Safe in American Samoa’s closed borders

Safe in American Samoa’s closed borders

I’ve lost track of what day we’re in since quarantine began… let’s see, it’s been 5 weeks since we closed the island’s borders after the last flight in and out on March 26th. Many people were demanding the borders close early, and I’m so glad the government did just that. I keep wondering what might have happened if the government waited another week. Would we still be safe? I’ve been relishing in these days, feeling more safe within our tiny island’s borders than I would have thought or expected amidst a global health pandemic. Our one and only hospital has been on high alert since before the State of Emergency was announced, preparing for the worst, but I’m afraid that no amount of time will actually prepare us for what is to come if we let our guard down. While the stress tension in my shoulders have eased up, I am still weary of the possibility that it could still make its way here. I myself have let my guard down a couple of times over the last week, and have leaned in for hugs when my neighbor’s kids come running up to me to greet me. Kids aren’t very good at reinforcing social distancing. I’m not very good at resisting their open arms. I still have a pesky cough too, which is weird because I feel totally normal and fine. But my mister has pointed out that I can’t just chalk it up to nothing, and that I should still be careful, so thanks for the reminder.

A good day in isolation

My echo dot alarm goes off at 5:30am, and I listen to the automated daily NPR update as I convince myself to get up even though it’s still dark out. I call Jabs because she never wakes up on time, and we both meet in the treehouse 15 minutes later with our yoga mats for a half hour flexibility sequence we find on Sarah Beth’s YouTube channel. We’ve been getting up early every day this week to work out and move our bodies. The surface of the ocean is lit in tiny sparkles, and the sun hides behind dark clouds the entire day. I’m in my studio/office by 8:00am, headphones on listening to chill lofi beats, and looking up fautasi articles to contextualize my research of the history of fautasi evolving in American Samoa. The morning flies by and before I know it, it’s lunch, and high tide. Ian goes for quick SUP surf, and I plop down in the treehouse with Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening by Liz Clark. It’s an easy read but I’m taking her blog-style chapters in slowly to sate my appetite for travel and adventure. I’m only distracted by a turtle that buzzes by. Back in the studio/office, I find out from my supervisor that we’re going to continue teleworking next week and I exhale an audible sigh of relief, and tell Ian beside me that he’s stuck with me at home for at least one more week. He’s happy to hear it. We work steadily until early evening and walk out to watch the pink and gold sunset skies. I head down to Gabby’s to get my camera sensor cleaned and walk with her to scout a location for a video interview she’s filming for AJ+. Ian and I play cards for our usual ‘happy hour’, then turn on the AC and get cozy for another night of healthily binging Ozark on Netflix. I tried to post this blog last night but could only muster the energy to finally edit my photos from Three (which I’ll post later) and upload these pics from my camera roll. My eyes started to droop, and not wanting to fight my sleepiness, I dozed off for the night. Here are a few little photo journal snaps from my phone yesterday.

Photo documenting the silver linings of my life in the time of COVID

Photo documenting the silver linings of my life in the time of COVID

Social distancing is my new favorite hobby

But first, a quick update:

The island’s borders are virtually closed to the outside world, save for cargo flights and a recent C130 which arrived with some medical supplies.

Only 7 COVID tests have been administered in American Samoa, and at the time of writing 5 have come back negative, awaiting 2 more results. But also, an article came out today that there’s an influx of patients at the hospital with flu-like symptoms, which has a lot of people worried.

We’re still on Code Blue, which means we are on high alert but not freaking out completely…. so that’s good. 

I feel so grateful to have the ocean right as my backyard. To be able to get outside daily, move my body, and still feel safe and sheltered in my small close knit village community

it’s always a highlight of each day in quarantine.

I think I posted similar pics from my iPhone and wrote a blurb about these photos in a previous entry, but I wanted to share some photos from my SLR camera here. I woke up early and Ian was no where to be found. I walked out to the beach and took photos of the rain curtaining Mt. Rainmaker, and the mist in the distance. I saw Ian was out paddle surfing, and I joined him in the water for a dip and chatted with some neighbors at a distance. We got back to the house and showered and prepped for work at 8am.


I wish we could do this every morning.

As evening approaches, Ian and I sit outside for a little happy hour, which involves a cold bevvy and card games on the balcony. A warm ocean breeze whistles through the trees, and we are treated to a tasty rainbow right above us–a gentle reminder that


this too shall pass.

Happy hour snaps of my handsome fiancé. Even after spending every single day at home with him for the past 3 weeks in quarantine, I never tire of him, nor does tire of me, which has me in awe. He makes me laugh every day. He makes quarantine feel like a staycation, and I’m so


blessed he’s my person.

A bit batty

about bats lately. They’re so fun to watch, flying from tree to tree, eating coconut seeds. 

Venturing out

 Is it weird that I’m nervous to leave our house now? We limit going out as a precaution because we secretly dread the news that may come out any day now of a confirmed case here. On Saturday, we dropped off some stuff for Gabby at the VA quarantine facility, picked up some groceries and ran an errand, then came back home.


[dss_transformable_image image=”” _builder_version=”4.4.2″][/dss_transformable_image]
Another happy hour of card games and bevvies. I seriously feel like we’ve got a good handle on what retired life will be like. We only hope we are still living by the ocean by then,


happy, healthy, and together.

This photo from Sunday reminds me of how upset I was over some silly thing. Ian was trying to make me feel better, and one of the ways he does that is by getting me

excited about the sky.

He snapped this picture of the sun setting outside and pointed out to me the clarity of the sun on the water creating vivid sunset lines in the lagoon. I looked out and saw what he saw. It was beautiful I was still being a sour puss so I responded with a begrudging “mhm yeah” but I couldn’t help but think my guy is so sweet.

This has kind of been a long post about nothing in particular, but I’ve really just been enjoying this photo documentation of my life lately.

Despite the harsh reality of what’s happening around the world, these little snippets are my silver linings, and are an appreciation of the little things in life that keep me

sane and happy.

Quarantine Diaries: Why I decided to self-isolate

Quarantine Diaries: Why I decided to self-isolate

Ian recently returned from work travel to the mainland, and was placed on mandatory 14-day medical quarantine just in case he was exposed to COVID during his trip. Because I live with him, I am also self-isolating to ensure that we aren’t causing potential harm as potential virus carriers. That’s it. And ok… the word “isolate” is kind of a cold, cruel sounding word. The buzz word going around is “social distancing”, and it’s basically the same thing, except self-isolating is just a step further. Like, fully staying at home and avoiding physical interaction with people. Seriously, everyone should isolate or practice social distancing during this time. Please please please.

PS – I wrote this because I just learned about Typhoid Mary. If you haven’t heard of her, you should read this Nat Geo article about it. It’s wildly relevant to our situation as potential coronavirus super-spreaders, and gives insight to why we need to avoid contact with people even if we aren’t showing any symptoms.

I truly hope you are all safe and well! Sending much love and virtual hugs through the inter webs.

xoxo, Nerelle

While I’m self-isolating at home. I go outside at least once a day for fresh air and exercise.

I woke up this morning, and Ian wasn’t in bed. He wasn’t even in the house. I saw on a friend’s ig story that he was out SUP surfing, so I jumped out of bed, put on my biker shorts which I was going to wear for morning yoga anyway, and my Belle the Label swim top, and head to the beach. 

Ian started picking up trash around the beach for about 10 minutes and collected this heap of debris. There was a lot of styrofoam, plastic bottles, a slipper, a piece of a hose, even random cabinet pieces, and an actual car door. I’m always baffled at what trash ends up on the beach. Ian’s doing these quick cleanups as part of his work’s social distancing activity where each employee just picks up trash for a short allotted time, then take a photo of it for data, and disposes of them properly. It’s such a great idea, and I’m going to tag along with Ian along our stretch of beach.
Someone sent me a message the other day on instagram saying that I make quarantine look like vacation… and I was in between feeling flattered and a little guilty, thinking this pandemic is a horrible thing for the world, and if I’m making quarantine look like vacation, am I being offensive?

I thought about it a little and I’ve decided that I shouldn’t feel guilty. This is my daily life even without quarantine, and it might even be a good thing to show people that self-isolation or social distancing is a good thing. If you want to see it as a staycation, go ahead. It’s a good thing to be safe and healthy.

Sometimes I’ll be so laser focused on my work that I don’t realize I’ve accidentally skipped lunch. Working from home with Ian though makes it a lot easier to remember lunch because he’s always hungry haha. Today he surprised me with delicious crunchy fish lumpia!

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?


Life Lately: My birthday, Ian’s home, Yodi’s heart worms, and Coronavirus

Life Lately: My birthday, Ian’s home, Yodi’s heart worms, and Coronavirus

It’s been a little while since my last life lately update. Everything has unfolded just so in the last few months since 2020 rolled around, and let me just say, what the heck 2020?! I was expecting 2020, the new decade, to bring something big, but what I didn’t expect was that 2020 would bring a big crazy global event.


For now, here’s just a few updates of life lately:


My birthday is coming up! For me, birthdays are always an excellent time to reflect upon personal progress. Making a list of things to move the needle farther. It’s also a great time to take stock in my feelings and pulse check that everything is going to be okay, because it really is going to be okay. Sometimes I just gotta reinforce that in my life. I’m not necessarily a worrier, but I do worry sometimes and there’s a lot happening in the world that does make me nervous. More on that later. I don’t have any specific birthday plans yet, but I’m just glad my fiancé is back on island to spend it with me.

Ian’s back home! When the coronavirus travel advisory came out for American Samoa, I was shattered to know Ian would have to do an additional two weeks in Hawai`i to quarantine. After the advisory came out though, and unfortunately for Hawai`i, there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 on Oahu. In a scramble to get AS residents back home safely, our government issued a new travel advisory which removed the 14 day mandatory quarantine in Hawai`i, and instead returning residents were subject to 14-day home quarantine. So he arrived back home just a couple of days ago, and I’m so happy he’s here! I missed him so much while he was gone. He keeps me calm and centered, and I feel more relaxed to have him home safely.

Yodi is almost done with her heart worm meds! In case you didn’t know, Yodi wasn’t always our pup. She was born here at Coconut Point to a family that lived next door. When the family moved away and left her here, she became kind of a community dog and we all collectively cared for her. But then puppy paw-litics played out and she started getting aggressive to maintain her turf, her territory. At one point, she almost bit a visitor and it was decided that she needed a home, and that’s when Ian and I adopted Yodi. She was about 3 years old at that point. She was healthy, but we knew she had heart worms because she would have random coughing bouts. We’d been wanting to get her treated earlier but it was scary to think that her quality of life would decline during the medication period, and she could still die from it. Plus, we didn’t have a qualified vet on island anymore, so we just made sure to give her the best life we could. Thankfully, one of my favorite nonprofit groups, Coconut Mutts, was able to sponsor our friend who is a vet to come down, and we were able to get her the proper shots and medication. During this time, we have to limit Yodi’s physical exertion as much as possible, and it’s been slow going but we’re almost there. Just a few more days actually before we can start reintroducing her to high activity, and she’ll be able to go swimming with us again soon.

Now about the Coronavirus… it is crazy and I feel like it’s changing the world in so many ways. People are more aware of their health. Economies and industries are toppling. People are dying. Travel is slowing. But also, the environment is working on healing. True colors are being shown. People are slowing down. I honestly don’t know how to articulate yet how I feel about this global pandemic. I am fortunate to feel safe from it all as of now.

There’s a really great post on instagram by @thegreylayers that got me in my feels. She wrote:

“I can’t help but think about all that’s going on in the world. Maybe the world is trying to tell us to go back inward. Maybe our earth isn’t trying to slap us in the face. Perhaps it’s an awakening shake to put us in order. A correction in our own values. maybe because we’ve forgotten and just lost our way too maybe times. Maybe mother is saying, “you’ve lost your way too far from home.” We are literally being forced to stop and slow down by the force greater than all of us. Reminding us we are nothing but human at the end of the day. Let’s take this leisurely stagnance as a time of reflection. To think about what kind of world we want to live in. What kind of person you want to be. All along, our earth has been quietly telling us to take these crises as signs of opportunity. For us to stop and be better. To actually think of what matters. For us to be good again. For us to come home. And remember, not everyone is built for isolation, call your friends, your parents. Check in.”
Jeanne Grey

Grey Layers

Coronavirus and travel to American Samoa (updated)

Coronavirus and travel to American Samoa (updated)

UPDATED March 9, 2020

YAY they updated the travel advisory yesterday!!! No more mandatory 14-day quarantine in Hawai`i from the mainland as long as you get a health clearance… which means Ian is coming home on Thursday!!! So excited! But also, really hope we don’t get COVID-19 on the island eeee.

Posted on March 6, 2020

Between the measles epidemic late last year in (western) Samoa and this Coronavirus (COVID-19), American Samoa is on high alert to keep these infectious viruses out of our little island home. Thankfully, I think most people still feel a bit removed from it all because of how remote we are, but hearing the news daily talking about the rapid spread of the virus is starting to heighten safety precautions.

The American Samoa Department of Health just posted this travel advisory intended for American Samoa residents to be aware of the new restrictions on travel outside of the island. Travelers will be required to show documentation of MMR vaccination, a health clearance granted 3 days before travel, and will need to be quarantined in the ports of entry for 14 days prior to arriving into American Samoa. And this advisory includes travel to and from (western) Samoa, all affected US states, and countries. The travel advisory takes effect on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the travel restrictions. I’m glad to know that we’re looking out for our people, and the safety of our island. On the other hand–and I’m biased–I want it to not take effect until just a week later because my fiance is off-island still and will have to be “quarantined” in Hawai`i for an additional 14 days… so he’s going to miss my birthday! ugly crying I’m so bummed. Plus, this might affect our wedding in Samoa in May… we’ve decided not to react just yet but it’s only a couple of months away now, and most of our family and friends have booked their flights and hotels, so it would absolutely suck super hard if we had to postpone or even cancel because of all the travel restrictions. Trying to keep cool, calm, and collected over here, but thought I would share this on here.

On another note, I was looking through my tumblr archives and found my Le Motu Niu’s Bites that I used to post weekly!

*Niu’s Bites are weekly tidbits of news and information in American Samoa that have been condensed for easy reading. Links to sources. Compiled by Nerelle.

I read through some of them, and was honestly impressed with myself for posting these news updates about the island so consistently even though my schedule at the time was crazy busy still, like who was this over-achieving girl from 5 years ago?! Can I be her?! I feel smashed with work and side projects all the time so… to be determined on whether I’ll attempt this again. But I would really love to!