Feeling hot about the HOT

I understand about paying a toll (fee) at certain bridges or designated roads/highways. But paying for the freeway lane in which you’re driving? Well, change is the only thing that’s constant, says one man from Athens. Here in happy, fit and healthy Utah - among a handful of states - we will now pay to drive in the HOT (High-Occupancy Toll) lane which is slowly changing from “Carpool/HOV” lane to “Express” or HOT lane.

Here’s the deal. The Express lane is still free for carpoolers and high occupancy vehicles (HOVs) like buses. But when a one-person car wants to drive in that lane (since ideally, it’s not as crowded as other lanes) then the driver needs to pay, especially if he’s a frequent user/commuter. Such a driver will need a special transponder affixed to his windshield. (Just what we needed - another distraction to add to cell phones, GPS devices, etc., Who knows, maybe in the next century all cars will be completely instrument-operated.) Anyway, the antennas along the freeway communicate with the transmitter and will help in computing the charges based on the marked zones as well as the amount of traffic at the time. It’s a good source for state revenue.

But as a bus commuter I am worried the Express lane can turn into a “regress” lane since most people will now use it. The general tendency in freeway travel, is that people will try to get to their destinations fast and at almost any cost - monetary, that is.

Oh, by the way, I think the driver should mount the transponder at a spot where it doesn’t hinder her vision. Be forewarned!...LOL!


When I deal, it’s a good deal ....

From time to time, our company offers free health checks on vital signs (basics). Today was one of those times. I went in and my numbers were ideal, according to the guys and gals who administered the checkups. My BP ...haha...not the petroleum company ...but Blood Pressure was 111/73, which according to the guy was ideal.

My pulse was 54. The guy said it was a little low, then he quickly said that it’s typical for athletic people to have their resting pulse lower than 50. And he mentioned Lance Armstrong as an example. Wow, Mr. Armstrong? Now there’s an ideal psychological boost. However, I felt that I still needed a second opinion so I came back and checked for some confirmation of what he said and here’s an exact statement I found on one of the Health sites.

“...resting pulse for an adult is between 60 and 80 to be considered normal, unless that person is extremely athletic, then it may be lower.”

I may be "athletic", but being extremely athletic? ...I don’t know ... I would love to be considered as such, even if based solely on stats....lol.

Oh, and then my BS ...haha...again not the usual interpretation, but Blood Sugar, was 87; again the lady who checked it said it was ideal.

So there’s my somewhat clean and ideal bill of health for now ... oh, and tonight happens to be gym night - work out and play racquetball. Good Deal!

Helpmeet or Helpmate?

Are these men taking a literal and skewed interpretation of helpmeet?  From a Samoan viewpoint, these husbands ought to be sent packing!...lol
UK - Egelani
Ireland -Aealani
And the winner is .....
L.A. - Lalomanu Aleipata
...hahahaa.... One of the morals of the story: E sili lava le kama Hamoa ....hmmm...maybe I should say some, or most kama Hamoa, aua e iai foi isi 'aukuoli e le mafaufau, le popoi ma le faaaloalo...aea?


Apple cores and a stylish killer

Speaking of Summer, one of my routines is taking the bus to work. I enjoy it. Not only I get to have someone else do the driving - especially during rush hours - but it’s economical; the employer pays for my ki'eki'e pasi, so why not?  I also am able to read a book, take a nap, contemplate something or just watch and observe people. Oh and these buses also have free Wi-Fi ...sweeet!

This morning, at one of the stops, a guy boarded the bus munching an apple. Instead of taking a seat, he stood in the aisle holding on to one of the metal supports with one hand and apple in the other. He was in the center of everyone’s forward gaze, especially mine, now that I’m impressed with his healthy demeanor. (I considered him a friend since I had an apple too, but in my backpack.) At the next stop, amazingly, a woman boarded with a protein shake and she too stood in the aisle next to my apple friend; mind you, there were empty seats still. Could standing be considered a healthy habit? Well it must be since sitting - in the sedentary sense - has been reputed as a health risk (re: quotes below). If so, then the two standing passengers must have contributed to Utah’s top ranking as the healthiest/fittest state in a recent national survey.
vi and core (Spondias dulcis)
Now back to my apple friend. The woman did not drink from her shake, meanwhile, I was waiting for the moment the driver was going to remind Johnny Appleseed about the “no eating on the bus” rule - he (driver) did not.  Johnny continued in the usual circular munching pattern until he had only the core left. My interest then shifted to how he would dispose of the core. For a couple of quick seconds, he seemed to have looked for a trash repository, then he did the unthinkable, at least from my perspective as an apple lover and core hater (no pun intended, hahaa).  He took the first bite and then the second and the core was gone. I winced but was not totally repulsed. In fact I quietly convinced myself that there actually are people who eat apple cores. Come to think of it, I would love to give my friend a vi (Spondias dulcis) and see if he would eat the core too; though I have seen kids in Samoa who would chew and reduce the vi core to pulp then spit it out.

And then the researches/studies on the risks of sitting from which these quotes are taken:

“You might be pleased with that cool looking Aeron chair your buns are nestled in —— but it’s nothing but a stylish killer. Recent studies have shown that the amount of time you spend sitting raises your risk of dying. Sit more, die sooner.  An Australian study of 8,800 people over a six year period found that for each hour spent sitting increased the risk of death from heart disease by one-fifth.”

So standing is better?

“Better yet, stand part of the day. Research done by Dr. Mark Benden of Texas A&M University, suggests that standing at least two hours a day improves energy levels, productivity and can even assist in weight control. Standing two hours a day can burn up to 280 calories daily....”

If my bus ride was two hours, I would consider standing, like my two bus mates.  A’o Samoa la, a ka ku, ua ka le mafaufau, fai mai loa le faa-sitoe: “Sole gofo i lalo, o le kagaka e ku e vave a ga palasi” .....Koea’iga fia malosi!...LOL!


Savagery of a noble kind

Summer is here - finally. It’s everyone’s favorite season, except for those avid skiers snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. One of my favorite Summer activities is camping - roughin’ it out. It’s the closest I get to reliving my faipopo and fai ma'umaga days.

Summer gets more appreciated and anticipated in Utah, at least by warm-blooded primates like me, because of the seasons, especially Winter. And Summer equals camping, which equals swimming, jet skiing and other water sports. Camping is one of those activities into which islanders in the States, and elsewhere, need to be assimilated. For me, it took a while to be convinced of spending a few days in the wild and in the mountains. At first I said: “Why? I just came from Samoa where I spent a lot of time in the mountains, let alone the fact that much of my immediate si'osi'omaga consisted of trees, mountains, rivers and the ocean. In essence, I have been camping for the last nineteen years. So what’s there in camping?” ...well, please pardon my impetuosity!  I guess I had to live and immerse myself in the nature-deprived life of modern western society in order to finally get that  “A ha!" moment.

And so after several years of being held captive in the steel and concrete jungles of modern cities and high-rises, the longing and visceral yearning for the placidity and serenity of natural lakes, the awe and grandeur of the mountains, the soothing flow of rivers and streams and all the wonders and splendors of nature, slowly crept back into my being.  Now, whenever I go camping, sleeping under the stars of the sprawling night sky with the night breeze whispering sweet soft lullabies interrupted only by a wail of a nocturnal predator, all of a sudden I feel newfound freedom and it seems my noble savagery is reawakened. I feel not only refreshed and renewed but also returned to some primal glorious existence. The feeling of a certain fresh and invigorating consummation has finally arrived - again.  It’s savagery of a noble kind.  And to that, I say "Chooooo-soo-soo!!" which is the noble celebratory cry of a real savage.


E au uma i le tauola, e au fo’i i le fagota ....

Translation: “We all get to carry the fish basket, as well as become the fisherman, too.”

The picture is one of my all-time favorites. The amazing thing was that as soon as I saw the picture the proverbial expression above flashed through my mind. The realization and association were immediate, epiphanic and validatory.

“Tauola” refers to the bearer of the fish basket; “tau” is short for “carry” (as in tauamo, tau'ave, tausa’e, tausi'i) and “ola” refers to the specific basket designed to carry fish.

The expression is mostly used as an advice in the context of leadership succession. Specifically, it reminds us of the need to always be prepared to “step up to the plate” when filling someone else's shoes. In other words, it’s a reminder on the importance of being an effective apprentice or understudy. And therefore, the expression is also a caveat against complacency and dereliction.

In the picture, the father (fisherman) walks ahead of his son (fish basket bearer). While the father fishes, the son is supposed to watch and observe because sometime in the future, he (son), too, will be the fisherman.

In a more general sense, the adage serves as a reminder of the need to develop skills and flexibility in acquiring the moxie to perform different roles that life sometimes assigns to us.

On a more personal level - and still continuing my reminiscing subtext - the picture brings memories of the times when I went fishing with my Dad. He used a cast net (or throw net) - the tili or kili. And the strategy is that he walks ahead along the beach, spots a school of fish and then casts the net. As I follow closely behind with the basket (ola) - or an old rice bag - I would make sure that as soon as he casts the net, I am there when he retrieves and hauls it in. My job of extracting and putting the fish inside the basket/bag was easy and anyone can do it; well, sort of. The extraction takes skill and experience too in order to avoid tearing or damaging the net, and also to avoid the spines from poking and cutting your fingers and hands.

My Dad’s task, on the other hand, was more challenging. Casting/throwing the net seemed natural, however, I was often left to wonder how he was able to spot the fishes. As a child, I thought he was haphazardly casting the net and whatever fish happened to be in the area - by luck or by fate - was caught.

In hindsight, it was indifference and disregard, more than childish pride, that I did not inquire about the feat. Anyway, here’s the answer. A skilled fisherman watches the crests of the waves which are often transparent from the refracted sunlight, and there the fishes will be visible. This intuition is also the source of another Samoan adage: “Ua malama i ulugalu” (“It’s visible in the wave crests”) meaning something has become clear and discernible as the fish in the crests.

The picture also captures the essence of our relationships with our parents. They are in fact our first teachers and leaders. We learn a lot from them whether consciously or subconsciously.  I’ve also heard somewhere - whether we like it or not - that daughters will eventually become like their mothers and sons like their fathers, possibly more through nurture than nature.  Ia ka'ilo! 

At any rate, whatever you do, do it well or not at all.  Aua le faakaga faia se mea; fai faalelei.  A tautua pa'o ma tomumu se taule'ale'a, ona faapea lea o le matai:  "E au i le tauola, e au fo'i i le fagota."  O lona uiga, e iai le taimi e avea ai oe ma matai ona e iloa lea o le leaga o le tautua pa'o ma le tomumu."   Hmmm... kinda like "what goes around, comes around ...."  Ia ga!


Exhibit A

Re: Previous blog titled: "Kalofa e,"

This picture updates and corroborates the following claim from the abovementioned post:

"Further, if he was wearing any shorts, he would have either draped his ‘ie around his neck and shoulders as a cushion for the pole (amo), or ...placed it on top of his load.  In that way, he does not have to keep retying it."

...been there seen that ...LOL!! ... Oh, btw, I may not have worn any shorts but I always had my Hanes® ... though I never draped my 'ie over my shoulders in that case... hahahaa ...seki a kamaiki Lalomagu. :)


Beautiful Red Hibiscus

I’ve known all along that sooner or later in this blog, I would venture - albeit apprehensively - into reminiscing my life in Samoa. I have even tried to avoid prolonging the melancholic feeling from the last blog post, but then again, reminiscing is not always a forlorn and disheartening thing. In fact reminiscing can bring serenity, happiness, upliftment and optimism.

Herman Melville, in his first novel “Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life”, wrote about the time when he was back in New York where he reminisced his days in the Marquesas Islands. In the account, he recalled vividly the images of the branches of three large breadfruit trees waving and swaying in the afternoon breeze, and especially the effects that such images can have on us. Melville noted therefore of how “...inanimate objects will twine themselves into our affections."  I too have such fond recollections especially weekday mornings and Sunday afternoons which are the times that I would pensively recall the trees and plants around our house in Samoa.  It’s amazing however that I seem to remember them now more in my recollections and reflections than at the time of actual residence.

This is a picture of the hibiscus plant in our living room. It conjures, evokes and tickles my rural and idyllic fancies. Whenever I cast an admiring glance at the plant and its flowers, my admiration soon shifts into a contemplative mood and a stream of thoughts and memories starts to creep into my consciousness and affections as Melville affirms. For example, I remember the hibiscus plants outside our home, from which I picked the flowers to take to school for the teacher’s desk, or to decorate and beautify the classroom. The hibiscus also reminds me of my dear Mother. A few days after she died, we (children) made sure that flowers were placed at her grave. So we would use coconut midribs (tuaniu) to string the hibiscus flowers and place them at the head and foot of the grave.

It was also the hibiscus plant that I first learned the method of grafting with my Dad’s guidance and expertise. Again, we had red and white hibiscus plants in front of our house. One day my Dad called me over where he demonstrated grafting two hibiscus plants. He first cut off a branch from one plant, then he notched the bark and stem of the “host” plant, inserted the grafting branch and then used a string to tie and fasten both branch and the main/host plant. It didn’t make sense or mean much to me at the time until a new flower bloomed on the branch; one half was white, and the other half was red.  Wow!

There’s a host of other memories and recollections of Samoa that the hibiscus plant and flowers induce in me. One of those is an old favorite Samoan song “Beautiful Red Hibiscus” - it’s a classic.

Kalofa e,

Wow, that’s totally me ...of yesteryears.
D-e-j-a V-u!

Having been raised in the outbacks (my own euphemism for kuaback or kua) as a young boy, I did exactly what this young boy is doing in the picture!

Apparently, some things have not changed much in Samoa - the picture was taken last year (2009). The only thing in the picture that has changed since my days as a youngster, is the paved road. An unpaved road had its advantages, though sharp rocks and pebbles were problems as the heat is for the paved road. I so much love this picture - it brings back indelible memories of my life as a little boy in Samoa.

Now, let me reminisce through analyzing. I must say that I’m an expert and authority in explaining the picture (grin) - it’s certainly worth a thousand words or more.  (Click on picture to enlarge.)

First of all, the kid. He is between ten and twelve years old. He truly represents my time as a youngster by his mode of dress - the ‘ie (lavalava).  Most kids today in Samoa, even in the poorer villages, wear shorts. Our protagonist is not wearing any shorts otherwise he would have exposed them for show off and to impress his female peers. Funny but oftentimes true. Further, if he was wearing any shorts, he would have either draped his ‘ie around his neck and shoulders as a cushion for the pole (amo), or would have placed it on top of his load. In that way, he does not have to keep retying it. Though the ‘ie  is convenient for the weather, it can also be a hindrance at times.

And being shirtless?  Well, which Samoan-born-and-raised kid would not want to flaunt his tan and sculpted torso?  They're products of his environment.  Being shirtless also would facilitate the body's reception and absorption of Vitamin D (from sunlight) of which Samoans are never deficient.  As a result they always have strong bones.

Next, the machete. What machete, where? It’s the black elongated piece (about 2 ft) in front of the load. What we do as boys is to chop the machete into the husk (outer part of the coconut) where it is easily clamped. When harvesting coconuts, that’s the safest place for the handiest of Samoa’s everyday tools. With the machete in its proper place, the hands are now free for switching the pole of coconuts between shoulders.

Then the sandals/flip flops. Sandals? He’s barefooted.

The sandals are part of the load too. There’s one right behind his back and another one further back. Well, why is he not wearing them? There are two possible reasons: First one, the straps may have broken yet still fixable, so he’s taking them home to be fixed. The second reason, is that it’s his way of caring for his sandals. Flip flops are a luxury and so children don’t want to overuse them, especially when they are needed at more important occasions like church and school.

There’s still another highly plausible reason. The sandals seem too big for him. Therefore, they may have been his mom’s or dad’s and he (boy) doesn’t want to dispense more wear and tear. The parent may have insisted that he take them especially to cover his feet against the hot road. As a Samoan boy, such a kind and loving gesture by a parent is often reciprocated in his own considerate way.

As one can imagine, life as a young boy in Samoa, at least during my day, seemed hard. But I’m glad that it was the way it was.  It molded and refined me in many ways, acquiring values needed to handle life’s challenges in the process. Values such as hard work (galue), struggle (tauivi), patience (onosa’i), love (alofa), determination (filiga), endurance (tumau) , etc.,

Oscar Wilde once said that the only way to repeat one’s youth is to repeat one’s follies. For me, a picture like the one above surely repeats my youth at least in the keen and yearning recesses of my mind.

And as melancholy starts to set in, let me sign off .......for now.


"Vat a kahntry!"

This past weekend was the “Fourth” - meaning "Fourth of July", meaning the Independence Day of the United States of America.  And once again, parades, barbecues and fireworks dominated the “sea-to-shining sea” landscape. Our family had our own fun and games during the long weekend. The “Fourth Barbecue” of course is now an established tradition and is the hub (typical Samoan "hub", aye?) of everything else that we plan for the July holiday.

While individual families, cities, communities have their own programs and events to commemorate the Fourth, some events remain the same throughout the land. One of these is the swearing-in ceremonies for the newest citizens; each state has its own. The new citizens have successfully gone through the naturalization process. These are people from all over the globe representing most, if not all, countries. There were people from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., who - safe to say - were perhaps the most grateful and the most enthusiastic of all - understandably so.

Amazingly, even in these post “September 11" years, people still flock to America. Most say it’s the opportunities; others say it’s freedom (the two of course are intertwined) - every human being yearns and deserves to be free.  And speaking of freedom, America is indisputably the last - and only - hope for freedom in the world.

What I have found out is that, generally speaking, everyone wants to be an American, or at least wants to come to America. The feeling is universal, even to the most ardent of patriots and nationalists of their own respective nation/country. In a television clip of one swearing-in, an Iraqi woman, clad in her native head-to-toe dark attire - minus the veil/burqa - rises from the crowd waving the stars and stripes. In a local paper (Utah), a picture of a Samoan taking the oath and pledge of citizenship is printed.

And here’s a stimulating statement/fact:  In a particular profound sense, everyone CAN be an American, but not, say, Chinese, Japanese or German - or Samoan for that matter.  That’s because America is a nation, not a race. 

And so in the words of Yakov Smirnoff - a Russian actor/comedian who became a naturalized US citizen - “Vat a kahntry!” (What a country!)  Despite her flaws, America is still great and good.

“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
(Note: The above quote is/has been attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, though it is presently impugnable.)


Riches, Happiness and Mountains

Do the first two sound familiar and cliched? I'm sure we've all heard the expressions: "Money is not everything", "Money does not buy happiness" and the like. Though relatively true, the expressions are also sarcastically comical as well as inherently duplicitous and beguiling.

They're comical in the sense that to an average Tom, he knows that the expressions are false but can also be true, or sound true. Relativeness plays an important role in our interpretation and acceptance of these adages. For example, people define happiness differently and therefore likely to have different means of attaining their own respective versions of happiness. And beguiling in the sense that, more often than not, these expressions are uttered mostly by people who have lots of money, the "been there done that" clique - like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett - whether expressed in a serious and sincere way, or in a sneering and sarcastic manner by some.

On the other hand, I'd venture that an average or poor person, too, can advocate the expressions, though most likely impelled by envy, rationalization or by some lofty religious and moral principle.

What I would certainly deplore, however, is when someone, especially with ample opportunities to better and improve his meager conditions and station in life, would still be content and complacent because of a skewed and literal interpretation of the expressions. Furthermore, condemning the injustices of excess in order to espouse pauperism as a raison d'etre  is repugnant as far as I'm concerned.

Just today, I was reading this headline: "U.S. Is Richest Nation, But Not Happiest."  Again we find here the age-old association of wealth and money with happiness, more specifically the refutation and invalidation of the assumptive direct link and connection. And in case you're curious as to which countries were the happiest, according to the poll/survey - it's Kiwiland (New Zealand) and Denmark sharing the top prize.

Well you NZers, I don't know what it is that makes you happy but it could be all the mamoe on the lush and verdant hillsides. The sights alone can be delightful, alluring and therapeutic. Or it could be the divine associations and symbolism of the animal that cast the happy aura and spell on y'all. Or it could be rugby! ...LOL.

Well, definitely not to be outdone, we here in Utah have had our share of the same honor nationwide. The recent poll/survey ranked the happiest states as follows: 1. Utah  2. Hawaii (yep, we beat another favorite state of mine), 3. Wyoming  4. Colorado  5. Minnesota  6. Maryland  7. Washington  8. Massachusetts
9. California  10. Arizona (oh, AZ, my other favorite, at least you made the top 10). I don't know if Arizona can maintain its tenth ranking after that immigration law which made many of its residents disgruntled and possibly UNhappy. LOL!

In case you haven't noticed, the Mountain states (Utah, Wyoming and Colorado) are ranked in the top four, so could it be the mountains - the beautiful Rockies? New Zealand too has lotsa beautiful mountains. After all, doesn't the Good Book extol and laud the mountains?

"... and as the dew that descended upon the mountains ... for there the Lord commanded the blessing[s], even life for evermore." ~ Psalms 133: 3

I'm sure that life "upon the mountains" is one of joy and happiness, right?

Anyway, don't worry, just be happy!