Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eclipse Letdown

The past few days have brought with them a few frustrations. First, our trip to Ofu has fallen through, due to the fact that it is not actually possible to camp there. The trip would just be to expensive to be worth it, so we canceled our flights. Too bad, but it looks like the weather might not have been so great anyway. Ofu is one of the much smaller Manua Islands, which are still part of American Samoa. The beach there is supposed to be gorgeous, secluded, and great for snorkling.

The other letdown had to do with yesterday's solar eclipse. I had not heard anything about the eclipse until emails started flying back and forth on the Palagi lstserve yesterday morning, but it turns out that the eclipse passed just a few hundred kilometers from here, meaning we got apretty substantial partial eclipse around 5:10pm yesterday (calculating the time zone conversions was no easy task). The bad news: around midday, an unending sheet of clouds rolled in, blocking our view of this astronomical phenomenon. We were actually out paddling when the eclipse was passing by, but I did try to look and could see no trace of the sun or moon. Cliff, one of the other Palagis, went to one of the villages on the western side of the island and got a decent view (picture to the right), even through the clouds.

In other news, for the first time yesterday, I took the bus into town. American Samoa is famous for its busses, all of which are owned an operated by local families. The buses are all homemade and built from the bodies of pickup trucks. They are constructed mostly of wood, with a few metal pipes to hold the whole thing together. Both outside and inside, every bus is decorated uniquely, and from their extravegant external paintjobs, the buses have names such as "Titanic," "Hakuna Matata," and "Casper the Ghost." Inside, all of the buses have elaborate sound systems and blast island or hip-hop music as they roll around the island. Buses are unscheduled, but very frequent (due to the sheer number of them), and are relatively inexpensive ($1 for a trip into town).

I took the bus to visit the American Samoa EMS office to see if there was any chance I could ride along on the ambulance here before I head back to Vermont. The chief gave me a brief tour of the office and filled me in on the service here. After offices on the eastern and western parts of the island were shut down due to budget constratints, the entire ambulance fleet operates out of the single office near the hospital. Thus, response times can be greater than an hour for some areas. Also, many of the ambulances are out of service because no mechanic on the island is able to repair them. The service operates almost entirely on volunteers, and the chief seemed very optimistic that he'd be able to find a spot for me in the schedule in the next week or two. The chief noted how the EMS experience here in Samoa would be unique, particularly pointing out the high number of chronic medical cases (especially diabetes). I'm very hopeful that this opportunity will work out.

The weather is being uncooperative (rainy and windy), so its not likely to be that exciting of a day here. I recently read somewhere that there is a trace of rain on this island 300 days of the year! Pago Pago is apparently the rainiest city in the South Pacific (go figure), so I guess we've been lucky to have plenty of dry, sunny days while we are here.

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