Monday, September 6, 2010

Did you miss me?

Niuatoputapa, Tonga

Been a bit of time since I wrote last and alot of miles covered. Left American Samoa on 8/15 for a 12 day trip home to help get Zak off to McGill. It was way too short a time at home and I am so sorry to have not seen everyone I would have liked to connect with. I did however have a few choice visits with those near and dear and had some wonderful time with my beloved grandaughter (she changes so rapidly that visiting with her was very key) Zak and I had a great time in Montreal and I feel like he is in a perfect spot for him to explore this new phase of independence. He was pretty independent the past 9 months but had sister and then grandma very close by...this is the real deal but I feel like he is ready to fly!! I LOVE Montreal and it's energy and am totally psyched that we will now have the excuse to go there a few times a year. Also means we will see more of our brother and sister in law and kids in Vermont as it is a perfect stopping point or they would be able to meet us in Montreal at times perhaps. They treated me to a wonderful birthday meal and mini-celebration when I stayed there on my way back.

I had 2 days in Palo Alto with brother Eric and Katie and Lily and Alyson as I flew East to West. Arrived for Aly's 21st birthday which was fun to help celebrate. What a lovely young lady she has grown into!! Did not see that much of Lil as her social schedule is rather full but she looks great and is the same smiling girl she has been her whole life. Got in a nice visit with my childhood best friend Evvie and also a short but sweet visit with longtime surrogate father Sid (Sierra was born in his 2nd home in Inverness some 35+ years ago). All in all it was a perfect way to break up the trip back to Samoa and really made the travels so so much easier than the trip from hell of 2 redeyes to go home. My friend Janet Spurr was on vaca in Hawaii so she was able to meet me there and travel back to Samoa with me for a short but sweet 4 day visit with us.

What we arrived to in American Samoa was pretty awesome. Every minute of every day was filled with activities planned by various members of the village of Fagasa (Forbidden Bay) where the boat was anchored. Bill and Gram had made great inroads into the REAL Samoa and we were hosted by this village in a most remarkable way. There hasn't been a boat here in years and years and their curiosity was only rivaled by their generosity. The nature of the Samoan culture is family is all important and family extends to many generations, cousins,and even strangers like us. We were fed and taken all over the island to see their favorite places. They gave us gifts and extended so many courtesies that it was almost embarrassing. So many parts of the island are still trying to recover from the tsunami that devasted the place last Sept. Many people lost everything and it is only because of the extended family thing that they have been able to recover. We had one really fun lunch out at a place called Tisa's Barefoot Bar and were able to learn alot of the history of the island and it's people from Tisa's son Jason who was there for a month or so. He generally fishes out of Alaska but comes home each year to spell someone else from the responsibilities of the restaurant. Sili,one of the chiefs of the village of Fangasa made us an UMU which is the traditional barbeque that is cooked in the earth. It was an amazing feast and quite a feat to watch. His "boys" (sons and nephews most likely) did the whole thing. They do not eat with us, the guests but stood over us fanning us to keep flies away and heat at bay...a bit uncomfortable for the likes of me but again part of their culture. The respect and reverence that the young people show their elders is pretty amazing and really a shocking counterpart to our American ways. Very well behaved and very curious about us as palangies (foreigners). Before the umu we had gone to the school that our friend Evelyn was principal of and repeated the slide show that Bill and Gram had also presented to the school in Fagasa. We were amazed by the interest and knowledge of the world we have just travelled by these 5th, 6th and 7th graders. Also had the honor of taking Sili to the next bay (Massacre Bay) in our dinghy to allow him to pay respects to his departed auntie who is buried there. It was a lovely beach and we had a picnic lunch and did a bit of swimming and snorkeling.

Evelyn is this amazing American who had lived in Samoa since she was a teenager and is married to the high chief of Fangasa-Lilio. He is one of the kindest men we have met and has such a quiet yet strong and powerful presence that being with him was really cool. We went out our last night there to a dance performance and really enjoyed our time with the two of them. Love the way the men dress up in nice shirts or even ties and jackets and then a lava lava which is like a wraparound skirt! And then there was David ( a fellow who also has been here from Mass. for many years) and his Samoan wife Fui. They had us to dinner, had us to breakfast and gave us many gifts which we will cherish forever. They also drove Janet to the airport after dinner on Thurs. and stayed with her in the line which i am sure was very helpful for her as the chaos at the airport was rather extraordinary in my experience. Fui and David still have two sweet kids still at home who giggled and smiled whenever we spoke to them. We were gifted an AVA bowl (which is a bowl for Kava, a traditional drink of these parts) From what I have read it is drug like in its effects and I wonder when we will get to try out our bowl! It is a beautiful wood piece with 10 legs and will grace our vanity once we put some pads on the feet...

We had hoped to stay for church on Sunday so that I could experience the singing and togetherness of the service but weather dictated a rather abrupt departure on Sat. early afternoon. So off we were, headed 200 miles to our next port and a new country. It was a horrible sail...the worst of the trip according to Gram who actually got seasick but with 30 knot winds at least it was very fast. Arrived in Nuiatoputapu (most Americans call it new potatoes when pronunciation gets their tongue) the northernmost island in the Tongan chain yesterday at 11am...only 22 hrs after leaving Fangasa. We lost Sunday in the process as we have now crossed the international dateline.
Looking forward to going ashorethis morning and getting our first taste at Tongan culture which we have heard is very similar to that of Samoa. Guess for me I will just keep being Queen for a Day...that is how they make me feel!!! Hope to hear some news from abroad as any of you find the time. We were happy to hear that Earl missed the US of course and wonder what else besides fall and apples Sept will bring.

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