Polynesian caviar, anyone?

paloloWe don’t get it naturally here in Hawaii, as far as I know, but I recently saw a post on one of the popular social media websites reminding me that for some of our South Pacific island cousins, this is the season of “Polynesian caviar” — palolo.

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Samoa Mission Eldares sing again

[Story and video by Mike Foley — whose own LDS mission in Samoa partially overlapped the Eldares, originally published in Kaleo, February 2008]

The Eldares, Mormon missionaries in Samoa in 1963
The Eldares, then (left-right): Elders Richard Nielson, Carl Fonoimoana,Wayne Willis, Randy Broadhead with Samoa Mission President John Phillip Hanks. When Elder Broadhead got sick in mid-tour, Elder George Murdock took over for him.

A quartet of former Latter-day Saint missionaries in Samoa — two with ties to Laie — who created and recorded one of the island chain’s most popular songs for many years, will put on a series of concerts on Oahu.

Signature songs of the group include their own famous Masi Samoa, Usi le Fa’afofoga, Fa’alogo Ia, Samoa Silasila and Koko Samoa, among others.

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Reflections of ‘We Are Samoa’

For the past 20 years the Polynesian Cultural Center has put on an annual “We Are Samoa” traditional arts and skills festival for high school students across Oahu. Here are some of my selected images from the May 11, 2013, festival:

Pacific Pioneer: Aivao Leota

[Originally published in KALEO on April 3, 1997]

Connections to Samoa, Tonga and Hawaii


By Ipolani Thompson

As a little child, even before starting school, I’ve always loved and appreciated journals and genealogy. Always!  My mother, Vaiolini Leota Niko, was an excellent example of this for she was truly a record keeper. Her journals are filled with so much love, humility and gratitude to be able to pass on these treasures to her posterity. She always writes in her journals, “I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will guide me in my recordings in my journals, that whatever I record will benefit and inspire my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in our wonderful Gospel.” Well, Mom, we are so blessed and inspired by your works that I want to share it with others.

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Samoa factoids: Did you know?

In the wake of news from the September 29, 2009, earthquake and tsunami damage in Samoa, I was recently reading some Samoa history, and the following few factoids caught my interest enough to share them: [Read more…]

‘Coming of Age’ with Margaret Mead

[Blog and photos by Mike Foley: Originally published July 8, 2009]

In 1925-26, armed with a Columbia University Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, 23-year-old Margaret Mead spent about six months on the island of Ta’u, Manu’a, American Samoa, conducting field research on whether nurture or nature was predominant in determining behavior. Her controversial book, Coming of Age in Samoa (which I was required to read in Anthropology 101 at the University of Utah in 1964), described an idyllic place where adolescent promiscuity was a natural part of their society.

Even though her book captured the imagination of many, while raising the ire of others, that didn’t stop the people of Ta’u from giving the doyenne of anthropology a royal welcome when she returned for the first time in 46 years on November 11, 1971 . . . and I had fa’amolemole‘d [i.e. begged] and bluffed my way onto the official traveling party to see it:

Margaret Mead (center) with American Samoa Governor John Hayden
(on the left) arriving at Faleasao, Ta’u, Manu’a, on November 11, 1971
photos by Mike Foley
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PCC World Fireknife preliminaries: May 14, 2009

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published May 15, 2009]

PCC World Fireknife competition, May 2009The senior men’s preliminary round in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 17th annual World Fireknife Championship on May 14, 2009 saw a smaller field of entrants, but a tougher level of competition as the skilled “warriors” once again put their skills with the flaming knives in front of a panel of judges and an wildly appreciative audience.

After all the flames were all extinguished and the drums silenced, the judges selected nine of the senior men (age 18-and-up) to advance to the semifinals. They are:

Jeurell Lavata’i, American Samoa
Dana Teai, Tahiti
Pati Levasa, Samoa (via Hong Kong)
Brandon “Fue” Maneafaiga, Waianae
Joseph Cadousteau, Tahiti
Mikaele Oloa, Waialua, Oahu
Lopeti Tu’ua, Lahaina, Maui
Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu Jr., Orlando, Florida
Chesrveigh “Jessie” Usiel, Guam

See a sampling of my pictures that will be posted on the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Samoan World Fireknife Championship web site, http://www.polynesia.com/fireknife/fire.html . . . and at http://www.polynesia.com/blog [Read more…]

Pass the pliers and nail clipper, please

Back in the mid-60s when I was a Mormon missionary in Samoa, we often had to be flexible when it came to repairing things. For example, in an earlier blog entry, I shared the story of how barbed wire might be used to jump a car battery. Now, I’d like to tell two more tales of creative mechanics — both from Samoa’s “big island” of Savai’i: [Read more…]

Samoa: Wedding cake and the shaking ‘fale’

Life in mid-60s Samoa could get a little strange for a guy who grew up in urban Salt Lake City. Here are just two examples: [Read more…]

Barbed wire jump

In a recent meeting  (actually a Latter-day Saints testimony meeting) a young lady in our church shared a story of faith that involved praying for her car . . . which reminded me of two incidents where we did something similar years ago in Samoa: [Read more…]


The first sign on Friday evening, December 26, was a little flicker of the lights. I remember saying to my wife, Sally, I wonder if someone hit a telephone pole somewhere down the highway. Then a few minutes later the lights went out — then soon enough all over Oahu. Yup, for the second time in two years the complete island of Oahu went dark as HECO totally shut down:

People were stuck in elevators, the airport was basically shut down, traffic lights were out, of course. Stores closed early, a lot of gas stations couldn’t operate. In short, it was a disaster.

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Mormon missionary life in Samoa, 1965

Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published on December 7, 2008

Many aspects of living in most parts of Samoa in 1965 were very different for a person who grew up in an urban American environment. For example: [Read more…]

Interisland boats in Samoa, 1965

Polynesian Airlines, 1966[Blog entry and photos by Mike Foley, originally published online, December 7, 2008]

In my “Mutiny in Samoa” entry, I referred to the fact that by 1965 most Mormon missionaries in Samoa flew between American and Western Samoa on a Polynesian Airlines DC3 [pictured at right]. New policy called for missionaries to fly whenever possible, but I still remember when I first arrived in March of that year President John Phillip Hanks came came to Tutuila to meet me and conduct mission business on a relatively small boat, about 60-feet long, that left Apia the evening before and arrived that morning in Pago Pago. [Read more…]

‘Mutiny’ in Samoa

tarita_brandoSpeaking of Samoa, where I served as a Mormon missionary in the mid-1960s, one day a number of us were traveling from Upolu, the main island in Western Samoa [now just called Samoa] and Tutuila, the main island in American Samoa. In those days Western Samoa maintained a World War II-era grass landing strip at Faleolo, about 20 miles east of Apia: The runway was too short to accommodate jets, which flew into Tafuna, American Samoa, so Polynesian Airlines used WWII-era DC3s. We were very grateful for those old workhorse planes, because the alternative was a $5, 9-12-hour overnight boat ride [oka, oka i le ma’i vasa mata’utia].

I’ve forgotten the other members of our traveling party, but I’ll always remember a couple of the other passengers: [Read more…]

Taga ‘two-seater’

In the days I served in Samoa as a Mormon missionary in the mid-1960s, there were still lots of fale or Samoan houses, just like at the Polynesian Cultural Center . . . and falevao or outhouses were everywhere, usually rickety things hanging over a beach. At high tide fish would come under them. Ebb tide provided the “flush,” and pigs would sometimes scrounge underneath at low tide. Government and Peace Corps sanitation programs were still a few years in the future.

Some villages, like Nu’uuli in Tutuila, for example, had a long row of them. But the one that really sticks in my mind, even though it’s been over 40 years since I first-and-last saw it, was a little two-seater in the small village of Taga, Savaii. [Read more…]