En Route to Fiji! – Emotional Pro

October 10th, 2008

We’re back on the open ocean for another day, following two interesting days of stopping off in American Samoa and Western Samoa (Samoa is pronounced “sa” (like an s followed by ah) “mo” “ah”, with the emphasis on the Sa). 


The difference between the two places was profound.  Western Samoa has been independent since 1962, and has become a bustling and successful-seeming location, with hotels and office buildings several stories high in the downtown area of Apia, where we stopped.  In Western Samoa we were greeted by the Police Band and a phalynx of native dancers performing on the dock as we disembarked.  The tour leaders gave each person a lei to wear, and whisked their patrons off on their respective tours. Our tour guide was a woman engineering student who pointed out almost every building as we passed.  We rode around the island, viewing the vast sports arena area (built for the South Pacific Games last year), government buildings and the huge numbers of churches, stopping at the home of Robert Lewis Stevenson, where we were treated to cold fresh coconuts (opened so you could sip the juice from inside) and a very enthusiastic and graceful performance of the local dancers.  Our guide informed us that the Latter Day Saints were by far the wealthiest citizens and church on the island, proved to us by a drive past their newest church, replete with cascading fountain in front, and the gated community of neat white dwellings.  Each church seemed to be running its own school, from Kindergarten and sometimes up through at least Junior college level.  There were areas marred by trash, but not very many.  Most areas were picked up, well-maintained, and beautiful, though the market and transportation area they took us to had open sewage ditches running through, with water from food preparation areas standing in it.  Trash pickup stands were elevated nearly 4 feet high to keep dogs from raiding them.  The people on the island seemed more “westernized” and less laid back than in American Samoa.


American Samoa was markedly different. No one met the ship as we disembarked.  We were led to quaint buses (built on the island) and transported to our destination by a sweet young woman who did not give a lot of explanations about much of anything!  For example, we stopped at the “flower pot” area where two land masses stand close together and are evidence of an island legend.  I had to ask the guide what we were viewing, because it was not announced!  Each village runs its own guide/bus system, which means you end up going to their village for performances, food tasting, etc.  We rode along the one road going on the Western side of the island.  Our guide was quite charming, yet very difficult to hear over the blasting music being played over a speaker mounted above the driver!  When you consider that many of the passengers were wearing hearing aids, this created a challenge of the first order!  We were taken to a village which had 5 staging areas laid out (looking like grass huts), so visitors could see how the Samoans lived in the past.  One young woman pounded clothes on a rock beneath a slow-running spigot.  A grandmother sat in another with her charming grandchildren, each wearing clothes that looked very hot in such weather (and humidity), all with their own bag of Cheetos!  In the fifth house, a group of Samoan men were creating a traditional feast, consisting of chicken, “Samoan spinach” cooked in banana leaves, bananas, bread fruit and tuna cooked in coconut shells, covered by coconut milk.  All of this was cooked by hot rocks which were covered by large banana leaves.  After demonstrating the method by setting up a feast, they opened up a previously-prepared feast from another location and offered it to us all to eat while several of our tour guides danced, along with the village Princess.

The food was quite delicious!  There the coconuts opened for their milk (a straw inserted at the top) could be purchased for $1!  At the village, garbage was carefully collected (though with more diligence from the tourists than the hosts!), but everywhere else there was litter, litter, litter.  I climbed a hill opposite our ship later in the day, looking at beautiful flowers and trees covered at their base with cans, bottles, paper and cardboard.  We also drank a beer at the Sadie Thompson House where Sumerset Maugham took inspiration for his short story, Rain, later made into a movie starring Joan Crawford.  Others from the cruise joined us—a delightful experience because of the air conditioning!  People on American Samoa seemed more traditional, more relaxed (not necessarily happier, however) and less “westernized” than those from Western Samoa.  While both were interesting experiences, the differences between the two locations was remarkable.


Today we are traveling toward Fiji.  We have a delightful Dutch captain, Bos, who makes announcements about the most intimate matters while maintaining a tremendous amount of dignity.  Today, for example, he explained that the toilets in the fore of the ship have gotten clogged (it’s a “vacuum system”).  Repair people must drill holes in the pipes in order to determine the problem, which the Captain explained in detail.  We have had no problems in our cabin (we’re amidships), yet can hear the drilling when we sit on our Verandah.


We continue to meet and talk with interesting people.  Today, for the first time in two weeks, we had an “all California” table for breakfast.  One couple has been married just two months and live in a trailer park in Morgan Hill.  The other is a retired couple from Encinitas, originally from Germany.  Hubby is an electrical engineer who, it seems, can fix anything.  He has offered to fix the light on Bob’s beloved medical school microscope (which I have attempted, only to fail) when we return.  This is a real gift! 


We’re setting up for our anniversary celebration—10 years on the 18th of October.  Last night we crossed the International Date Line.  We “lost” Friday, and jumped from Thursday to Saturday, losing an hour of time in the process.  Most confusing.  The only way most people know what day it is on shipboard is that the mat in the middle of the elevators is changed each day, with the day of the week woven into its middle!  It’s late Friday afternoon at home, but Saturday morning here!

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