Day 299, Year 1: New People and Age-Old Traditions in Pago Pago
Date: Saturday, August 12, 2006 (-11 GMT)
Weather: Sunny and Windy with Sprinkles Here and There
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
When I wrote the log last night, I was so tired that I must have fallen asleep at least ten times while writing . . . and it was only 7:30 in the evening. I had not slept very much on the last night of passage due to the weather throwing us around a bit, so I’ll try to fill in a little more of what happened yesterday with the happenings of today.
First of all, when I mentioned George and Ute of sailing vessel Miami, I forgot to mention that we came into port together. We were directed by the harbor master to raft up with a fishing vessel, Manu’a Tele, then Miami had to raft up to us. We had met George and Ute only once before, at Bloody Mary’s in Bora Bora. Lee and Mary Ellen were with us and Mary Ellen and I noted that Ute had on a necklace with more black pearls than I had ever seen in my life. I mentioned that to Ute yesterday and she explained that she bought a huge number of inferior pearls at the Pearl Market in Papeete. She had them drilled and she can string them in different ways. She says the imperfections don’t bother her and they sure weren’t apparent the night we met her. Anyway, they are here in the harbor with us and we hope to get to know them better over the next few days.
I didn’t mention in last night’s log our conversation with the immigration official. His name was Kid (short for Billy the Kid). He was dressed in “uniform” which was a brilliant blue silk shirt and matching lavalava (material wrapped like a skirt). I’d give anything to have an outfit like that. Maybe I’ll have to go to work for the Department of Immigration here. Anyway, we talked with him about the fact that Mark had lived here between 1967 and 1969 out in the village of Leone. At that time, Leone had only 5 houses and a small school. Kid told us that today Leone is a booming community with the largest Ace Hardware in the world. (Lee-check that out.) The other reason I mention this is that traditionally children here are named for what is happening at the time of their birth. When Mark was here, television had become a huge part of the culture and people would name their children after whatever program was on TV at the time of birth. With Billy the Kid, it was an obsession on his father’s part with cowboys. Another brother is named Clint Eastwood!
On our way back from the hospital yesterday, we had the bus drop us off at a restaurant and bar named Sadie Thompson’s. Sadie is the main character in Somerset Maugham’s “Rain”. Sadie lived upstairs in what is now the Sadie Thompson Restaurant. She was a laundress by day and practiced her trade by night. No one knows the name of the woman Maugham wrote about, but he called her Sadie Thompson, and that has stuck. She had been evicted from the Honolulu red light district and headed south to continue her trade. Maugham was on a ship that was detained in Pago Pago and it was from his time here that he wrote of Sadie. Her character will live on through productions of Maugham’s rain, but she was supposedly whisked away from here on a steamship bound for Australia one rainy night. Supposedly a police officer found her unconscious on the street and put her aboard the steamer. Poor Sadie.
Sadie’s is close enough to the dinghy dock for me to walk, and as we were walking, I heard familiar singing. I looked up the hill and saw an Assembly of God sign and realized they congregation was singing familiar hymns that have been transformed into Polynesian himenes. The song I recognized was “How Great Thou Art”-different words but same tune.
Now for today . . . Mark went into the market mid-morning and explored a little. He found his way to the DDW (Don’t Drink the Water) Internet Café ¡nd went on to the grocery store. The market had only bananas and breadfruit by the time he got there, but he did find broccoli at the grocery store. He came back to the boat, got his computer, and went back to DDW to get online before they closed at 12:30. On Monday we should be able to get connected to the local wireless service, but he was anxious to download a few things today. I spent my day writing e-mails, doing laundry, and looking at the beautiful mountains that surround us here in the anchorage. Tomorrow I will write a little about the geography here. This harbor was once the crater of a volcano and the mountains that surround it are spectacular.
We’re sitting here in the cockpit enjoying the evening and listening to music from last year’s cultural festival in the Cook Islands. The music from this year is not yet available, but many of the songs on this CD are very familiar to us now. I love the music, the drumming, the singing, and in person, the dancing. Listening is making me want to go back and see and hear more. Once we left the Cook Islands, we left the “hip shaking and knee slapping” music and dancing of French Polynesia and the Cooks behind. The singing here is supposed to be phenomenal, but the dancing, and more obviously the dress, is very different. Evidently on Wednesday night we will get our first glimpse of traditional Samoan dancing at Sadie Thompson’s. I sure hope the drumming here is similar to French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. I think that is what I love most about the music from the South Pacific.
While in town, Mark met some of the cruisers on other boats in the harbor: Matt and Judy on “Elsewhere,” Tim, Cynthia and Cameron from “Artic Fox,” and of course, Ute and George on “Miami” who arrives with us yesterday. On the way back he stopped at “Odyssey” to chat with Cliff Cummings from Houston, Texas who has lived on his boat here for nine or ten years. He publishes a little information sheet for cruisers on such things as where there are showers, where one can get drinkable water, and where to shop, dine, etc. When Mark got back to the boat Dorthy of the yacht Prism came by to get acquainted. She and Ed are on an Island Packet 35 anchored right behind us. In addition to learning about the people and cultures of the South Pacific, making new friends and renewing friendships among cruisers that we have met before is part of what we enjoy
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