Thursday, July 30, 2009

Winding down

One week from today, I will be boarding the plane to go home. Crazy. Since Kirstin just left tonight (the first of us to depart), the end now seems closer for all of us.

On Tuesday, we began working with our fourth and final cohort of kids, all of whom attend Rive's church in Nu'uuli. They were a rambunctious group, most likely because they were a bit younger than our other groups (at our request, in order to balance out the overall distribution of ages). But we had a good time with them and successfully completed everything we needed to. For lunch, Rive even served us corned beef with spaghetti (both from cans), an island favorite that we had yet to try. On a side note, cornned beef in Samoan is "pisupo." The reason for this (supposedly) is because the first canned food to come to the island was pea soup. Cornned beef, being the second canned item to reach the island, also took on the samoan-ized name, pisupo.

After spending a good chunk of the day entering data and transfering urine (our new favorite activity) on Wednesday, we invited Sharon, Richard, Marie, and Rive out to dinner as a token of our appreciation. The four of them have been invaluable in our project's success this summer, having invited us into their villages and churches, recruited kids for us, and taught us endless amounts about Samoan culture. Furhtermore, they have been great friends to us here on the island. After dinner, we enjoyed some more Karayoke at Richard's dad's bar, jamming out to more of our favorite 90's pop tunes.

This afternoon (Thursday), we took advantage of the bits of sunshine and returned to Fagatele Bay. You may remember (if you are crazy enough to have read this entire blog) one of my early posts after our first visit, Fagatele Bay being one of the first places we explored on the island. Today's trip down memory lane was great, and we even got to explore around some natural streams since the weather was better and we had more time before sundown. I also had my camera with me this time, so there are a few pictures from the beach at Fagatele Bay now in my gallery.

As I delve into my last week on this tiny rock in the middle of the South Pacific, I'm hoping that the weather turns for the better so I get a chance to go back to some more of the awesome spots we have found (and maybe, if I'm lucky, find some new ones).

All six "Brownies" before Kirstin boards the plane home

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fun Races

The bad weather finally drifted out to sea on Saturday, giving us blue skies for the first time in a while. In the morning, we finally made it over to the stadium to watch some of the local teams playing rugby. We just stayed long enough to watch a few good rucks and mauls before heading home to prepare for the day's main event - paddling fun races.

The strong wind had made paddling this week very rough, but Saturday afternoon the water in the harbor was still as glass. So many people showed up that we took turns racing the 500m course. In the first race, my boat (green) and the blue boat had a photo finish, but with no one there to capture the photo, we were unsure who really won. Somehow, it was decided that the blue boat won, but we just blamed it on the fact that the green boat is far heavier (and generally slower). We switched it up and I competed in a few more sprints (I can't even remember which we won and lost). For the final race of the day, all three boats competed to go accross the harbor and back. My boat (the red, this time) crushed the competition, easily making it back to the finish line before either green or blue, who were neck and neck until the end.

Our shoulders tired out, we all celebrated with a feast of a barbeque. After filling up on burgers and dogs, we headed home to all get ready for our Saturday evening activity - a joint birthday party at Oscar's house.

Today (Sunday), after a late start, we fulfilled our craving for pizza by eating lunch at Pizza Hut. We then drove back out to Tisa's, where we were more successful than last time (when they were closed). Some of us enjoyed Candyman's famous pina coladas, and we all spread out on Tisa's beach for the rest of the afternoon.

In case you are wondering, we are still doing research (in between tanning at the beach and paddling). We are planning to start with our last cohort of kids on Tuesday, finishing up next week just two days before I fly back home! It's hard to believe that the summer has breezed by so fast, but that's the way summers go.

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.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Camping, Karayoke, Waterfall, BBQ

As the title of the post suggests, we've kept busy since my last post. On Wednesday evening, we drove out to Vatia (on the northern coast of the island) for the Palagi camping trip. Just over 20 people showed up, and we ate deliciously grilled hot dogs and burgers and sang to Charlie's guitar playing. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, so we were rained on most of the night. We did get a break in the rain enough to have a campfire on the beach, but sleeping was rough as the wind graciously carried the rain into our fale through the one gap in the tarp walls.

Due to our lack of sleep the night before, Thursday was a very lazy day. We even skipped out on paddling, partly because of exhaustion and partly because of the still awful weather. Friday, we had a bit more gusto, so we drove out to Tisa's (about an hour away) to hang out on the beach and get some pina coladas. Unfortunately, we arrived only to find Tisa's bar closed, so we turned straight around to head back home. We did stop at the open market (picture to the right) on the way back to pick up some fresh tomatoes and bananas to make the trip not a complete failure.

Saturday morning, we woke up early and drove back to Richard's dad's bar, where we finished up our research with the third group of kids. This group was particularly friendly with us, and Gabe and I even played some parking lot football with some of the boys. After we finished up, we broke out the karayoke microphones as we waited for Richard to drop off some of the kids back in town. The Korean karayoke machine played some fantastic (read: pathetic) videos in the background as we jammed out to our favorite tunes for over an hour.

When Richard returned, we all drove over to a waterfall site tucked away behind LBJ Hospital. The waterfall (actually just one of a series of waterfalls) delivered freshwater from the mountains into a man-made pool below. We spent a few hours swimming and jumping off the rocks about 12 feet above. We were joined by some locals who were much more fearless than us in terms of jumping.

Refreshed from our swim, we left Richard, Sharon, and Marie to go straight back to Vatia for a BBQ. It turns out that the campsite we slept at Wednesday night was actually owned by the family of one of Katy's co-workers at the hospital. Thus, we were invited back for or a Samoan-style gathering.

The site was much more beautiful during the day and with clear skies. We got to enjoy Samoan-style BBQ (including turkey tails, a true Samoan delicacy that is so bad for you, Western Samoa has banned importation) as some dogs sat patiently waiting for the remains of our meal. There were even a few puppies hanging around that gathered many awwws from the girls. One of Sina's (Katy's co-worker) brothers had just gone fishing, and he told us that black-tailed sharks could be found just off their beach. Gabe, Dana, and I joined some Samoans in a volleyball game, and we all accompanied Sina on a trip into the village of Vatia.

After sunset, we all remembered how tired we were (we had left the house at 7am). We said some (seemingly neverending) goodbyes, and then headed back over the mountains toward home. On the way, we stopped at an icecream shop we had just found out about, probably one of the only on the island that serves homemade non-softserve icecream. I crashed early last night, and now we're about to go spend the afternoon at the park.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Massacre Bay

Sunday was a lazy day. We've been watching Arrested Development, starting with season one, so we made some headway on that. We were otherwise pretty much unproductive.

To make up for it, on Monday afternoon, we embarked on one of the island's more difficult hikes. The trail spans from the top of the mountains (a village called A'olaufou) down to Massacre Bay on the northern coast. The bay is named after the brutal interaction between French explorers and Samoans that occurred on December 11, 1787. After the skirmish, the French retreated and remained petrified of the "barbaric" native Samoans for an entire century. A monument commemorates the 12 Frenchmen who died in the battle, but there is no memory of the 39 Samoans who perished. Someone told us that Napoleon Bonaparte had tried to get on the expedition to Samoa -- imagine how history could have changed.

But enough history lesson. The point is, wielding our newly purchased machetes, we parked at the Church in A'olaufou, and began descending the mountains. The machetes proved not that useful, as the trail was already pretty clear (despite some warnings we had received). After an hour and a half of steep downhill trekking, we passed through an abandoned village and out onto the beach at Massacre Bay. I feel like I’ve spewed out the “and then we exited the woods onto a beautiful secluded beach” line so many times this summer, but it applies here yet again. The only notable difference on this beach was the size of the hermit crabs – they were humongous!

After resting up and munching on some granola bars, we began searching for the famed French monument. We first looked around the recently abandoned house, the last remains of the village of A’asu, which has now relocated to the top of the mountain (which is accessible by road as opposed to hiking trail). We then tried wading up the freshwater river that flows into Massacre Bay. Here, my camera almost became the next massacred victim, as it plopped into the water. Though I was not able to take pictures for the rest of the hike, after a night drying out, the camera is incredibly almost 100 percent functional (I can’t seem to take videos anymore, though the photo function works perfectly).

We finally did find the French monument, tucked in the woods just behind the beach. Nothing impressive (it’s made of cement), but it was a good way to finalize our time at the bay before heading back up the mountain. As we raced against the sun (it was already late in the afternoon), we discovered that the trail seemed much steeper on the way up than it had on the way down. We stopped often and exhausted all of our water, but we did make it back to the car well before sunset.

On the way home, for the first time we experienced evening prayers (6pm every day). Young men, all dressed in matching lava lavas, lined the road to patrol and ensure that everyone from the village was inside praying. Three bells (actually old SCUBA tanks hanging on ropes) mark when people are supposed to go inside, the start of prayers, and the end of prayers. Since we pulled of the road to see if a Mexican restaurant was open (unfortunately, it wasn’t), one of the villagers asked us to turn off the car and wait 10 minutes for prayers to be over. Though a bit frustrating, on the bright side we did get to experience a new part of Samoan (or Christian, as the case may be) culture. Anyway, once we did get moving again, because the Mexican place was closed, we settled for Pizza Hut.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was not very eventful. We did some data entry work during the day, and at 4pm we headed down to the Yacht club for paddling (which we are now doing every Tuesday and Thursday). Today, we are following a similar schedule, but instead of paddling we are heading up toward the National Park to camp out with a big crew of Palagis at some beach fales.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rock Concert, Rock Caves

Friday was an exciting day for Tutuila, as Blue Sky (the AT&T equivalent) celebrated it's 10th anniversary! Yes, I'm being sarcastic. This is a pretty pathetic reason to celebrate. But, that being said, there were boat races in the morning and a concert in the evening. We planned on going down to the harbor to watch the boat races, but Gabe went before us and warned that the single road was so backed up with traffic that we couldn't possibly make it in time to actually see a race. So the rest of us hung back at the house and did some research work instead.

We did, however, all get tickets to see the evening rock concert, probably one of the first they've ever had on the island. It's pretty expensive to fly here, so I can't imagine many bands pass through as part of their summer concert series. Nonetheless, Blue Sky landed Lost Coast Sound (a California-based jam band) and Amely (an emo rock band). By any standards (including mine) this was not anything special, but we had a good time anyway.

As a side note, the other big news story on Friday was that a dead whale had washed up near the island. I got the inside scoop from our marine biologist friend, Ben, who was aboard the boat attempting (unsuccessfully) to drag the whale carcass back out to sea. As Ben described it, "Samoan engineering fails again." We were still able to see a piece of the whale when we drove by Saturday morning, but the tide seemed to have carried it out later that day. A little gross, but it provided some more excitement here.

Saturday morning, we began working with our third cohort of kids in Richard's village, near the tuna canneries. We ended up doing the work in the Karayoke bar Richard's dad owns accross from the canneries.

In the afternoon, the girls skipped off to a baby shower, so Gabe and I accompanied Richard, Sharon, and Marie to go swimming. We first went to sliding rock, but we walked a litle further along the rocks than we had been before, to a natural tidal pool. The pool was 7 feet deep and clear blue, great for a cool-down swim. However, the rock formation around the pool is such that every so often, a big wave floods the pool from the top and water rushes through it back to the ocean. The first time this happened, Gabe, Richard, and I would almost certainly have been swept out to sea had it not been for a Samoan couple that grabbed us and held us back. This left us a bit more prepared for the second big surge, but we decided that the tide was still too high for safe swimming. I escaped with only a few more coral cuts to add to my collection.

We then headed down the road to a series of caves/blowholes. The water was much calmer here, and there were already plenty of local villagers playing around and jumping off the rocks. The caves are a series 4 or 5 holes in the rock that have water below that connects out to the ocean. At high tide, the water rushes in underneath and shoots up out of the blowholes, but at low tide, there's plenty of air to swim around. It being low tide, we followed Richard as he dropped down into the deepest hole. We swam around for a while, eventually swiming out into the open ocean to a sandy spot. We all took our turn jumping in off the rocks to a deep hole in the coral.

Last night we went to the movies to see Ice Age 3. If you haven't yet seen it, don't. Stick to the oringinal Ice Age, which is wayyyy better.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Samoa Vacation, Part 2 (Upolu)

This post is part 2 of our trip to Western Samoa. I'd suggest you read part 1 (below) first if you haven't already.

We made it back to Apia around 6:30 and checked into Valentines Motel, a quaint, family-owned, and extremely cheap place just a 15 minute walk from the center of the city. After settling in, we headed downtown for pizza and a night out on the town. Not that there's much of a town. That is, there is a 1-block stretch of 3 or 4 bars and nightclubs. Way more than AmSam, but still nothing special. I suppose what can you expect for a small city in the South Pacific? Regardless, we had a great time and got to celebrate Independence Day with some American Peace Corps volunteers we met.

Sunday morning, we lugged ourselves out of bed and headed over to the Palolo Deep Marine reserve, a spectacular snorkling spot. However, because it was low tide, getting out to the giant drop in the coral was a tedious and very painful task. We also probably killed plenty of coral, leaving us wondering about the Samoans' "reservation" efforts. However, our friend Ben, a fish expert, just told us that coral grows so fast here that it doesn't really matter if you touch it. Once we did make it out to the deep area, we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Sorry, but I don't have an underwater camera, so you'll have to use your imagination. Truly amazing, though.

We then dried off and headed accross the island, stopping along the way to visit Samoa's Bahai temple (link is to Wikipedia, which can probably explain the religion way better than me) and Papapapaitai Falls, a 100-meter waterfall. We reached Upolu's southern coast faster than we expected (Upolu is much smaller than Savai'i).

Our next stop was at the Aganoa Black Sand beach. The road to reach the beach finally put our 4-wheel drive to the test, but the bumpy ride was certainly worth it. At the end of the road, we were greeted by a perfect, Corona-commercial-ready beach speckled with a mixture of black and white sand. We immediately rna for the clear, blue water, which was 4-feet deep, sandy, and might as well have been a swimming pool. We spent the better part of the afternoon swimming, playing with the black sand, and burrying Susanna in sand with the help of a local Samoan family.

As the sun sank lower, we piled back in the car to head east to Lalomano beach. We arrived at our fales just in time for dinner. The fales, which covered the beach, housed dozens of people, making the place more like a resort than our previous accomodations. Dinner was served mess-hall style, with plate after plate of various food placed along the long, shared tables. We ended up talking with a family from Zimbabwe that now lived in New Zealand after losing their commercial farm. We even joined them in a rousing post-dinner game of Texas Hold'em.

Monday was a beach day. Lalomano beach is gorgeous and a great place to lay out in the sun (or in the limitted shade) and read. We also swam, but the incredibly strong sideways effectively turned the water into a swimming treadmill. After a lazy morning and a beach-side lunch, we began our trip back up to Apia for our final night in Samoa.

This drive, along Upolu's northeast coast, was one of the most beautiful stretches yet, with green, volcanic mountains surrounding a plain covered in palm trees and the ocean in th background.

Another side note about our drives around both Savai'i and Upolu: there are churches galore. Just like AmSam, we passed dozens of beautiful churches on each leg of our trip. I uploaded pictures of a few examples, but it's incredible that there are enough people on the islands to fill all the churches. In particular, Mormonism is extremely common. This is probably both because the family values match Samoan culture and because Mormon missionaries are very good at their job.

Back in Apia, we again stayed in Valentines Motel. We dropped off our bags and rushed back out to go to Apia's main outdoor market. This was our chance to shop for traditional-style gifts, including wooden clubs and axes, jewelry, and decorated siapo (bark cloth). Bargaining was fair-game, making everything very cheap. If you are interested, the currency in Samoa is the "tala" (the samoan pronounciation of "dollar"; "seine" was the word for cent).

For dinner, we attempted to go to the restaurant at Aggie Grey's hotel (the most famous in Apia). However, the we found the Monday-night Asian menu a bit too pricy, so we just ordered drinks and desserts and later went to get pizza at the same place as Saturday night (a nice reverse dinner).

On our final morning, we did some more shopping, this time at the flea market. Our extra duffels now stuffed to the brim with trinkets and crafts, we headed back to the airport, dropped off our rental car, and took the tiny plane back to Tutuila.

As evidenced by the lenght of these last two posts, we jammed a lot into our six-day trip. Today, we were back to work, and we are now officially halfway done with our research (after finishing with our second cohort of children). Amazingly, I have less than a month left in (American) Samoa. For now, though, it's back to business as usual after a great vacation.

Samoa Vacation, Part 1 (Savai'i)

As promised, this post will re-cap the first half of our fabulous six-day vacation to Western Samoa (note: Western Samoa, an independent nation about 50 miles away from AmSam, dropped "Western," a few years ago. This makes it very confusing, but for this post and the next, Samoa will refer to Western Samoa, not AmSam).

After a busy Wednesday of work (we started our second cohort of kids), packing, and paddling, we woke up early on Thursday to catch the first flight to Apia (Samoa's capital city). W climbed aboard the 19-seat Twin Otter prop-plane at 9am. After an awesome flight with incredible views of both Tutuila (our island) during takeoff and Upolu (Samoa's smaller, but more-populated island) as we landed, we
touched down on Fagali'i airport's single runway just a few minutes away from Apia. After a quick pass through customs (we each only brought a backpack with us), the rental car people met us to give us our Hundai Tuscon. The first snag of the trip - it was stick shift. Luckily, Susanna knows how to drive manual, so she instantly became our chauffeur for the trip. This was half good and half bad for her - bad because she never got a break from driving, but good because she avoided the crunch of four people in the back seat.

A quick side-note about driving in Samoa: while they currently drive on the right-side of the road like the US, they are switching in September to the left. This makes everything very confusing, because half the cars are European-style and half are American. They are getting a 3-day holiday in September to ease everyone into the change. However, judging by our stay there, people are such crazy drivers already that I would expect multiple accidents in those first days.

Sorry for the tangent, but now back to our trip. After getting our rental car sorted out, we drove straight for the dock where we caught the ferry to go to Savai'i, Samoa's largert and less-populated island. The ferry ride took just over an hour, but since we had not eaten since early, we were all starving by the time we arrived. We found a restaurant a few minutes from the dock and ate lunch as we overlooked the gorgeous beach and ocean. We then continued north up Savai'i's eastern coast until we reached the village of Lano. There, we found some beach fales (open huts) where we could stay for the night. Two things were outstanding about the fales: 1) they only cost about $20USD per person per night including both dinner and breakfast!!; and 2) the fales were literally located on a beautiful sandy beach. We were sold, and so we hunkered down for the afternoon. Mother nature apparently agreed with our decision, telling us so by providing us with a brilliant rainbow over the Pacific Ocean.

After a wonderful swim without rocks and coral destroying our feet, we sat down for dinner. We were only sharing the fales with two other couples, a younger German duo who were living in New Zealand and vacationing in Samoa, and an Oregon couple on their honeymoon and visiting the husband, Sio's, Samoan family. We had great conversation as we ate chicken curry and sipped on some bottles of Vailima beer.

Friday morning, we awoke early to watch a beautiuful sunrise from bed! A morning swim and a breakfast (eggs and Samoan coconut buns, yum) later, we packed up and prepared to continue driving around Savai'i. Sio and Katee, the Oregon newlyweds, generously offered to come along in their own rental car, allowing us to spread out a bit. Our first stop after leaving was at the lava fields of northeast Savai'i, where we got a guided tour of a church destroyed by lava between 1905 and 1911. We also saw the "Virgin Grave," which was miraculously left uncovered despite over a meter of lava rock all around it.

We continued along and drove clear across Savai'i's northern side to the western tip of the island. We stopped at a canopy walk and treehouse. The treehouse, suspended hundreds of feet up at the top of a giant Banyan tree, had a really cool view above the rainforest treeline. Our original plan was to sleep in the treehouse (which you're allowed to do), but due to pending on-and-off rainshowers, we decided to bag that idea and continue driving.

To interrupt our roadtrip, we stopped at some cool church ruins and walked around on the rocky shore. We also visited the much anticipated (drumroll, please) western-most point in the world!! That's right, Savai'i is the last landmass before the International Date Line, so the western tip gets this prestigious title. Standing from this point (marked clearly with a painted white X on the ground), we could look out to the ocean and see the future! I'll let you work that one out yourself.

As we drove around the island, we came to realize how rural Savai'i still was. We passed many pigs, cows, and horses, most of which were freely roaming around. One time, we were halted by a bull in the middle of the road (he eventually moved after rearing around in fear). We also saw many school children, many of whom yelled and waved to us. We even got flicked off by a few of them, though it was likely for their own entertainment. We also passed many games of volleyball, apparently a huge sport in Samoa (in addition to rugby, of course). At least from our driving observations, everyone did seem a bit more active here than back in AmSam. But I have no numbers to back this up. Our study is the precursor to finding that out.

Eventaually, we began looking for a place to spend the night (since our treehouse plan was a bust). We stopped at one place that was already booked full, but eventually (after quite a bit of driving), we made it to a beautiful beach resort and surfing spot tucked away from the main road. Not only was their space for us, but the owner even gave us a discount for being medical students (which is true for two of us and not really that farfetched for the rest). Again, both dinner and breakfast was included, and again, the beach scenery was stunningly beautiful. We seemed to be continually reminded that we were in paradise.

We spent all of Saturday morning chilling on the beach and snorkling around (we borrowed a mask/snorkle from our Kiwi neighbors), we headed off to catch the 2pm ferry back to Upolu. We arrived at the dock at 1:30pm only to learn that the ferry was sold out. The man at the ticket booth told us that all the ferries for the weekend were sold out, so we began to get worried that we would be stuck on Savai'i (granted, there are worse places to be abandoned). However, after two hours of waiting, we eventually did get aboard the 4pm ferry.

Because this is going on forever, the trip is continued in the next post.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Back from Vacation

Today, we arrived safely back in AmSam after a 6-day vacation to (Western) Samoa. I owe a lot of writing, but since it's late and I'm tired, I will write everything up tomorrow or the next day (expect two very long posts).

In the meantime, I've begun posting pictures from the trip. However, in order to alleviate the need to load all pictures just to see new ones, I have started a second photo album (Summer in Samoa 2). The pictures from May and June will remain visible here. Both photo links will always be on the right-hand side of the blog.

Until tomorrow, good night (or morning, depending on time zone craziness).