Sunday, April 28, 2013

Field Trip!

My first field trip from the teacher perspective was a success. The day seemed to be over and done with before it had even started. Perhaps that is my virus infested brain talking. haha More likely it seemed to go by so quickly because it was a whole lot of fun. You know I love learning, being outdoors, being in the National Park, and trying to share the awe, love, and appreciation for nature I have.

Might as well start at the beginning. Since the day before was a bit chaotic at school, I did not get a chance to gather all the students that were meant to join me on the field trip to go over a few things. That meant I did not get a chance to encourage them all to bring a bottle of water. Wanting to come prepared, I decided to buy a couple cases of water from the store across the street (just 30 cents a bottle) to be able to give one to each student that was joining me that day. Ended up getting a ride to school with our landlord, as he saw us standing alongside the road with my two cases of water.

My head was still stuffed up and muscles tired, but I was ready to go. Made it to school and headed straight for the cafeteria to see if the kitchen staff would be able to send us with any snacks. They told me they would get some sandwiches ready. Thank you thank you! I told them I would send a few students up about 8:45 to grab them. Had an announcement made for all of my students from 2nd and 3rd period that were coming on the field trip to report to my room immediately during 1st period. The bus said it would come at 8:30am, which I knew meant more about 9am; yet, I wanted to have time to go over a few things with all of them. (In my muffled weak sounding voice. haha) 

They were all excited to go, and I explained that they better be on their best behavior. Reminded them how much effort I put in to get this lined up and how fortunate we were to get a bus and have the rangers willing to take us out. We would be stopping at the visitor center in Pago Pago, first, check out the exhibits there, and get our instructions from the rangers. 

Our bus pulled into the parking lot about 8:55am. Climbed aboard, and I did a roll call and head count and then took my place in the front seat. My first time on a field trip from the teacher perspective. Lots of head counts to come. Sort of a cool feeling, though. Then the driver asked where we were going, and he didn't realize we were heading all the way to Vatia eventually, thanks to some miscommunication via my administration  No worries, though. He called his boss, we pulled into the "school bus station", and the manager had us switch drivers. He wanted to give me one that is more used to driving a bus out over the mountain to Vatia - a guy who comes from that area. Thank you, kindly! 

This bus driver turned out to be a lot of fun. He played some music for the kids, seemed to be making jokes, and even told them a little history of Vatia. Pulled into the Naitonal Park Vistor Center in Pago Pago. Great new visitor center! We were the first school group to be up there after the dedication, which is kind of cool. 25 students and I meandered a bit. They were like a bunch of 6 year olds on a playground, I tell you what. "Oooh look a this." "This is cool." "Take my picture." "I wanna touch this." haha

In addition to having Ranger Pa'i lead our interpretive trip for the day, Ranger Eymard also came with us. He is in charge of the social media for the Park, and he was all over the group photos for us throughout the day. He is Filipino and has been with the division for less than a year. I enjoyed getting to talk with him. He and I made the caboose when we were out on the trail in Vatia. Thankful for nice group photos and all the other photos he took, as well. Great photographer. Plus, he shared about 36 from the day on the Park's Facebook page. Can you find me in this one? haha

After a little talk in the center's classroom about safety, rules, and expectations, we were back on the bus following the rangers out to Vatia. My photograph shows us on the bus following the NPS vehicle:

Up and over the mountain we went, which was an experience in the school bus. haha. The driver did a great job, and the kids sure got a kick out of him pushing the pedal to the metal from time to time. Made a stop at the nice scenic overlook of Pago Harbor on our way up. This is a photo I grabbed:

And this one is courtesy of Eymard:

Onward we went. It's simply a fun experience to be driving up and over to Vatia. Great views of the ocean, the rainforest, and the mountains. Ahhhhhhhhh.... just take it all in. Some students brought along their cameras, which is awesome! I even noticed a few boys sticking their iTouch out the window as we went, and I asked if they were filming. Yep. "We want some video of the whole field trip thing." Cool. At least half of the students that were with me on Friday had never been down to Vatia before. I was excited for all of us :-)

All the way at the end of the paved road, we stopped and then spent a little time taking in the beautiful Vatia Bay along the rock wall.

Most students love posing for photos, and are known for putting up the Warrior "W" on their hands.

Then, a hiking we went. Well... mostly just a nice little walk to the Pola Island Trail. If one has a vehicle, they usually drive a little farther on this unpaved bumpy road to the actual trailhead due to a group of some not-so-friendly dogs. Vincent, of the Maintenance Division, actually joined us for this little jaunt and stood guard as we walked past the dog area. No problems, today. :-)

Not even one minute into the walk, I get some "Miss Boschen, it's hot." "Oh come on. haha You can do it. This walk isn't that far." Little pansies. haha It was fun for some of them I think to see me out on a hiking trail, as they all know how much I like to talk about it and share photos with them. Some of them also chatted me up more than I've had from them all year. Don't get me wrong, these girls aren't quiet by any means, but it was fun to have them just "chat" with me more. Elena said she didn't realize my first name was Jessica until this day, as that's what Ranger Pa'i and Eymard called me all day. You have to be kidding me? She is also a wrestling sister, like me. I do remember seeing her at the championships, and she told me every Saturday she was at a tournament watching (during the season). Elena also mentioned it would be cool to have a job like them. I told her those are exactly the kind of jobs I'm looking into these days. More my kind of teaching. Interpretive and environmental education, if you will :-)

Then, we have Tuli here. She stuck by me most of the day, chatted me up, told me her dad kept trying to call to check on her, noted all the new things she was experiencing, and by the end of the day she was telling me it would be cool to work for the National Park. I couldn't agree more :-) I encouraged her to go check it out this summer, maybe do a little volunteering, and talk with the rangers some more. That would be super cool!

At the trailhead for the Pola Island trail, there is a nice upward view of Pola Uta, the famous nesting site for seabirds on the island. Saw some boobies and other birds flying around as Ranger Pa'i told us all about them.

Here are some of the boys actually doing what they're supposed to at the time and looking up at the birds. ;-)

So, I had my big D70 out to take photos for the day, but I also had brought along my little compact camera in my bag. I decided it would be fun to let one of my students take some photos with it as we went. Some shots from a student perspective - an experiment. I handed it off to Christopher (Chrissy), and I enjoyed looking through them. Some great shots, some fun ones, and a handful of self portraits. haha

I enjoy this one below. Shows Miss Boschen with her camera taking photos of some of her students out on the awesome field trip in the National Park of American Samoa! I learned that a bunch of this rock we were walking on is basalt rock. Pa'i also kept reiterating that we were not to take any rocks from the grounds, as it is all part of the National Park. Learning about conservation :-)

Here is one of my favorite group photos from the day. We did a normal smile nice one first out on this rock with Pola Island off to the left, but then the kids insisted on a fun one, which Eymard entertained. Turned out nicely :-) They were having such a good time. I was, too, as you can imagine, along with my awesome ranger friends.

Here you can see Emi, Ranger Pa'i, Chris, myself, and Amona.

One of my fun little slightly artsy photos:

After our little excursion on the Pola Island trail, we loaded back up on the bus to make our way to the trailhead for the Lower Sauma Trail between the villages of Afono and Vatia for lunch. There is a stunning view of Vai'ava Strait from here, which you can see in the background of these students enjoying their lunch on the grass.

Many of us sat under the nice little fale, though, while we enjoyed our sack lunches from the great kitchen staff. They're always so friendly, and I love saying hello with a smile to them everyday and receiving hellos and smiles backs. Not only did they prepare us sandwiches, but they threw in some tatertots they cooked up quick for us in the morning. Yes, tatertots. They actually weren't too soggy at this point. Plus, they sent two cases of milk cartons. Tai lava! (Thank you much!)

We had some extra lunches, so I gave them to the National Park staff and our bus driver. We also were joined by some guys from the Maintenance Division. The boss came over and talked to me a bit. Asked if I had been hiking out on the Shoreline Trail near Leone. Yes, sir. "The guys told me they saw you out there one day." Haha, oh yeah." I did see them, and the trail was sure clear on my way back down, too." You all may remember my post about that one day. So, then I walked over and said something to them. "So, you guys remember seeing me that day hiking on the Shoreline Trail." They nod their heads and smile, and Vincent said, "I thought that was you." So, I grabbed a photo with the group. Thanks to these guys, we have nice trails to walk on as we enjoy the beautiful National Park. They all enjoy their jobs, too.

I also grabbed a photo with Ranger's Pa'i and Eymard before getting back on our bus. Yay for the interpretation and Education Division! Thankful for them, and I love their jobs. Two really cool people I am happy to know and will definitely stay in touch with. Eymard said this is one of the few photos he's actually in, as he is usually behind the camera. That's me most of the time, too. :-)

We had to leave a little earlier as the bus driver needed to be back, so we showed back up at school partway through 6th period. I made them all come to my room so we could discuss our day a bit before I sent them off to their last class of the day. Many said thanks again as they left. Some obviously purely enjoyed it simply because it was a day out of school, but they are high school students. I can't fight it. haha I hope together with the rangers and the experience in the park that we were able to encourage more appreciation for nature, conservation, and the island. I am still in awe of my awesome surroundings, and it seems that some of my students are beginning to understand that more. We had a great day, and I am beyond happy with my first field trip from the teacher perspective.  Now we shall see if it works out and I can get some more students out there.

Go check out the National Park Website if you're interested. There's lots of cool stuff up there. Also, if you have Facebook, you should go "like" their page. Just search "National Park of American Samoa." You can see more photos there, and I learn all sorts of things as they make different posts. Okay, okay... enough of my plug for the National Park for one day :-)

Headed home during my prep period after speaking with my administration about my field trip and finding out that we were no longer having the planned staff meeting after school. Did a few things on my computer, but then spent the rest of the afternoon into evening on my bed sleeping away more of my cold.

Saturday morning made a stop at the post office. Then ate some pancakes and drank 3 cups of coffee at Matai before checking out the wellness fair going on in Utulei. There was a pretty good turnout, lots of free goodies, samples of some healthy smoothies and salads, and exercise taking place. Didn't spend much time in town, though, as I had plans to watch TV and movies for the afternoon. I did end up feeling much better that afternoon though and got a little ab workout in, which felt great!

I was being picked up for little dinner with the Southern Baptists at 5:45 that I was looking  forward to - something a little different to get me out of the house. One guy who has been joining them for church as he is currently working for the Power Authority here had invited me to this dinner at his house. He is leaving within a few weeks and wanted to have the group over. His name is Mike, he lives in Tampa, and is Jamaican. His house is up the mountain by Pava'ia'i - nice view for sure. Good little dinner with fruit for dessert! Mmmm.

"Jessica, do you play card games?" Haha, I sure do :-) My family all knows that well enough. Then, we played this card game for a couple of hours - O' No 99. They tell me it comes from the 70s. It was a lot of fun. They sure did table talk a lot, though. "This is the most table talk I've seen in a card game, ever." They all laughed. haha

Hope you all have a good week. I am down to 5 weeks as this week begins. Hopefully a couple more field trips in some shape or form, a few lessons on conservation, a few guest speakers, some standardized testing, review, finals, and who knows what fun and adventures in between. :-)

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Decided it was worth $1.99 to buy an episode of the National Parks TV series on iTunes Tuesday night before I fell asleep. Had a feeling I was not going to feel magically 100% by the time I woke up, so got that downloading. Would be a good lesson no matter how I was feeling come Wednesday. I chose the "Best of the National Parks" episode to showcase on Wednesday in honor of U.S. National Park Week.

Got up and headed to school to collect the parental consent forms for the school field trips that may or may not happen., but Plan B is ready (as I mentioned in my last post). I enjoyed watching the video all 5 times, although my body was tired through most of it (even though I've done diddly squat for activity haha). Out of my 120 students, I can probably only name 7 or 8 that were actually paying attention. I still feel good about that, though. If I only instill a great awe of our landscapes to a handful of students, that's still a handful that did not have that appreciation and value before. Had I not shown up for school on Wednesday, all of my students would have been sent to a substitute with nothing to do other than sit there and do something that didn't bother the teacher. I am touching some :-)

One of my fellow volunteers shared this with all of us the other day:
“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself" Chinese Proverb

Made the decision Wednesday that I will be holding off on any real workouts now until I've got this whole virus out of my system. That also led me to the decision that I will probably not move on to Insanity Month 2 for Round 2. Instead, I would like to focus on my core a bit more while I keep up with my cardio for the remaining weeks on island. Not quitting - just changing course. I have already met my goal and then some. Still gonna finish this year off strong and keep it up when I'm ack stateside. Just changing the workout schedule on my calendar. I'm excited to push the core and abs some more.

Headed into school on Thursday, and by the time I clocked out at 10am, it appears I have a bus for a field trip tomorrow. My persistance seems to have paid off. I checked out early, as we had a short school day for some professional development workshops. I knew it would be better time spent for my body to go home and rest for the rest of the day.... Cause I've got a field trip to the National Park with about 28 of my students Friday! I will likely have some photos to share from that adventure with you all come Monday. 

Oh, and their visitor center was just recently finished. The location had to move after it was destroyed by the tsunami. When I visited back in July/August, there really wasn't much to see in the new location. I saw some photos on their Facebook page today, though, that showed the new exhibits taken at the dedication ceremony. I am looking forward to seeing all of that. The visitor center in Pago Pago is our first stop, and then I do believe Ranger Pa'i is planning on taking our group out on one of the trails toward Vatia. Should be a good time.

Onward :-) Have a nice weekend. Sort of short post, but it hits the main points of the past few days.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sick but Still Going

Sunday around 4pm after a good Skype session, a girl finds herself hoping her voice didn't sound too husky and manly as she appears to have a bit of a head cold, her roommate says she is going to head to Carls Jr. for a little bite to eat and just sit for a bit and get out of the house. The girl contemplates, thinking maybe she should just head to bed, but it is only 4pm. A little outting could do some good before calling it a night. She decided to finish sending some e-mails before heading out to hitch a ride with her roommate.

Together, they stand along the road with their thumbs out and within a few minutes, a pickup slowly goes by, backs up, and asks where they are going. The girls hop in the back of the truck with the slight cool breeze, and are kindly dropped off by Carls Jr as they bid the kind family farewell. The girl with the head cold isn't feeling particularly hungry, so decides to order only a side of tortilla chips ($1) and a small refillable drink ($2). She considers grabbing some soda, as she almost feels bloated or something, but decides for some raspberry tea as she really doesn't drink much soda anymore. Three iced cups of raspberry tea and she finds herself with goosebumps on her arms and a bit uncomfortable. Yes, she did just chug three glasses of cold liquid, and there is some A/C on in here, but seriously?

She decides to go fill her cup with coffee this time. Yep, a refillable "soft drink" container now has some hot coffee in it. Don't see that every day, but it works. The coffee helps warm her back up, but after her roommate finishes eating they both head back out for home. Step outside the door and immediately warmed by the island air. Within seconds of having the thumbs out, a vehicle pulls over and offers the girls a ride home. Fantastic! The girl finishes some things on her computer, takes a full dose of NyQuil and falls asleep with hopes of feeling better in the morning.

The alarm clock sounds at 5:10am, and the girl rolls over considering dozing back off. She only has a 35 minute core and balance workout for the day. Hits the snooze, and then decides at 5:30 she could feel better if she just gets up and gets her little workout in. Sure, her muscles were a little tired as she went, but sweating out some of the impurities of her sickness made her feel better for the time being. Showers, drinks a cup of instnat coffee, and is out the door for school where Mrs. Teofilo picked the girls up. Already her stomach feels a bit clogged as her nose runs. Not necessarily any better than when she fell asleep.

Decides on her way to school that she will probably just show a video to class, horrible teacher and all, but not sure if she will have the energy for much else. Shows up at school and asks the principal first thing if her field trip is still possible for Friday. She knows it is super complicated and hard to schedule these things here. Scheduling is not the specialty on island. Although she sent her proposal in two weeks ago, does not appear all administration had given her much thought, despite her attempts to ask every few days or so. "We'll try to get you a bus." Try.... Also, finds out she has to make her own consent form. For some reason she assumed there was some template she would just make copies of. Scurries down to her classroom, types that up, and has herself wondering if this is all worth her effort. One reason she hadn't tried dealing with it before. Sounded complicated, a lot of work, and may not even work out. She is also trying to set up a few for next week (all requested at the same time) to split up her large class sizes.

Being who she is, she decides she will still do everything she can from her end to try to make it happen. She explains to each class during the day how she is not feeling her greatest, so decided on a little health and fitness video for them - which is still scientific and beneficial. She also explains how she talked with the office and what the reality of their field trip situation is. Show up Tuesday to get a copy of the consent form, which will be due Wednesday. If she doesn't have it in her hands on Tuesday, you cannot go if the class actually goes. We likely won't know for sure until the day before or morning of. She is doing everything she can, she explained. She also told the students that if the official field trips fall through, she will offer to meet anyone who is voluntarily interested to at a trail on a Saturday or possibly Memorial Day and take them out herself. Voluntary basis, of course.

Also, 10 minutes before the first bell rings her Dept. Head stops by informing her one of the other science teachers is gone, so she will have to watch over that class during her prep. Of course, today. ha Fairly miserable sitting in her classes throughout the morning and had that awful dry weird tongue feeling all morning. Found herself finishing two of her three water bottles already for the day with classes yet to go, and she hadn't even been talking that much. haha Goes and buys a bottle of water before 4th period, finishes that one during that class. During her lunch, grabs a can of Nestea, which again she finishes quickly. Leaving one bottle for her last two.

Decides she really doesn't feel too hungry, but wants to eat a little something healthy. She asks one of the boys to bring her back a piece of fruit if there is any fruit. She could have went up there herself, but didn't want to be given a whole tray of food she wouldn't eat. Her student comes back with three bananas in hand, his friend has two for her, and a few minutes later another student offered her two bananas.

Felt like a monkey eating three banans for lunch and nothing else, with four for later. haha Thank you, students. Feeling a little perkier after loading up on a little sugar from the canned tea and the banans for lunch. More energy for her last regular class, who still handled her impromptu video lesson, well. Finally, the substitute class came in, and she simply showed a video for them. Remember, subbing basically means babysitting, and that's all the more the superiors expect here.

Packs up her stuff after the final bell, signs out, and begins her walk home. Tried walking slower than she usually does to prevent excessive sweating. Already feeling weird, but her efforts were for naught. Sweat rolling off the tip of her nose. Seriously? Is it that hot out, or perhaps it's partly due to her funky sickness. Head down most of the way trudging along, probably looking like a sad case. haha Made it home, ate a little cucumber as she was a bit hungry and needed some energy to head to the laundromat. Monday is her usual laundry day, and didn't really know what her Tuesday would bring so figured she might as well do it.

Made the 5-minute walk over there, threw the laundry in the wash, and popped in at the Bookworm Internet Cafe to see if Cindy happened to have any chai tea. Cindy did not, but she said she had mango green tea. The girl decided to give that a try. Green tea is really good for you. Decided to get it iced, sine she felt a bit warm, but could have sat in the A/C for a bit. She also decided to enjoy a little homemade oatmeal craisin cookie. "Just one, please," she said. Cindy replied, "man you have good self control." haha Enjoyed her little $1.40 splurge. So much cheaper than she imagined, as she was prepared to pay $3 for a chai tea. Good deal, and it hit the spot.

Sat back over in the laundromat as the washer ran, some weird show was on the Sy Fy channel, but she didn't bring her book since her head was a bit foggy with the whole head cold. A local girl chatted her up a bit as she waited, and then not too long after the wash was complete. Threw the pillow case (make-shift laundry bag) over her shoulder and headed for home. Walking along the road on the side she always does as she is aware of a house across the street near a little walking bridge that has some dogs that have barked before, and is strolling along minding her own business when she hears barking getting closer. Turns around to find the stinking dogs had bolted across the street after her. "Seriously, dogs, what is wrong with you?", she wonders as her heart beat picks up a bit. Shouts "Halu" and swings her laundry bag at them as they back off, and a pickup slams to a halt on the street. Back on her merry way she went. Last time she got that close was a few months ago when she kicked one in the face. Some of these dogs simply are vicious and come at a person for no apparent reason. Thankful she noticed them before they were actually up on her. Fun, as always ;-)

Hung up the laundry and decided she was just going to start a movie and fall asleep as soon as possible. Rest up and try to get this head and chest cold out of her system as soon as possible. Noticed that NyQuil can be taken every 6 hours, so she went ahead and took some at 5:30pm, laid around for a while, decided to eat a few more of her bananas for a little dinner, but then felt bloated beyond belief, laid there a while uncomfortably belching from time to time, but finally fell asleep maybe around 7pm. Had set an alarm to wake back up at 11:30pm for a second dose of NyQuil. Woke up a few other times throughout the night to cough a bit, feel sweat on her brow, and hear the pouring rain out her window. Alarm sounds at 5am and finds that her ear feels a bit plugged. Odd feeling she hasn't had in a while. Great. haha

Knew she could have gotten up and done her little recovery week workout, but decided after sleeping 9+ hours, one more sorta dozing off wouldn't hurt. She figured she would have enough energy later and probably skip Zumba to do the little workout before showering and laying down for the night again. Headed out to catch a ride to school with her 5 bottles of water ready to go in her backpack. No thumb and one of the Tafuna teachers actually picked the girls up. Last time he picked them up, he gave them flack for looking like Californians with their thumbs out.

Made it to school and made her decisions on lesson for the day, asking the students to take some charge on the execution. Ate some wheat biscuits and bananas for breakfast. Handed out the consent forms, once again explaining the current situation with the field trips and how she is doing everything she can. She also explained how she probably would have just stayed home today and slept had it not been for needing to try to get these field trips worked out. Although no matter how hard she tries they may not work with the school. Not letting it bog her spirits though. She will do all she can, and go to Plan B of a voluntary field trip if the official ones don't work out.

The girl ended up showing some documentaries to her last two classes as I she was losing energy. Had the students write a little essay about it, and most paid attention the whole time. Perhaps they were pitied into paying attention as their sick teacher came to school just for them, in strong efforts to get a field trip lined up. Thankful for their good behavior, though. The girl even learned some things while watching the documentaries. Learned a few things about jungle environments and the shallow seas.

The girl made a pit-stop in the office restroom, where she noticed some nice dark circles under her eyes. Thankfully not pale along with it (had seemed a bit pale the night before). Oye, looks like someone had punched her in the face. haha She started walking home, constantly thinking please someone just pick me up, and if not she shall make a pit stop at the grocery store for some more soy milk. She is really enjoying the one she currently has and knows there is only one more in the fridge. Not going to last the rest of the year. Luck be have it, though, her landlord sees her across the streets and waves her over. So grateful, as her head falls back into the seat thinking bout her dark circles. She got herself to do a little workout, though. Nothing intense. Just a little work for the muscles and to sweat out some impurities. She is committed, and it felt good before a relaxing evening.

Definitely does not feel the best time to be sick, although when is it ever a good time to be sick? haha Oh well, persevering through and will hopefully be improving throughout the week. Not going to let stress or anything else get to her. Stick with her healthy eating and lifestyle and remain happy no matter what :-) She is only 6 weeks away from completing her time in American Samoa. Crazy. Maybe Samoa is trying to tell her it is tired of her presence and thinks she needs a random jungle disease. haha Kidding.

Speaking of only being 6 weeks away from a transition, a friend posted a link to this article. Really great read. Although I have been working 40-hour weeks down here, I can definitely see myself hitting home with some of the other ideas it has discussed. My mind wanders to what it will be like returning to the hustle and bustle of American consumerism in mere weeks. Thank you, Krystal, for sharing this with me.

Hope you all enjoyed this little story style post. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me as I'm sick. I just found myself thinking in this mindset and thought it would be cool to try writing it that way and see what you thought. My head may feel a bit foggy but I'm persevering, taking care of myself, and still doing what I can. :-) Hope your week is off to a good start. We shall see where mine goes from here.

Final note: It is U.S. National Park Week this week. Also, it is National Volunteer Week. Two things I love :-) Have a good one.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Super Cool Spot and A Glamorous Pageant

Saturday morning hit up the 6am Zumba class, and Erica picked me up on her way by in the morning. I grabbed a bus straight to town after that to meet up with Hannah for a little breakfast. We were going to go to Matai, per my request, for the cheaper selection and not so chilly temperature, but they opened later than usual. Ended up back at DDW, but I enjoyed my pancakes and coffee there. Matai, I will come back to you one of these days! Then, I met up with some of the other volunteers for a little adventure I had decided to join. We were getting a ride to the easternmost point on the island, Cape Matatula, for a tour of the climate observatory. 

The lady who currently is working out there for NOAA, Christina, is only stationed there for the year. The site is part of a carbon dioxide monitoring program with only three other locations, including Alaska, the South Pole, and Hawaii. Christina spent months in Antarctica working there and some time in Alaska. Now, she is here at the remote site in American Samoa. Her first job is actually working for NASA as an engineer, designing probes for the space stations and satellites. How crazy is that? She is super fun, crazy, and energetic. It was really cool getting to meet her and speak with her.

Here is a view from the top of the climate observatory looking out toward the point of the cape. Stunning. Too bad this place isn't closer, and I would go sit there more often for many reasons. It's about an hour and half drive away, though.

This is the observatory and main lab building, where Christina works all by herself (minus her Samoan grounds keeper). Too much lab work and instrument monitoring for me, but it was still cool to hear her talk about the stuff.

Then, she took us down to the point. The carbon dioxide monitor is literally at the Easternmost point of the island, right by the ocean. Too much contamination if the wind is blowing the wrong way otherwise for the readings. They want pure ocean air, not that coming from the villages. This is actually some of the cleanest air on Earth here because of the easterlie winds. We actually got to take a little souvenir - a glass vial with the cleanest air on Earth. Nerdy cool. haha It's now sitting in my room and shall come back to the States with me.

This view is looking toward the north of the island from the cape. You can see Pola island in Vatia bay off in the distance. We saw some sea turtles as we were looking out this way. I've seen the tops of sea turtle shells out in the ocean before (when I was in the Galapagos), but never seen their whole bodies swimming out there before. That was cool. Christina also said she watches humpback whales out here some times and sharks. Totally a cool spot!

That is Christina with the big tattoo on her back pointing out the sea turtles to us.

  This view is looking back along the Southside of the island. Tula has some of the prettiest beaches I have seen on this island. They are ones I photographed the day Hannah and I came this way with the rental car.

Another reason I enjoyed this spot - the boobies! A whole flock of brown-footed boobies were flying around.  I may have even seen a few red-footed ones. So cool! I could have watched them all day. Boobies are birds. Remember, the only other place I have seen them is on the Galapagos. They're bright feet are simply amazing. Plus, they bring back some great memories of my trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

One more scenic photo I took from the cape for your viewing pleasure. You can see the small island of Anu'u to the left in this photo. Such a great spot again. I am very thankful for getting to check this out and learn some things from Christina. Great late morning adventure.

Christina gave us a ride back down to Tula to chill at the bus stop. Started raining... a lot... and we were practically already soaked in the whole 3 minutes we were in the back of her truck. Waiting at the bus stop as more rain came down, and then a lady with a truck offered us a ride, but we'd have to ride in the back. No worries. All the way back to town in the back of this truck, raining most of the way. haha That was sure a fun ride. Getting wet in Samoa doesn't bother anything. Just another day in the life. Ended up getting another ride all the way to my house from there, and it ended up raining a bit again as we got closer. Man, one of my rainiest rides home in a while. haha. We all laughed at various points on the way home - quite the experience. One of those "only in Samoa" moments. :) Boy, am I going to miss riding in the back of trucks in downpour rain... hahaha... maybe not.

Made it home, showered the ran out of my hair, and then curled up under my sheet for a while and just looking at my mountain out the window. Mmmm. Then, it was time to get ready for the pageant. Here I am all ready to go! I picked up this dress for $13 at one of the stores here.

Grabbed a bus to town, got there a little earlier than expected, and sat at a picnic table for a while. Witnessed this nice rainbow that spanned the entire harbor.

On to the Miss SOFIAS pageant we went. SOFIAS = Society of Fa'afafines in American Samoa. What is a fa'afafine you ask? I wrote about them a long time ago during orientation  I believe. Fa'afafine literally means "way of the woman". It refers to people that were physically born but want to be/are women. I wasn't going to an ordinary pageant. I was going to a "drag queen" pageant. That's the simplest definition  It's an interesting cultural case here, we can discuss more in detail when I'm back if you're interested.

Here is Hannah in I in our fun outfits for the night.The tickets cost $20, but it was definitely an experience worth having here. They put a whole lot more glamour into the Miss SOFIAS pageant than the Miss American Samoa.

Ended up meeting up with Aunty Tai and Lolo outside. I knew they were coming, and right away Tai said she would give us a ride home once it was over.  This is a photo of me with Lolo. She will be graduating from 8th grade this year.

Now, we were told this would last maybe about 3 hours. So much for 3.... try 5. It was after midnight before we headed for home. Gee wiz. I was rather tired come the end, but still very much enjoyed myself. Hard not to at an entertaining evening like this. Glamour like I've never seen it before, I tell you what. I've been to a few drag shows before, but this pageant took it to a new level. I have posted a selection of photos for your enjoyment with a few comments. The pageant included 7 contestants, a Lady Sofias category (the contestants portrayed what they thought Miss SOFIAS stood for - from princesses to goddesses to warriors), talent, patriotic swimwear, evening gown, and interview question. Quite the night full of various humor throughout but some good poise as well. I was impressed, thoroughly entertained, and enjoyed myself.

Chevon here was the master of ceremonies. Chevon won Miss SOFIAS in 1985 and currently teaches at the community college.

Here was the reigning Miss's opening number. The outfit speaks for itself.

This is Miss American Samoa - she came on stage for a traditional siva Samoa. She is rather pretty -Ariel. I've seen her at many other events, as well.

One lady SOFIAS interpretation - a goddess. Look at all that costuming! Nuts!

One as a warrior in some more traditional wear and a little weapon handling.

The sun goddess. Oye.

Wonder of the World - a rather creative costume. This is who ended up winning the whole shabang - roberta.

Patriotic swimwear time.

This is Trina, the social studies department head at my high school, and she was Miss SOFIAS in 2011. I knew she was involved with the society but did not realize until she was part of the winner's circle that she had once reigned as Miss SOFIAS.

One of my favorite evening gowns for the night.

Miss SOFIAS 2012 during her farewell speech.

What a night. Fun experience, and not something I do every day of course. Fa'afafine culture is a part of Samoan culture.

Woke up for church Sunday morning. First service with the southerners at Tafuna Baptist. Larry told me the lady that picked me up on Flag Day, Ruth, teaches at their school. Said she couldn't remember my name, but he put two and two together when he read my blog."Must have been Jessica". Sure was. Cool. Mandy also told me she was talking with Nora, a Filipon lady, that works at the movie store near their campus. Figured out she goes to Vai O Le Ola, the independent church I attend. Brandon dropped me off at Vai O Le Ola afterward. Made it home and relaxed for the afternoon. I've picked up a bit of a head cold this week (a few days before my little ride in the rain- that really had nothing to do with it, I promise). NyQuil in system and I am off to bed. Getting rid of this nonsense ASAP. I only have about 6 weeks left and haven't really had a cold since before Christmas. Lucky just a head cold. I still get my workouts in with that. By the way, Insanity Round 2 month 1 is complete. 

I had a good weekend, as you can see. Hope you all did something fun or relaxing, as well. Here's to another good week, everyone! Enjoy :-) 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flag Day

Made it to the Baptist BBQ, enjoyed my veggie burger with toppings and sides of pickles, grapes, and apples. Larry was all worried he didn't cook my burger properly as he hadn't ever used that brand before. Pefectly done, sir :-)

One Samoan lady brought some potato salad, and it was delicious! A different recipe than I'm used to. Didn't taste like any egg or mustard. There are also some macaroni noodles in there. Yummy. I told her how I really enjoyed it.

Nice little two hour social gathering in Happy Valley (the name of the area). Ethan and Larry gave Dan, Melanie, and I a ride into town as Melanie and I were spending the night at the Samoana house. Larry kindly dropped me off at the fales in Utulei where I watched the last few performances and sat with Aunty Tai again. She gave me a ride to Dan's, as she knew right where it was. Mike and Jess that live in Fagaitua were also staying, and we all chatted a while and watched She's the Man - a great Amanda Bynes movie that I've watched about 3 times now in the last month. haha Went to bed around 11:30pm, which is the latest I've been up in a while. Slept pretty well, though, back on a foam mattress on the floor for the night. Luckily with the rain, the dogs sorta hid out for the night. Last time I stayed here, I hardly slept thanks to the fighting dogs all night. They are rather obnoxious at this house.

Woke up for good a little after 6am when I received Hannah's message that she was almost to town. We grabbed some German buns from the store (5 for $1), and enjoyed those as our little breakfast sitting under a fale watching some of the fautasi racers load into their boats and head for the start line. German buns are little buns (almost donut like) that have some jelly inside of them. Didn't have many options for a little breakfast, but these didk the trick. Asked some girls we saw wearing some fautasi team support shirts where we should stand to watch the race, and they suggested Fagatago. Headed over that way where Dan and Melanie met up with us. There were 6 of these long boats in the race - fautasis. This is a big traditional race that takes place, and the winning team receives a $15,000 prize. I was too far away to really get any decent shots, but you can sort of see one of the boats here. All the guys are wearing yellow shirts - the Pago Pago team that finished 2nd. Was not quite as exciting as I pictured, but we weren't exactly at the finis line either. The day after my landlord said it was a really good start, otherwise not too horribly exciting either. Still cool to see, though. I don't see things like this every day. It's where they all have to row in unison and slide back as they do it.

The teams came from different villages, so we would see people drive by like this showing their support for their vilallage team. Nu'uuli actually had two different boats, but it is a rather large village. As we were walking along the road, I heard "Hey Jess!" yelled from on top of a hill. I looked, and saw it was some of those brothers that sang to me on my birthday over 8 months ago. I see them on the road from time to time, and I always get a big wave and a "Jess!"

Lots of red, white, and blue all across the island for Flag Day. Happy 113 years, American Samoa. Flag Day is the day that American Samoa became a U.S. territory.

 Then, we began walking back toward Utuelei to maybe grab some coffee at Matai before heading toward the stadium back in Tafuna (30 minute drive from Utulei). I saw all these NPS vehicles including the boat and figured why not take a photo with them for fun.

Then, Hannah and I continue walking and I decide I want to head up that little hill where I saw the brothers and say hello. I only ever see them on the road, and it would be nice to actually chat a bit. Their mom was even up there. Turned out the first brother I ended up chatting with I hadn't even met yet, but he knew exactly who I was as the guys call out to me every time they drive by. "It's Jess." The older brother I just met - Richard. He played college football in Kansas for a bit until he injured his knee. Then, I got to chat with Christopher a bit - one who was actually in the back of the truck that night that sang to me. The other two were Nicholas and Daniel, but didn't see them on Wednesday. Christopher greeted me with a hug, and then I met his girlfriend. They also had a palagi friend up there - Nyaz, and she suggested we ride along with them back into town. Awesome! Got to ride in the back of a little pickup with the wind blowing through my hair.

Chatted with the two girls riding in the back with us - Amatali and Rahne, one who wants to go to school at NYU and one is from Manu'a. These are all high school students, by the way, minus Richard, but I had a great time with them. Here's a photo of the girls. We stopped at McDonald's in Tafuna, where they all grabbed some eats and I just enjoyed a coffee while we sat and chatted.

Off to the stadium we went minus three of the girls. More Flag Day celebration was taking place here, including an ava ceremony, some speeches, a march, and village song and dance perforamances (siva ma pese). Got there just as the National Anthem was being played by a little boy on his violin. Pretty cool. Here, you can see some different JROTC and Boy Scout groups on the field as the flags are being saluted. They do the U.S. national anthem followed by a Samoan anthem.

We went and took some seats on the far side of the stadium, as it was much less crowded. I may not have been watching things from the front, but it was still a great experience.

This is a picture of Richard Manila and Nyaz Adison - my two new friends. Richard - the college-age Manila brother, and Nyaz - a senior that has been living in Am Sam for the past 13 years while her dad with his degree in anthropology teaches at the community college. It was great talking with both of them. Still funny how they just kept saying, "It's Jess." Nyaz also kept saying how cool I was, as we discussed a bunch of different things. Both pretty cool people. So glad I walked up and said hey to the guys. Ended up enjoying portions of Flag Day with some of my palagi and Samoan friends :-)

During the march, groups paraded around the stadium including a few floats. I thought this one was pretty cute with the little Samoan fale in front.

Here's a photo with Christopher and one of the other friends I just met that day. I didn't catch his name, but he knew who I was. He goes to one of the smaller schools here - Pacific Horizons, along with Nyaz. The Manila boys go to Marist. Once again, super glad they yelled down at me, I went up there and chatted a bit, and we ended up hanging out a bit for the day. Christopher went home after a little while, but Richard and Nyaz stayed til about 12:30pm.

It was so IMPRESSIVE to see these large groups of people from one village in their outfits performing dance and song together (siva ma pese). Seriously, wow. A cool experience. Each one included some narrating (where their voices could be heard - some mentioned some political things - according to my friends who were translating a bit), choreographed performances, and then a sitting portion with more singing. Each group was out there for around 45 minutes.

After watching part of the first group, Melanie, Dan, Hannah, and I went to grab some lunch at Deluxe Cafe, a few minutes walk from the stadium. Richard and Nyaz had headed home by this point. I just love the paintings in this cafe. On the left, you can see a beautiful one of this island. Melanie and I split a grilled cheese and some fries, as neither of us was super hungry. Hit the spot, though, and there was good lunch conversation as we sat there.

My three remaining companions all headed home at this point, but I wanted to head back to the stadium. This may be the only time I get to partake in American Samoa Flag Day, so I wanted to check out as much as possible. When I made it back, the Manu'a group was out performing. Manu'a includes the three outer islands - Tau, Ofu, and Olosega. A bit more remote out that way.

As I was walking back to my seat, one of my students called my name. Got a picture with Naomi, one of my great seniors. She is part of the Swains Island families. Swains is even more remote, and no one actually lives out there full-time anymore. I also ran into Dalen, who was one of my guest speakers from NOAA last week. His family owns Swains Island, as I learned last week.

I enjoyed a little snack. Tried something new - butter machi. Tasted a little like tapioca and was spongy. Yummy, though :-)

It was so cool to see people of all ages participating in these big village performances from the elders to the small children and all in between.

Swains Island put on my favorite performance of the day. Not sure if it was because I recognized more people in this group (although, I did notice at least one in each group I watched), or if it was simply different. So cool, though. I was smiling the entire time. As they entered, the guys along the sides looked like they were slowly rowing. Then, everyone whipped out their white pipes and did some dancing with those. Some running around, singing, and all sorts of cool stuff. I took some videos from behind, so when I'm back home I can share some of these with you if you are interested. I am no videographer, though.

Something just powerful, unique, and fun about their performance. So, who all did I recognize in this performance, you may wonder. Quite the array of people - one of my student, one student that was part of the dance from my day as Fiona, a friend from Zumba, Dalen - NOAA who is planning on playing football at NYU this year, a friend of the Manila boys I had just met earlier that day - Rocko, one of the head guys of the DOE, and one of the school bus drivers that has taken me home before. Quite the array, like I said. I wish I was better at giving this performance justice in words. Also, it was simply super cool to witness all these traditional performances. Once again, reminded of the roots of where I am currently living. May sound like a long day sitting in bleachers for hours watching dances with singing you don't understand, but the day was over before I knew it.

I waited til the end of the Swains performance, and then I figured I should start heading home. I was getting tired. Started walking down the road and after I rounded the corner, a few ladies offered to take me home. They both teach here on the island, one at a private school and one at Tafuna elementary. They both graduated from the high school I teach at and their uncle teaches in my department. They actually turned around from the direction they were heading to take me home. I was very grateful. I had waited like 10 minutes for a bus, but one had not come by my way yet, but I was tired and ready to fall over on my bed. haha. They were both super nice, too. I remember one's name was Christine. Great meeting them.

Made it home, had myself a little dinner, and spent a little time catching up on e-mails from the past few days before trying to fall asleep. Took me longer than I expected since I was so tired. I enjoyed my first American Samoan Flag day, spending it with some of my palagi and Samoan friends :-)

Yawned pretty much the whole way through my Insanity Cardio Recovery workout Thursday morning, but then was off to school for another pretty decent day followed by Zumba, some dinner, and writing up this blog post. I'm sure I probably forgot to mention something worth mentioning, but I hope it conveys some of the culture I witnessed on this holiday. Enjoy your weekend!