Talofa – that is hello from American Samoa. We sail into Pago Pago Harbor early in the morning. The Pilot arrives on his tugboat with arms open wide and a loud “welcome to Pago Pago”. Pago Pago is on the largest island in the archipelago of Samoan Islands called Tutuila. Since American Samoa is a U.S. territory, one expects it to seem familiar. But the tropical breeze and f’asamoa (‘Samoan way’) lifestyle soon informs us that we have arrived at a serene paradise. There are no five star hotels here or fancy name retail outlets. There is smoke hanging in the air from above ground ovens called umes. It is Sunday and the Samoan men have started slow roasting meat for family and friend gatherings after church.
From the ship, we can see a rugged, winding mountain range in the heart of the National Park of American Samoa. This park is administered by the National Park Service. Its mission is to preserve and protect tropical rainforests, coral reefs, unique tropical animals, and the Samoan culture. No time is available to visit the National Park so we must add it to our bucket list for another trip.
One can see God is at work here. The people are happy and smile all the time. Many wave to us as we tour the island. We pass a lot of open air churches filled with Samoans in Polynesian dress. Our tour guide informs us, “We do not have any dangerous animals on the island. We only have ‘happy’ animals: chickens, dogs, cats, pigs”. Also, we observe there is hardly any graffiti just occasional artwork.
Our shore excursion today is called “A Taste of Samoan Village Life”. We head out on an island style bus (Aiga bus) for southwestern Tutuila. Our drive takes us along the beautiful coastline of the Pago Pago Harbor. We stop to view the Flower Pot Rocks. We then travel inland through local villages. The tour guide points out that there are no cemeteries in American Samoa. Deceased ancestors are buried on the family property.
The highlight of our trip is a visit to a re-creation of a traditional Samoan Village where we are greeted by the local villagers who explain each aspect of traditional Samoan life as it is still lived today. They show us how their day-to-day traditions have survived over the centuries and invite us to take part in their music and dance after tasting traditional food cooked in an above ground uma. The Samoan people seem to be in tune with the weather as they finish the program just in time to get us back on the buses before the rains come. This is the rainy season after all.
We arrive back at the pier with some time to wander the handicrafts market. Courtney buys a cute Polynesian dress and Deb buys a caftan shirt and hair bun cover. All were hand-made by local women. We observe examples of Tapa cloth. Tapa is a nonwoven fabric decorated with figurative and abstract designs usually applied by scratching or by painting. The basic cloth like material is produced from the inner bark (bast) of the paper mulberry tree.