November 19, 2013 – Pago Pago, American Samoa
Happy Anniversary to us!
Forty eight years ago today, in La Marque, Texas, at the First Presbyterian Church, Sally and I were married. Our reception was at the local Elks Club, and we headed to my new job with IBM in San Jose. It seems like just yesterday. Most of my posts are edited by Sally – this one I am sending without her having a chance to edit me. As all the challenges and joys of life come at you, the greatest wisdom I can impart is to find a partner as great as mine has been. Always by my side, even when I didn’t deserve it, always providing gentle wise guidance, always supportive – she is the love of my life.
Our celebration in the Crows Nest, before dinner with our tablemates, Barbara and Harry Davidson and Mary and Bud Walsh.
But first, off to Pago Pago (correctly pronounced “Pango Pango” – who knows why?).
American Samoa is a territory of the U.S., run by the Department of the Interior. Until 1951 it was under the Department of the Navy. The harbor here is one of the best in the Pacific; it is deep, long, and very protected. Government House, home of the Governor, sits on a bluff, dominating the Harbor.
This is the Rainmaker – once a five star resort, now slowly rotting away. Each time we have been here it is a little more decrepit.
The primary industry is tuna fishing – this being the home of the Starkist fleet’s mascot statue, “Charlie Tuna” – although I understand the last tsunami got him and he hasn’t been replaced.
This is a tuna fishing boat, much bigger than I imagined one would be.
The pier at Pago Pago – just a “work a day” pier. The buildings behind it are the town center. There is one road around the harbor, about 5 miles around, which after leaving the harbor area, extends around the island. Almost all of the homes in Pago Pago are within a few yards of the road, as the island is very mountainous with very little coastal plain for crops or homes.
It is one of the most pleasant places we have ever visited – this is our third visit – notice I said “pleasant”, not dramatic or exciting or interesting. I think pleasant is the right word. There are no tour destinations here, even though the ship offers some tours. We took one once and discovered there was nothing at the end of the road. But as I said, it is a nice place to visit.
Just because its pleasant doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of vendors.
Having been told there are no beach or snorkeling opportunities within reasonable distance, we decided to spend the morning poking round the town. The mass transit system here is really neat. The bus drivers, all independent operators, buy and decorate their buses very exotically – often with slogans painted on them. With just one road, they are either going east or going west. $5 per trip, wherever you are going. Some of them, like these two guys, are “chartering” their bus out for tours by the hour. If you come here – it is a great way to see the place.
Notice the size of those two guys – this is typical in Samoa. They all look like they belong in the NFL. They are big and powerful!
I am not sure what the message is when the bus is named “Titanic”.
Placed in front of the museum, this represents the community, or family house, of earlier times. An interesting way to live, depending on how close your neighbors are.
The largest church in Pago Pago – not sure what denomination. Many missionaries of many denominations came here in the 1800s and were quite successful in their conversion efforts. This is but one of many churches on the island.
We came upon a McDonalds and craving some health food, ordered quarter pounders, fries and Cokes. Delicious!
While Sally shopped, I found an internet café in the area (the one at McDonalds didn’t work), and bought 60 minutes of WiFi for $5 to download my emails and pay some bills. As I have often related, internet on the ship is slow and expensive. I don’t mind the cost, but the speed kills me. This blog often takes 15 minutes just to transmit. The rumor is that a new maritime internet company has emerged, creating competition for the first time. My bet is that speed will increase and prices will drop – I hope Holland America signs up.
We headed back to the ship, and Sally decided to rest, while I went out to explore a little more. I headed off to take a look at the old Rainwater resort, about four blocks down “the road”.
Along the way I passed the high school – where P.E. class was underway – they were playing basketball like it was a contact sport – Samoa!
Up the road a little ways brought me to this sign. Notice the “Free Beer” asterisk – yesterday.
This was Sadie’s by the Sea – a bar, restaurant, hotel that had been created by carving out a wing of the dying Rainmaker, and remodeling it.
On board the ship, the port expert had said there was really no place to swim or snorkel – thus our walking tour. Obviously she didn’t know, or didn’t want to say, about Sadie’s by the Sea – It was a great place to spend the day and I wish we had known about it before the day ended.
The beach at Sadie’s – $5 per day, including showers, $4 cold beer – I need to memorialize this for future visits, by me or by you.
Back to the ship. Time for our anniversary celebration and sailing away to the next port.