Saturday, September 7, 2013

American Samoa: Where East Meets West

7 August 2013  or so

We're in American Samoa, on the island of Tutuila (pronounced too-TWEE-la) - just outside Pago Pago (PAHNG-o PAHNG-o) - and on the other side of the International Dateline from Samoa, the independent state (versus Am Sam, which is another US territory).  Confusing - we flew out on Thursday, at about 11:30 AM, and arrived in American Samoa on Wednesday, at about noon.  So it is currently Saturday here, and Sunday there.  Exact same time of day, but one day apart.  So while Samoa is the FIRST place on earth to greet each day, American Samoa is the LAST place to say goodbye to each day.  Kind of poetic in a confusing way.  

Check out a close up of the map:

I'm working on Richard's computer - our hotel has internet access, but you have to use a cable to access the ethernet.  My Mac Air doesn't have the port for the cable, so I can't go online.  So I'm on his computer, which means no photos.  But I'll do the best I can for now.

We're staying at the Sadie Thompson Inn, a lovely and older hotel that has the feel of an old inn, with huge rooms and porches and all the modern amenities.  

The building was built at the turn of the previous century (1800 to 1900) and was used as the setting for Somerset Maugham's story "Rain" (also known as Sadie Thompson, the "fallen" woman in the story).   And, for today, we've been having that constant torrential tropical rain - all day.

So we're cozy and comfortable in our room, waiting out the rain, and watching American tv from Hawaii.  I can't tell you how bizarre it is to have American tv and American money again - we've been out of the country for ten months, and we're so used to multi-colored bills that the all-green-all-denominations money seems truly weird!  But, well, I'm enjoying watching old movies on tv.  Especially since I'm staying in due to another stupid respiratory infection.  We spent part of Friday at the hospital, getting an antibiotic for me.  While the medical care here is free for American Samoan residents, and very inexpensive for visitors ($20 for the ER visit), well, it also took about four hours for the entire visit.  Like St. Thomas, things are sort of American and sort of local - a mix of Samoan and US.  Probably more Samoan that US, just like St. Thomas is more Caribbean than US - but that's what makes things fun!

The view outside our room is the "mountain view" - meaning we look directly at the mountain covered in exotic plants and hanging vines.  The mountains here are really tall hills, but incredibly pointy - the island of Tutuila is volcanic, and the Pago Pago Harbour is actually an old volcanic caldera (crater) from an ancient explosion.  The harbour is also very deep, as is much of the ocean around this area.  In fact, this is why the US took over American Samoa when the Samoan Islands were taken over by the Allies in WWII.  The US needed the deep water for their submarines, and the British took (then) Western Samoa because there was flatter land to house their war planes.  (The Germans originally had the Samoan Islands as a territory or colony.)  Eventually, the British put New Zealand in charge of Western Samoa, which later on became the Independent State of Samoa.

Anyway, we haven't seen much of the island, between the hospital visit, staying in to get over this thing, and the rain.

We did see tsunami warning signs and sirens ALL along the road from the airport in the west to town (Pago Pago, the capital) - about half the island - and we're told the signs and sirens are all over the island, in every village and town.  The tsunami of September 2009 (triggered by an earthquake in the Samoan/Tongan trench) affected both Samoas - some towns were totally wiped out - and given the ties American Samoa has with Hawaii, signs and sirens were put up everywhere.  Not so much on Independent Samoa.  

We plan to visit some of the gorgeous beaches here and snorkel in the clear clear water.  Maybe do a little hiking.  There doesn't seem to be a lot else to do around here, tourism hasn't quite reached American Samoa.  (We aren't sure why, I guess people get to Hawaii and figure they've gone far enough?)

Anyway, that's just sort of a quick summary.   We'll get out and about, and have more exciting things to report.



    Keep writing... we love almost-being-there.
    xoxox SS

  2. Pago Pago is the lost city of Atlantis and it exists only in the 23 hour time warp where you were, though you didn't know it, as you travelled between the two places. Few ever get the chance to really experience it. It is like the Bermuda Triangle: no one lives to come back and tell about it. So, yes, it is very real, but no, there are no blogs about it out there.
    xoxox ss