Wednesday, September 22, 2010
That means “hello” in Samoan.
We weren’t planning on stopping in Samoa, but Stray Kitty, our friends on a catamaran like to connect the dots and see nearly every island, convinced us. “Upolu is supposed to be a traditional South Pacific Island and some say you haven’t visited the South Pacific until you see Samoa,” urged Captain Chris when we were together plotting our itinerary from the Cook Islands.
Many sailors en route from the Cook Islands to Tonga also stop in American Samoa to get parts mailed in and stock their galley with American junk food. We heard they didn’t have cliff bars or organic peanut butter and our friends on Pickles had graciously volunteered to pick us up a Shop Vac that runs on 110 volts (all the other islands down here use 220 volts) , so we decided to skip American Samoa with its $175 entry fee, go directly to Upolu and catch a 75 pound tuna en route. Maybe we'll go to American Samoa on our next journey across the Pacific.
When we entered Apia, the capital city, we made the obligatory call to the harbor master, who sent a boat out to escort us directly into the marina. Yachts are not allowed to anchor in the bay, a controversial rule that has deterred a number of boats. For us, a chance to hook to shore power, have access to plenty of fresh water and be on a dock where we can come and go as we please is a benefit. So on the early morning of September 2nd we secured Kamaya into the slip at the government marina and raised our yellow quarantine flag.
First seven officials wearing the lava lava skirt visited us having us fill out various forms. The health official allowed us to keep the foreign fruit and vegetables but made sure that we took it to the red building who supposedly took care of it.
When I asked the immigration man in charge of stamping our passports what the most important thing we needed to know about Samoa, he told us firmly, “Respect. Our lives are all about respect. We respect our elders and we respect each other.”
We learned about the center of respect, the large extended families with the matai (or chiefs) making important clan decisions. All seems much different from our individualized American culture.
We carefully crossed the busy city streets, learning to look right and then left or is it left and then right? since the Samoans now drive on the wrong side of the road. They switched just one year ago on September 7, 2009 and apparently there was chaos on the streets that day. For those of us who drive on the correct side of the road this, of course, is confusing.
Coming from costly French Polynesia, we were overjoyed by the low price of food and even indulged in numerous restaurants. The local market gave us a taste of Samoan food, my favorite being the palusami, baked taro leaves mixed with coconut cream. We also sampled Samoan food at the infamous Aggie Grey Hotel, famous for being a refuge for the American GIs in the 1930s.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, moved to Samoa because he hoped the tropical climate would be good for his tuberculosis. In 1890, he built a large estate up in the hills.
Unfortunately, he died four years later on December 3, 1894, but made a positive impact on the Samoans, who revered him and appreciated his strong voice against colonialism.
We did the “pilgrimage” to Stevenson’s grave at the top of Mt. Vaea. Here's his tombstone which in case you can't read it states:
1850 ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 1894
Under the wide and starry sky dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die and I laid me down with a will. This be the verse you gave for me here he lies where he longed to be. Home is the sailor home from the sea and the hunter home from the hill.
In the water, we swam at the reef and laughed at the territorial Picasso fish who attacked our legs and even the camera. Notice their yellow lips and bright colors.
Talking about bright colors, even the starfish were bright blue.
The Teuila (a type of maroon flower) Festival coincidentally was happening the same week of our visit with plenty of dancing, singing, longboat races and even wood carving competitions.
Before we left, we toured the traditional outrigger canoe and learned about their successes with celestial navigation. The Galufala will sail to New Zealand and then to Hawaii and perhaps even San Francisco, but they don’t sail well upwind so the journey will take almost one year. Unlike the outrigger we saw in French Polynesia, this one doesn’t take animals on board.
All-in-all our visit to Samoa was well worth the stop and showed us a glimpse of Samoa's traditional culture. Thank you Captain Chris for convincing us to connect one of the dots. Next stop Tonga.
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