Monday, September 10, 2012

Fantastic Island Adventures with Friends

Friday went by pretty smoothly with science songs in Earth and Space Science Class and an autobiography and notes in Marine Science. During lunch one of the football boys drew this on my chalkboard. Pretty cool, huh? Wish I could draw like that some days, but oh well. Then, a few boys helped me clean up my room after school. It needed a good sweep, so they helped me move all the desks, we swept, and then put it back together. Definitely saved some time since I didn't have to do it by myself.

After going home and changing, it was time for our second First Friday in the Fagatago Market. Hannah and I took a bus from home around 5:30pm, made a stop at the bank, and then decided to sit in a fale by the ocean for a while. Food would be out all night, so we were in no hurry.

It was rather windy Friday evening.

So... recall last time I went to First Friday ended up getting a ride home with a family . Rode in the back of the pickup with three brothers who ended up singing Happy Birthday to me in Samoan and English. I saw all three of them Friday night - Christopher, Nicholas, and Daniel. Cool :)

It was fun to sit and watch some of the dances and singing again. Also saw a couple of my students. One girl gave me a hug, we chatted a bit, and I met her sister. One boy was also there, and he was actually up there with a group doing some song and dance. Pretty cool to see one of my students do that.

Then, a group of us went and hung out at a place in Fagatago on the ocean before heading to Evalani's in Pago Pago for some dancing. I got to drive us home that night, which was really cool. I've never driven a vehicle along the ocean before, and here I was doing it at the speed limit of 20 mph. Bucket list - drive along the ocean. Check.

So Saturday, Hannah and I had a plan to just get up, get on a bus, and see where the day took us. Got on our first bus about 7:20am and took it all the way to Fagatago, where we had some breakfast at Matai Restaurant. The widest cup of coffee I've ever seen, but it was great. I only slept about 3.5 hours after getting home a little late and then just one of those nights, but I've done it before and was really excited about our day. Takes a lot to stop this girl from going.

Yummy pancakes and eggs with my coffee and water.

We made a stop at the post office for some stamps and a little store for some postcards, and we stopped at the District and High Court buildings. Hannah has a law degree and practiced in California for two years. Cool moment for her reading the notices on the bulletin board. Then, we just started walking East. Made a stop to check out the inside of this house in Pago Pago that was destroyed by the tsunami of 2009. A bit eerie but a cool little stop on our adventure.

We walked for quite a ways and talked about all sorts of things that we saw along the road.

We also walked into a few churches to see what they were like. Really cool.

There's a car that looks a lot like this right at the bottom of Canco hill. Just sort of a picturesque part of American Samoa. I really like this photo. Saw this as we were getting close to the Football Federation (soccer field).

Took a little break from our nice long walk around the harbor in the village of Lelaulau for some tea and sitting along the beach.

Then, as we started walking again someone calls my name from across the street. Couldn't quite place my finger on where I knew him from, but then he told me he sees me at church. Yep, that's it. These chairs sat along the shore across from where he lives, and I thought they looked cool.

You see that little spot in the middle of the photo and a bit to the right. That's the flower pot island (of Fatu ma Futi) that we pass heading to Utulei from home. It was really cool to see it from a different angle. Hannah and I were discussing how this island has so many more curves than we imagined. In my head I have this nice oval island pictured in my head, maybe a few, but then to walk all the way around a harbor and see it is pretty cool. Even driving, but walking made me pay so much more attention to my surroundings.

As we were at this spot taking a few photos, (Hannah and I took several random photos Saturday) the head of security from Tafuna High School went by in a pickup and yelled, "what are you girls doing?" haha Didn't realize I'd see one let alone two people I knew while out this way, but I should have known better. This is a small island.

We got a little ride with a nice guy across the village of Leloaloa before walking again. Made it to Aua and shortly thereafter received another ride. He asked where we were going, and we said we didn't know. Just going anywhere. As we drove for a while, he then asked if we would like to go to his village Aoa. Sure. Before reaching the far east side we turned and went up over the mountain to a little village on the North side. My first time on the north side of the island. Really peaceful little village with a nice calm bay.

It was noon by the time we made it to this village, but there really wasn't anywhere to get food down here; so, we decided we better start walking back up over the mountain to get a ride on the main road.

Were partway up this incline, when a voice is yelling "Hannah, girls, come back down." We turn and look to find its our head of security from the high school, Uputaua. Back down we go and she says we should sit and wait with her for the bus. We met her husband, had a nice little chat, and they offered for us to come stay with them some weekend. Definitely will do that some time. Hard to believe she makes this commute every morning for school. Out of bed by 3am and makes it to school around 6. Rides one bus, stops in town for breakfast, and then on another bus she goes. I thought my commute was no fun. aha

One of her friends actually went by so we got a ride up over the mountain back to the main road. We were kind of hungry, so we made a stop at the little store on the corner and decided on some ice cream and some random Korean food. Hit the spot before we caught a bus heading back West. About a 50 minute bus ride back to Fagatago, but I was reliving everything we had done that day as we went. Great get up and go adventure.

Came back home with my first real sunburn since I've been here (put on sunscreen first thing in the morning but failed to reapply in time, but not too bad), worked on some lesson plans, and then Insanity workout time. 

Frank, Josh, Melanie, and I did the cardio recovery first. It's not the go go go like the other sessions, but still burns your muscles as you hold poses for a while and do some strength exercises. Frank wanted to do another one to sweat some more, and I was really energized so I did it with him. After the 30 minute recovery workout, we did 40 minutes of pyro cardio. Was a little rough but good. Since I was sunburnt, I sweated even more that day. 

Finished the day with a nice relaxing evening. A few of us watched some TV on the house up the hill, but I went to bed around 11. Figured I should catch up on on a little sleep from the night before, and we had a hike planned for Sunday afternoon.

The group loaded up and headed toward Vatia Bay, which is on the North side of the island and a place I've been looking forward to seeing. Big group of us Sunday. This is a photo taken of Utelei as we were passing up over the mountain toward the North side.

Our original plan was to hike up Mt. Alava, but then we ran into some people the guys had met the day before and they were telling us about another National Park Trail they were heading up - Tuafanua Trail. Switchbacks heading up, then down these ladders with ropes we went down to the ocean.

In the background is Palo Island, a great nesting spot for sea birds. I was really excited to see this.

I walked all along the shore with some others to Palo Island, and then boy did I get excited. Frigate birds and red-footbed boobies. Saw frigate birds and blue-footed boobies when I was on the Galapagos Islands three years ago. I was smiling from the moment we started driving up over the mountain, and my friends asked if I was happy. Oh yeah, I was as giddy as a school kid. Just happy to be out and about seeing things, going places, being with friends, and enjoying the adventure.

Here's a frigate bird flying up above. Distinct W shaped wings.

Here I am down by the coast where we walked down near Palo Island.

Frank set up a timer for this group photo. That's Palo Island in the back. Some teachers from Tafuna, Vo Tech, Samoana, and a few guys who work for ASTCA - that was our group. A few from Leone were with us, too, but they didn't walk all the way down this way.

Finally had an opportunity to just jump into the ocean. Kind of a crazy picture. I was going for the cheerleader jump this time. Went in 4 or 5 times. Then, the current brought us back in to a little convenient ramp to climb right back up and go again. So much fun!

After our hiking adventure to Palo Island, we were headed back up out of Vatia when I asked Frank to pull over so I could take this photo of where we were from the other side. Great photo op.

Next, we headed to Nu'uuli Falls. This was one of the few places the guys had not been yet, and they really liked it. For some reason, I was a bit accident prone today. Had some scratches on one of my legs from sliding back up to go jump into the ocean again and had cut my finger a bit. No big deal. Then, we're on the little trail to Nu'uuli Falls, I slipped, and stood back up with a sliced knee. A bunch of blood came out at first. Looks worse than it was. Decently deep little cut, and the photo made it look even worse. (Cool photo though, gotta admit). Compliments of Frank Lombardo.

They say me fall, and then when I stood up. "Dang, Jessica. Are you okay?" "Yes, it's all good. I'll clean it off when we cross the stream again. Just some blood." haha Not going to stop me from doing anything. Cleaned it out, it still bled a bit. Took some photos for the guys at the Falls as it was their first time, but then I got in for a little swim, too. Freshwater swim after swimming in the salty ocean and sweating all day. Enjoying the cool water, when I feel something on my knee. "What the heck was that?" I think. Then, something definitely bit me. Right on my cut. Whoops, not sure what it was, but figured it was time for me to get out of the water. haha. Kind of weird, but boy it did feel like something bit me.

Then, Frank and Melanie want to hike up a ways above the waterfall. Yes, please. I went with. Once again, a little cut knee wasn't going to stop me. I was keeping it clean and had stuff at home to really clean it out. So, up we went. This is a view from the top. Quite a ways up there. My camera didn't seem to like me some up here, so the one I have looking down is out of focus. I like this one a lot, though, with the cool lighting.

Several little falls up this way, and we just kept going for a while. Here's a photo of the three of us by one of the little falls.

Kept thinking of the Mile High Club from May Term at the beginning of the summer. Josh, Ryan, and I climbed every thing imaginable while we were in the desert Southwest, and here I was with two friends climbing up higher than the others again. I sent them both a message to say I was thinking about our Mile High Club days. That's what we called ourselves for climbing up off the trail. Here's a photo of the three of us in Big Bend National Park after the coolest free climb to the top of a peak by camp.

Turned back around maybe 5:00 or so. Then, I slipped and wiped out good onto my bottom. Frank saw it happen, too. haha Just an accident prone afternoon, I tell you what. Got right back up, laughed, and kept walking :-)

The descent back down to the bottom of the falls resulted in my sliding and landing on my bottom a few more times. Gotta admit, it's a tad sore today as I sit on Monday. Fantastic adventure, bumps, bruises, and scars just add to the story and memory.

After showering up and cleaning out my knee Sunday night, Frank wanted to come down already and get some photos from me from the day. He knows I take a lot, often when no one is looking. As we were on our drive back from Vatia he asked if I had 500 yet... haha... no.... only 117 at that point.

It was fun to look through them together and make comments on our day. He even said he never imagined he would be doing things like this while in American Samoa -the adventure part. Thought he would just be here to work. Better this way. So excited that I have an adventurous group of friends. I'm a lucky lady to have some great friends here. We hardly even talk or think about work on the weekends. Our time to just do something different. Many different island adventures this weekend.

Also, have I ever mentioned how being out in nature surrounded by such awesome things is a spiritual experience for me? I often just stand in awe of the things around me. Pretty cool. Here doing my service but gaining so many other life experiences, too. Thankful each and every day for people, places, experiences, service, and time.


  1. That Tsunami photo really moved me. I have no idea why but it just did. I am so glad you had so much fun and am enjoying your free time when you have it! Beautiful and wonderful photo as usual...again LOVE sharing in your adventure this way!

  2. I like your blog .Totally interesting also extraordinary blog interesting picture gallery. Give more pictures about Samoa Island.

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