Cool Stuff: Pragmatic Manu’a
Government guys tolerate me, and of course more accurately, generally savor just avoiding me. I completely sympathize. We private sector guys try, but don't earn a living being nice. We would prefer to talk straight than say what somebody wants to hear. We private sector journalists are even worse, because we remember too much and know too much.
So I must admit I was extremely surprised when an American Samoa Government official walked up to me at an outdoor eating area and talked specifics, and talked direct about his love and concern for Manu'a. Wow how refreshing to hear the government is genuinely motivated to really do something for one of the most unique and oft forgotten treasures of all the Samoas.
I have always had a great passion for Manu'a ever since I took then USC star Kennedy Pola (now Polamalu) with me back in the early 80s to revisit his home village… set up by then Lt. Governor Tufele F. Lia. I had been back covering the old Samoa Air expansion, and also (sadly) covering the devastation by Super Cyclone Olaf for CNN back around 2005.
Tufele and my fa'a aiga mom, Alofaaga Tialavea Manumaleuga were my original ties to Manu'a. Subsequently, I walked backwards into my wife's historic tie to Manu'a, as her great great grandfather, Alexander Brown, cruised through Tau on his way to Lona, Fagaloa Bay, Samoa — thus the Samoan Browns, Frueans, Sapolu, Ah How, and Ah Kuoi family networks. Like politicians, those families also barely tolerate me.
The government official blew me away because he didn't dance around with his questions. We bantered pragmatic questions back and forth about economic vehicles and tourism to help the people of Manu'a. He, in turn, was blown away because I had immediate suggestions and images on my iPhone backing them up.
What? How would a cheeky Palagi journalist know anything? Back in the day, Governor Lutali asked me to write an economic treatise on innovative ways to help American Samoa (he knew I had a degree in Economics from UCLA). The concepts apply today as they did then to both Tutuila and the Manu'a Islands.
I then asked the government guy—Gus Hanneman—what kind of recyclable trash the island was dealing with; particularly do Manu'ans drink beer from aluminum cans and bottles? "Yes they do" was his answer. So I showed him a picture of an alcohol stove in action built by Sam, owner of Batchstove. Sam makes them out of enthusiastically consumed aluminum beer bottles (and could do cans too).
Gus was stunned, "You mean we can take Manu'a trash and turn it into cash, and businesses, and jobs? You mean when the afa comes that Manu'ans can cook entire meals on that little home made stove? And they can make that stove at home or in a small workshop without expensive tools, machinery and imported materials? They can send those empty ships and planes back with these cool lightweight practical little stoves?"
"Yup, yup, yup, yup and more yups. Instead of being a government looking to hit home runs with overseas Palagi and Asian companies, why don't you give the Manu'a People the power to create their own future and to market to other Pacific Islanders, or put a fa'a Samoa flair spin on it, and market back to the US Mainland and Hawaii? You and I both know that Samoans will always take a Palagi idea and make it their own after a few Vailimas.
Bring this good "ol boy Sam to Manu'a to train one or two committed Manu'a families. Create an arrangement that Sam gets a small $1.50 royalty for every stove sold. He will always be there to help them on the phone or online.
This is how things work successfully in the private sector — through relationships. Sam continues to create new designs and accessories, as he a Coolio kine guy. It can happen with tasty coconut smoked Manu'a fish. Any family cottage industry can become an empire. Thailand is even selling coconut based BBQ charcoal to Hawaii. Thailand selling coconut BBQ charcoal to Hawaii has got to be the island equivalent of selling ice to Eskimos.
So after turning to the topic of the almighty omnipresent coconut, I asked Gus if he was aware of Samoa's (Samoa i Sisifo) US funded efforts to create fuel with coconut oil? He was not aware of it.
Well, maybe the US Government should place their investment with Manu'a too, instead of the Territory (and probably the US Government indirectly) subsidizing the shipment of expensive diesel fuel to run generators for the Manu'as. Diesel generators and even diesel cars/ trucks are commonly run around the World with vegetable oil, recycled used restaurant cooking oils... and yes, that includes the potential use of coconut oil. Solar panels are probably the best primary home source of electricity, but it seems generators will always be a requirement for heavy-duty power.
We furthered with continued talk regarding Asian imported noodles, and how import substitution (with local flour, and water) could create local business ownership, jobs, and reduce the Territory's dollars going overseas.
Leone Saimini? Samoa's Grant Percival has made amazing flour from locally grown island agriculture products, including ulu. So more jobs and opportunities abound to the proactive.
And then I finished my slice; courtesy of Mrs. Hannemann, turned to Gus said, "Your time is up, uma lava pizza. It’s in your hands, not mine. You can't outbid the huge bucks paid to me weekly by the Samoa News. So get on it, help our beloved Manu’a on your own, or order me another slice — with pepperoni this time, pretty please."
Did I get my second slice? The Manu'a tale continues. You Coolios will always be the first to know. Bless Manu’a, bless all of Samoa, and bless the Italia for inventing pizza.