Sunday, November 17, 2013

A little slice of America in a land far, far away…

The beautiful coastline of America Samoa

When you’ve been far away from home for many months, the thought of spending a little time in a country that starts with the word “America” can be pretty tempting.  Especially the thought of being able to re-provision with some real live American products!  So after 2 wonderful weeks in Suwarrow, Bella Vita set sail for America Samoa.

When you say you are going to America Samoa everyone wants to tell you how terrible it is.  The harbor is supposed to be completely foul after the tsunami that came through a few years ago and there are lots of stories about anchors getting fouled on washing machines or refrigerators or boats dragging all over the harbor during high winds.  People also like to tell you (even though they haven’t been there) how terrible it smells because of the tuna processing plants.  Basically most folks say the place is a waste of time – dirty, smelly and dangerous to anchor in. 

Heartbreaking how much trash can
fill the harbor after rainstorms...
While I will completely agree that the smell can be eye wateringly offensive – it thankfully only happens for a short period a couple of times a day.  I can live with that.  And for the 10 days we were anchored in the harbor, we held just fine.  When we pulled anchor all that came up was a black plastic bag, so while some boats may have had a bad experience, we did not.  The only thing that made us extremely sad was the amount of trash that filled the harbor after strong rain storms (which happened very often).  Unfortunately the people here are still learning that plastics do not decompose and can’t just be tossed out the window of your car…

Thanks for all the help Caroline!
Surprisingly, what people don’t talk about is how beautiful the island is once you get away from the dark and dingy harbor.  We were very blessed to have been introduced to a local named Caroline who drove us around a bit and helped us to see more of the island.  We greatly appreciated her willingness to give us a ride on a provisioning run to the Cost-U-Less – a great warehouse like place with lots of American type products – including Hersey’s Kisses, a favorite passage treat for us!  We hope Caroline wasn’t too shocked by all the stuff we bought!

Keeping the dead close...
One interesting aspect of life in America Samoa is that the dead play and integral part of the daily existence for the living.  Most family members are buried in the front yard of the family home.  As you ride the buses around you pass countless graves right in front of the house – and often you will see family members lying on top of them to stay cool during the heat of the day.  Gives new meaning to keeping the dead close, huh? 

Now that's what I call friendly officials!
Another thing worth mentioning was how friendly everyone was.  Walking down the street a quick smile would bring a friendly smile and warm greeting in return.  And the US Customs guys?  Compared to dealing with customs in the USA, they were a big treat.  Yep, this image says it all.  Don’t be fooled – it wasn’t Brett bringing them….they offered their donuts to US!!!  Can you even imagine that happening in the states?  Our guys could take a lesson or two from these wonderfully warm, but still clearly competent officials.  They processed us in and out of their country with a smile and a warm greeting proving once again that you don’t have to be a jerk to get the job done.  Very nice!

Need a ride?  The bus system in AmSam rocks!

Video AND feathers - sweet!
Definitely our favorite part of AmSam was the bus system.  There are buses that go EVERYWHERE and they are CHEAP!  Not only that, they are each decorated by their owner with a lot of flair (which usually meant feathers!).  We used the bus system extensively and got a real kick out of seeing the different decorations employed to tempt riders to come on board.  Some even had videos!  Cost to go to most places was just $1, and usually included some good music to boot.  With buses coming by about every 10 minutes it was a great way to get around. 

All in all, while it rained a LOT and and was VERY hot and humid, we are glad we made a stop in this small American outpost.  The people have a lot to offer and the island is very beautiful once you get out of Pago Pago and do a little exploring.  And to top it off we’re officially re-stocked with enough Hershey Kisses to make it to New Zealand!

Another awesome bus ride - thanks AmSam!

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