‘Aunu’u Island

Today Alexander and I dropped the ladies off at the courthouse and took the ferry to ‘Aunu’u.

(A quick Language Lesson:  When a Samoan word has an apostrophe in it, it signifies a Glottal Stop.  This is a fancy term for the quick closed-throat sound you make in the middle of the word “uh-oh.”  Samoan has a lot of these.)

‘Aunu’u is about a mile off the eastern tip of Tutuila (the big island we live on) and about a mile in diameter.  There is one village and a few people who live back in the rain forest.  It’s much cleaner, quieter, and less crowded than the densely-populated part of Tutuila where we spend most of our time.  We walked along the shore around the southern half of the island and then cut back across the middle.

The ‘Aunu’u “harbor” and the “fleet” of ferries, with Tutuila in the background:

Some kind of crazy tropical tree:

A Taro plantation with irrigation ditches.  The ditches were full of black fish with orange fins.

These old tanks are used as bells all over Samoa:

Some of them are used as school or church bells, but the main use is for Sa.  At about 5:45pm every day, a group of men called Amunga ring the bells.  This is the signal to get ready for Sa, which is  15 minutes of quiet prayer and meditation starting at 6pm.  The Amunga ring the bells again at 6 and then stand on the street looking menacing.  Driving is allowed on the main road if you are passing through a village (as long as you aren’t playing loud music), but if you stop, drive on side streets, or walk outside during Sa, the Amunga will ask you to sit down or go into a house to observe Sa.  In our village there are no Amunga and Sa isn’t enforced (maybe because there are a lot of off-islanders in Tafuna), but things get noticeably quieter, and in smaller villages it’s a pretty big deal.  Someone told me that the Amunga are a good example of the Samoan way:  “Respect our beautiful, peaceful traditions or we’ll beat the crap out of you.”

Anyway, we weren’t on ‘Aunu’u during Sa, I just thought my nice picture of a bell was a good time to mention it.  I doubt I’ll be taking any pictures of the Amunga.

A typical Samoan church:

I can never tell what denomination they are (except the Catholic churches which have a lot of statues of the Virgin Mary).  They all have this style of architecture, though.

After returning to Tutuila we stopped at the wreck of an old Korean fishing ship:

That’s ‘Aunu’u in the background.


2 responses to “‘Aunu’u Island

  1. Are the Amunga affiliated with a particular religious group? Is it some sort of Samoan version of Christianity?

    You should post some photos of your new Russian buddies when you get the chance!

  2. Christianity is a big part of American Samoa, but I’m not sure if Sa is a religious thing or more of a social thing that predates the island’s conversion to Christianity. (I don’t think there’s a specific “Samoan version of Christianity.” There are Baptists, Catholics, Mormons etc. just like on the mainland.) Most villages have several denominations of churches, but in villages that enforce Sa it’s observed by everyone. My guess is that the Amunga are more of an informal civic organization, sort of like Neighborhood Watch.

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