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Mystery of Manuʻa

I am the worst during a scary movie. I will reactively punch everything that moves. It does not matter if you are blood or stranger, friend or fanatic, even if you are the kindest old lady the world ever did see. If you unexpectedly catch my attention in a dark, cold movie theatre blasting eerie pitches through metallic speaking coffins, you will also catch my hands. I donʻt “do” scary movies.

Mystery, though, is rightly its own genre in general. Stories molded with intricate twists and master plans inspire me to dream more, think wide, and create deeper. There is a humble appreciation for glorious things that cannot be fully explained. This may be why I have had no trouble waiting for this trip: to preserve the beauty of mystery. This trip is to one of the outer islands of American Samoa, even smaller than the old volcano I live on now. The ultimate of family lineage—as rooted as roots can go for me.

I hear about a land so small, with a reputation so big, that it has created mountains etched with magic and pride within my imagination.


Manuʻa: land of the last king


Where the sun first rises and morning dew is made, where grandpa sleeps under charcoal rocks. Each time I feel myself slipping away amongst westernized fairytales, I want to be reminded of stories untouched by foreign sails. My insides ache from wanting to see the mountains myself.

“Tell me, Dad, where do we come from?”

“Whatʻs the name again?”

“But… how?”

In the mind of a child, flourishing trees with never-ending vines, centuries of beautiful ghosts, and clean sparkling waters await me. I could almost feel the soothing seas calm my skin, the warm wind on my side.

In the mind of a young adult, however, dissipating ozone, years of political drama, and thirsty mosquitos call my name. Learning on the “bigger” island of Tutuila, or off island in a Polynesian community even, legends can quickly be seen as liars. People are people, with our short fuses and over reactive punches into the cold, eery air of fear. Respect for traditions slowly dwindle with every sour experience. Old ways can become questionable by repeated offenses of the very values we claim as sacred. Family, faith, and food: all can become a prison when communal actions do not align with ceremonial speeches. Sin is real in these parts. All parts. All people.

I would like to preserve the former fantastical view: of love, of wit, of graceful movements flowing from the wrists of strong men. But in despair this seems close to fiction…or is it not? Does it live? Can it be?

Whether it is or it isnʻt, whether it can or it cannot, my bones carry me back for the sake of reclaiming the unknown. Taking to the stories that used to be natural, but now sit forgotten.

Cheers to demolishing fairytale with reality, to boarding one more bush plane, informing geographical ignorance. Hereʻs to Manuʻa today—trusting that what actually is, is better than anything I can imagine. May the revealing be better than the mystery, and the reality be better than the dream.

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