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:


One response to “Columbus Day

  1. Jeanne Schultz Afuvai

    In Hawaii it’s called Discovers’ Day and refers to the Polynesians that sailed the Pacific. Your right – Columbus isn’t even mentioned here! And, they ate Captain Cook after he made the mistake of leaving as a god and then running into trouble and having to come back for help. That did it – the Polynesians figured a god won’t need help so that was the end of that voyage!

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