Tonight is definitely my night.
I know you may not think of me as the “party Ambassador.” You may not think I can get down and let loose as if I have had a bit more Bengal Lancer Punch than is good for me. I get that. But tonight…boy…tonight I CAN party like there is no tomorrow because, for us, there IS no tomorrow.
I write this at 5 PM on the 27th of January. And for us ,January 28th will be skipped this year for lack of interest. Yep…its time travel on the Pacific thanks to the mystery of the international date line. I’m not going to try and figure it out. I’ll just get confused again. It’s magic. Pure and simple. But tomorrow is about to disappear.
Its not that I think it a particularly good deal, mind you. At my age I don’t want to loose a moment, much less a day. There is far too much to do. Too much to read. Too much to see, to experience and to learn.
Today, was a learning day. American Samoa! I have to say I never really had Pago Pago on my bucket list (pronounced, btw, like a nasally Pango Pango) but what a treat.
It is beautiful. Tropical. Remote. But yet connected to the US as our only southern hemisphere territorial possession other than unpopulated Jarvis Island. (For those who don’t know, Jarvis Island is abandoned guano-mining island in the South Pacific that the United States claimed in 1857 under the Guano Islands Act — and you can send me your thank yous when you get THAT right on Jeopardy someday).
American Samoa is incredibly lush. Striking peaks lie at the island’s center with stunning coastal vistas. The verdant greenery reminds me of Sri Lanka. The remoteness calls up parts of the Maldives. And the tropical foods and rich soil recall parts of Uganda. But, although it brings all of these to mind, it is unique as well.
We found a South Pacific islander spirit and culture that was interwoven with the influence of the 19th century missionaries who brought “god” to the Pacific. As a result this small island with its 60,000 people may have more churches per capita than anywhere I’ve seen. Sometimes there can be five churches in one small village. Catholics, Mormons, Methodists, Protestants and more have their houses of worship. It seems at first blush to be more a point for social intercourse than a cause for theological divisions. But I don’t know enough to really say…it’s just the sense we had.
Still, as we explored a bit today — a Sunday. It was clear that faith and family came first. Almost everything was closed and the streets quiet except for those catering to the cruise ship excursionists!
We took a tour…enjoyed some local food in a village where we watched them prepare it in a traditional hot stone oven. Banana leaves trapping the heat that cooked the bananas and breadfruit and taro leaves in coconut milk (wrapped in banana leaves and breadfruit leaves). It was SO good.
This afternoon we strolled through downtown Pago Pago. Warm and humid ,but fun. We stopped at….McDonalds! It HAS to be one of the most remote on earth. Actually one of the two most remote. They have two on the island and…here it comes…one Carl Jr’s, home of the green burrito! And at the McDonalds the breakfast platter includes Spam, rice and eggs. Spam. A staple here I’m told. I’m not too sad that we’re sailing tonight!
There was something surreal about sitting there eating some french fries while ESPN showed snowboarding from Aspen, Colorado. I know that this is AMERICAN Samoa, but this particular bit of American sporting life seemed sharply out of place…as did the McDonalds. But that is today’s world. We are a global community. For better or worse or both.
Lots to digest from the day, but we’re excited to have had the chance. Even as the rain came down a bit in the afternoon we had to ask when are we going to have another chance to be rained on in Pago Pago? Indeed. When?
Meanwhile, enjoy January 28th, those of you who have the chance. This year, we’ll give it a miss! See you on the 29th.