Monthly Archives: October 2010

Two Weeks Later: Healthy Puppy



Our puppy has improved much more in two weeks than I had thought was possible.  Her fleas and other skin problems are gone- all she needs to do now is grow her hair back.  Her belly has filled out and she’s eating nothing but regular puppy food.  If she has any internal parasites left she’s not showing any symptoms.

Although she’s much more comfortable around us now, she’s still a little skittish.  If I’m sitting on the couch she might approach me and roll over for a tummy rub, but if I walk across the room towards her she still runs away.

All in all, not bad for two weeks.  The problem now is that, having rescued her from the brink of death, we’ve naturally become very attached to her.  Giving her up to a new family is going to be really difficult.


Back to ‘Aunu’u Island

Yesterday we took a trip to ‘Aunu’u.  It was my second time there, and Mary’s first.  We started by walking along the coast on the southwest corner of the island.

Then we walked across the middle of the island, through the rain forest.

We found this cove with some amazing cliffs and tidepools on the northeast side.

Walking back towards the village, we saw what may have been a young coconut crab.  It was about the size of a grapefruit:

We saw a crab just like this at Tisa’s, and were told it was a juvenile coconut crab.  Coconut crabs are a threatened species native to the South Pacific and parts of the Indian Ocean, and are the largest terrestrial invertebrates in the world.  They can grow to over three feet wide, weigh over thirty pounds, and live for forty years!  Coconut crabs lay their eggs in the ocean, and their young use snail shells for protection, just like hermit crabs.  They have pincers strong enough to open coconut shells, but also eat soft fruits and carrion.  Once they mature they grow a hard exoskeleton and don’t use snail shells anymore.

I’d like to think that I’ve actually seen them, but I’ve done a little research about coconut crabs and it’s possible that what I’ve seen are land-based hermit crabs instead.  I’m really not sure since I haven’t found pictures of juvenile coconut crabs.  For more about these extremely interesting creatures, click here:

Overlooking ‘Aunu’u village, across the channel to Tutuila.

On the way back to the ferry dock, we ran into a teacher I work with and her family.  Here’s her son fishing for snapper near a beautiful sea arch:

Delicious, Delicious Pork

We had a little get-together at our house last night and Jeremy brought a very welcome surprise: Filipino cured pork.  For a description of the first time I tried this heavenly delight, click on the link for “Best Weekend Ever: Friday.”

Mary even tried a tiny bit.  I think she was a little scared of how much she liked it.

New Puppy

We’re fostering another puppy.  This one came to us starving, mangey, and scared to death of people.  We weren’t even sure she’d make it through the first day.  We gave her a shot of antibiotics and she’s been on Ashley’s starving puppy diet: evaporated milk, raw egg, and a little bit of sugar.  After three days she’s looking much healthier but she still doesn’t want anything to do with us.

Our last foster puppy was healthy and ready to go to a new home when we got her, and she was gone after only four days.  It looks like we’re going to have this one a little longer, which is fine by me.  Once she starts feeling better I hope we can help her get over her fear of people.

Columbus Day

We had Monday off for Columbus Day.  It’s strange that this holiday is celebrated here for two reasons: 1) Columbus never came anywhere near American Samoa and 2) all of the reasons it’s silly to celebrate Columbus Day anywhere in the US (he wasn’t the first European to reach the Western Hemisphere; he never set foot in what would become the United States; he was pretty terrible at navigation- he went to his grave believing he’d found a new route to Asia; he was a mass murderer and slave trader, etc.).  Still, it’s nice to have a three-day weekend, right?

We didn’t do anything of note on Friday or Saturday- too darn hot.  Sunday morning I walked down to the park at the end of our street and got some pictures of the sunrise over Pala Lagoon.

The line of white mist at the bottom of the hill isn’t fog.  It’s smoke from umu fires.  Umu is the traditional method of cooking in Polynesia.  Meat is laid on top of red hot rocks, a layer of fruits and vegetables is placed on top of the meat, and the whole thing is covered with several layers of banana leaves.  The food roasts and steams at the same time, and the meat comes out impossibly tender.  On Sunday mornings the fires used to heat the rocks cover the whole island in smoke, and in the afternoon the island is filled with the delicious smell of umu being uncovered.  Samoans eat a lot of unhealthy American food during the week but Sunday is umu day for most families.

On my way back I saw these dogs sleeping on Fa Street, one street over from where we live.

It’s a good thing there’s so little traffic in our neighborhood.  Those dogs need to rest up for a whole day of being a menace.

The tropics are much more tolerable for people who get up early.  The sun rises between six and seven in the morning here, and by nine o’clock most days it’s almost warm enough to bring all movement to a halt.

With that in mind, we went to Airport Beach this morning.  My previous trips there had been in the early afternoon, which is the worst possible time to walk a mile over black lava rock with no shade whatsoever.  Today we left at seven and it was much more pleasant.

Snorkeling at Airport Beach was excellent again, and again you’ll have to take my word for it.  Someday I’ll get an underwater camera.  In the meantime, click on the link to the National Park of American Samoa for some beautiful pictures of the fish and coral.

Here’s what Airport Beach looks like from dry land:

The runway is just on the other side of the fence.

Those concrete structures are WWII gun emplacements to protect the airport from a Japanese invasion.

Some tiny, tiny hermit crabs.

And the walk back to the car:

Two Months

Back home, fall has started and every warm day might be the last until spring.  The days are getting shorter.  Coats have come out of the closet.  Stocking caps and wool socks won’t be far behind.

Here in American Samoa, it’s still shorts and sandals.  Last week was the hottest it’s been since we got here.  Today we’ve had, I would guess, two or three inches of rain in the last three hours.  And the rainy season hasn’t truly begun.

I planted a garden last week.  Tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, basil, and chives.  I’ll plant some squash and watermelon seeds once I dig up a big enough patch of the yard.  Everything’s off to a great start.  My tomato plants were eight inches tall and scrawny when I got them.  A week after putting them in bigger pots with some compost, they’re nearly two feet tall and starting to flower.  The basil seeds sprouted the day after I planted them and at this rate I’ll be making pesto in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that devastated much of the island.  The governor declared a Day of Remembrance; pretty much everything shut down for the day and most people spent time with their families, visiting the graves of the victims and assessing how much rebuilding still needs to be done in the villages that were hit.

Mary and I weren’t here when the tsunami happened, so it was difficult to decide what to do with our day off.  We ended up going to Larson’s Cove with a few friends.  I felt a little awkward going and having a good time at a beach on Rememberance Day, but if we wouldn’t have done that we probably would have sat around the house and that’s really no better.

We’ve been here for two months now.  So far, it’s been great.  The things I don’t like about American Samoa are all fairly minor details- the roads are full of huge potholes, it’s expensive to eat healthy food for every meal, I can only listen to baseball games instead of watching them.  Mary and I both get homesick on occasion, but an hour of snorkeling in the coral reef, or seeing the way the light hits Matafao at sunset, reminds us that we’re in a very special place and we intend to live life here to the fullest.

Here are a few pictures I like that I haven’t posted yet:

This is what Mary gets to see every day on her morning commute.

One of our breadfruit trees.

I don’t know how I got this picture without any dogs or chickens in it.  There are a great multitude of both around the hospital.

My insurance card- very official.

Some flowers in our yard.  I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re pretty.

Another shot from Mary’s commute.