Sunday, August 21, 2011

Western Samoa vs American Samoa

After an easy overnight sail, we arrived in Apia, Western Samoa, this morning.  I guess sometime in the late 90s, they decided to drop the ‘Western’ prefix but everyone still refers to it as ‘Western Samoa’.  The first obvious difference is that here there’s a marina, complete with new docks that have all the conveniences of home, e.g., power, water, showers, etc.  Once tied up, we were visited by five different representatives of the various governmental agencies that claim to have an interest in our arrival:  Quarantine, Health, Port Authority, Customs and Immigration.  I lost count as to how many forms we had to fill out – part of the reason for that is I didn’t have one particular form from American Samoa so I had to follow the representative from Customs to his headquarters and explain (plead) my situation to the Assistant Chief Executive Officer.  Perhaps she saw that by the dirt beneath my nails I wouldn’t lie so she gave me a break and didn’t fine me.  Hallelujah!

We walked from the marina through the city of Apia, getting cash at an ATM (the Samoan tala is equal to $.44USD), stopping to peruse the flea market and the public market, both very interesting experiences.   Of course, we nearly got hit by cars several times as we’re not used to cars driving on the left side of the road.  After walking in the heat (it’s very hot here – after all, we’re only 13 degrees south of the equator) for what seemed like forever, we arrived back at the boat, just in time for late afternoon cocktails.  While sipping a refreshing iced beverage, I thought about the differences between American Samoa and Western Samoa.

In ways, they could be twin brother and sister (geologically, that might be an accurate analogy) as they both look similar from a natural history perspective.  But from my point of view, from a sociological perspective, they’re almost as different as night and day.  For one thing, the people look different as the American Samoans are much larger and heavier then their Western Samoan cousins appears to be.  But they also act differently.  The American Samoans, while friendly, don’t seem to be as industrious or interested.  On the other hand, we had hardly stepped out of the marina gates in Apia when a taxi driver stopped us on the road, acted like he was our long lost friend, and proceeded to hustle us for a driving gig.  This confrontational approach happened several times during our short tour, eliminating the possibility of an isolated aggressive individual.

The streets are clean and well-kept in Western Samoa while in American Samoa trash lines almost everything.  Western Samoa has five-story modern buildings while the Rainmaker Hotel, once the premier hotel in American Samoa, lies abandoned four years after it was destroyed by fire.  There’s an organized downtown in Apia, Western Samoa, with sidewalk cafes and upscale stores.  Many people in American Samoa think McDonalds and Pizza Hut are about as good as it gets.  In American Samoa we could barely get our anchors to hold due to all the trash on the bottom of the harbor and in Western Samoa we’re tied up to a slip in a modern marina that’s even equipped with fire hoses – I used one to wash down the boat!

So, from my limited observations, I see it this way:  Western Samoa is the twin sister who’s smart, fashionable and career-minded.  American Samoa is the twin brother who still lives at home, eats too much junk food, plays video games all day long and never finished high school.  Perhaps I’m being too harsh and, after all, I’m neither a sociologist nor a very keen observer.


  1. And this . . . Western Samoa is the recipient of aid from China. Those building . .all Chinese aid.

    Cleaner? Western Samoa has no solid waste disposal system. Your boat is floating in raw sewage.

    That cabbie. Like the hundreds in town, is broke. His car was bought by relatives in New Zealand. You are a dollar sign.

    Upscale? I believe Aggie's in town has the best buffet breakfast. Better than anything Pago has to offer. That's where it stops except for a couple of way overpriced resorts.

    What you failed to mention is that . . you got your mail in Pago. Your spare parts arrived. maybe you went to the LBJ dental clinic. The internet worked in Pago, Buses took you to Cost-U-Less where you reprovisioned everything including those cocktails. Ace Hardware had everything you needed.

    The worst for last. As a third world nation, Western Samoa has completely decimated her rainforests and reefs. First the timber lords logged her out. Then the taro farmers depleted the soil nutrients.

    I won't even mentioned food prices.

    You're going to love Tonga.

    From Pago, JW

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