinal revisns!@
ASG: We revisd our constitution.
FEDUSA: U hav a constitution? & U can amend it without us?
ASG: Hey, we only need ur permission to amend it, not 2 revise it.
ASG: Come on, its totly diffrnt!
ASG: Plz?

(Cue random commenter telling me that I spelled "different" wrong)

So yeah, good on ya, voters of AmSam.

The other big race was for the territory's nonvoting Representative to Congress, which I can't help but notice that none of the major American news networks have covered in their website maps that supposedly cover the whole country. What's up with that? Anyhow, the seat appears to have been retained by 398-term delegate Eni Faleomavaega, who I actually quite like, especially since he was cool enough to do an interview with Steven Colbert that I posted way back when I first started this blog. And later come on our show and talk about how terrible an idea some of those Constitutional "revisions" were.

But the only really funny thing about that race, besides Tuika Tuika in general (who is really not the "ha ha" kind of funny), is that early on, a candidate who should probably remain nameless ran on the campaign slogan "Manifest Our Destiny," apparently not knowing any of the horrible Indian-killing history behind Manifest Destiny. But I never got to tell her, because she probably would have pulled all of those ads that she ran with us using that slogan.

Yeah. Now you know what my sense of humor looks like when I'm really tired.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Something I meant to post ages ago!

No time to write about the days after the tsunami now, but I'm really due for another entry while I work on one about something else entirely.

Here's some epic ukulele playing here on-island from a few months back. It's by Taimane, who is basically the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele. She's so awesome that she would play duets with Don Ho, even though she's currently only 21, meaning that she would have been about 18 at the time.

You may want to view these videos in a separate window by double-clicking them, unless you just don't care for the right side of videos.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Adam's Story Part 2: Pictures

In the days and weeks after the tsunami last year, my TV channel wasn't running and wouldn't be for at least a few days. But as you might remember from my entry about the actual day, we did have some pretty strong contacts with the international media. So in lieu of regular work, I was to travel around the island and film/photograph the devastation on the island and send it to the Associated Press via an FTP server.

For the anniversary of the tsunami, I had planned on posting an album of photos that I had taken all over the island in the days and weeks after the event, but I was slowed down for a very good reason¹.

But anyway, it's finished now and is available for viewing here on Facebook.

I've actually lost a lot of my 2009 photo archive, so, lucky for you, it's a normal-sized album instead of the enormous monstrosities that I tend to create.

I had wanted to also write about some specifics of what I did, but I figured that this entry is late enough already. Hopefully, I'll get to do that next time.

¹I'm just now getting into the show Lost, which is a program that I can really relate to.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Under Pressure

As I write this, it's raining outside. Hard. I mean like really hard, maybe even for here. Plus it's really consistent and the tradewinds are still blowing, so it's just generally very nasty outside. There's some kind of low pressure system, maybe a trough, that's been hanging over the island for at least a week now. I'm so used to constant rain here that I think I've completely lost track. I don't know that much about it, partly because both local news outlets that I follow¹ covered it for about one story last Friday and then went on to other things.

In fact there was a lot of flooding on the roads both yest-*BZZZZZZZT* *BZZZZZZZZT* *BZZZZZZZZZT*



600 PM SST TUE SEP 14 2010

















(That seriously was issued while I was writing this. And our radio stations really did an EAS bulletin for it. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog entry already in progress)

-and that's how they got rid of all the dead dogs they had lying all over the place. With a mail sack.²

But yeah, it's kinda weird how so many people just keep going about their normal everyday lives as if it wasn't flooding outside. From what I've seen, this kind of thing happens once or twice a year here, and I guess if you've been living on the Rock your entire life, you really don't think that much of it. Maybe that's why the news isn't covering it very much.

Anyhow, the big way that it affects me, other than basically not being able to do anything outside, including things like take out the trash, is driving. On the NWS website, underneath the bulletin that I posted above, there was a second one that said to avoid driving until the flood alert has been lifted. I discovered this right after driving home.

As I and just about any other person who's driven on this island will tell you, driving on this island is a) more difficult and b) more dangerous. There's a lot of different "rules." Not real rules, mind you, but just a totally different driving style. People merge onto the road from driveways by cutting everyone off. People stop in the middle of the highway with 10 cars following them to let a single car merge onto the road, thinking that they're being courteous. People will go into the lane made for oncoming traffic to dodge a pothole in their lane, a rough spot that looks like it may become a pothole sometime soon, or even a metal plate covering up a pothole. Or sometimes just because it gets them around a curve faster. Somewhere around a third of drivers don't turn on their headlights until it's 100% pitch black.³ People drive 10 miles under the speed limit. (OK, I know that that last one happens in the States all the time, but here the speed limit is 25 MPH and there's almost no passing zones.) And aiga bus drivers are the worst about all of these. But eventually you learn to expect all of these things and adapt to them as best you can.

But it gets much worse when there's a trough overhead. The roads flood in seemingly random places, occasionally deeply enough to stall a car, as I know all too well. There's at least one spot on my daily commute where I can hear the water sloshing against the underside of my car. People veer into oncoming traffic to drive through the shallow end. The potholes all become hidden. That same third of drivers still leave their lights off, even if it's 30 minutes to sundown and severe thunderstorms are cutting visibility to next to nothing. And of course, everyone is driving slower than usual.

So, uh, I hope it clears up soon. Especially because I have outdoor plans for this weekend.

And this song seems appropriate. Partly because of it's lyrics, and partly because it will not leave my head until it clears up outside.

¹It's best that I don't get started on the other two news outlets, one of which is known to mostly just copy our radio newscast word-for-word without giving our newsteam any credit whatsoever. Plus, neither one has an active news website anyhow.

²This is from a true story, but it's totally, totally unbloggable. Ask Jason Thomas if you know him. If I'm very, very lucky and everything goes according to plan, I'll get to record him telling it and make it into a Flash cartoon. But first I have to get Flash, learn how to use it, and record Jason's story.

³When I first started driving here, people were flashing their lights at me to let me know that I left mine on accidentally, because surely no one would be using theirs just because it's overcast out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mini-Adventures on the Docks

I end up going on a lot of mini-adventures here on the Rock. I might go for a quick hike and discover an amazing view that I've never seen before. I might take a wrong turn and end up at the beautiful Turtle and Shark Site at sunset. I might stop on the way home from work to take a picture of a departing cruise ship and find myself running all over the docks.

Sorry I didn't give any hints to which one this was in the title.

Better check it out while it's still viewable to the general public, as I'm going to set it to be only visible to Facebook friends in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and if your attention span is as short as mine is-

Sorry, I got distracted. What was I saying? Oh yeah. If your attention span is as short as mine is and you get bored easily, the first thirteen pictures are the more interesting ones.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We Can't Stop Here...

...this is BAT COUNTRY!

American Samoa is a batty place. Bats are everywhere. One of my favorite ways to relax at the end of the day is to sit out on my balcony at dusk and watch the bats, or flying foxes, glide overhead by the dozens. It's a pretty cool thing to see. I'm not sure when it happened, but I got used to them a while ago and can even handle domesticated ones just fine. I think this started about a year ago when my friend Pirate Chris took one to a party with it hanging on his back the entire time and let me hold it for a while.

This is how vampires are made.

But what I'm getting to is that lately I've been working on a super-mega-special project. It's a mini-documentary about...BATS! And I even uploaded it to YouTube to share with you!¹

It's pretty good, considering how quickly we rushed it out before Hideyo, the host, had to leave the island for an awesome work-related trip to Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, and several other places that I can't even remember. Lucky.

But here it is. You might have to double-click it and watch it in YouTube, unless you just don't care for the right half of videos:

I have a little confession to make: The bat in that video is not a real wild one, but a very docile pet bat owned by our friend Alden. He let us borrow her for the video. Her name is Luna, and she's too young to fly away on us.

Luna is about the cutest widdle Pteropus samoensis you've ever seen. She's like a puppy. A dark, winged, half-hairless puppy that would make a lot of people scream. But I'm pretty used to her, so I can see her more like a sweet little animal. She also likes to nibble on fingers like a puppy.

Here's some stills from clips I didn't use:

Luna hangs with Hideyo during a break in filming.

She was hanging off the back of the driver's headrest during all the driving bits. Sometimes she wanted to sit up front, though.

Luna hangs on my stomach and gives it a quick lick during my turn to hold her. She was really into licking the salty sweat off of our hands.

Luna takes interest in the video camera. She's actually hanging off of the lens hood in this one. 'Sokay, it's not my camera.

Hideyo shows off Luna's wingspan a bit. Fruit bats grow to be the largest bats in the world, up to a meter in length.

¹Well, it's technically a compressed version of the video. Uploading the full-sized video file at my connection speed would have taken 11 hours. Which I tried to do anyway, but it got an error somewhere around the 8th hour. Really.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Down With the Sickness

It's the dead of winter here right now. The tradewinds sweep the island, and the thermometer reads a chilly 75°F. A few people walk around wearing sweaters and blankets.

I started getting a sore throat last Tuesday, which was a bad sign, since I had just been sick about two weeks before. I chose to ignore it, convincing myself that I just had allergies to the huge amount of dust that had been kicked up by changing one of the carpets in the studio or maybe my old leaf mold allergy has come back, since it is the dead of winter here and therefore the closest thing we have to fall. Hey, if you're sick and therefore feverish and delusional, it makes sense. So anyhow, I figured that I must be feeling good enough to go on that hike along the island's southern coast.

Wrong. Totally worn out by the end of that day and a full-blown bad cold the next.

There's something going around the island. My boss says he's sick, Larry, the company president is apparently sick, and at least one kid from my church is sick with the same thing. I guess having a lot of people crowded into and mostly unable to leave this one little area makes for a breeding ground for germs. Especially in the dead of winter.

I took Monday off and stayed in bed. Still sick. By Thursday I had had enough and bit the bullet and went into LBJ.

The thing about LBJ Tropical Medical Center is that it sucks. This really isn't a controversial thing to say, because even the people that work there know it's terrible for a hospital. It's ridiculously underfunded, understaffed, and undersomethingelsedthatIcan'tthinkofthewordfor. Politicians know it has problems, to the point that they consistently campaign on getting it properly funded. It's bad enough that even travel guides tell you that if you get sick, just stick it out until you can get to the better hospitals in Apia. The first time I went to LBJ there I sat around for four hours waiting to get a prescription to get some meds refilled, watching the Disney Channel in the waiting room the entire time, and was told to come back on Monday to try again.

This time I was going to avoid that sort of mess. I was going on a weekday. I asked one of my coworkers the day before if I needed to make an appointment first. Nope, just walk in. I got there and found out I should have made an appointment. After about 30 minutes of waiting, I think one of the receptionists started to worry about my cough and sent me to the ER, which actually had fewer people waiting in it. After only 15 minutes of Disney Channel later did I get to see a doctor, who prescribed me some cough syurp and antibiotics and a note to take the rest of the week off.

Next up was a visit to the hospital pharmacy. I drew #34 from the "take a number" dohicky. The LED sign said that they were now serving #11. Wasn't this a scene at the end of the movie Beetlejuice? Anyhow, this is better than the old system, where they would yell out the numbers in Samoan. 23 numbers and one discovery that there were no water fountains left in this part of the building later, I got my antibiotics, my Robitussin, and...a syringe with no needle? I didn't notice that one until later, but I have no idea what it's for. This is still a lot less weird than the time they gave my friend Jeremy magic mouth wash¹:

Well, it's now Saturday evening an I've made progress, but I'm still not totally better. But I've learned a few things:

- Don't go hiking if you're sick, even if it's just a little cold and it's warm outside

- You actually do need to make appointments to see the General Practice doctors at LBJ.

- A needleless syringe is a great way to measure out the correct amount of cough syrup.

- Cough syrup is a lot easier to take if you drink something syurpy immediately before and after. The syrupy stuff coats your tongue a little and forms a barrier from the cough medicine.

- Tissues are $1.75 a box here. Dang.

- Hawaiian Punch, which is loaded with vitamin C,² fills the "something syurpy" requirement, and apparently about the same price per gallon at Cost-U-Lots than it does at a mainland Wal-Mart, about $5 and some change. It's not, however, really made in Hawaii, which is kind of disappointing.

- Don't wanna carry several trashcans full of tissues down three flights of steps, especially when you're sick? Most apartments have a built-in chute for taking care of that sort of thing.

- Being bedridden with illness is a great time to write blog entries you wouldn't have written otherwise.

Also, just because. (NSFW language)

¹ It's come to my attention that magic mouth wash is apparently a real thing, but I can't seem to find the blog entry that it originated from to see if that's what he actually had been given.

² Buying this for colds made a lot more sense before I knew vitamin C doesn't really do anything for them.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Here is the News

Man, sometimes working in the media is hard.

Like how a few weeks ago, a couple of tiny and seemingly insignificant screws slowly worked their way out of our video camera.¹ Problem is, those were load-bearing screws (or something like that) and without them, the camera fell off of the tripod and...let's just say that "viewfinder" is a terrible name, because I still haven't been able to view or find all of that camera's viewfinder ever since. And more importantly, it still won't attach to a tripod.

So on the afternoon of July 22nd, I had sealed it up for shipping it to the closest place I could find that would repair a video camera mailed to them (Burbank, CA) when I learned that it needed more packing materials. I sliced its box back open and added some.

And then I heard about the shooting. A police officer had been shot in front of the High Court in downtown Fagatogo, just about a mile from the office.

On an island that doesn't allow handguns, not even for cops, this is a totally shocking thing. It's been years since the last shooting in the territory. This was apparently a revenge shooting; it later turned out that the victim had arrested the mother of the shooter on an outstanding warrant when she returned to the island to attend the trial that the officer in question (Lt.
Brown) was protecting at the time of the shooting.

Monica, our news director, breaks into our regulatory scheduled radio programs with a report about the shooting. There's a clip of La, her assistant, breaking into tears as she describes the shooting that she just witnessed firsthand while she was interviewing one of the lawyers for the case.

But oddly enough, since I'm not really in news production, I go back to what I was doing and tape the box for the camera closed for a second time. Then a few minutes later I realize that maybe I should go down to the scene of the shooting and take some footage. I clear it with the boss, get Kolio to drive me down there (my car still isn't fixed), cut open the camera box for the second time, find a stick mic, and ride down to the scene of the crime.

We arrive, and it's has mostly emptied out, but the entire parking lot in front of the courthouse is still roped off with police tape "CAUTION! OPEN DITCH" tape. There's still a few police vehicles and a firetruck (?) on the scene. I grab some halfway-decent tripodless shots of police and eyewitnesses mulling around from the front porch of the Sadie Thompson Inn across the street. I meet some people who are able to point me to an eyewitness. She's still shaken; afraid to say her name or let us show her face for fear of retribution from the shooter's family. I let her just speak into the microphone and I point the camera at the ground. Monica and La would still be able to use the audio for their radio news program. The eyewitness has seen some pretty terrifying things. The shooter is a very big guy, and it took several cops to finally wrestle him to the ground and take the gun away from him. A second officer was shot in the hand before it was all over.

After the interview, Kolio finds something else. There's a big bloodstain on the ground from where the shooting was. Jeez. I film what I need of it, and also a forensics guy taking pictures of it.

Then we rush back to the station and Joey leads me in slicing the 10 minutes or so of footage that I have into an approximately 30-second clip that we will upload to the FTP server of a guy in Hawaii who will send it on to any major media outlets that may want it. As far as I know, none of them ever used it. But the story was carried on a number of major news outlets, including NPR Australian ABC, and the Associated Press.

I went back to the station and sat down at my computer. In front of me was an open audio file of some sort. It turned out that La had been recording an interview at the time of the shooting, and actually captured the audio of the entire incident. It was the most disturbing thing I've ever heard. Were the full version of it to have really gotten out, I think it might have gotten up there with the Budd Dwyer suicide or the tape of Timothy Treadwell's death. A heavily edited version of La's clip was aired during the afternoon newscast, which can be found as part of the story on the station's news website here. I wouldn't recommend listening to it if you don't have that much of a connection to the island, but I will say that it's not half as scarring as the unedited version.

The following day, the Samoa News carried about a dozen photos of the immediate aftermath of the shooting, including the shooter kicking Detective Brown's body and the arrest. I know that I'm in the minority on this here, but they were right to carry these photos. There is a human tendency to ignore information that we don't like, and the fact that something this horrible can happen here is one of those bits of information. This shooting was very much drug-related, and there have been many reports of a serious drug problem here on the island, including serious things like crystal meth, but what do we do when we hear them? Seriously demand more action from our elected leaders? Volunteer for or donate to anti-drug programs? Nope, most people will say "Oh, how terrible" then immediately stick their heads in the sand and mentally pretend that it never happened. It's the natural, easy thing to do. We all want to believe that we live anywhere in a perfectly safe, secure island paradise and that problems like drugs and revenge killings are limited to other parts of the world, but not here.

When my aunt died a terrible death of lung cancer a few years ago, we all wished that more people could have seen her in that state. That image of her lying their in terrible pain, wasting away in a time where she should have had at least 20 good years left, was the strongest deterrent to smoking that will ever encounter. Just like how most people here want to pretend that the island is a drug-free paradise, most smokers are in denial that they're setting themselves up for a slow, painful death.

Similarly, running those photos and airing that audio punches you in the face with cold, hard reality and tells you "THIS IS WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING!" At the same time, if I were the one who decides what would be in the paper, I would have put one of the less graphic but still important photos on the front page and put the others on the inside somewhere. You only need to punch faces so hard to keep people from being in denial about the world around them. I feel like it would make more sense to put the majority of the more graphic photos on the inside, so that at least kids wouldn't have to see them. I also now understand why the Charlotte Observer ran those photos of the American contractors whose charred bodies had been hung over the bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. It feels like in some way, you're reading/hearing a totally different story if all of the graphic elements are censored.

A lot of people have also said that the images shouldn't be published out of respect for Detective Brown's family, but is that family actually going to go out and buy the paper knowing what's going to be in it? I doubt that. We really just don't want anyone to "rock the boat" of our pleasant-enough view of the world. Also, I've only heard one person complain about the airing of our audio clip, which is pretty good, considering the dozens that complained about the paper's photos.

La was very shaken by what she witnessed for the next day or so, but she seems fine now.

There was at least one other interesting impact that the release of La's recording made. The AP version of the story was posted to a news website that I frequent with a somewhat inflamatory gun-control headline. Due to some very good timing, I was able to be one of the first commentators and post a link to the recording along with a reminder that this tragedy was a REAL horror with REAL pain for real people and NOT a political football for people to "prove" that their preexisting beliefs on the gun issue. Surprisingly, this was actually effective, and the responses were a lot more respectful and muted than what that site is known for.

What's up next for this story? The first pretrial hearings for the alleged shooter have begun, and apparently there is the possibility for the island to have its first execution since 1939. The article says that that execution was by hanging, and that there was an attempt to officially switch the method of execution to lethal injections in 2003, which failed. Does this mean that there could be a 21st-century hanging on the island? Heck if I know, but my instincts say they'll try to avoid that somehow.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Lt. Brown's family.

Also, I'll put this here just because.

¹Yes, we really only have one, except some older ones that are permanently part of the set of The 411.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Barky and the Eel

So I really need to write a lengthy, detailed account of what it was like covering last week's terrible shooting, but I'm too tired, thanks to one of the neighbors having a new dog that likes to bark whenever it sees a bird, hears another dog, sees a leaf fall from a tree, hears something that might possibly be a ghost, when the sun is out, when it's raining, or whenever its nighttime. Especially whenever it's nighttime. And of course, whenever one dog starts barking, all the others in the neighborhood feel jealous and have to bark along.

I don't think I've ever seen him, but I've nicknamed the new dog Barky. So blame Barky on this entry-like substitute product. And other things that aren't worth writing about.

But anyway, I have to put something in here, so why not ready the highly cultural Samoan tale of Sina and the Eel? It's probably best that you read it before continuing with this entry.

What? You want it in English? Fine then, be that way. Miss out on half the experience. Read it in English.

Well, if you're really lazy, you can even watch an animated version of it here, although I noticed that about 90% of the story is different from the written version, which I'm inclined to believe is more like the original.

And here's another link you'll probably appreciate if your name happens to be Anna Leonard. But there's another cool story at the bottom that I think anyone can enjoy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Island Tropes

So it seems that I promised a while back sometime last year to make a glossary of the various nicknames that I've given to things and phenomena on the island. Some of them are long-standing, but most of them I came up with on my own. I actually started on this back in January, but my article on crazy things that happen here was cut short by a village-wide power outage with no apparent cause.

Also, I'm a big fan of a site called TVTropes, which is basically a wiki of story devices where the users give names to all the recurring phenomena that they notice. That's sort of what I'm doing here with a lot of these entries.

The Rock/The Island/The Village/AmSam/AmSamoa/The Unorganized Territory- Uh, I think you can figure this one out. No one I've asked is really certain if the part-Samoan wrestler/actor had the "Rock" nickname first, but I'm guessing he got it from the island and not the other way around.

Samoa/Western Samoa/Western/Indie Samoa/The Independent State of Samoa™- The island nation next to this one.

Tales from the Margaret Mead Taproom (TMMT)- A great book by Gary Trudeau, author of the Doonesbury comic strip. The strip had a series in the mid-seventies where the Uncle Duke character was Governor of the territory for a while. Somehow, that lead to Trudeau and a few friends coming down here to stay for two weeks not long after. The book is the story of their experience, interspersed with the comics of the Uncle Duke governorship. I like to reference it a lot. The title comes from anthropologist Margaret Mead's famously wrong book Coming of Age in Samoa, from which the name of this blog is derived.

ASG/GAS- The American Samoa Government. The government of the territory. About 1/3rd of the local population works for them in some branch or other. The GAS nickname was created by Trudeau in TMMT.

LBJ- Lyndon Baines Johnston Tropical Medical Center. The only hospital or even decent-sized doctor's office on the island. It's run by ASG. Try to avoid going there if you can.

Everything's an Import- Probably somewhere around 90% of everything you buy on the island was imported from someplace thousands of miles away. Cars are imported. Lumber is imported. TVs are imported. Furniture is mostly imported. Much of the food is imported (especially the food I eat). Soap is imported. It's weird to buy jelly at the store and think about how it sailed thousands of miles in a container filled with hundreds of other jelly jars just to end up in a sandwich with too much peanut butter.

The Price of Paradise- A phrase, common in Hawaii, meaning that everything is expensive when Everything's an Import. But it's the price you pay for living here. Also, there's a price tag on nearly everything you buy, so that you'll be reminded that you paid $4 for a jar of jelly until the day you use it up and pay $4 for another one.

FOB/Fobling- A person who's Fresh Off the Boat, AKA just got here and blissfully naive of everything. AKA a noob of teh island. I've heard this one used around here all the time, and also saw it in a video from New Zealand. "Fobling" can also refer to the child of a FOB or the kind of English or Samoan that they speak.

Diverse but Not- According to the 2000 census, the island is about 91% Pacific Islanders. But That 9% is one of the most wildly diverse groups of people you'll ever see. There are plenty of Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, and white people form all over. And I have friends from places as far away as the Azores Islands and Madagascar. And of course, not all of those Pacific Islanders are Samoans. Going by the languages on that same link, about 3% are Tongans. Then again the island is still overwhelmingly one group of people. So it's diverse, but not.

Foreign But Not- I've mentioned this before, but this territory is treated both as a part of the States as well as a foreign country all the time. On one hand, it uses the Dollar, the US military recruits from here, we have most American TV channels, we have McDonald's and KFC, US Mail comes here at the same cost as any other part of the country, and landline phone calls to the mainland count as domestic. On the other hand, UPS and FedEx definitely charge international rates, the culture is very different, we have CNN International instead of CNN US, most websites automatically detect that users here are "Outside the United States" and restrict what video clips we can see accordingly, and the McDonald's restaurants here are definetly the "international" (or "clean") kind.

Not In Africa- I told a lot of people that I was going to American Samoa, and a lot of them said "Isn't that in Africa!?" People tend to confuse Samoa with Somalia. But the majority of people I talked to before I left just knew that it was out in the Pacific somewhere. Similarly, most people here know that North Carolina is a state on the mainland somewhere. Although there was one person who confused it with New Caledonia. I'd feel a lot better if that person hadn't been involved with doing my taxes.

Reverse Door Logic- Plenty of doors to shops and such open the opposite way that you'd expect them to. If you're outside a store and it has a horizontal bar for pushing, then it probably opens outward by pulling. If a door here has a vertical handle made for grasping and pulling, then it probably opens by pushing. And sometimes, no handle at all means you need to cram your fingers in between the door and its frame and wedge it open. And then to complicate things, not every building uses Reverse Door Logic, so you'll never totally get used to one door type or the other. My theory is that a lot of people just hung their doors on backwards and didn't care.

Cashfull Society- Aside from bars and restaurants, I'd say that only about 10% of stores here take credit cards. It's complicated to set them up or something. I only know of one gas station that takes them. And there are plenty of people here who can't be trusted with checks, most of whom have their pictures posted at the front of the stores they ripped off, along with a scan of their bad check for all to see. So around here, cash is tupu, or king. Everyone tries to avoid the banks on government payday, because they lines will be stuffed with people turning their paychecks into cash.

The Washing Machine Effect- All that cash that everyone's using gets circulated a lot, but its not really going anywhere. It's not very likely to leave the island, except maybe in the pockets of someone flying or sailing out. So, just like cash that gets left in the washing machine, it goes around and around and gets worn out. The same thing happens with coins, which seem to stay in circulation here forever. I think I'd seen about five bicentennial quarters in my life before I moved here. Now I see them all the time. I know this whole phenomenon has been going on since at least the time that TMMT was written.

Island Shipping Time- I don't care what the little computer at the post office told you, shipping packages down here takes quite some time. Two weeks if you use Priority Mail, about six if you go with standard mail. Sending something via UPS or FedEx will involve it taking even longer to bounce all over the Pacific Rim (Seriously, it will do something like LA-Honolulu-Hong Kong-Singapore-Apia-Pago Pago) and cost around $100 for even a small package. Go with USPS.

Phantom Television- A phenomenon I blogged about when I first got here, which is about how the majority of cable TV channels are on a two-week tape delay. That's how long it takes for the drives that the shows were recorded on to get here. It's based on the really cool sci-fi idea that TV signals continue traveling forever into the outer reaches of space once they've been broadcast, and how we're looking into past "dead" shows just by turning on our TVs. I've been told that it's one a one-week delay in the CNMI and three weeks in Palau. Since the installation of the fiber-optic cable last summer, they've been switching channels to a live feed from Hawaii one by one.

Outer Rim Territories- My Star Wars-based nickname for all of the US territories and possessions. There are more than you might think.

Island Internet- It's slow. I pay $75 a month for 125 Kb/s. That's standard for homes here. And even that bit of speed tends to vary a lot, mostly on who else is using it. You get used to it.

Awkward International Moment- When a text message of a friend wakes you up at 3 AM because they forgot how time zones work. When you order something from the mainland and they think you're going to be upset because they won't be able to ship it until the next morning. When you're downloading something large with Island Internet from a public storage site and it asks you if you want to pay $29.95 a month to download it faster, because they limit free downloads to just 500 Kb/s. When someone from off-island suggests you pick up a bus schedule, buy something from Wal-Mart, or get up-to-date information from the website of an office of ASG. Basically, anything that makes you have to stop and explain to someone a thing or two about life here.

Always Dark Early- Because we're so close to the Equator, the sun usually sets around 6:30 every day. That doesn't leave a whole lot of daylight for those of us who work 9-5 (pretty much just the company I work for). There's only a small variation in the length of days between summer and "winter."

Two Seasons- I like to say that we have two seasons here: "Rainy" (Nov-April) and "Less Rainy" (the rest of the year).

Unbloggable- When something is best left not blogged about. Usually involves sponsors, something a little too offensive, something that would terrify my mother, or something that's best left unsaid. The Car Saga is a big unbloggable thing that's been going on in my life lately, and a lot of the reason why so many recent entries have been about life here in general and not about what I'm doing.

The Car Saga- Suffice to say that my car's been broken since mid-April and it's been quite a task trying to get it fixed. And because of the Price of Paradise, getting a new one is out of the question. Oh, and a lot of people on online car repair forums think that all islands are small enough that everyplace on them is in walking distance.

The Falcon- My car. Named after the Millennium Falcon, because "She might not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid." That is, she actually runs. Or she did when I named it.

The Nest- My apartment. Named that because 1) It's the parking place of the Falcon 2) It's messy, like a rat's nest, and 3) It's the name of Elon's basketball arena.

The highway- American Samoa 001, the main highway on the island. Don't go thinking it's an Interstate; it's really just a one-lane-in-each-direction deal; basically the equivalent of a state highway. It has more curves than Christina Hendricks.

Aiga Bus- The buses on the island. They're made out of heavily modified pickup trucks, and riding them is quite the experience. Right now they're my transportation to work. I've blogged about them before.

Aiga Bus Uncertainty Principle- I don't think you can ever be totally sure where an aiga bus is headed until it's almost there, but I'm now up to the point where I can predict with 80% certanty where most of them are headed. I think this one may deserve an entry of its own.

Future tropes will be added in separate entries.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Like a rerun that I worked really hard on!

So I'm sure that many of you have thought "Man, that entry on Adam's trip home was amazing! If only there was some way he'd make another entry out of it, with much less conventional blogging and around 110 more photos."

Well, today is your lucky day! I've made a supersized photo album of my trip home with captions for every photo, even the ones that would have been better off without them!

And it will even be open to those of you who aren't my Facebook friends, for a few weeks anyhow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Someone Noticed We Exist!

No, not this blog itself. But a major media outlet, namely the New York Times, did notice that American Samoa is having a Constitutional Convention, or Con-Con
I can't think of the last story about the territory from a off-island source that wasn't about corruption, a natural disaster, or a near natural disaster.

Oh wait, yes I can. Just a few weeks ago we were listening to one of the other radio stations on the island, and a Radio New Zealand news break had a newscast covering the South Pacific with more than one story about the territory. One was about a man who was smashing everything in someone's house with a hammer, including the police who showed up to stop his hammertime. This led to a follow-up story that maaaayyybe we should give the local police weapons of some sort. Maybe.

Those of you who are actually interested in the Con-Con can follow it at Talanei.com, our radio station's new news site. At least 50% more coherent than other local news websites, guaranteed!²

¹ Every time I hear those words, I get excited for a second, thinking that there is going to be a Comic Con of some sort. Then I realize what I actually just heard, and get disappointed.

² Offer not guaranteed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheesy Story, Bro!

So I was back in Cost-U-Lots the other day, and I was looking to get some cheddar cheese for making lasagna, and I come across a big package in the big fridge thingie. Having spent enough time on the Rock to know all the important things, I checked the expiration date.

It had gone bad almost a week earlier.

But more importantly, I can't find the big bottles of Coke made in Fiji with real sugar that I like. So I find someone to help me and ask where the Cokes have been moved to (she doesn't know) and that oh yeah, there's dairy products in the fridge that's about to start coming with some free penicillin, if you get my drift.

She doesn't know what to do, so she gets her manger. They have a lengthy conversation in Samoan. We all go over and look at the cheese together. Yep, it's still expired. Finally, he tells me "The lady will come by and lower the price tomorrow morning."


Wait, Google tells me that it's safe to eat until it starts to get moldy, but I don't really think anyone should be selling it.

Annnd now another site is telling me that it's safe to eat cheddar for at least 3 months after its expiration date. Nevermind. Sorry everyone, I'm just not much of a cheese-eater. Too late at night to erase this now-pointless entry and write a new one. No one in this story did anything dumb but me. At least I got my big bottle of Coke.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Visiting Home

Sooo, what I have here is an entry that I started while I was at home, but couldn't finish, because that's just how much stuff I was doing. Enjoy anyhow.

I've been back in the states for about three weeks now, and I'm still unable to answer one fundamental question, one that all visitors to the Rock contemplate at one time or another, one so common that at least one blog that I know of takes its title from it:

Was any of that real?

Seriously. It just blows my mind how everything here is so different. Or maybe I should say that it is not not different. Everything on the Rock is different, and here it's the same that it's always been. Understand? Good, explain it to me.

And those differences makes for some good stories. The buildings there are different. The food is different. The driving style is different. The ATMs are different. And if you plug your clock into the wall, time moves differently.

But suddenly I'm back home and everything is the way it's always been: predictable. The buildings are made with tile roofs. The food is classic American. You can use most ATMs without getting out of your car. Time moves at about the same speed no matter what kind of clock you're using. It's like I spent the last 18 months in a dream and have suddenly woken up. OR HAVE I?

I'm not going to spend 15 entries detailing everything that I've done while here, but instead I'll just offer up some moments that really struck me:
  • Mispronouncing the name of a certain bus stop in LA twice, and not getting laughed at. This is the moment where I knew I was no longer on the Rock.
  • Riding a bus from the airport seated next to a person who, due to some sort of cosmic coincidence, is on his way to Guam for the first time.
  • Eating lunch with my college friend and host Ben in an LA restaurant, and people behind me are actually discussing a TV show for more than thirty seconds. And in English!
Yes, I was amazed enough to take a picture. Riding on this was, and I quote, "Just like NASCAR!"
  • Being in front row of the audience of the Tonight Show with Scarlett Johansson as the guest. She's apparently been in some movies or something, but in my world, she is most famous for this photo:

  • Eating Krispy Kreme. Yessss.
  • Hanging out with, and more importantly, getting Chipotle with, Ben and our friend Catherine, the latter of whom was awesome enough to get us those Tonight Show tickets.
  • Discovering that Venice Beach has somehow gotten wilder since I last visited LA in 2006. I didn't think that was possible.
  • Spotting the Carolina Panthers' team plane parked at Charlotte/Douglas Airport

  • Seeing my parents for the first time in nearly a year.
  • And my dog, too. Was she ever surprised to see me!
  • And my sister. I saw her as well. Since it was her college graduation that I came home for and all.
  • Staying in a mountain cabin for a week with a view like this:
It looks even better if you mentally remove all the blue discoloration caused by my cameraphone.

  • Actually feeling truly cold weather for the first time since November 2008.
  • Getting my hair cut by my sister, who used a beard trimmer for most of it. Nothing like a haircut that involves getting as much hair yanked out as trimmed.
  • Watching my sister graduate college, complete with an awesome speaker who kept quoting Green Day. "This is the dawning of the rest of our lives."
  • Attending a huge party at the cabin that approximately 1 metric crapload of people showed up to, including a former Dean of the University.
  • Going hiking with my family
  • Going kayaking with my family
  • Going tubing with my family
  • Going fly fishing with my dad on an awesome guided tour where we didn't even have to untangle our lines.
  • Getting my car unfrozen from the cryogenic storage pod next to Walt Disney's head, which took about $80.
  • Slowly but surely learning how to drive over 30 MPH again.
  • Eating Chick-Fil-A. Yessss.
  • Going to Greensboro to see the epic play Avenue Q with my friends Stephanie and Tom and discovering that it's basically the perfect time in life for all of us to be seeing that show.
  • Giving my good friend and reader of this blog Anthony a lava lava, which he almost immediately started wearing as a cape, 'cause that's how he rolls.
  • Watching a music video that I directed in high school and then going out and eating dinner with the same friends that were in it. We ate at, of all places, a Filipino restaurant that's opened up since I've been away. I like it better than the one near my workplace.
  • Seeing Iron Man 2 and being blown away by the picture quality.
  • Attending a Charlotte Knights ballgame, which ended in a tie-breaking home run- wait scratch that, a really impressive foul ball. THAT WAS FOLLOWED BY ANOTHER HOME RUN BY THE SAME GUY!
Such a great turnout.

  • Going to the brand-new NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is the single most awesome museum ever.

  • While there, getting to be in the background of an ESPN2 show that was taping there. Yes, I called home and had it DVR'd.
  • Road tripping with my sister up to DC, then Delaware and the Baltimore area to see our grandmother and three other relatives. Of course, we also did plenty of the touristy stuff in DC.
  • Going to the beach in Delaware, which I just now realized means that I hit beaches on both coasts during this trip.
  • Going to Carowinds with family friend Mitchell, and, after going on nearly every ride, including the thrilling new Intimidator (that includes 10 rollercoasters, BTW) went for a swing on the Xtreme Skyflyer.
See that tiny speck by the top of the tower on the left in the back? That's where they drop you from

Okay, I've gotta break format to tell about this one; this picture just doesn't say enough. You have to pay extra for this, but it's worth it if you're completely insane. After being strapped into a harness, they tow you and up to three friends 153 feet up in the air. Someone with a bullhorn gives you a countdown, and you pull the release cord on yourself and swing, pendulum-style, toward the ground. It's been there since 1995 and I was always too scared or poor to go on it, but not this time.

One thing that's really unnerving about getting towed up is how you're hanging horizontally, with your face facing the ground, so that you both can't look anywhere but down and you don't know how high you are until you get to the top. I kept expecting to be there, but I just kept getting farther and farther away from the ground. Finally, we reached it, the guy below gave a countdown, and I gave the handle a yank.


I tried again. And again. Uh-oh.

"PULL THE YELLOW CORD!" yelled the bullhorn-guy below. I twisted around (a bit scary in itself) and saw that, genius that I am, I was pulling on one of the metal loops on my harness that didn't do anything. Behind it was the yellow handle. Despite ever instinct in my body, I gave it a yank and began plummeting from the top. I let out a Samoan war cry as I swung toward the earth at breakneck speed.

It's actually pretty fun once you get past the terror of that first drop. I have to credit my time on the Rock, a relatively dangerous place where your typical year involves an earthquake, a cyclone, and at least two flash floods, for eliminating my fears of silly amusement park rides that 100% of the thousands of people who have been on them have survived. Anyway...
  • Getting a new camera, so that you won't have to be subjected to all of these camera phone pictures.
  • Saying goodbyes and then flying from Charlotte to Dallas to LA (with a one night layover there) to Honolulu, only to see this unlikely mindscrew in HNL airport:
When you see it, you'll poop bricks.

  • Flying from there back to the Rock, on an unbelievably empty flight. We're talking about two dozen people total. Although I met some UH students who were headed down there for the first time and got to tell them all about what they were in for.
  • Fully realizing that I was back on the Rock when I called my cell phone's voicemail and was told that the caller is not responding at this time.
Of course, there were lots of other great moments that I will never forget, and good times had with family and friends, and lots more funny little culture-shock bits that deserve mention, but I'm tired. Too bad for them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Supersized Miniseries

Sooo, I've been busy not being on the Rock lately, but have also been busy fixing connectivity problems with my laptop and doing other non-blogging things like watching my sister graduate from college and lying in the nice hot tub in the cabin that we've rented up here in the mountains of NC. Seeing as it will probably be a few days before I get to write about my time in the States thus far, starting with a few awesome days with friends in LA, here's a link that I've been holding out on sharing.

It's a supersized blog miniseries of a couple sailing across the ocean. Specifically the section about their travels through the Samoan islands. Actually, I'm not sure that you can really call it a blog, as it appears to have been written sometime in the 70's and eventually copied onto the Web. But the story is never dull. The woman is named Freddy and it only gets stranger from there. I'd personally skip everything on that first page that goes on about the universe being hourglass-shaped and similar to a kaleidoscope, but that's just me. Also, if you've enjoyed my friend Jeremy's blog, you'll probably like this guy's outlook on life.

Remember that the links to the next few pages of the story are at the bottom, under the section titled "Log Book Three." Or you could just click here for the next part, then here for the next then, here for the next, here for the next, then here, then here. I really just wish they'd have made that site a little more easy to navigate, but it took me at least ten minutes to figure that site out. But I also like linking things.

A couple of things:

1. I haven't really read most of what's in that, but I liked what I've read so far and intend to read it all at some point. Except for some overly detailed descriptions of their cat's medical problems at one point, I have yet to find anything offensive.
2. In case you're getting confused, they're going through all of the major Samoan islands in an west-east direction, starting with the most natural and probably most interesting one, Savai'i. Of course, this is the one that I have yet to be able to afford to go to.
3. Most of their adventures in the Samoas appear to take place in AmSam.
4. If you really enjoy reading it, you can always go back and start at the beginning, which starts off with their harrowing escape from Chinese pirates.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh yeah...

Thought I'd mention that I'm about to embark on a monthlong trip home, which will mark my first visit to the mainland since getting here in November 2008. It's going to involve a few days with friends in LA, my sister's graduation form college, and numerous other mini adventures. I had a bigger entry planned out, but I didn't have time to write it.

Just thought it was worth making a note of.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Tale of Lua Samoas, Part Six

Wow. I expected to tell everything about my trip to Indie Samoa back in February in two or three entries. Anyhow, this entry should be enough to wrap it up.

Fagali'i Airport from the runway. All of it.

If you haven't figured it out¹ by now, the titles of this blog miniseries means "A Tale of Two Samoas." The two groups of islands share a common culture, landscape, and a lot of other things that it's too late at night to get into, but on another level they're very different.

I actually had something really long written out about exactly how they were different, but it basically came down to "Independent Samoa is way nicer because they have to earn their own money (as opposed to getting a ton of grants from the U.S.) and have to keep everything clean and at least halfway functioning in order to keep the tourists and business partners coming back. I have the long version of that saved where I really stretch out an old comparison of American Samoa to a career college student about as far as it will go and might get around to posting it some day.

I also realized how many Samoans living in AmSam are really from Independent Samoa, aren't all that crazy about The Rock, and just there to work. Kinda like me. Except for that part about being from Samoa.

Reefs off Upolu

I don't really have much more to say for this entry. Just enjoy the pictures of the flight back.


Approaching Cape Taputapu, the westernmost corner of Tutuila.

Getting closer...

Wait a second, am I going back to..?


¹Googled it

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Living in a quasi-third world territory with significant leftover tsunami damage, infrastructure here isn't all that great. There are power outages once every two months or so, and it's gotten worse since our friend Mike let his contract as CEO of the territorial power authority expire. In fact, there was a power outage just tonight. Allow me to break down how it went:

7:30 PM- Power went out abruptly.
7:35- Air conditioning is gone. Fear, denial begin to set in. Animal instincts start taking over.
7:40- Where did light go? Forage to find light. Find ancient flashlight so bright it once banned from Boy Scout campouts. Cave bright again!
7:45- Forage for food. Find hot food on stove, almost as if it had been there before power outage. Can't remember that far back, too long ago. Food good!
7:50- Airport officials take flashlight. Say they need to borrow it so 767 can land on runway safely.
7:55- Try to make own electricity by rubbing two stray cats together. Only a few sparks.
8:00- Try again, but add some car batteries and wire. Accidentally discover fire instead. Fire hot! Fire awesome! Find candle with picture of man named San Jose.* Wonder why man named after city in California. Fire burn candle!
8:10- Candle burns itself out. Adam laugh at absurdity of it all (and at bad pun about San Jose). Adam only pawn in game of life.
8:15- Realize I never made bed. Fashion crude stone tools, skin leopard to make a bed.
8:20- Can't let food in fridge go to waste. Mix animal blood with taco sauce from fridge to make paint. Begin work on elaborate cave painting.
8:30- Power came back on. Decided to finish cave painting.

*Readers with good memories will get it

Thursday, April 15, 2010


At least it happened in Hawaii and not here:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Tale of Lua Samoas, Part Five

So after brunch, we went out to see Apia during the day.

The original Mr. LavaLava's, named after Samoa's first pimp daddy.

A Coke bottled in the Vailima plant.
750 ml. That's, what? 10 gallons?

So then we went out for a drive to find a nice beach to swim at. Problem was, it was Sunday, and most people here don't allow swimming on a Sunday, because...they don't know, actually. And I've asked. It's just an unquestioned tradition. So we drove around for a while looking for beaches where we could swim.

Canada? What are you doing way out here?
Useless fact: In my nearly 18 months of living in the Samoas, I have met people from as far away as Italy and Madagascar, but never any Canadians.

We went to another nice beach where we weren't allowed to swim.

As far as we could tell, this is what Canada is building there, very close to that same beach. They're climate change-proof fales or something.

So we went down a different road.
And passed some horses, the first ones I've seen since I left home. It was such an unexpected sight to see one by the road, it might as well have been a llama.
So then we arrived at the waterfall.

It has a nice overlook at the top of the steps.
This is actually one of two of Kolio's neighbors who went with us that I haven't mentioned yet.

And we finally got to go swimming here. But I don't have any pictures of that, because I was, you know, swimming.
It's actually a lot bigger than it looks in this pictures. And a lot less overexposed.

That's better.

It made for some really great swimming. It was deep enough that I couldn't even sense where the bottom was, which meant that you could jump in from some fairly high places. The current right below the waterfall is also pretty strong (pushing you away from the waterfall, not anything dangerous).

Then I had to get ready to go back to the Rock. But I still have one more entry to write about my trip back and some general reflections that finally explain the title that I've been using for this series of posts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Tale of Lua Samoas, Part 4

So the next day, back at Kolio's, we start the day with a nice breakfast that I don't have any pictures of. But for lunch, everything is cooked on an umu. Umus are made as follows. A lot of these pictures are pretty blurry, but I'll try to remember what I can.

1. Start a small fire and let it burn a bit. Either that or put tinfoil over a bunch of reddish logs.

2. Dump the hot coals off of the sheet of metal onto a pile of rocks. Put out any remaining fire by stabbing it with a pointed stick.

3. Put a couple of foods, such as uh...yellow-looking things right up next to the coals.

4. Yeah, this one really does involve tin foil. Wrap up whatever it is you're cooking and get it ready. And make sure you have plenty of leaves.

5. Tinfoil things
Hot Coals

Yeah, sometimes I'm too lazy to use sentences.

6. Put more leaves on top of the whole shebang. That should make it all oven-like.

This dog is eating breadfruit. Your argument is invalid.

7. Take pictures of dogs behind you while you wait for it to cook.

8. If you want to split open coconuts, sit on the wooden part of this thing and spike them on the pointy metal part. But you really should have done that before we started cooking. What's wrong with you? Haven't you done this before? Sheeish!*

8. When it's done, it should look something like this. Especially if you put a leaf-basket on top.

*No, they didn't do that part out of order, I just took that picture out of order. That's the joke. They know what they're doing.