This is the eighth 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.
In the last installment, I returned to the main island of Tutuila after a visit to the outer islands of the Manu'a group.
Good to know:
Tima - aka Fatima
SPIA - South Pacific Island Airways
Fipa - aka Fibber
Mata Ala - Samoana High School's yearbook
Afa Ripley - Former schoolmate
Libya - My 1986 visit to American Samoa happened shortly after the US attack on Libya
lavalava - wrap-around sarong
aiga basket - baskets woven from coconut palm leaves and used for carrying just about everything, particularly food from the market or from special-occasion feasts
April 26, 1986
Tima, Mai, and Jeanette came to the hotel for breakfast this morning. Then I went up with Jeanette to her dad's house, where they were preparing for her cousin's funeral.
I found out all SPIA flights are cancelled through Monday. Tima had to make me new reservations through Hawaii.
Pili came to get me and brought me out to his and Gretchen's house for dinner. We sat around the house; Fipa showed up -- had just gotten off work, wearing grease-splotched pants and scrub shirt, same kind of boots he used to wear, like motorcycle boots.
Pili's kids are great -- gregarious, polite. Danika is about 8 -- kept showing me family pictures; going through Pili's Mata Ala; showing me his college yearbook (the only picture of Pili was of him performing with a Polynesian group that included Afa Ripley, with black paint streaks on his face and long hair).
Melissa is about 10 (?), beautiful, with long, wavy brown hair. Interested in science, very bright, aware of the world. We got out the atlas. She wanted to see everywhere I've lived, showed me Libya. She kept bringing out books and National Geographics, pictures of sharks and other fish, talking about astronomy and oceanography. Danika too -- talking about planets.
Jon is a lanky teehager -- talkng back to the television, teasing his sisters.But he's friendly and doesn't seem self-conscious.
Caleb, the baby, is sweet-natured, attentive,with big brown eyes in a little brown face.
Tonight I went with Pili to the Tikki lounge to hear him play with Tropical Storm, the group he's with now. He's still got it with the drums. I missed the old music -- this group is into Dire Straits, Huey Lewis, Stevie Wonder. But they did play two Samoan songs. It was exciting to hear that and to see people dancing. I was hoping there'd be someone to dance with, but most of the people there were couples or in groups -- a wedding party, the girls' netball team from Apia.
Pili and I danced to the disco music at the break. It was really like old times.
Just before the last set, Pili took me outside to meet someone. It was Tui Letuli, the kid I used to tutor in reading when he was in second grade. He's now 28, plays lead guitar. He's traveled all around the States, performed in a lot of places, getting ready to go back to L.A.to hang out.
I spent the night at Pili and Gretchen's. Watched pigs running through their yard. Pili complains about them rooting up his papaya trees. Guys walking down the dirt road wearing lavalavas, carrying aiga baskets.
To be continued . . .
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.