Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kids always surprise you

See the missing tooth?
We were joking the other day about putting Jake in school here since we're going to be in American Samoa for at least a month.  The more we talked about it, the better the idea sounded to me.  He could get to play with other kids, learn about the culture, and I would get an idea of where he was educationally (We're doing what I call first grade stuff, but is that what first graders are really doing?).

Andy thought it was a good idea so we actually started googling schools and really discussing the validity of it.  So I asked Jake about it and he immediately said no.  I asked him why.
"I want to be with you all day"
Oh, isn't that sweet?  But's a good idea.  "Just think about it," I said.
"OK, I'll think about it."

Later that evening I decided to give it a go again.

"Jake, have you thought about going to school?"
"I don't want to go."
"Why not?  It would be fun."
"I don't want to go."
So I thought I would try another tactic.  "Don't you want to meet other little kids and have someone to play with all day?  You always ask for someone to play with would have someone all day!"
"But then I would make friends and we would leave and then I would miss them very much.  I don't want to go."

Wow, I didn't see that coming.  He's totally right, I just wasn't aware that he cared that much.  We've always been the ones to leave, even before we started sailing.  He left his good friends Arlie and Jett in Norfolk, along with all of his preschool teachers.  Then we left all of his friends in CA, not to mention his grandparents.   When we left La Cruz, there were at least 5 little friends he had grown close to.  I had always focused on the fact that he rarely had anyone to play with, not necessarily taking into account the relationships he makes with the few kids he meets.  While I still think we're doing him good in the long run, it really does make you stop and consider things again.  We get a good bit of criticism about the isolation, but when people meet Jake they're always surprised at how smart he is and what a great little personality he has (I have no idea why they're surprised, look at his parents! :) ).  Not to mention how well he communicates with others and how content he is to play by himself.  He's just a go with the flow kind of kid.  I could second guess myself forever and never come up with the right answer.  I think what this little engagement taught me was to not assume that I know what the little guy is thinking and feeling.  Kids are amazing little observers and it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge and appreciate that.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stumped at McDonald's

One of the cool things about some of these islands is that you can always get a little taste of home...McDonald's.  Some criticize those of us who eat at the fast food joints because they don't serve the "local" fare.  But we contend that when the lines are full of locals, it's local food.  But I do have one beef with the place since we left the states...

It seems that outside of the United States, it's very uncommon to order a hamburger at McDonald's.  Cheeseburger, yes.  Hamburger, no.  It started in Mexico when I had to actually point to the item three times on the menu.  Then they would ask around and finally someone would say "Ahhh, Hamburgesa con queso, sin queso!,"  As in Cheeseburger without the cheese.  Whatever.

Once in Tahiti, it was even more difficult because we were ordering in French.  But they seemed to get Big Mac fine, just not Hamburger.

I had almost forgotten these troubles until today.  We went to McDonald's for lunch and since they speak English and we're dealing in dollars, I didn't anticipate any problems.  But when I ordered my hamburger, I was met with a blank stare.

"You want a cheeseburger?"
"No, I would like a hamburger"
"Ummmm..." followed by a long pause.
"Just a plain hamburger?"
"on the side?"  On the side of what, I have no idea.
"Just a hamburger"
"I would like mustard and ketchup and everything else....just no cheese"
"No cheese?  Just the meat?"
A smile crosses her face as she gives me one of those 'you crazy white people' looks and she continues to take our order.

When we get our order, guess what I got?  A bun with a plain piece of meat in between.  No ketchup, no mustard, nothing.  In any other restaurant, I would let it go.  But the only reason I go to McDonald's is for their hamburger and french fries.  It's what I've been eating since I was a little kid.  The right amount of ketchup with mustard and that pickle....small's perfect.  So, I went back up to the counter and asked for mustard and ketchup.  They looked at me once again like I had horns growing out of my head.  After talking to three different people, the final one being a manager, I got my hamburger just the way I like it.  Evidently, here in American Samoa, it's called a Junior Burger.  Now I know.

Andy asked me what I was going to do when I took my trip home.  I'm going to go to McDonald's and order a hamburger and hear them say "Would you like fries with that?"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is that what I think it is?

Tuna boats rafted up three boats deep here in Pago, Pago
I think we ate our first pig knuckle today.  I was on my way back from the laundry mat carrying my very heavy bag of laundry when I was bombarded with requests to buy bar-b-que.  It sounded like a good idea to me, so I called Andy on the radio and told him to meet me with some money.

"This is real Samoan food,"  the man told me.  "Next week, we'll have rice too."

We bought two plates and took them back to the boat.  On the way to the dinghy, we noticed everyone had a plate so we decided it must be good.

Well, I can say we tried it (and incidentally, Andy loved it), but it probably won't be a Saturday ritual.  There was a chicken leg and another random piece of meat covered in Ketchup.  Then there was some grilled breadfruit.  Had this been warm, it probably would've been pretty tasty.  There was some chinese noodle thing with carrots and cabbage, and then there was a loaf like thing.  After tasting everything, we determined the random piece of meat was a pig knuckle and the loaf like thing was "mechanically separated turkey," just like it says on the can at the store (Andy did point out that it looked a lot - and tasted a lot - like the vegetarian turkey loaf my parents eat).  Now, I'm waiting and hoping there are no side effects, if you know what I mean.

I'm hoping to get my homebodies off the boat today and go to the museum or the library.  After spending all morning at the laundry mat (I think Andy was afraid I was going to leave it for him to do while I'm gone), I'm ready to do something fun.  Tomorrow is Sunday and the place shuts down so we need to get out today.

I haven't had the opportunity to take too many pictures so hopefully while I'm gone, Andy will be clicking away.  I would love to say that he will keep the blog up while I'm gone, but I'm afraid that probably isn't the case.  So the next few posts will be a little more generic than usual as I'm writing them now and scheduling them out, but hopefully interesting all the same.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

At first glance...

I forgot to tell everyone that we caught our first Wahoo on the
way into American Samoa...delicious!
We've only been here three days and at first glance, we think American Samoa is a great place.  But before I get into that, there is one major drawback that took us two days to finally experience.  There is a Starkist Tuna Cannery right here in the bay.  We had heard the stench could get unbearable but the first few days we didn't smell anything.  Then the night before last, Andy was woken up by a horrible smell.  He actually tried to blame my breath on his discomfort...but it wasn't me.  Charlie the tuna was hard at work.  Imagine opening a tuna can and leaving it in your garbage for about 3 days.  Then put it in front of a fan and blow it in your face at a constant pace for about 20 minutes.  It happens on and off throughout the day (and night) with no apparent schedule.  All of that said, it doesn't hold a candle to the raw sewage we smelled in Santa Rosalia last year in 90 degree heat with no wind.

This is a rather conservative bus, but you get the idea.
Aside from the smell, the island is beautiful and we haven't really gotten to the "pretty" part yet.  The people here are some of the nicest we've come across yet.  They're eager to help out any way they can, with the buses even going out of their way to deliver people right to the front door of their destination.  For $1-$2, you can go anywhere the roads will take you on the rather unique bus system.  They make these buses here on the island and I think they're a trip.  They start with flatbed trucks and build them up from there.  The result is a funny looking school bus type thing painted in radical colors and decorated with anything from fabric to feather boas.  The driver is sitting down rather low as they've built the floor to the bus about shoulder height from the driver.  They play loud music and sometimes show videos.  But they drive well and give friendly little horn honks to their fellow drivers and friends.  We try to get on a bus at least once a day.

The grocery prices are comparable to the U.S....a little more expensive than the mainland, but not as much as Hawaii (and there's no sales tax).  The Cost U Less here is similar to the Cost & Co. in Tahiti in that it sells Costco stuff, but it is much bigger.  Almost as big as a regular Costco.  The veggies are still slim pickings but we have plenty of choices of bok choy, green beans, eggplant and bananas.  We've only eaten out at the fast food joints so far as we took a vote and that was the family, I can tell you the Carl's Jr. is fantastic (better than the States) and the McDonalds did not disappoint either.  The cool thing is that they actually serve you in both of these places and if you want a drink refill or more ketchup, they'll bring it right to you.

Our check in here was a little lengthy due to the number of offices you have to go to, but painless none the less.  You have to go to the Harbor Master in the boat yard as well as Agriculture and Customs (in the same building).  Then you have to walk a 1/2 mile or so to Immigration.  All in all, it probably took us 2 hours...not bad.  And you don't have to pay until you leave.  Although this one leaves us baffled as we're American and it seems pretty sketchy to have to pay, but it's an island and those are their rules and well, frankly, I don't care...they have to make their money somehow.

Today I ventured out to the laundry mat and finally washed our sheets.  They had 36 machines and 42 dryers.  I washed 2 loads for $5.  I was in heaven.  And it's all within walking distance of landing our dinghy.

Jake and a local boy, playing on the dance floor of the Mexican
Tonight we went to a local Mexican restaurant...I know, I know....but it wasn't that bad.  Evalina's....  Jake made a friend and about 4 boats enjoyed some good company and food, if not a very quick meal.

Not sure what is on the agenda for tomorrow, but a lot of boats have pulled in the last few days so I anticipate something social going on soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pictures from Suwarrow

Well, it wouldn't be fun if we didn't have our credit cards cut off at least once every 6 months.  I don't know why I didn't expect it, but I didn't.  So now, we have two credit cards that have been cut off.  One happened in Tahiti...well, technically it's not cut off but they changed our account number and now we don't have the new card.  The other one here.  Guess how many credit cards we have?  yep, two.  The good news is, Navy Federal's Fraud department is not quite as zealous as Bank of America's so our check card still works.  The inconvenience wouldn't be too bad if this weren't a prime place for ordering parts over the internet as it uses the U.S. Postal service and that's exactly what we intended to do.  I'm going home next week for a trip to see mom and dad so luckily I can pick up the new cards then and we can start all over.

Enough are some more pictures from Suwarrow, courtesy of Cpt. Andy.

This was the clubhouse/hut that we had our potlucks in.
Upstairs was where James slept and they had a small kitchen in the back.

"Shark Bay"  where James fed the sharks a few times a week.
There were white tips, black tips, greys...

Outside looking in on one of the many potlucks.  You can see all the flags
hanging from the ceiling.  These are all made by past cruisers as they leave
their mark on Suwarrow.

Taken from the top of our mast.  s/v Minerva is to the right...what you
can't see is the 16 other boats behind us.  Beautiful picture though, don't
you think?
We're off to explore more of American Samoa... so far, my biggest worry here is how to keep Andy from beaching Savannah and building a porch.

Monday, August 8, 2011

America Samoa - we have arrived!

Jake on the buoy swing in Suwarrow.
We have finally arrived in American Samoa.  The passage was uneventful until last night when I lost my cookies.  It's only the second time that's ever happened, but ugh...not good.  So needless to say, I am glad to be here.  A little note to cruisers...American Samoa (at least from the boat), it beautiful.  There are no diapers floating in the bay and the houses look well kept with well manicured lawns.  We talked to s/v Rutea who have been here a few days and they concur.  So don't let the rumors keep you from coming here.  After we get out and about, you can bet I'll give you a proper update.  At first glance, it reminds us of our days in Puerto Rico.

In the meantime, I know a lot of you are chomping at the bit for here goes.  Andy still has to squoosh his down so I can load them so for now, you get mine.  Enjoy!

There were too many sharks in Suwarrow for Jake to swim by the boat so he found an alternative way to keep cool...

James, one of the park rangers, with the French boat and their fantastic pizza!

One of the many jam sessions during our potlucks.

The girls on the French boat spent all afternoon decorating
the place where we were to have our cocktail hour.  

John, one of the park rangers, explaining how to
shred coconut and make coconut milk out of it.

Liam, on s/v Grommet, showing Jake how to use his homemade
Bow and Arrow...yikes!

Bird Island....there were lots and lots of birds.
One of the MANY poker nights aboard s/v Downtime.

Us with John and James at the Suwarrow "Yacht club" :)

Andy has many more, and much better, pictures.  I'll post them in the next few days.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Underway to American Samoa

Too slow to fish, too fast to swim... We left this morning about 10:30 and are on our way to American Samoa. The forecast is for light winds and seas and we can confirm that. We've got our spinnaker up and are doing about 3 knots. We decided to leave while the winds were light to ensure a better passage than last time. We also have some old diesel to burn so we're not afraid to turn on the iron lung if need be.

During our two week stay at Suwarrow, I started taking inventory of things we might need to buy in American Samoa. It's amazing what the weather out here does to things that would otherwise last a lifetime, or at least a couple more years. Some things we need to replace...

1) Mixing bowls - we have these collapsible mixing bowls that I LOVE. But we wash our dishes in salt water before fresh water rinsing them and it has really taken a toll on them (along with the constant collapsing and un-collapsing). One of them has a big hole and the other one isn't far behind.

2) Clothes - while we hand wash them, they have to be hung on the line and sometimes they stay out there too long and get faded out by the sun. Then we wear the same thing over and over and over and it just gets worn out quicker than if we had a full closet to chose from. Not to mention, hand washing is no match against little boy stains...

3) Utensils - these don't wear out (although they can rust if I'm not careful), but we lose them. We tend to leave them at potlucks or on other people's boats and I'm embarrassed to say, a few have gone over the side while eating in the nets. We can only invite an additional two people over for dinner because that's all the forks we have.

4) Lures - aside from losing them to the big fish, they rust out very quickly. We should have bought more.

5) Grill - this is probably the most important's lasted two years but desperately needs replacing. I'm still dreaming about the one we left behind in Tahiti...

6) My fancy washing machine (The Wonder Wash) - it's on it's last leg, literally. The thing is covered with duct tape, it's a wonder it still works at all. It's missing a handle and the top is cracked as well. To be fair, I'm pretty hard on it so my original raving review still stands. For $35, it was a great buy.

7) Sheets - all I have to say about that. We shower less, wash our sheets less, sweat more... you get the picture.

8) Electrical cords - things like adapters for the TV, cables for the iPod, hard drives, booster antennae...the salt water and damp air are pretty hard on them. We're down to wiggling them this way and that, holding our head just right while singing jingle bells before we can get them to work.

This is just a small list of things that surprised me a bit. The list of big expensive things is way longer and way more stressful (also, much more predictable). I'm not even going to go there right now.

The good news is, we are headed to a place that can probably accommodate all of our needs. The bad news is that once we get to a place like that, our bank account seems to drain itself inexplicably. It's not going to help that I'm taking a quick trip home...I'm a sucker for Target and can't wait to go to Barnes and Noble.

But we're not too eager to rush into the fast life again...two weeks in Suwarrow is a perfect way to slow someone down (not that we needed it). So for now, we'll sit back, watch our spinnaker and enjoy our 10 knots of wind and ease ourselves into it.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Leaving Suwarrow

Well, life in Suwarrow continues... this is the most social place I have ever been. If there's not a cocktail hour planned, there's a poker game or a potluck to go to. There's another kid boat here now with an 8 year old boy on it (with his two older sisters) so Jake finally has someone to play with. There are now 17 boats in the's a regular cruiser village.
A few boats put in a VHF radio for the rangers so they've started a morning net to make their announcements and welcome new boats (and tell the few that have left, bye).

Yesterday there was a big cook out that turned into an impromptu potluck. One of the rangers, John, took the time to give everyone a little class on the varying stages of coconuts, how to shuck them, how to crack them open, how to shred them and then ultimately, how to squeeze the milk from the shredded pieces. We all brought our coconut milk recipes and a few folks cooked theirs up to share. It was really nice. We had a few curries, some fried fish and a few really nice thai dishes.

We're thinking of leaving on Thursday. Word is that the winds are going to be light (maybe too light) but we decided we would rather have that than the trip we had getting here. It should take us 4 days to get to Pago Pago, American Samoa so we should be there on Sunday (so all of the family reading, we'll try to give you a call Monday or so, whenever we figure out their internet system).

We're going to miss our days of fishing, snorkeling, diving, volleyball and laying in the hammock, but it's time to move on and make room for others to enjoy this beautiful place. Fortunately, lots of the boats we've come to really enjoy are going to American Samoa too so it's not goodbye, it's see ya later gator.

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