Day 326, Year 1: A Visit to Sliding Rock Resort
Date: Friday, September 8, 2006
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day, Again With No Rain
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

On the west end of this island there is a rock just off shore known as Sliding Rock. It looks like you could sit on top and slide right down, but if you did (and some have) you might die because the undertow is very strong and it sucks you under the rock. In this same area, the surf provides challenges for the best of surfers. If they are not good, they are likely to wipe out on Sliding Rock or one of the many rocks in the area. We understand that professional surfers from around the world come here to test their abilities. And Mark’s friend, Fa’fatai Leach, owns Sliding Rock Resort just above the rock. We were there for dinner tonight and between the whales, the surfers, and the tremendous rollers, we had quite a show from the balcony while eating dinner.

Marvin Leach came here in the mid-60’s as a teacher. He ended up marrying one of his students, Fa’fatai, in 1968. Mark and Marvin lived in the same little government housing complex, so when Marvin and Fa’fatai were married, Marvin asked Mark to be part of the wedding party. A fellow teacher with Marvin, Tauese Sunia, was the best man, and he eventually became governor here. Too bad Mark didn’t have the same luck. That’s the background for today’s story, and now the story.

After an unbelievably busy, busy day, Mark and I took the bus out to Leone to have dinner with Fa’fatai. Marvin is in the US, so we didn’t get to see him. And it wasn’t until we arrived today that we realized that the place we were going to visit was Sliding Rock Resort. We have been there twice before trying to catch up with Fa’fatai, but somehow we missed the fact that her home is also a bed and breakfast. Signs are not big in the South Pacific, so you can often be in the middle of a very important area and have no idea. Anyway, we arrived and walked up the hill to the house that sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We sat on the front deck and truly marveled at the view. Fa’fatai took us for a drive to see the church where she was married, the malae where the wedding reception took place at her home right on the ocean, and then we revisited the housing complex where Mark and Fa’fatai lived. It was another great walk down memory lane for Mark. We came back to Fa’fatai’s and had a wonderful dinner and great conversation. Fa’fatai drove us back to the harbor area on her way to play Friday night Bingo, a serious “sport” here. We made one stop on the way at the home of our friend Evelyn to say good-bye and to meet her friend Leileo who just arrived back on island. Evelyn’s brother, Wyatt, and his wife, Meleke, were there. This is a small island and Meleke happens to be Fa’fatai’s first cousin. And that brings me to my next little story.

Disclaimer: I’m from West Virginia and proud of it, so I just have to share this.

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia” . . . I didn’t expect to hear that song here, but we were riding on an aiga bus and the song was playing. First it played in English and then in Samoan! As soon as I got off the bus, I went into a store that sells CD’s and sure enough the teenage girl was familiar with the song. She didn’t have the CD, but she did know the song and could sing the words in English. It really is a small world. Many times while we have been here, Mark and I have commented on the cultural similarities between the Samoan people and the mountaineers of West Virginia-love of family, love of food, love of football, love of beer, and everyone is related in one way or another!

060908 Day 326 American Samoa–Visit to Sliding Rock