Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Samoa Loses December 30th

Samoan Date Line, December 29,2011

Samoan Date Line, December 31,2011

Samoa is skipping December 30th in order to gain one day and one hour. What was to be today suddenly becomes tomorrow, as far as the United States and American Samoa are concerned. This is a result of redrawing of the International Date Line to go to the east of Samoa, in between it and American Samoa 60 miles away.

It was always a tradition for Peace Corps Volunteers to gather at the western most tip of Samoa at the Village of Falealupo on the island of Savaii to be the last to celebrate the New Year and to look across the waters to see tomorrow. Now they will have to go to the Eastern most point of Samoa, which I take to be either Namua Island or the Village of Muliatele to be the first to celebrate the New Year. One thing is for sure, they will celebrate, only a day sooner.

If all this seems confusing, welcome to the customs of Samoa, a very convoluted place.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Muslims in America

December 21, 2011
At five o'clock this evening, my bus stopped to pick up students from the local high school. They had stayed late to have sports team pictures taken before the winter recess. The bus sounded like an excited flock of geese as they boarded. Most were Muslims. They slowly surveyed the bus as they determined how they were to divide up and where to sit. The seat next to me was vacant and the last to be taken by a slight Somali girl, complete with head scarf, the seat in front by her heavier Somali scarfed girlfriend and an Afro-American boy whom they both seemed to like.

As the bus travelled toward downtown, they jabbered, joked, and poked each other talking about their friends while grasping their smart phones. The boy was asked if he smoked. To understand the question more clearly, he gave the motion of having a toke. The girls were surprised and said they didn't know he smoked. He said he had been smoking for two years, mostly at home when his mother was away, otherwise she would kill him. He would then go outside to walk off the effects before she returned home.

The girls reaction was more of wanting to know more, rather than judgement. "Aren't you afraid of being caught by the police?", one asked. "No" said the boy. There was a moment of silence as they pondered his answer and what they had just experienced. As the bus neared the transfer station, their talk quickly changed to their connections and how late they would be getting home.

What made me laugh was the universality of the scene. It could have occurred with any group of American young teenagers anywhere, growing up. It made me feel good to know that America's future was going to be in their good dark-skinned hands.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joy of Shopping

December 14, 2011
One of the famous retailers said that shopping is entertainment. Indeed, it can be entertaining much in the fashion of Las Vegas, where you know you are being had. Shopping can be likened to a game where you seek out that special deal and beat the house. The odds are against you in the long run, but one winner can keep you coming back for more.

The rules of the game are changing. Now everything is on sale. If it red sign doesn't say the price is reduced by at least 30%, you feel riped off. When everything is discounted, how do you find the real deals? My strategy is to find those items which are not discounted, difficult but not impossible.
I can't tell you how good it feels to double check with the cashier that my item was not discounted!

Retailing has gone beyond entertainment to now include dining and exercise in its pantheon of ways to get you into the store. Recently I went to an IKEA store accidentally before it opened. You get free coffee, a real incentive for geezers. In fact I think IKEA, COSTCO, and other big box stores are now the dining experience of choice for a large segment of our country.

The third leg of the Joy of Shopping is exercise. Where else but a mall or a big box store can you feel it in your legs that you have had a workout? The exertion of walking those long aisles in search of that yet to be revealed item can't be duplicated any place else. You are exausted, and hungry. Thank goodness the food counter in near the entrance/exit doors.

People in other parts of the world often misread us. They think we are just a money-hungry, consumption-oriented society that misses the whole point of Christmas. We are more than that, we are a multi-tasking, money-hungry, consumption-oriented society with lots of hyphenated words.

Then there is Samoa where Christmas is a religious holiday, albeit commercialism is beginning to appear. "Gift-giving" happens at the end of the school year in November when the top students recieve a Holy Bible, writing pads, and pencils. "White Sunday" in early October is when all children usually get gifts. This a day to recognize the importance of children and when children for the one day assume adult privilages.

So is it Better to Give than to Recieve? Who really cares during the quest for a gift and a deal, and the rush of the Joy of Shopping?

Walking to the Library

December 13, 2011
Ever since I was a young boy in Detroit, I remember the joy of walking to the library. Before the library was built on Six Mile Road, it was the Bookmobile parked two days a week on Tracy Avenue off of Puritan. Inside on its shelves were adventures and stories I couldn't wait to take home and read. You could only take two books at a time, which only increased my desire to quickly return to that truck parked at the side of the curb.

It is amazing how some books have a telling affect on you. One of those Bookmobile stories I remember is "Misty of Chincoteague". The story still brings tears to my eyes, such is the power of books.

Years and many books have pasted since those Detroit days, but the thrill of walking to the library, taking an unknown book off the shelf, and feeling its weight on the way back has never left me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turkey Tails

December 7, 2011
Ever wonder what happens to those parts of slaughtered animals go, even those orts considered unfit for pet food? You may be interested in the tale of tails.

The Samoan government in an attempt to curb obesity banned the sale of imported turkey tails while at the same time applying for entrance to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In order to have Samoa reopen its market for U.S. turkey tails, the U.S. government held back its approval of Samoa's WTO application. Samoa submitted to U.S. pressure and turkey tails can once again be legally sold in Samoa.

You may argue that Samoans have a choice in the food they can eat, let alone afford. For the average Samoan, your choice of meats in the store usually is canned mackerel, SPAM, canned corned beef, chicken hindquarters, trotters (pigs feet), pigs tails and ears, mutton flaps, or lamb necks. All imported and dumped by "health conscience countries". Yummy!

Below are two articles for those who may have some interest as to what happens in the world under the term "globalization".



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Skating into the 70's

November 28, 2011

Today is the 70th anniversary of my birth. Other than heralding in the beginning of another possible decade of life, the date lacks the significance of the 5th when you can start school, the 16th when you can get a driver's license, the 18th when you become an adult, the 21st when you can legally buy alcohol, and the 65th when you are officially considered old and when you used to be able to retire and collect your meager pension.

There is something to celebrate about birthdays ending in a zero. You hear from those who have not forgotten you are still alive, or want to know if you are still alive. Their greetings may come in the form of a personalized note, a birthday card which gives a zero birthday an air of importance, Facebook, electronic greeting card, text, phone call, and some show up at your doorstep. Whatever their means to mark the occasion, it makes you feel good.

Yet dates, years, and birthdays soon pass into the ocean of time, unless you do something memorable. The year may be forgotten, but not the event. For me, it is to celebrate my birthday at the local roller rink along with the other 5 year olds, an event even the rink owner and tiny celebrants could not believe was happening. There is something to be said about "zipping" around the rink trying to keep time to "health club" music as you avoid those fallen little shits in your path, and putting the fact behind you that on your 12th birthday you broke your arm with a church group doing the same thing with wheels on your feet. Certain birthdays you and others don't soon forget.

With my son, Nicholas III

The few, the proud, and the brave