Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If 1 puppy is good, why not 2?

About a week after Suka's mom abandoned her at the Harty's house, she showed up with another puppy...Suka's sister. Clif, Julia & I came home from work and met the latest puppy to be rescued into the Harty household. She had the same coloring as Suka, only she had some white on her paws, arm, nose and the tip of her tail. She was much more reserved and tense than Suka was when we first got her. And she also had quite a few cuts and sores on her, maybe the extra bumps and bruises she got out there contributed to her shyness. It seemed as if she had been through a bit more than Suka had by the time we got her.

Now I know what you're thinking..."2 puppies? Are you crazy?" Maybe I am, but when I held her in my arms, I knew that I had to take her home with me. I've had dogs before, and although it may seem counterintuitive, 2 dogs, in alot of ways, are easier than 1. They have each other to keep themselves entertained! Plus, they were sisters. How could I turn away Suka's sister? So, Meli (pronounced may-lee, and it means "honey" in Samoan) came to live with us. Over the past few weeks Meli has become more comfortable and outgoing and both she and Suka love to play with the Harty's dog Ila (pronounced eee-la, which means "spot" in Samoan).

Here are some more shots of the puppies:

Meli sleeping:

Hike to Larsen's Bay

My second weekend here on the island, on Father's Day, I hiked to my first beach...Larsen's Bay. It's located on the south-west corner of the island and it's a beautiful, clean, sandy beach (which is actually quite rare here on the island). The Harty's (Julia, Clif, Ruth, Simon & Everett), LTM, Tim and I all made the trip. The hike starts along a little road that was covered with dead toads and flies (eewwww...gross). It comes to a steep ravine that is shaded by trees and vines and then opens back up into a field at the bottom. Although the road itself is hard to see (just 2 tire tracks that are extremely overgrown with grasses), there is an even smaller trail off that road that cuts off to the side. You follow that trail and it leads down to a little rock cliff that you climb down and then you're on your own secluded beach. We just hung out in the water all afternoon getting tossed around by the waves. There was some snorkling, the dogs played around (Ila--Clif & Julia's dog, and Lexington--Tim's dog both made the trip), and Ruth took a nap on the beach after having a huge branch come crashing down on her head when we stopped to "swing on the vines". Check out the Harty's blog for more on that story. We even saw a jellyfish! All in all, it was a great day. Here are some pictures from the hike...

This is the "road"--notice the tire tracks:
Here's the steep ravine & also where Ruth got her "head injury":

I think this is where we turned off on the trail that cuts away to the beach:

This is the view of the beach when the trail ended:

We just had to climb down the lava rocks and we were there.

And finally, here is a view from the shore of the waves crashing into the cliffs:

Not a bad day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Old Homestead

I know folks back home want to know what it's like where I live. I live in Lions Park, which is a government housing area in Tafuna. No, it's not Section 8 housing...it's a bunch of houses that are owned by the government and that government employees live in. It's on the western half of the island on the south side right next to the airport on Pala Lagoon. The houses vary between 1, 2, and 3 bedroom versions. I have a 2 bedroom version (hint, hint...there's room for visitors). On one end is the living room that connects to the kitchen. Most of the houses are open between the living room and kitchen with a large island that separates the two. Mine has somewhat of a wall that divides the spaces with an opening in the middle. It's kind of nice because it means I have a built-in bookcase on the living room side and a built-in pantry on the kitchen side. There is a small room with washer/dryer hookups on one side of the kitchen and then a hallway that runs the length of the house on the other. From that hallway, you can access the bathroom, the guest bedroom, and finally the master bedroom on the other end of the house. The place comes furnished, although the furniture isn't very comfortable--think dorm room. There are doors on either side of the house about where the kitchen is, and mine has these beautiful vaulted wood ceilings. The houses here are also not built like you are used to seeing back home. Instead of regular walls and windows, many houses walls ARE windows; floor to ceiling slatted windows, which provide the ventilation that cools the houses when the winds blow through from one side to the other. A great concept, but it doesn't make for a very clean or secure housing environment.

The other nice thing about being in Lions Park is that most of the people we know and hang out with also live here. That makes socializing much easier especially considering how long it takes you to drive anywhere on the island and the fact that gas is nearly, if not over, $5 a gallon here. I live across the street and a couple of houses down from LTM and there are 2 other AG's on our street as well. One of the judges' actually lives at the end of our block.

Despite the fact that I'm talking about my "street", I don't have a formal address because none of the roads are named here. My house number used to be T-86, but now it's 287; at least that's what is painted on it. When I went to the power company to get things set up in my name, I didn't know anything about the old T-86 number. Here was the exchange:

ASPA Lady: What's your house number?
Me: I think it's 287.
ASPA: You sure it isn't T-86?
Me: I don't know. The number painted outside says 287.
ASPA: Oh, did Scott Sweet live there before you?
Me: Yeah.
ASPA: OK, this is the right one.

I'm telling you, it's a small island. Here are some photos of my pad:

And here's my view from my front yard:
Not bad, eh?

I'm in the process of picking out colors to paint the inside of my house. Once that's done, I'll upload pictures of the inside.


Also for those of you who want to get ahold of me, here is my info:

P.O. Box 4178, Pago Pago, AS 96799
684-770-0272 (cell)
684-699-3506 (home)
claudia.kelly.dixon (Skype)

If you want to call me, don't just dial me direct because chances are you'll be charged for an international call. Go to speedypin.com and buy a phone card; I got one to call LTM with before I got here that was $6 for 120 minutes. You can use it from either a cell phone or a land line. Remember, there is a 5 hour time difference between here and Colorado, so if you want to call me at 9am your time, don't; because it's 4am for me and I probably won't answer the phone. Also, if you are planning on sending anything down here (care package or whatever), I highly suggest you send it priority mail unless you want it to arrive 2 to 4 months later. The post office has these flat rate priority boxes that are a great way to ship things here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

4th of July Weekend


Because American Samoa is a U.S. Territory, we do celebrate the 4th of July here on the island. The day started off with the huge sale at Ace Hardware where everything you could fit in your bag was 20% off. It was a crazy big production with a raffle, door prizes, and a hot dog stand out front. It was actually the most patriotic display I saw all day. We were handed American flags when we entered the door and were able to pick out all sorts of free flag inspired give-aways when you left depending on how much you spent inside. I got 2 red, white & blue star necklaces, a red, white & blue scrunchie and a U.S.A. lavalere. Total crap, but it was free.

And like many other places back in the states, fireworks are illegal here. The difference is that even though it may be illegal to possess or light off fireworks say, in Denver, you can still go to the Rockies game, Fiddler's Green, 16th Street Mall, or any other number of places to see professional fireworks displays. Not so much here. I didn't see or hear about one single fireworks show anywhere on the island. And on the 4th I didn't hear even one Black Cat or Bottle Rocket being set off. It was pretty wierd actually. But the Ex-Pat group here decided to celebrate our nation's birthday nonetheless with your typical drinking-BBQ-pool-party. We all went out to Haz-Matt's house, who lives out by the cliffs on the ocean. His place is absolutely georgous. It's a giant 3 bedroom house with a huge yard, a pool and it's just a hop, skip, and a jump from the ocean. We went down to the cliffs and watched the crashing waves as our version of fireworks.

Here we are hanging out at the cliffs (Naomi & Emily, me & LTM)...

Back at the house, folks were hanging out in the pool, playing bocce ball, drinking fun drinks out of coconuts that Sam husked from one of Matt's trees, and enjoying some great food including hamburgers, steak, pork chops, fish kabobs, and a home made apple pie.

Here's Aaron making sure he's covered with sunscreen...

Apparently, when I went down to watch the waves crashing into the cliffs, Suka "fell" into the pool. I came back and found her soaking wet and shivering under a bench up against the house. Later I found out that she didn't actually "fall" unless you consider Doug picking her up, putting her in the water, and letting go, "falling." Not cool. The good news was that apparently, she did try to swim. The bad news is now she won't let me get her anywhere near water. Giving her a bath is like trying to catch a greased pig. Thanks Doug.


The next night we had a lu'au party for Ayla, who was heading off to Japan for a Polynesian dancing job. The party was at Oscar's house (her dad) and it was the BEST party I've been to so far on the island. Everyone had such a good time.

Here's Ayla & Michael all decked out...

The Brownies (Michelle & Sarah)...

New Sam (another Brownie) & Ayla...

Me & LTM...

Emily, Ayla & Sleepy Sam...

Emily & Oscar...

Alyssa, Aaron, Emily, Matt & Doug...

Matt was in rare form that night...

Chef Oscar hard at work...and the pig of course!

Some of Ayla's friends are in a band and they performed a few songs for us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What a Weekend...Part 3

The weekend didn't end with my new puppy. I also went snorkling for the first time ever. LTM, Julia, Simon (Clif & Julia's 6 year old son), and I all decided to take a trip to Airport Beach. We live right next to the Airport and there is a beach on the other side of the airport that has just about the best snorkling on the island. There are 2 ways to get there. Either you can go on the garbage walk past the dump (uh, no thanks), or you can walk along the cliffs on the ocean. We opted for the more beautiful, less smelly route. This is where the journey begins...

We tried to go to Airport Beach my first weekend here, but we couldn't find the opening in the wall that you have to climb over to get onto the cliffs and while we were searching for it, being the klutz that I am, I totally lost my footing on the wet lava rocks and cut up my knee and hand pretty bad. We didn't make it to Airport that day.

This time we did. And the hike is really easy. You walk along the ocean front on a series of lava-rock cliffs with dotted with blowholes where the waves splash up and out. It really is beautiful.

There are a few spots where you walk along a narrow trail that cuts through some vegitation. As long as you go early enough in the day you don't have to worry too much about spiders and other bugs (other than mosquitos--they are always a problem). But the closer to sundown that you go, it seems that the spiders come alive. On the way to the beach we had to move maybe 1 or 2 spider webs out of our path. But when we came back it was getting dark, and there must have been over 30 big spider webs with spiders in them that were blocking our path back. The person who walks in front needs some kind of stick to move the webs or they could walk face-first into some nastiness.

The beach at Airport is not a sand beach, but rather is made up of crushed coral. So it's not fun to walk around barefoot on.

My snorkling gear hadn't arrived yet (after all I only shipped it a month and a half ago) so I used Julia's sister's equipment. We started out and the current was so strong that we were quickly going to be swept away from where we wanted to go. So we army-crawled under water (about a foot and a half deep at this point) over to a place where the current wasn't so strong and pushed off into the harbor. At first, it was hard to adjust to the thought that I was breathing underwater, and I'm not going to lie, I may have had a minute or two of starting to hyperventilate, but then I relaxed and realized if 6 year old Simon can do this (and he was doing a great job if I do say so myself), then I could certainly do it. And once I let go, it was AMAZING!!! The area that we were in got pretty deep for snorkling on the island (about 20-25 feet in spots) and there was all kinds of coral and fish to check out. The cool thing about snorkling is that when you're out in the woods looking at nature, the animals can hear you coming and they take off, but in the water, the fish don't swim away--they just look back at you like, "yes, can I help you?" It was also kind of wierd to realize that this entire other world is just below the surface. I can't wait to go back.

Here are a few shots from the walk back at sunset...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What a Weekend...Part 2

Sunday, my life here on the island changed.

I woke up, walked out my front door and was greeted by Everett, the 8 year old who lives across the street. Everett begins to tell me that he has a present for me. Apparently, one of the wild dogs here in Lion's Park was pregnant and Clif & Julia (Everett's parents) had been feeding her when she came around in hopes of keeping her healthy and strong for the puppies. Well, that morning mom showed up with one of her puppies and abandoned it on Clif & Julia's doorstep. Mom started to leave and when the puppy tried to follow it, mom just took off. Ruth, Julia's sister who is here for the summer, tried to get the mom to take the puppy back, but she wasn't having any of it. Puppy was homeless.

I had mentioned to Clif & Julia in previous conversations that I was thinking about getting a puppy here. I had been wanting a dog for a while back home, but I lived in an apartment, worked crazy hours, and just didn't think it would be fair to the dog to bring it into that kind of situation. But here, my work hours are flexible, I live in a house with tons of space to run, and since many of the palagis have puppies of their own, everyone seems ok with bringing them to many of our gatherings. So when Clif came over with this rolly-polly hunk of fur, I fell in love. She was maybe 4 weeks old and just the sweetest little lover you'd ever seen. She just wanted to nuzzle right up to my neck and after I held her, that was it. I never wanted to let her go.

Her name is Suka. It means sugar in Samoan. How could you not love that face?

Check out the Harty's Blog for more on Suka.