The International Writers Magazine: America’s South Pacific Paradise
Fred C. Wilson III
I never play the ‘tourist’ when abroad. I’ve always manage to blend in with the locals; that’s one advantage of being multi-racial. You can be anybody. I always dress down. So far I’ve been successful.
When I travel I always bring home unique mementos of my experiences. I’m so much in love with most things Polynesian that I married a wonderful woman from that part of our world; she and I’ve been married nearly 25 years. We have five children and two grandchildren; three girls four boys.
American Samoa’s total land mass is a mere 76 square miles. The main island of Tutuila covers roughly two thirds of the total territorial land mass and is home to 95% of its 65,000 plus residents. The five largest islands in the Samoan chain are Tutuila, Ta’o, Ofu, Olosega, Aunu’u and Nu’utele. The islands are volcanic and roughly resemble the Hawaiian Islands 2,300 miles northeast. Considered a center of American Polynesia not counting Hawaii, American Samoa is an archipelago though Rose and Swain Islands are coral reefs. The U.S. protectorate is a strategic oceanic midpoint for shipping, a growing tourist industry plus a vital link in international air services.
It’s believed that the first Samoans migrated from Asia by way of Indonesia. The culture and linguistic roots seems to verify this theory. The ancient Samoans traveled in ocean going canoes past Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga ending their oceanic odyssey near the village of Tula, Tutuila sometime around 600 BC. There was a window of 800 years before Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen ‘discovered’ them in 1722.
A rich blend of 89% Polynesian, 5% non-Samoans, 4% Tongan, and 2% Caucasian comprise the multi-ethnic mix of the archipelago. Many Samoans cling to their cultural heritage as a safety their antidote for a world that appears to be spinning out of control. Extended families or aigas are the norm. Aigas are led by matais or family council members. Matais could be of either gender. They hold power within families. To learn more about this unique familial system search ‘The Matai System-Samoa…’ They delve into this tradition more than I can since they’re not hindered by word count limitations.
The art of American Samoa is purely Polynesian. If you ever get the chance do yourself a favor. Visit the ‘Polynesian Cultural Center’ in Honolulu, Hawaii (http://www.polynesianculturalcenter.com/) either in person or on line. You’ll get a pretty good idea of the colorful art of Samoa.
American Samoa is chock full of local/world class celebrities too numerous to mention in these pages; here’s a few of well known celebs. Inventor-scientist Bob Ainuu Afamasaga has written a number of books on science related topics. Some of his works include ‘Understanding Your DNA’ and ‘Mind.’ He’s a DNA specialist with an impressive number of articles and tomes to his credit. He has invented technology used to test for blood types.
Visual artist Shigeyuki Kihara was the first Samoan to host a one person art show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fellow artist sculptor Johnny Penisula MNZM is a native Samoan but lives in New Zealand. The list of Samoan literary and artistic luminaries is legion. I can’t list them all but you can; use your search engine, type in ‘Samoan artists and writers,’ and let your fingers do the rest.
Thirty Samoans play football in the NFL. The islands host a number of world class wrestlers. On the downside there’s the infamous record set by the American Samoan national soccer team. They set a world’s record for the most consecutive matches lost more than any team in international soccer. Up until very recently they had a 17 year loosing streak. Their biggest beating was when Australia stomped them 31 zip! In 2009 by some miracle of fate the hapless American Samoan soccer team squeaked by Tonga 2-1 after being ranked the worst team on earth in international sport!
||The South Sea Islands abound in fish, pigs, tropical fruits, exotic vegetables, unique restaurants and plenty of pretty birds. Their bars serve those fancy rum drinks with those tiny colored umbrellas sticking through cherries and pineapple slices.
Totally Americanized your everyday Samoan bill a fare is no different from the mainland American diet; highly caloric, grease laden, served in humongous amounts, unhealthy but oh so tasty; in short…culinary garbage-junk foods. Some traditional dishes are still popular in touristy restaurants.
In American Samoa they prepare suckling pigs much the same way as in the Filipino tradition; they roast it on spits over open fires. In Samoa the term lu’au refers to a native dish not the Hawaiian all-you-can-eat pig out fest. It consists of uncooked taro folded in banana leaves garnished with coconut cream and onions. This dish is placed in an umu or pit-oven and served with roasted pig-yummy! Reader for additional American Samoan dishes, recipes, and good food pictures go to ‘Samoan Cuisine-You Tube’ and you won’t be disappointed.
|There are many religions in American Samoa. Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society brought Christianity to Samoa. Within 40 years Samoa evolved from a minor mission post to a major terminus where native clerics were trained, ordained, then sent to evangelize other islands particularly Melanesia. 99% of America Samoans are Christians of varying denominations with Congregationalism dominant.
Catholics, other Protestant denominations, Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews following close behind. All religious groups are multi-ethnic and maintain tolerant attitudes towards each other. The United States government reports religious discrimination in America’s Samoa is near non-existent.
American Samoa like the rest of our country is governed by President Barak Obama. Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga is American Samoa’s governor. Former President of the Development Bank of Amerian Samoa from 2009 until 2012 Governor Moliga was born in Ta’u, Manu’a, American Samoa. His father Moliga Sa’ena Auauna Moliga was a high chief an island big man. He received his master’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University. Mr. Moliga is eminently qualified for his position as the islands governor; politically he’s a centrist.
There are many interesting travel facts you should know when planning your Samoan holiday. What you wear is very important in this deeply religious country. Women should dress modestly especially when touring rural areas. Swim suits are for pools not public parks. For tourists who want to ‘go native’ a simple lavalava will suffice. I purchased mine in Honolulu, Hawaii. They’re comfortable, light weight, brightly colored; I’ve worn mine around the house and while sitting on my front porch drinking cold beer during hot summer months.
The climate in American Samoa is typical of tropical islands; hot during day, cool at night, with month long rainy seasons. American Samoa is volcanic. If its’ any consolation to you Samoan volcanoes haven’t blown their craters since 1911 which in geologic time it was only yesterday. One huge caldera formed one of the deepest and best protected harbors on the planet; a fringe benefit when living on a volcanic ring of fire.
Most of the islands are covered with tropical forests, woodlands and is home-sweet-home for exotic birds and other wildlife. American Samoa’s tourist industry is still under developed but growing. This may be a good thing if you enjoy roughing it. Strict zoning codes determine the height of tall buildings.
The government want to insure that American Samoa remain rustic and unspoiled. For a complete listing of flights to American Samoa, island customs, sites of interest, local restaurants, and medical centers go to http://www.amsamoantourism.com/. Another sign of the territory’s stability is there’s no U.S. State Department travel advisory warning. American officials urge travelers to exercise normal security precautions. Reader if you plan on vacationing in American Samoa flights to and from your point of origin hotel accommodations can be found going on line to http://www.amsamoantourism.com/
© Fred C. Wilson III August 2013
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I like Texas. I’ve been there a number of times. During my third trip there I sat next to a real cowboy while heading south