Get ready for all the great things that took place on Friday. Left at 8am for Fagatele Bay - Natioanl Marine Sanctuary. It is the only national marine sanctuary south of the equator and is the most remote one. Pretty cool. We met a few workers from NOAA, and we got to do some snorkeling. Lots of bright fish in the reef. I didn't go far into the reef, as I haven't snorkeled in 3 years (first and last time was when I was on the Galapagos Islands). Nobody saw any sea turtles yet, though. It was also a nice little hike down to the bay. I'll be going back there at some point this year.
Next on the list... a presentation from the National Park Service. Best presentation ever! It was nicely put together, I learned about the area, I want to hike every single trail they have, and my love for National Parks grew. I also love the National Park puletasi. So cool! Ranger Sam and Ranger Pali spoke with us, and I am a little jealous of their jobs. Education outreach like this si one of my favorite things. Throughout the presentation I decided that working for the National Park Service for a while at some point in my life is now on the bucket list. Aaaack. You just should have seen my face throughout the presentation and after. I felt elated and so excited. Sounds a bit ridiculous. I remember checking out the NPS job application once. Definitely going to fill it out sometime. I could even just volunteer there. That's how Ranger Sam ended up with his job here. I asked at the end of the presentation. I also told Pali that working for the NPS is on my list, and she said I will do it :-)
Spent a little time just chilling and chatting with a few people before we headed to the market in Fagatago - First Friday! The market has a lot more vendors including crafts in addition to food on Fridays, plus on First Friday there are food options and entertainment. I had so much fun there. One of the cultural experiences that is unique here. Will definitely be doing this again. I had some supoesi for $1, which is as soup with papaya in it.
Met my landlord, as she was selling some traditional Samoan dessert. It had sugar, coconut milk, and something else in it. Kinda reminded me of a marshmallow texture. It was good. This may have to be one of my new profile pictures below. The sky in the background looks nice, yeah? I also bought a flower for my hair - it's sort of a thing here.
So word spread that my birthday was August 4th, so a few girls brought me a cupcake. I remember seeing the little girls at the stand telling us about them as their aunt makes them. I had a strawberry bubble gum one. Yum. Thanks Megan and Melanie!
Fresh coconuts were also available. It came with a straw so you could drink the water first, and then they cracked it open for you to eat the coconut. Oh my goodness! So different from the dried coconut we use in baking. Delicious! I'm definitely getting one of these next time I'm there. Megan was nice and shared with me.
The entertainment was provided by a youth group and some churches. They were awesome! It was so cool to see the confidence these kids have when they are singing.
There waas also some traditional Samoan dance:
And a creative dance team with "Team Challenge". They were amazing, and there routines were so cool. They did at least four while I was sitting there. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. I told a few of the girls after that I really liked their routines.
In addition to the flower I picked up for my hair, I found a ring to wear. My Samoan ring. Turtles are very sacred here, I love turtles, and my favorite color is blue. My little birthday present to myself. I also was on the lookout for a ring, as I sorta broke the one I got in the desert at the beginning of the summer. It still sits in my jewelry bowl, but I don't want to wreck it anymore. I wear my bracelet from Ecuador every day, so now I have my Samaon piece of jewelry to wear all the time. I may still find a way to fix my desert ring or make it into something else. Hmmm. I'll work on it.
Okay, so left the market about 8:30 and four of us started walking a ways to see if a bus came by. Megan, Sarah, Hannah, and I were the last ones still there. We waited by a bus stop for a bit, and then a pickup pulled in with a family. The mom driving said they were headed to the Tafuna area and wanted to know if we'd like a ride, as long as some of us didn't mind riding in the back with her boys. They were such a nice family. Was the perfect ride home! Hannah rode up front and chatted a bunch with the mom. The rest of us were in the back with the brothers - Christopher, Nicholas, and Daniel. They all go to a private high school. We chatted about school, Samoa, and general stuff. Then, Megan mentioned it was almost my birthday, and they said "we have to sing happy birthday." And they did - both English and Samoan. Coolest thing! Last year was the first time I spent my birthday with a group of people outside of family - my best friends from college. That was one of the best times I have had. Just adding on. This was a pretty neat experience to have Happy Birthday sung to me by three brothers -Samoan gentlemen in the back of their mom's truck. Thank you guys! Hope I see them around. May have to go watch their team play football some time. They asked if we had heard of Mom's Place, a restaurant, and some had. Well, their mom owns it. Definitely going there! May become a regular. I'd love to see them all again. A great family. They lived in California for a while, and all three of the boys have plans for college and a career. Really glad that their mom picked us up. :-)
After that adventure, a few of us headed to the Bowling Alley. Used to be a bowling alley a while ago, but is now a dance club. I wanted to check it out while we were still within walking distance. It might be the only place of its kind on the island. Got my dancing in, and then we called it a night. I had a fantastic day! Turned 22 back in Nebraska about 6pm here, and then at 12pm I was 22 in American Samoa.
Saturday morning woke up at 6:30 (yep on my birthday haha) as I wanted to check some emails and such before we headed for our last orientation meeting. I also lucked out and was able to video chat with both of my parents a bit. Then, Mom took the computer to Grandma Boschen's house, and I was able to see her. Then, she went to Aunt Paula's house, and I was able to see Aunt Paula, Kyle, and Rebecca (cousins). It was fun :-)
Left at 8:15 and got a ride with a few others offered by a nice gentleman all the way into Utulei to the restaurant at Sadie's by the Sea for breakfast and our last WT orientation meeting. Beautiful little spot as you can see. May have to go back there some time, as well.
I had french toast and iced tea. Mmmmm.
Then, Melanie and Megan asked the waiters if they could get a dessert for my birthday, and here they came singing happy birthday and everyone joined in. Boy, can't say I've ever been wished happy birthday by so many people before. Many Friday night and then Saturday morning. Haha It was very nice of the waiters, and I thanked them.
Chocolate cake. Lots of chocolate cake. I took a few bites and then started passing it around the whole group.
Here's what it looked like when it made it back to me. Perfect! I took a few more bites, and that was all folks :-)
Rode the bus back to our turn off, picked up my official WorldTeach skirt from the sew shop, and started walking back down the road to VoTech, where we are now preparing to leave and move to our housing placements. I didn't walk too far, and then a man asked if I wanted a ride to VoTech. He's seen us walking by and was really nice and talkative. He told me his name was Sini, but I can call him Max (his middle name). He also said if I ever needed any help just to let him know. It's so cool how friendly everyone is here. A friendly little island that is my home for 11 months. Well, I hope you all capture a bit of my elation over the past day and a half. It was hard to catch me without a smile on my face. Look at all the cool experiences I had in just one day, and the adventures have only begun.
Also noticed I have quite a few Birthday wishes from friends back home, all over the place. Thank you all!
Not sure if I will have Internet access right away in my apartment, so I will post again as soon as I can. Looking forward to having a bedroom to organize my stuff in and start at school. Pavaiaia village and Tafuna High School here I come!