This is the third installment in a series of posts commemorating a very memorable journey.
Thirty-five years ago, I paid a visit to American Samoa. At that time, it had been twenty years since I left there after spending one of the most unforgettable years of my life on the main island of Tutuila -- a year chronicled in my memoir Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta (Behler Publications, 2019).
In this series of posts, I'm sharing excerpts from my 1986 travel journal, along with photos from the trip.
A note of clarification:
April 19, 1986: First day
At breakfast I meet two other guests -- airline company consultants from California and B.C. They ask why I'm here. I say I used to live here. One says, "Wasn't that enough?"
The one from B.C. says he was last here 10 years ago, and nothing has changed. The other one says he slept last night in the new addition -- an unfinished structure behind the main building. He stayed on the second floor, where there are balconies but no railings. "I'm glad I didn't come in drunk," he says.
Breakfast ($3) was Kellogg's Apple Jacks -- as soggy as the cardboard they're packaged in. Then a tomato omelette and three enormous pancakes.
During breakfast I watch chickens walking around outside and feel myself settling into the pace.
The rest of the day had a sad edge because of something that happened this morning. A woman named Debra from the tour agency picked me up at Apiolefaga to drive me to the Rainmaker. On the way, we were talking about where I used to live in Utulei, and she asked me if I remembered Jessop bakery. I said Thomas and Daisy Jessop were good friends when I lived here. She said she was their cousin. Then she told me Daisy died of cancer this year. She had 4 children -- the youngest only 2 or 3 years old.
All day I haven't been able to stop thinking about Daisy -- wishing somehow I'd managed to find her, feeling so sad for her.
Random observation: Debra, Daisy's cousin, looks like she just flew in from Bloomfield Hills. Dark, honey-colored hair, cut short and curly; long, red nails; lipstick, perfect makeup; stylish clothes; driving a new Honda. The only tip-off is the band of intricate tattoos around her wrist.
Another weird thing was, I picked up a copy of the Samoa News and on the front page was a picture of a young woman dancing at the Flag Day celebration. It was Barb (Pegues) Scanlan's daughter. That was a shock. I figured Barb* had taken her with her if she left here, but apparently not. I'll have to see what I can find out.
A more upbeat thing was talking to Pili Legalley. He was very friendly -- invited me out to his wife's 30th birthday party, but I didn't go because I wanted to get cleaned up, wash some clothes, try to call home. But maybe I'll go out there (Leone) tomorrow.
I walked around town a lot this afternoon, going in the stores. Nia Marie, South Pacific, other familiar ones. They seem just the same -- selling the same fabric, cheap perfume, plastic jewelry.
To be continued . . .
* I changed Barb's name to Marnie in Mango Rash, to avoid confusion with "Graffiti Barb."
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.