We celebrated Tora’s 8th birthday last Saturday. Eight?! How does time fly by so quickly? We had a fun day, and Tora says it feels so great to be eight! She celebrated with friends at school on Friday with a giant sized fruit salad, so Saturday was left to our family and a little neighborhood party. We’ve been living in American Samoa for more than two months, and it is just awesome that she looks to our neighborhood like they are family.
Birthdays While Living in American Samoa
We just received a family holiday present last week from Bucky’s parents. A kayak! It’s inflatable yet super durable, and will be handy to deflate and bring around to different spots while we live in American Samoa. We took it for it’s inaugural paddle on Saturday morning for a trip around our peninsula and back. Three people fit in the kayak, and I borrowed a stand up paddle board from our neighbor.
The area at the end of our peninsula is full of sea grass, and thus always has a fair amount of sea turtles. Our goal was to see lots of turtles , and they didn’t disappoint. We even saw an Eagle Ray swim by. It was a great way to spend a few hours, and we’re looking forward to lots more time out ON the water.
Tropical Birthday Surprises
The afternoon brought one of the most unique birthday presents, ever. Baby Fruit Bat cuddles! Our wildlife specialist neighbor rehabs any fruit bat babies that are found abandoned, and has a new little one named “Malu”. She’s just about 2 weeks old now, and beyond cute.
She’ll be living in the neighborhood for a few months until she’s been weaned off milk, eating fruit, and has learned to fly. Fruit Bats have an impressive three foot wingspan as adults, and are always seen flying around in our evening sky. They’re often out during the day time along the trails up in the National Park, and we’ve even had the chance to catch them nibbling on fruit up in a tree.
Thankfully we are rabies free here in American Samoa, so we get to cuddle bats and not worry! Fruit Bats play an important ecological role by pollinating and dispersing seeds, but unfortunately bat populations are threatened. Fruit Bats are often considered a nuisance to our agricultural crops, and are also hunted and eaten.
In the evening we celebrated with all of our neighbors over fresh coconuts and mango cheesecake! Friends covered Tora in gifts of island bling, and she was one happy kid. A rainbow even came out to help celebrate after we sang!
The annual Science Fair in American Samoa is taken very seriously. The big winners head to Washington, DC in the spring to compete with winners from the other states. Since we are a relatively small territory, it’s also fairly easy to stand out!
The last few weeks we have been fully immersed in science fair research. Starting in Second grade, students pick a project and explore the steps of the scientific method. Tora decided to study the taste preferences between cats and dogs (cute!) and Ty ambitiously chose to explore if the invasive Cane Toads have an effect on the native insect eating bird populations.
With Tora’s project we are able to run each of the trials in the house, and it’s a perfectly simple Second Grade experiment. With Ty, all of the data collection was taken out on hiking trails in the National Park. We surveyed birds during the day, and then went back to each sight at night to count the nocturnal toads. The result was lots of time on trails, and our fair share of mosquito bites! Ty and Tora are finishing up their reports now, so we’re in the home stretch.
It has been an interesting soccer season, and far different than what we were used to back in the States. Since there is no worry of the upcoming winter weather, the season didn’t start until late October. Quite funny be playing in shorts while friends back home are bundled up in near freezing temps!
Games for our league are held twice weekly after school. We don’t drive around the county to different away games like we’re used to. Instead all the games are held on a huge field divided into individual game fields. The result is field size much smaller than what we are used to, so all the games can be held at the same location.
Smaller fields mean fewer players, no off sides, and some interesting referee calls. Those poor refs were always whistling for balls out of bounds on those tiny fields. I’m sure it was no coincidence that they frequently kept the balls in play that bounced off parents on the side lines and back into the field!
The typical tropical rain/sun pattern made for some epic soccer viewing. This stunning rainbow stuck around for over 10 minutes, and was so vivid. Just amazing.
Before we departed the mainland US for American Samoa, we bought ourselves a cheap, knock off GoPro. We knew it wouldn’t last forever, or take the best pictures, but no one was expecting it to die after just a handful of uses. It worked just long enough to get us hooked on the fun of under water cameras!
After a bit of research, we officially jumped on the GoPro bandwagon. Between snorkeling, paddling, and wet weather hiking, we’ve already used it a lot. It seems that quite a bit of our time living in American Samoa involves soggy weather activities! The GoPro is far more user friendly than the knock off, which makes this momma quite happy when she is scrolling between settings while underwater! Enjoy the pics!
If you haven’t already, take a look at the header photo and see if you can spot the blue snorkel. That is Ty!
American Samoan Culture
American Samoa is very conservative about women covering up, specifically their legs. I’ll admit that I’ve struggled to embrace this cultural difference, but am trying to be respectful of a country that has welcomed us with open arms.
As soccer season was approaching, I must have had a dozen different people tell me to make sure I cover up while at the soccer games. The games are held at a theological school, which has a large rule sign that includes legs and shoulders must be covered. What we didn’t know was that this refers to men too! Thankfully Bucky was warned a few hours before the first game.