Quarantine Diaries: Sun and salt

Quarantine Diaries: Sun and salt

Quarantine photo diary: From 03.15.2020

Ian and I wanted to get out of the house and move our bodies. The tide was at high noon, so I lathered up in reef safe sunscreen and put on a large hat for extra SPF. Ian picked up our paddle boards, and we head to the mostly empty beach.

We had to check first. We wouldn’t have gone if there were lots of people around… social distancing at work.

After much excitement and barking, we decided to let Yodi come with us. It was her first swim in about a month! She has just a few more days to go to complete her heart worm medication before we can start re-introducing her to higher levels of activity. She was a total champ, and only used moderate energy when she jumped in the water for a swim. She seemed to know that she wasn’t supposed to be swimming too much too hard, so she got back on the board after a few minutes at a time. She looked so happy!

Last week, we had record setting hot temperatures in American Samoa… 92 degrees. The king tides (meaning higher high tides and lower low tides) also occurred at the same time. The reef flat was exposed to the scorching midday sun so I was nervous to see how the coral looked when we jumped in to cool off. Thankfully, it didn’t look too bad! There was definitely some bleaching in the shallower flats, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed they stay resilient for the rest of the summer.

What are you doing for your quarantine weekends?

 

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.

 

January
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
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.
March
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.
April
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.
May
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. 
June
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
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.
August

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.

September

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.

October

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

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.

December

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!

Warmly,
Nerelle

26 Lessons I’ve Learned in 26 Years

26 Lessons I’ve Learned in 26 Years

And I’m mostly speaking to myself here…

1. Treat Yo’ Self. 

This is a big one… so it’s the first one here. Do nice things for yourself. Take yourself out on a date. Indulge every now and then in what makes you happy. But also, realize that self-care means doing your taxes, working out, washing the dishes right after dinner instead of stockpiling it for tomorrow evening, updating your resume, staying up late to work on a passion project.

2. Your friends will change.

It’s bound to happen. We’re all shooting stars in an expanse and we all have varying trajectories in life. Another analogy because I’m feeling analogous. Friendship is like skincare. Keep the ones that are organic and keep you hydrated and full of life, and let go of the toxic. Ban microplastics, ya feel me? More on why in the next lesson.

3. Because you will change.

You’re living and learning, just like everyone else. If you stayed the same your whole life, you’d be one boring person. Know that change is good, and so important. Change happens.

4. Learning outside of school is more important than ever.

School doesn’t teach you everything. I’ve learned more about my field of study outside of the classroom and in the workplace. Theories are great, but experience is more practical. Plus, you’ll find what you really love if it’s something you seek out on your own and not something that is taught to you in a curriculum.

5. You are somebody that matters.

In life, you’re your own boss. You get to make decisions that have an impact on your life; and that matters. And whether it’s family, or friends, or strangers that you have something in common with, your decisions have an effect on others too. So yes, you matter!

6. Family is forever.

Friends may not stick around when you’re in the dumps, but if you’re fortunate enough (and I’m so grateful that I am) your family is always going to be there for you. They are your God-given besties. Even if you have a difference in opinions, even if you quarrel about little things. They’re irreplaceable. Tell them you love them.

7. Everything else is temporary.

Like the old adage goes, this too shall pass. Anger, disappointment, and grief are emotions we can’t avoid. You will recover, in time. There’s beauty in impermanence.

8. Rediscover your home.

Be a tourist in your own backyard. See it with new eyes everyday. Try something different. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

9. Make lists.

Of anything and everything. To do lists. Goals. Dream logs. Books to read. Movies to watch. Places you want to travel. Reference them often, and tick them off when you’ve achieved something. Watch how far you grow in tiny bullet points.

10. Don’t look for relationships.

When you look for something, you have an idea in mind of what you’re looking for. Expectations might exceed what you come across in reality. So let relationships happen organically. Unexpected relationships are my favorite, and that’s the one you’ll end up with.

11. You’re human.

Be a good one. Make mistakes and treat others how you want to be treated. Realize that the world is a stage and everyone is part of the play, and you’re all human.

12. Sharpen your skillsets. 

Nothing stays sharp without going through grindstone. A pencil, a knife, eyebrows on fleek. You have to work at it: sharpen it, hone it, smooth those edges. Even if you’re good at something, shed the doubt in your mind, and challenge yourself.

13. Go outside.

Let the ocean soothe you, the sun excite you, the jungle mystify you. Do you remember how happy you were to be buried in sand at the beach? Why keep yourself trapped in a box when you can sate your curious mind and roam freely.

14. People might not get you. 

And that’s completely okay. Be a diamond in a world full of squares. The sooner you realize this, the better. Just be you.

15. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I mean it’ll happen. We all do it at some point in time. But please please please, don’t dwell on comparisons. Instead, draw inspiration from what appeals to you. Make a vision board. Then live your life!

16. Do something that scares and excites you.

How can you tell you’re alive? Because your heart is beating. So I suppose you should do whatever makes your heart beat fast.

17. Have a healthy disrespect for the status quo.

If we all abided by the status quo, there would never be any progress. Learn about the history of why things are. Challenge the current state of things. Participate in conversations. Then decide.

18. Disconnect and declutter often.

Close the instagram app and shut your laptop when you don’t remember what you started looking for but you’re 10 pins too far from that DIY project you were never going to do in the first place. Yes it gets that bad; refer to lesson #15 and #9. Make a list and get organized. Clear your space and clear your mind. You’ll feel so much better when you take control of your life.

19. Create the life you want to live.

It’s hard to achieve your dream lifestyle if you don’t get off your bum and create it for yourself.

20. Make it count.

Life isn’t about success or riches or fame. Life is about learning, doing the things that excite you. Helping others.

21. Use what you have first.

Don’t wait until you have all the ‘proper’ supplies to start. Just start using whatever you have. You’ll have a deeper sense of accomplishment when you start off simply.

22. Expect nothing. Appreciate everything. 

This has been my life’s motto thus far, and it’s truly made me happier and more grateful.

23. Less is more. 

Need I say more?

24. Laugh out loud. 

Laughter is a universal language. Humor is in the accents. Life is so good, but it’s also crappy at times. Make a joke about it. Smile your goofy crooked smile. Be light and easy on yourself.

25. Work towards your goals. 

And I mean you have to work really really really hard to do this. Smash them; achieve your full latent potential.

26. Do it right now. 

You’ll thank yourself later!

Coco’s Picnic Party

Coco’s Picnic Party

Cheers to Colette!

Styled this little picnic party with a couple girlfriends to celebrate Coco’s birthday.

The night air was cool and breezy, and we feasted on apps and this magnificent view!

Always love a little girl time <3

Journal 7/52: What I’m Stressed About

Journal 7/52: What I’m Stressed About

Journal #7: Write down something you are stressed about

It’s the beginning of a New Year, so there are loads of pressures that come with change and a new chapter. But right now I’m actually not stressed about anything. That I can immediately think of. If I had to think hard enough, I’d probably say something along the lines of I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. But even that, I’ve kind of let go of and I’m happy to “just keep swimming” as Dory from Finding Nemo would say.

Here’s me with my blessings:

Hulk truck. Ian’s motorbike. A brown bag of Samu’s snickers ice cream. Yasssss.

Excerpts from a Chill Christmas Eve

Excerpts from a Chill Christmas Eve

An excerpt of my Christmas Eve photo diary.

Breakfast. Ian took the moto out to buy bread while I fried some eggs.

The north wind on the porch has been so refreshing.

Opened our second to last advent gifts. Snazzy speaker for me and Surf trip for Ian.

Tidied up the house, and Ian worked on my car.

Went SUPing past the reef and saw 7 turtles. 7 wishes.

Yodi swam out with us. Such a beautiful calm day. I got a tan.

Last minute groceries and gift wrapping.

Church Christmas service, games, and filipino food. Mom and dad are back.

Home by midnight, and obligatory family photo.

zZz, see you tomorrow!

PHOTO DIARY: Aoloau Lights

PHOTO DIARY: Aoloau Lights

A super cute night, all lit up with Christmas magic at Aoloau. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who felt super Christmas-y this year, because the entire village of Aoloau got together and each family decorated a “tree” made up of lights and garlands along the road up to the lookout that oversees the Tafuna plains.

xoxo

2017 Samoana Jazz & Arts Festival

2017 Samoana Jazz & Arts Festival

2017 Samoana Jazz & Arts Festival

Day 1 at Tradewinds Hotel Pavilion

Day 2 at Sadies by the Sea Hotel

Day 3 at Tisa’s Barefoot Beach & Bar

Photos sponsored by Bluesky

This was my 3rd year as the official photographer for the Samoana Jazz & Arts Festival. And even though I see many of the same faces year after year, and have made friends with the musicians, I still get nervous to take the stage and put on the “Official Photographer” badge. I’m always worried I’m blocking people’s view, or being a bother, or that I look like I don’t know what I’m doing. I always wear all black (something I learned from my time working for GradImages) to not draw attention to myself. And it really helped to take photos and meet the new musicians at the mixer event the night before, so I was familiar with who the musicians were, and they were aware that I’d be invading the stage periodically to take their photos. Last year I took almost all the photos without a flash, which is ridiculous. This year I brought my Altura external flash and brought a bunch of extra AA batteries just in case. The photos turned out SO much better thanks to the flash. Here is a clickable gallery of photos for the 3-day Jazz festival. Photos sponsored by Bluesky.