Here’s to another installment on what the heck we’ve been up to on our little rock in the South Pacific! It’s hard to believe that Bucky has been living in American Samoa for five months now, and the kids and I have hit 3.5 months. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Thanksgiving While Living in American Samoa
Thanksgiving passed by a few weeks ago, and this was the first time our kids experienced a holiday abroad. Bucky and I are no stranger to non-traditional holidays, but it’s been a few years and I was reminded of a few wonderful memories that had faded.
When you live in a community full of expats, your friends quickly become your family. We lived in circles of friends like this for a number of years back in the states. While they weren’t foreign countries, most friends all lived far from family. After seven years within driving distance of family holidays, Bucky and I once again found ourselves surrounded by friends at Thanksgiving.
It’s not that friends organizing holiday feasts with their family wouldn’t take your own family into their house with open arms. Instead, it is practically assumed you will celebrate together as a community of friends. It’s a very welcoming and unique feel when everyone around you comes together for a communal pot luck feast.
Of course going to soak in the ocean after filling up on a Thanksgiving meal is just icing on the cake! I think Ty must have repeated dozens of times “We never would have done this in New Jersey!” throughout the day.
Food for thought: are we actually expats when living in American Samoa? We’re in a US territory (and our family members are US citizens) which should mean we are not expats. The opposing argument is that while technically the same country, the Samoan culture (and geography!) makes it seem like a world apart.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Bucky departed our little island for a work trip to Guam. Coordinating his work schedule with airline itineraries and pricing resulted in a marathon of travel on either end of the trip. While it wasn’t smooth traveling, it resulted in lots of passport stamps and photos of other countries. Always best to look at the bright side!
The only international flight out of our local airport (Pago Pago) on island is to Hawaii. All other flights must depart out of Apia, in western Samoa. It’s easy to fly from American Samoa to Samoa, but you arrive at the domestic airport which is a 1 hour taxi ride from the international airport. The transfer makes for just one more drawn out leg of the journey.
The grand tour on the way to Guam was American Samoa –> Samoa –> Fiji. Overnight in Fiji, then Fiji –> Seoul –> Guam. Who knew working and living in American Samoa would take you to such places?!
Five days of intense work in Guam, but luckily there was good restaurant food and beer at night!
At the of the week, Bucky had a similar (but a bit more drawn out) return itinerary. Guam –> Seoul –> 15 hour Seoul Airport layover –> Fiji –> Samoa. Overnight in Samoa, then Samoa –> Pago Pago first thing the next morning. Three+ days of travel on the return, except that it was only two days because he crossed back over the International Date Line and lost a day. Poor guy took a few days to get his bearings straight once home!
Island Dogs Must Swim
Todd went through a swimming phase almost two months ago where he would not stop swimming while we were playing in the ocean. We had to watch out if we wanted to snorkel far from shore, as one day I looked back and there was Todd following us! After about a week, he refused to do much more than wade into the water or an occasional quick lap and then back to shore.
Fast forward to these last two weeks, and it seems Todd has grown up enough that swimming is here to stay. After all, it seems that all dogs who live close to the ocean in American Samoa are swimmers. It is pretty darn cute when he follows the kids around when they are paddling (do you like our new paddle board?!).
Most of our neighborhood dogs even love to ride on the paddle boards, but we have yet to convince Todd of this fact. Maybe it’s for the best!
Unfortunately, there is a huge dog overpopulation problem on the island. The sometimes aggressive local dogs is really our one negative opinion about living in American Samoa. The island’s territory vet, along with a local rescue, has made huge strides at reducing the number of intact dogs (and cats!), but it’s an ongoing issue. Last week our vet sent out a help request to foster a momma with her newborn pups. The timing worked out on our end, so home came Momma Dog and her 6 puppies!
As you can imagine, there has been a TON of puppy cuddling going on here. Momma Dog has really come out of her shell, and is as sweet and trusting as can be. Thank goodness for that, as I’m not sure we would have coped well if mom was aggressively protecting her pups.
American Samoan Culture
Right after Thanksgiving, we attended the annual Fa’afafine Festival. While I’ve been aware of the word fa’afafine and who they are, I had no idea the cultural role fa’afafines play in Samoan families. In short, fa’afafines are Samoans who are assigned male at birth, but who identify as non-binary.
Fa’afafines play a crucial role in the Samoan family units, and there are many similar fa’afafine identities across Polynesia. Fa’afafine typically take on the stereotypical work of women in a family, and there is one theory stating boys will be chosen as fa’afafine if there are not enough girls born to a family.
To try and prevent my limited knowledge of doing a disservice to fa’afafine, take a look at this Wikipedia summary of fa’afafine with links to peer reviewed articles (under References) for further reading.
The festival was a great chance to dive in and learn more about this part of Samoan society. Three teams on the island (west, central, and east zones) all competed with team members modeling different categories of Samoan dress. Our favorite was the Past Traditional Wear. The details were incredible!
Curious to learn how our journey started, and other tidbits about living in American Samoa? Take a look at our Transition to American Samoa and our First Two Months in American Samoa. Follow along by reading our Living in American Samoa series.
All in all, it’s been a great few weeks! We’re enjoying November and December in the tropics, and are thoroughly weirded out when we hear Christmas music on the radio or snowmen going up as decorations! Hope this post finds you and yours happy and healthy!