Hindsight in 2020 (Looking back at 2019)

Hindsight in 2020 (Looking back at 2019)

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The end of a decade and the beginning of a new year are a good time to reflect upon one’s life. I’m slowly combing through my journals and photo archives, and digging up my favorite memories of 2019 to share here. 

To preface, 2019 was an incredible year for me. I’m truly so thankful to have been in the right place at the right time all these years, even though I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way, just because it all led me here.

These were the highlights of my year.


My year started off on a good note. I rang in the new year on Ofu island Ian, his parents, and a couple of good friends. I sat in the back of a pickup truck for the countdown, banging on drums and wishing all a happy new year. I hiked to the top of Mt. Tumu to marvel at the best view of the Manu`a islands. I went snorkeling almost every single day and took photos of fish and coral, trying to ID them. I missed my flight back to Tutuila… on purpose, because of the government shutdown. I took an `alia boat to Ta`u. This was also the month I picked up crocheting again, I invested in my sleep, and endured my first furlough. Despite the longest government shutdown in US history, I took advantage of the time away from my desk to explore my underwater environment and spend quality time with Ian, our family, and our friends.
February is always short and sweet (like me, hahah). I took this month slow, and savored many sunsets from the balcony. We boarded up our windows and waited out a storm. It was a month of extra date nights, and I fully took advantage of Valentine’s Day to show my boyfriend (now my fiance) some love, and eat all the food at a seafood buffet! 
A memorable day. And a harbinger from before we decided to host our wedding in Samoa.
This was a busy month for me, working on one of my biggest projects to date, coordinating and designing an exhibit at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center for the inaugural Fautasi Heritage Symposium. Amidst all the busy work, I celebrated my 27th year of life doing some of my favorite things for my birthday weekend, like: went on a hike straight after work to camp on the beach with a great group of people, got on a boat with more friends to watch a ridiculously funny movie, spent an evening with my best girlfriends, enjoyed a luncheon that my coworkers planned in my favor, booked a couples massage that a dear friend gifted to me, and was surprised to come home and see all my neighbors gathered together for a surprise party for me! I felt like the luckiest gal to be surrounded by such amazing humans. March was also the month I took on a new web design client, helped a friend navigate her hotel’s sustainability actions, joined my first book club, went cliff jumping despite being a complete scaredy-cat, helped plan a friend’s surprise baby shower, and somehow managed to not crash after all the long nights.
If March was busy with many things, April was busy with just one major thing, and that was seeing my project through successfully. After hundreds of hours of research and design, my first exhibit was opened to the public, and the symposium went smoothly overall. Also in April, I watched the 119th Flag Day commemoration event from the grandstands, got to board a cruise ship fast kine for a buffet lunch, watched one of the most controversial fautasi races of my time, enjoyed the fireworks display over the harbor, bought a new camera, and went to Virginia on a work trip and networked with a bunch of rad science communicators.
American Samoa is my home forever, but a piece of my heart lives in Arizona. I flew over to spend a couple short days with my siblings and my growing-too-fast niece and nephew, and my heart expands every time. I returned home and slowed my roll for the month of May to let life do its thing. There’s a special day in May that Ian and I celebrate our anniversary, and this was our 5th year together since our cute awkward first date. We summited Mt. Alava just as the sun was setting, and then Ian asked me a very important question and offered me a ring, and I said yes to both! We camped up there with our Yodi girl, and I hiked down the next day as a fiancé. 
This month, one of my best friends got engaged, I celebrated my dad, and Ian and I went on our first fiancé bae-cation, aka the trip I thought I would be propositioned on haha. Ian and I skipped the international date line and spent some ‘you me, me you’ time in Samoa. We explored Auckland a bit, and got to hang with one of my best girlfriends and her brand new baby girl. The highlight of my month though was traveling around French Polynesia with Ian and his parents. We island hopped across Tahiti and Raiatea by plane, and then moved into a swanky catamaran and sailed to Taha`a; snorkeling, dinghy riding, and eating our way through the mara`amu season on the leeward islands.
July was another highlight month for me in 2019. Our French Polynesia adventures continued with sailing and snorkeling around picturesque little motus; I learned how natural saltwater pearls are formed, and bought my own from the source; we got to watch the incredible Heiva i Tahiti from the grandstands; and took a ferry to Mo`orea where we scootered around the island twice; swam with reef sharks and stingrays; and booked a scuba dive tour for me, Ian, and Rick, and saw huge sharks! Back home, my adventures continued with another work trip–this time, I was invited to join the Ocean Exploration Trust’s E/V Nautilus research expedition to map and explore the vast deep sea in our national marine sanctuary waters. I was stoked to be on there to assist with communications as a local rep, and even more excited to have Ian on the research cruise too as an NPS scientist, along with my friends and colleagues who are scientists as well at NMSAS and DMWR/CRAG. On the Nautilus, we connected with a worldwide audience of thousands of people who watched the live-stream 24/7. I got to see Swains Island for the very first time. Ian and I met Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered hydrothermal vents and found the long-lost Titanic.  Oh, and I got to bunk in Dr. Ballard’s state cabin! I gained a lot of new knowledge and a deeper (pun intended) appreciation for ROV technology, live telepresence streams, and deep sea exploration. I was on the cruise for 5 days on the open ocean, and a major win for me was that I didn’t get seasick! It was a memorable experience I will never forget.

I worked on balancing work and fun in August. Looking through my gratitude journal entries, there were many thoughtful little moments sprinkled throughout the month. Some highlights were finding peace on reset days, collecting a clean air sample at the NOAA Tula Observatory (American Samoa is the baseline for clean air in the US), rockin’ it at karaoke with friends, girl time, hearing stories of life from my Samoan elder’s eyes, narrowly surviving a waterfall flash flood, losing my iPhone at the waterfall, then going back a week later to find it still alive somehow in my LifeProof case, getting asked to be a LifeProof brand ambassador, and traveling to Samoa for a weekend to tour potential wedding venues.


Right after our trip, Ian and I decided on our wedding venue. I upgraded to a new iPhone and repped LifeProof hard. Then took it easy for the rest of the month, spending more time in the water, lots more movie nights in bed, and channeling good energy from my fiance, friends, and family.

The push and pull of the water is normal. If you get caught under, stay close to the light, hold your breath, and you’ll surface to a breath of fresh air.


Started October inquisitively in attendance at the first TEDx Pago Pago. I cheered for my sister who landed a new job, and for my brother who was scheduled to graduate at the end of the year. And from there, I booked my travel to PHX and LA to visit them in December. I got back into my yoga practice. Got a little seasick on a beautiful day out on the water, then napped for 14 hours straight. Celebrated White Sunday with lots of food. Did some crafts. Enjoyed a little staycation day with Ian. Watched a live comedy show for a girls night out. Designed a photo book. Dressed up as a raving unicorn for Halloween. Got really sick for a few days and Dr. Ian nursed me back to health. But then he had to leave for yet another work trip, so there were definitely some funky days.


November was much better if only because my best friend moved in next door, so you can imagine I was over at her house a bunch. At work, I was super busy with planning our annual fishing tournament, which turned out great. I got to see a friend get married in court. Spent some quality time with my parents. Did more photo shoots this month than I had done all year. Listened to island jazz live. Brunched on the balcony almost every weekend. I shared Thanksgiving with Ian and my parents, then shared my parents with their extended church families who showed up in full force and not a seat was empty in the house. This month flew by in a hurry, but I am grateful to end it with family.


Started December with a 30-day yoga challenge (and only made it halfway through because of travels). I bought my wedding dress online on Cyber Monday (hahah). I made the decision so fast, it was in the spur of the moment of all things; but I’m so excited for it. I helped plan a surprise party for my best friend. I shot a raw and risqué lifestyle portrait session that I’m proud of. I traveled to Sedona and Phoenix to be with family for Christmas. Thanks to my sister, we had the most memorable and most cheesy family Christmas that included matching pajamas, a cabin in Sedona, a trip to the Grand Canyon, hot cider by the fireplace, board games, many rounds of pool, a ton of food, a tree in every room of the house, and presents getting opened way before midnight. I cherished every moment with my niece and nephew. December was also the month that I got my hair professionally done. I hung out with my bestie from college and met her fiancé finally. I met a whole ‘nother side of Ian’s family that live in Arizona. Flew to LA, and had a second Christmas with Ian’s parents (we even did the whole matching pajamas thing too). Hung out with a bunch of Ian’s friends. Went to a wedding dress fitting, just because it was so fun. Met up with friends from the island now living in the big city. Ian and I picked out our wedding bands! Went shopping with Ian’s mom. Cuddled with Ian every night in his old twin bed.  And rang in the new year with a kiss!

Now that it’s 2020, I’m looking forward to my next chapter. Most especially, I’m beyond excited to celebrate my love for Ian surrounded by all the people we care most about. Plus, I’m working on myself this year, to be the best version of me in mind, body, and spirit.

If you’re reading this, thank you so much for following along on my journey. I hope your year ahead is something special. Now on to the next big adventure!