Gross Spiders and Cute Kids

This landed on Mary’s book while she was reading yesterday:

I kill a lot of bugs and spiders in our house,  and a few are interesting enough to deserve a portrait before meeting their demise. This little guy looks like it’s half scorpion, half spider. (The book is At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. I strongly recommend it.)

A couple of kids improved their grades in my class today:

Flattering, but someone needs to teach Alia the word “hyperbole.”

Do I care that they were obviously made in two minutes right before PE started? No.

Nu’uuli Falls

Today we went to Nu’uuli Falls with Ashley and Jeremy. I’d been there a few times, but never with a camera. We put in into two ziplock bags to keep it dry and I’m relieved to report that it survived. I’m glad we took the risk because I was able to get some of my favorite pictures of American Samoa.

Nu’uuli Falls isn’t one waterfall, but a series of four very tall waterfalls and dozens of smaller ones.

Here’s a video of the first waterfall, which is a relatively easy walk from where we park:

The first waterfall is cool, but to see the really good stuff you have to be willing to do some climbing.

After a very steep climb and a walk along the rocky, slippery stream, we got to the second big waterfall.

Getting into the cold water felt great after the long, hot hike.

The next stop was at what’s known as the “Slide of Death.” I’m pretty sure no one has actually died there, but it’s pretty intimidating the first time you try it. Here’s Jeremy showing excellent form:

I’ve done the slide on previous trips. Today I was content to just jump off of the side of the cliff. Climbing all the way to the top once is exhausting enough- I wasn’t interested in climbing up, sliding, and climbing up again to continue on the trail.

After seeing me jump, Mary decided to give it a try.

Farther upstream we found a slide that Mary and Ashley were willing to try:

We made it as far as the bottom of the third big waterfall. Climbing any farther is far more difficult and dangerous, with steep slopes of mud and gravel. I’ve been to the top of the last waterfall once and that was enough.

The last two falls are quite close together. In this photo you can see the top of the fourth waterfall:

I’m really proud of Mary for being able to make this trip. It’s extremely difficult and a bit dangerous, but she hung in there and kept up. It was a really fun day and we’ll definitely do it again.

Pictures From Mary’s Birthday and Super Bowl Sunday

Mary’s birthday afternoon at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar:

Super Bowl party at Turner’s house:

Just another great weekend in American Samoa!

Boat Ride

Our friend Turner recently bought a little 14-foot skiff. Yesterday he took Michaela, Mary and I for a cruise. We made a lap around the harbor, then followed the southeast shore of the island for about a mile.

Seeing the harbor from the water was interesting. I’ve driven around it dozens of times but I’d never had this perspective before.

 

What We’ve Been Up To

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted an update! Here are some highlights from the last few weeks:

  • We celebrated Mary’s birthday a day early to avoid competing with the Super Bowl. A few friends joined us for an afternoon at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar. Laying on a beautiful beach, drinking pina coladas made from fresh coconut milk, eating the delicious cupcakes that Sarah brought- birthdays don’t get much better than that.
  • Our friend Turner hosted a Super Bowl party at his place and we had a great time. There were more Steelers fans than Packers fans, but the Packers fans brought better food. Brats with sauerkraut, pork ribs, and lime cake were the highlights. It was nice to see the Packers win, but what I enjoyed most about this year’s Super Bowl was hanging around outside without any shoes on. That was also my favorite thing on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
  • I’ve recently discovered Samoan karaoke. The level of musical talent here is incredible- there are very few Samoans who don’t have a great singing voice, and there’s nothing like a karaoke bar to show it off. The woman I saw sing “Crazy” last night was nearly as good as Patsy Cline herself.
  • On Tuesday nights I get together with a few guys to watch UFC fights. Nearly every week someone brings some really delicious food. We’ve had homemade chili, fresh tuna sashimi, wild boar, oka made with marlin that Jeremy caught (oka is an excellent Samoan dish similar to ceviche- raw fish and vegetables marinated in lime juice and coconut milk), and plenty of excellent steaks and burgers. But I don’t know if anyone will be able to top the lobsters and coconut crab that Jeremy and Kevin caught last weekend and cooked for this week’s Fight Night, followed by the homemade chocolate ice cream cake Ashley made. The fights were pretty good, too.
  • We’re going to have some guests from Wisconsin! My friend Dan will get here on March 7th, and Mary’s sister Emily and brother-in-law Nathan are coming on the 21st. We can’t wait!
  • At parent-teacher conferences, the mother of one my students told me she really likes my curriculum. I didn’t tell her that my “curriculum” consists of the eight or so sports I know the rules of, or that I decide which one we’re going to play that day on my drive to work.
  • Our rescued puppy, Lolo, is about five months old now. She’s doing well and has even learned a few basic commands.We’re still waiting for her to grow into those ears.

Back to Normal

We went almost a week without seeing any blue sky. When the clouds parted for a few minutes yesterday I was so excited I took a picture.

Since this morning it’s been mostly sunny and extremely hot except for twenty minutes of intense rain- pretty much the weather we get every day when there are no cyclones or monsoonal troughs around. The forecast calls for more of the same, and the nasty-looking red stuff on the radar map is all moving away from us.

I finally went back to work today. I had the combined 5th/6th grade class for PE and they played flag football (team names chosen by the kids: Bengals vs. Taco Bell). It felt good to be back at work, and I was happy that the kids I talked to during recess weren’t too upset by the storm. Most of them thought it was fun!

Since our fallen papaya tree’s roots were mostly intact, I thought we might be able to save it. Nate and Joe came over to help stand it back up.

Then I tied ropes to two coconut trees and the corner of the patio.

It’s either going to stand there forever or be knocked down by the next stiff breeze. Tomorrow I’ll go pick up a couple of bags of compost to cover the bare roots and give it a little help.

The post-cyclone cleanup is moving along, and for most people in American Samoa things were fairly normal today. Obviously, those whose homes or businesses were severely damaged have experienced a traumatic event. But no one was killed or even seriously injured (except the guy who fell off his roof; I don’t know the details but if you’re on your roof during a hurricane you’re kind of asking for it). The level of destruction was much lower than in previous storms the territory has seen, not to mention the tsunami that hit in September 2009. Everyone I talk to about Cyclone Wilma has the same response: “It could have been a lot worse.”

Samoanews.com has some pictures taken during and after the storm, as well as this article describing cleanup efforts and the process of assessing the damage.

One more thing that will probably go back to normal soon: the number of people reading this blog. As of Saturday, I had a total of 1,799 views since I started my blog in August. I’ve had 1,083 views since Sunday. A typical day, pre-Wilma, brought fewer than thirty visitors; I had 415 on Monday. Writing for a larger audience has been fun, but I’m ready to go back to my once-a-week posts about hanging out on the beach, and there doesn’t seem to be as much demand for that as there is for on-the-scene hurricane coverage.

Cyclone Wilma and the Monsoonal Trough

Cyclone Wilma has passed the southern islands of Fiji without causing much trouble and is now over open ocean. It’s expected to weaken to a tropical storm before making landfall again on the North Island of New Zealand.

Tonga is dealing with more property damage than American Samoa, but fortunately there have been no deaths or serious injuries.

Here are a few news stories from around the South Pacific:

Tropical Cyclone Wilma passes, no major damage to American Samoa

Monsoonal trough extends hazardous conditions over the islands

Heavy weather continues in the territory

Major destruction on Tonga’s Ha’apai from Cyclone Wilma

Tonga begins clean-up after Wilma hits

Yesterday’s monsoonal trough storm caused nearly as much damage as Wilma did. It’s expected to hang around for a few more days, causing intermittent heavy rain and high wind, but probably nothing as severe as we got yesterday. The only damage I’ve seen in our neighborhood is a few small trees blown down (including our papaya) and branches and trash scattered around.

I opened the local paper this morning hoping to get some more news on the damage to other parts of the island, but their reporting was frustratingly vague: “some” homes and business damaged, “several” mudslides, etc. Clean up has begun in earnest and power has been restored almost everywhere in the territory.

School is closed for another day. The weather is fine- a little light rain and breeze- but Ashley said the streets around Pacific Horizons are impassable. I’m not surprised. If we get anything more than a light sprinkle, I drive through axle-deep water on my way to work.

I’m not looking forward to another boring day at home. I’ve hardly left the house since I got home from work on Friday and cabin fever is setting in. As tempting as it is to go for a drive and see the storm’s effects up close, I think I’ll wait until things have calmed down a little more. I do have one trip planned: depositing my check at the bank and paying the bill for our internet service. Should be pretty exciting!