Crabs, Lice, Coconuts: The Manu'a Experience

The longer I live here, the more I realize that my time in Manu’a will be defined by little stories that develop throughout everyday life here. It’s these little stories that are turning my time here into a positive experience. Life here is slow and mellow, and it’s given me a lot of time to think and reflect about who I am and who I want to be. Wherever I end up after my time here is over, I know I won’t be quite the same person I was when I got here.

The view from second beach. I'm lucky to be here, that's for sure.

Frank the Crab
We have a crab named Frank, who lives in our kitchen in a crack by the floor near the sink. It is important to note that cockroaches also live near our sink, since the area is close to a food source and moist (moist and cockroaches in one sentence? Gross, I know). Now, we live near the ocean and are surrounded by crabs all around, so for us to name one, it must be for something truly memorable and deserving of a name. Our initial reason for naming Frank was because he would not die, no matter how many times we sprayed him with cockroach spray or attempted to catch him with our broom, since he’s fast and small and can fit into just about any crack.

Frank is not particularly good looking with his beady eyes and gray shell, but we had an inkling that Frank was eating the cockroaches near the sink, so after several attempts to kill the guy failed, we figured he wasn’t bothering anyone and that we should just let him continue to live in our kitchen. So, the other day, Erika and I are in the kitchen when she notices a cockroach near the bottom of the floor, by the crack near the sink. We quickly determine that a sandal may not kill the roach since he’s too close to the crack and would run away, but the spray would do the job.

All of a sudden, as I’m holding the spray in my hand, about to start walking over to the cockroach, a claw darts out of the sink, grabs the cockroaches, and darts back inside! We now have official proof: we have a crab named Frank who eats cockroaches and lives in our kitchen. A little story, right, but a little funny, a little gross, a little bit of Manu’a.

How I got lice
Well, I cannot tell you how I got lice. But I had lice, most likely from one of my kids since almost every child and teen here has lice (at least the girls) and no one actually cares enough to try to get rid of the lice. I had noticed my scalp had been a little itchy the past few days and at first I attributed it to having a dry scalp since it’s always so hot out here. But then, I had started feeling like there was something moving my hair. Finally, I woke up in the morning and decided to see if I could brush anything out with a thin brush that I had, just in case. And well, the rest is history: I flipped my hair over and brushed just once, and the brush came out with a few live lice!

Who would have thought that I, at 21 years of age, would get lice? Haha! Welcome to Manu’a.

Here I would like to give a huge shoutout to Erika, my roommate, who spent three hours that day combing out my hair (after I had shampooed it with lice and washed all my sheets and clothes). It was a long and painful process, combing out the live lice and nits—I probably had a couple hundred nits in my hair. Nits are the shells that the lice hatch from, and while the shampoo kills all the live lice, it doesn’t kill the lice still in their shells, so you have to comb them out so they don’t hatch. The next day was much faster and Erika spent only an hour combing out my hair, with many fewer nits and almost no live lice. I spent the next week swimming and combing out my hair every day just to get any nits we may have missed, and I’m pretty sure now I’m lice-free. Paranoia remains though, so I keep checking my hair for nits.

You’re probably wondering about my reaction to finding out I had lice. For about 30 seconds, I freaked out. But I’ve been trying recently to have an attitude adjustment, where if something bad or annoying happens to me, I do my best (note: this is a work in progress) to stop myself from getting stuck on the loop of “what if.” I knew I couldn’t change having lice at that point, and worrying about how it happened or freaking out about it wouldn’t have changed anything either. So I accepted the fact that I had lice and went about googling and following through on Erika’s advice on how to best remove them. This kept my stress levels at a minimum and helped me have a better day.

Trip to third beach
In case you haven’t seen it, check out my video about our trip to third beach here. Third beach is the third of three increasingly remote beaches. Even though the video looks like it was an easy hike, it’s not—it was just too risky to take my phone out for pictures during the difficult part, when we were climbing over rocks and coral and wading waist-deep in the ocean. But it was totally worth it. When we got to second beach, we made a pit stop and drank coconuts that we found on the beach. To open them, we threw the greener ones against the tree until they cracked and the coconut water dribbled out underneath.

I couldn't resist taking a selfie. Third Beach in the background.

You know the feeling of drinking coconuts on a sandy beach almost untouched by other humans? The feeling of the bright, tropical sun on your face, as you marvel at the endless horizon where a perfectly blue sky spotted by white clouds meets an ocean of equal magnificence? You know the feeling of having coconut water dripping down the front of your shirt and cooling you off? The feeling of wondering how you ended up on a tiny island, of all the places in the world? In those brief moments, I experienced each feeling distinctly. It’s hard to rival. Lice and all, it’s been worth it.

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