My Birthday... In South Pacific Paradise
It's been far too long and that means just one thing: Time for a new post. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the adventures and how I can possibly put my experiences into words to share with others. And, as we know, by blogging about the trips, I sometimes articulate a little too much. Alas, my birthday on the island of Aunu'u warrants all the words in the world because it was a day I will never forget.
It all started when two friends (Christa + Jeremy) and I booked a trip to American Samoa with the purpose of visiting the National Park of American Samoa as we are National Park enthusiasts hoping to visit all of the National Parks in the United States. (As if you didn't know that already!) We soon realized there is so much more to American Samoa than the national park and Peter and Aunu'u were the key factors that led us to this realization.
We had researched the island of Aunu'u and told the front desk of our hotel of our plans. They asked if we had been in contact with Peter to which we replied no... Fast forward to our visit to the National Park of American Samoa Visitor Center and the same thing happened. We needed to find out who this mysterious 'Peter' was and get in contact with him as soon as possible. Lucky for us, the rangers and staff at the visitor center were able to call Peter for us and even more lucky for us was that Peter and Michael were at the post office in town and came over to the visitor center to meet us.
It turns out Peter resides on the island of Aunu'u and shows people the island and all that it has to offer. We planned to meet Peter at the dock at Au'asi (at the eastern end of Tutuila) for the following day, which just so happened to be my birthday (Saturday, December 22). After a brief boat ride, we arrived on the beautiful island of Aunu'u and Peter presented us with lava lavas and brought us to his house for an 'Ava Ceremony which is one of the many Samoan traditions he introduced us to. He also gave us the best, most freshest pineapple I ever had.
After the 'Ava Ceremony, Peter led a couple of cultural demonstrations. For the first, we each husked and cracked a coconut... it was a lot harder than I thought! Then we shaved the coconut to create coconut milk which was to be used in our lunch. We then weaved plates using the palms of the tree of life and subsequently used the plates for our lunch! But, before lunch, we went on a hike and, while the entire day was memorable, my favorite part was the hike. I was completely blown away by the beauty of the island: the flowers, the plants, the resources, etc.
We passed by taro plantations and Peter demonstrated the use of so many different 'plants' in which I always saw as plants. Turns out, Peter is basically a magician when it comes to using the land and plants in various ways. We visited Pala Lake and Peter used his knife to kill two fish. It was incredible! Honestly, magical. After our hike, we worked up quite an appetite and went back to Peter's house for lunch.
Lunch consisted of skipjack fish, taro with coconut milk/cream (so delicious), and cucumbers. Plus, fresh, cold coconut water. Everything was fantastic and I was thankful for Michael who prepared it for us. After lunch, Peter and Michael gave us a little keepsake - a pristine coconut shell - I have it on my souvenir shelf and it's the perfect way to remember the experience. Our day on Aunu'u concluded with an after-lunch swim and snorkel in the harbor. Peter had some snorkel gear he let us borrow and we were able to see some shipwrecks and cool fish. My favorite part of the swim was when Peter got some of the sea creatures and we actually ate them (!) and he let us try 'sea grapes.' Because, why wouldn't we eat random things found in the water... Honestly, our time on Aunu'u with Peter and Michael was my favorite part of our American Samoa trip. Our day with them happened to also be my 29th birthday and it's definitely a birthday I will never, ever forget. Did I mention Peter is a Samoa Chief? I was able to spend my birthday with a Samoa Chief. How awesome is that? So many of our questions were answered and we were truly immersed in the American Samoa culture the entire day. Peter, Michael, Peter's wife, and even Peter's daughter (Ariel) showed us the American Samoa hospitality and I am so thankful for our experience.
If you can believe it, our time on Aunu'u was only one day of our seven day American Samoa trip. Check back soon for part two - a recap of our other adventures on the beautiful Samoan Islands!