The Strange and Unique of American Samoa

Anytime you go somewhere new, you’re going to run into things that make you say, “What the…?” That’s one of the biggest reasons to travel- to see new places and try new things. Every country, town, culture, and ecosystem has its own set of items that are unique unto itself. Some of the ones we’ve found here, in American Samoa have become more clear, while others still have us confused as to why.

Front Yard Graves- Unique to American Samoa
These are some of the more ostentatious front yard graves around the island

Front Yard Graves

Nate just can’t wrap his head around the idea of people wanting to bury their deceased family in their front yards. Hadley gets creeped out by the idea. Personally, I think it’s along the same lines as keeping an urn on your mantel. Nate and I both find the size of some of them to be somewhat grandiose. There are only a few visible examples of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses in American Samoa, and graves seem to be one of those. I do appreciate the way Samoans keep the memories of their family alive and in a place of honor. A few times a year, it is expected that everyone goes and cleans up the graves and memorials, touches up the paint, cleans away weeds, and displays fresh flowers.

Breadfruit
I applaud the person who first decided to try eating this alien looking fruit

Ulu/Breadfruit

I was unsure of this “fruit” for quite a while, before finally trying it. It’s a fruit in the sense that cucumbers and avocados are fruit; it technically is, although it’s not at all sweet and is used like a vegetable or starch. It can be prepared similarly to a potato- baked, boiled, fried, mashed, roasted, etc. Unlike the potato, you’ll want to remove the bumpy, outside layer before eating. And I was surprised to learn that it’s rather high in vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Phosphorous. This makes it a great addition to any well-rounded diet. 

Corner Mart

Marts

So, in Mainland US, when I saw a business with its windows all covered with paint or alcohol advertisements, I assumed it was one of two places: Bar or Strip Club. Driving around American Samoa, there is a business on every corner with its windows covered. At first, I was a little trouble by the prevalence of these establishments. But I soon found out that they were all just convenience stores, who all followed the same habit of covering their windows with advertisements. I still don’t know why they keep their windows covered… All I can figure is for temperature control, so the hot afternoon doesn’t heat up the inside as much? 

Noni Fruit
Eat at your own risk.

Noni

Now, this fruit is still a puzzle to me. It looks nasty, it smells nasty, and I’ve heard that it tastes really nasty! But I’ve been told that you can juice it and mix small amounts (so you can’t taste it) into your drinks. Why? Noni Fruit is said to have many health benefits, particularly good for lowing blood sugar and cholesterol. In a culture where obesity is rampant, anything that helps in these ways must be good. But be careful, Noni may have some unwanted side effects as well. These may include liver damage, high potassium, kidney problems, and is not suggested for use during pregnancy, as it’s been used to induce abortions.

Sa Bell- Unique to American Samoa

Sa Bell

I’ve written about these before, but I had to include them as they are so unique to the Samoan culture. When we first came here, I was confused why there were empty oxygen tanks hanging all over the island. It turns out they’re used to sound the call for Sa (family prayer) and for sounding alarms in emergencies like a tsunami. Once we found out that they work like a bell, our boys have been dying to try one out. But we’ve convinced them to resist, as the Sa Bells are only to be used for those appropriate occasions. What a great example of upcycling.

Laundry Detergent Bottle Decor
No, it’s not just litter…

Laundry Detergent Decor

Litter is a problem on the beautiful islands of American Samoa and I thought all these laundry detergent bottles were just another example of this. Some houses have their driveways lined with them; in other places they’re lined up between the road and the ocean. Finally, I asked someone about it and was told that they’re used as decorations. On a small island, lost in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, yard decor can be expensive and hard to find. So, instead of discarding all the drained and colorful bottles, they have been reused for the beautification of the island. Yet again, another excellent example of upcycling!

Laundry Detergent Bottle Yard Decor
Can you see the bottles lining the driveway?

There are so many more things about our island home that have surprised or confused me over this past year, but some can’t be shown and some can’t really be explained. They just have to be experienced. The longer you live in a place, the more you learn and find out about it, for good and for bad. The trick is to learn from the bad, hopefully finding ways to improve upon them, and highlight and build upon the good.

The Strange and Unique of American Samoa

Have you ever looked around and thought about the things that are unique to the place where you live? It’s easier when you’re new to the place, when you’ve lived there you’re whole life they just seem commonplace. But tell me, what are some things, good or bad, that are particular to your home?

12 thoughts on “The Strange and Unique of American Samoa”

    1. Thank-you. Sadly, American Samoa doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. It’s a beautiful group of islands in the South Pacific which we’ve been so blessed to call home this past year.

  1. Great read…what interesting things to learn about American Samoa. Those would be some interesting things to see and it is great to learn more about the reasons behind them. Hopefully we will get there one day!

    1. That would be awesome! To be honest, I never considered any of the South Pacific much before we got the opportunity to move here, but it has surprised me. We love it here! Definitely come if you get the chance.

    1. Yay! You should definitely come visit if you get the chance. I know the flights here aren’t cheap, basically from anywhere, but it’s so worth a visit!

  2. This is such a great bit of information. It just solidifies why we have to get out and travel so we can learn not everyone lives the same way we do. I am in love with the upcyling!

    1. Isn’t it great? And yes, there’s no way to see all the quirky things a place has to offer when you just look at pictures in a magazine or on Instagram. You can only experience them for yourself.

  3. We lived in American Samoa for three years, 1993-1996, and I painted several hundred paintings of these islands, holding four solo art shows at the museum and library there. Fond, fond, fond memories….and I remember puzzling about many of the things you have been experiencing too….cool discoveries!

    Eileen George

    1. Thanks for commenting. That is so cool! I’d love to see those paintings! We are loving our time here and I know we’ll keep these memories forever. Any plans to come back for a visit? I’d be interested to hear how it’s changed from your perspective.

  4. Fascinating! I had no idea about the laundry detergent decor, but it makes sense! I’ve always been curious about American Samoa, and now I’m even more interested in visiting!

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