Happy Hour at Home

Happy Hour at Home

Photo journal from a few weeks ago — happy hour coconuts and card games with the love of my life.

I’m rocking this cool hat that belonged to Gabby’s late grandmother, which she got in Tahiti many years ago.

Code Blue activities

Code Blue activities

American Samoa is still under Code Blue, which means we have 0 confirmed cases of coronavirus — thank God. It also means that we have some freedoms to roam, albeit very limited, and not necessarily encouraged nor recommended. I’ve mostly kept to the confines my home and village peninsula for the last, what is it now, 70 days… ?! But on this particular day last week, I did some field work, and got treated to my first meal out at an actual restaurant in more than 2 months!

Last week, my Code Blue life looked a little like this…

Fogama‘a national marine sanctuary is one of my favorite little hideaway beaches. I went with a few coworkers and Gabby tagged along so we could capture some future outreach media.

Snorkeled for a bit and the science team checked the reef for signs of possible bleaching. Based on my sight surveys, there were some small patches of bleached coral, but overall it looked like it was doing well despite the heat stress.

After spending the whole morning at Fogama‘a, Gabby and I went back home and hung out at our beach for a couple of hours. We were super hungry after a long day under the sun, and decided to eat out. Big thanks to Gabs for treating me and Ian to dinner out at Sadie’s by the Sea… our first meal out of the house, and it was so lovely! So grateful for her, and so glad she made it back home from her travels in time before the borders were shut.

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.


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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: Keep calm and stay 6 feet away

Quarantine Diaries: Keep calm and stay 6 feet away

How to keep calm and socially distant


Make food, and make it pretty. Wash hands.

Eat and enjoy it. Wash hands.

Spend time with fur babies. Wash hands.

Get fresh air. Wash hands.

Let the sun in. Wash hands.

Go for a drive. Wash hands.

Put on a face mask. Wash hands.

Buy materials for home projects. Wash hands.

Go home. Wash hands.

Make something. Wash hands.


Quarantine Diaries: Golden hour reflections

Quarantine Diaries: Golden hour reflections

Today is the first time I’ve felt really just crappy since I started home quarantine. It’s also day 14, my last official day in isolation.

I’m not sure why I feel so ‘bleh’ so suddenly… I did yoga, ate a good breakfast, got productive with some work, and cleaned my room trying to snap myself out of this funk. As I reflect on my time in quarantine, I’ve been really happy about the time apart. Time to myself, and time spent with my fiancé since he just got back from a long trip. I’m staying hydrated, sticking to a routine, finished a book, watched a few shows, journaled, edited photos, deep cleaned the house, worked out, gone swimming and paddling, and posted on my blog a lot. These are all things I love and could spend hundreds of hours doing for the rest of this pandemic.

Still, maybe it’s because my mind has been busy about getting things done, and making the most of this extra time. I guess I just haven’t slowed down too much since starting quarantine two weeks ago. Plus, checking the news daily for updates about COVID and its impacts all around the world might be stressing me out.

I think I just need to clear my headspace. Do nothing, be still. Even just for a little bit. It’s going to be ok… just wash your hands and rest your mind Nerelle.

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and getting fresh air and sunshine when you can. xoxo

Self portraits at golden hour
Self portraits at golden hour

Quarantine Diaries: Saving money during coronavirus frenzy

Quarantine Diaries: Saving money during coronavirus frenzy

The coronavirus is causing catastrophe across the world, affecting people’s health, livelihoods, and even entire economies. On the vein of financial impacts, I’ve luckily been able to save money from this whole ordeal.

First of all, I am so fortunate to be able to work from home. I’m truly grateful for a supportive work environment that’s allowed me to find safety and solace in both my income and my health.

Normally, in any other given month before the coronavirus, I’d spend money on: groceries, eating out maybe twice or thrice a week, little knick knacks that I probably don’t need but buy on impulse when I’m browsing through a store, online purchases, and gasoline for our truck to commute. Now that I’m at home 24/7, and apart from our other basic monthly bills like rent, utilities, and internet, I’ve only been spending money on food supplies to sustain ourselves. Oh, and I did buy one new e-book too for $9.99, but that’s about it.

Ian and I are on mandatory home quarantine, and are not allowed to leave our home, minus the occasional swims and SUPs to get exercise and fresh air. So we really can’t drive anywhere, saving us money on fuel, eating out, and the random impulse purchases.

Through this all, I’m still mindful of my local economy. I prioritize buying locally grown produce like Taputimu Farm eggs or Tutuila Greens’ lettuce, and buying local from businesses that keep money invested in our home economy, versus buying online where my money leaves the island and likely never returns.

Another way we are so fortunate is to be surrounded by a very supportive community. Ian’s supervisor at work has been so gracious and kind to do our groceries for us the last two weekends. We gave him a list of our essential food staples, which he’d buy while he was out doing his groceries, and then he dropped it off to us in reusable bags which we’d then disinfect and return. Our neighbors are also always checking in on us when they make the occasional grocery run to see if we need anything. It’s such a blessing to have people you can turn to, and of course we would do the same for our community members in need.

Photo from this weekend, after we got our groceries and deep cleaned our kitchen.