I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saaamoa, American Saaamoa

There are no Starbucks in American Samoa. There is a McDonalds, a Carl's Jr., and a Pizza Hut (allegedly) on the other side of the island, but other than those restaurants and the United States Postal Service, there is not too much resembling American culture. Ok - check that - there are definitely American influences here, but it is nothing like Hawaii or even Papeete, which is refreshing.

While there have been reports of cholera from the drinking water and the disease that gives one elephantitus from mosquito bites, there are many luxuries of American life that I have learned not to take for granted. There is a laundry mat open 24/7 and loads only cost $1.50 each! This is down from $10 per kilo in Bora Bora, which made our laundry bill somewhere around $40. Not only is everything cheaper here compared to French Polynesia, but they use American money and everybody speaks at least a little bit of English, although most speak fluently (wow!). We went out to dinner the first night we got here (for the first time in months) and for four people (Lars joined us), drinks and big, delicious meals the bill came to $60. It was overwhelming to have every choice from steak to burgers to veggie plates and fresh fish; basically to have the opportunity to eat everything I have been craving for the past month.

It's not all peaches and cream - or bananas and coconut milk I should say - here. We tried to anchor for hours before we finally got the anchor set here in Pago Pago harbor. Every time we set the anchor it would drag, and when Dad lifted it up it would bring up trash, wires, rope, and even a car tire. Rumor has it there are even old dishwashers and washing machines on the bottom of the bay.

That's another issue here: trash. Trash lines the gutters and streets and floats everywhere in the water. There is a sociological reason for this. Samoan culture is about 3,000 years old, and for about 2,950 of those years everything the people used was biodegradable. Cups were made of coconuts, plates of banana leaves. When you were finished you threw your plate or cup on the ground and it went back into the earth. Not so with Styrofoam. With the introduction of all these synthetic products to the island there was no waste education/management. Oops. It is going to take a while yet for the trash issue to be dealt with.

I don't want to give you the impression that American Samoa is a dirty, polluted island. Yes, a few parts are, but it is also stunningly beautiful. The steep hills shoot out of the water and are covered thick with green foliage. The reefs fringing the island are healthy and make for some gnarly waves, although I have yet to snorkel or surf here. (Gimme a break, I've been here 2 whole days!)

Yesterday my friend Lars and I went to explore the island by bus. We hopped on a bus with loud reggae music blasting, painted bright colors, and filled with smiling locals. When we hit the end of the line for that bus we got on another, and ended up being taken to a very small village on the other side of the island where we helped an elderly couple take their groceries into their house. They offered us coffee, but we did not want the bus to leave us as it was the last one for the day. The bus driver offered to take us on an "extended bus line tour" and took us to his village. Even the smallest villages have big, well built churches. They are very religious. So much so that it is illegal to surf and swim on a Sunday.

On our way back across the island we picked up another local who, when we stopped at a convenience store, bought me and Lars beers. Just because. The people here are incredibly friendly. There are also a few Americans here. The Cal Maritime Academy arrived here yesterday, so Lars and I had a good time chatting with very drunk college students who have to let loose every time they get into port, which is not often. They leave tomorrow (fortunately). At the cell phone store I met three young guys who couldn't have been more than 30 who fly helicopters off the Chinese fishing boats. That has to be one of the most dangerous and awful jobs in the world, judging by their stories. Other than that I have not run into too many ex-pats, although there are some cruising boats that have been here 2 years or more. I could see getting stuck here. Hell, I could see buying property here and staying forever. But it's unlikely.

I am looking forward to further exploring the island. Last night Lars and I were chatting with Dimitri, the security guard at the dinghy dock, and he offered to take us around the island and give us the "local" tour. He also invited us to church with him this morning. People here are very kind and generous, open and trusting. When Lars asked the guys on the fishing boat docked next to him if he could buy a fish from them, they jumped up, grabbed a huge tuna, and gave it to him. Along with a beer. That reminds me! They have Coor's Light here. Ha! Maybe one of these days I will go all-out-American and eat at McDonalds and drink a Coor's light. But it's unlikely.

P.S. With my awesome, fast, FREE (pirated) internet I uploaded more pictures to FB. Check 'em:

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