Time Flies

Linda Lou Burton posting about American Samoa from Little Rock, Arkansas – I was so terrified I’d miss the flight I called Talofa Airlines. I was booked with Air New Zealand to fly from Apia, Samoa to Auckland, then Wellington, for my stay in the southernmost capital city in the world. The WORLD! Air New Zealand would depart Apia at 9:45 PM on the 19th and fly me through the night; my Wellington hotel was booked beginning Monday, July 20.

That part was easy. But first, I had to get to Apia.

Lots of inter-island flights via Talofa, no problem there. But I kept staring at the map and that International Dateline that separates Pago Pago and Apia. I simply could not wrap my mind around the concept of TIME.

“When do I need to leave Pago Pago to get to Apia in time to catch my July 19th flight?” I asked. “Do I need to check out of Sadie’s-By-The-Sea on the 18th or the 19th?”

She assured me that I must check out on the 18th. “So, I LEAVE Pago Pago on Saturday the 18th, fly west to Apia, and ARRIVE 30 minutes later on Sunday the 19th?” I repeated this phrase several times. “Are you SURE?”

She was sure.

Thanks to COVID-19, I will not get to experience how it feels to lose an entire day of one’s life while being perfectly behaved. So instead, on this hot Sunday afternoon in Little Rock (it is 96 feels like 106 at 1 PM) I will concentrate on “How I Would Spend My Time” on the beautiful, still virus-free, island of American Samoa, if I were really there, whatever day it was.

I’d focus on the two reasons I came: to see the National Park, and to experience the “capital city” aspects of our southernmost US capital. With a room right on the water at Sadie’s-By-The-Sea, I’d be feeling rested, and ready to go.

The National Park Visitor Center is just a mile from Sadie’s, the road follows the harbor; I’d have a rental car. I’d learn about the subsistence farming that is allowed on some parklands, it’s the Fa’a Samoa way; there are small plantations to see. I’d learn about the birds, as the park is home to over 35 resident and migratory species – seabirds, water birds, forest birds, shorebirds; perhaps I’d spot a blue kingfisher (you know how I love birds!). I’d learn about the Pe’a (Fruit Bats), with wing spans up to 3-feet wide. These unusual bats are active both day and night and they only live here; also called the Flying Fox, one is featured on the 2020 American Samoa quarter! I’d learn about coral reefs, marine life, rainforests; things I don’t know much about and seldom get a chance to see. I’d learn about the customs and the history; the villages, the chiefs, the princesses. The celebrations, and the dance. That’s just the Park. https://www.nps.gov/npsa/index.htm

Then I’d follow the map to find my way around town. Maybe I’d lunch at the famous Sadie Thompson Inn; or check out the Marketplace in Fagatogo Square, looking for traditional Samoan food like palusami (wrapped bundles of taro leaves with a coconut and onion filling, sometimes with chicken, fish, or corned beef).

I’d stop at the Maota Fono complex, a bee-hive shaped building based on the traditional Samoan fale (oval or circular, domed, thatched roof held up by poles). The American Samoa territorial legislature (Fono) is housed here; there is a two-story main wing, with offices for the legislators and governor, flanked by two single-story wings housing the legislative chambers. The Fono is a bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives and a Senate, the only legislature in the US that is both bicameral and nonpartisan. (The Nebraska Legislature is nonpartisan but is a unicameral body.)

I’d stop at Government House, a colonial mansion atop Mauga o Ali’i (the chief’s hill). The building was erected in 1903 under orders of a US Naval Admiral; from here naval governors administered the territory until 1951. It now serves as the official residence of the territory’s governor and first lady, where they host major dignitaries who visit the island. There are five public rooms, one showcasing Samoan artifacts.

I’d stop at the Jean P Hayden Museum; in addition to Samoan artifacts, it has Moon Rocks due to American Samoa’s link to the Apollo Moon Missions. I’d stop at the Ocean Center at the National Marine Sanctuary, where one of the main exhibits is a room-sized global system displaying planetary data. https://americansamoa.noaa.gov/visit/

I’d drive out to Blunt’s Point to see the World War II Cannons, and stop at Utulei Beach and gaze across Pago Pago Harbor to Rainmaker Mountain on the other side. I’d do my best to wangle a ride in a fautasi, a long boat with 40 paddlers, and I’d shop for a puletasi – that’s a two-piece long fitted blouse and skirt.

I’d talk with everyone who’d talk with me, making sure I always said SAH-mo-a when speaking, as it is pronounced there, and not Sa-MO-a, as I’ve always done.

Seems like I’d need to add a day, not lose one. Time flies.


Governor: Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Proclamation issued July 1, 2020 in effect until July 30, 2020 regarding COVID-19 restrictions lists current status as Code Blue: minimal social disruption with emphasis on social distancing, hygiene, and cough etiquette.

Office of the Governor: https://www.americansamoa.gov/office-of-the-governor