Day 70, Grand Asia 2018
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, Pago Pago, American Samoa:
If you are paying close attention, you might notice that yesterday was Day 69 and Saturday, Dec. 8. Today is Day 70 ad Saturday, Dec. 8. No, I did not make a mistake. We crossed the International Date Line, which runs between Samoa and American Samoa. So we are repeating a day, making up for Oct. 9, a day we missed when crossing the International Date Line going the other way.
Today I can put away all my foreign currency – from here on out it is U.S. Dollars. American Samoa is a U.S. territory – its residents are U.S. nationals (not citizens, unless one of their parents is a U.S. citizen). They have free passage throughout the United States. President Lyndon Johnson was the only president to visit here, and the hospital is named for him.
American Samoans are known for enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces at higher rates than any other territory or state. Samoans also constitute the most disproportionately overrepresented ethnic group in the National Football League. And the National Park of American Samoa is the only U.S. National Park in the Southern Hemisphere.
Note: As in many Polynesian locales, the “g” in Pago is said like “ng”, so phonetically it is “pango pango.”
We docked right in town. There is one main road traveling along the coast of this very mountainous island, and it circles the deep harbor. Almost 10 years ago a tsunami rushed up the harbor, and now road signs warn of the danger.
Last year I took a tour and spent the day at Tisa’s Barefoot Beach Bar, so this year I decided to just walk through the city below the mountains (and the Starkest Tuna packing plant).
I stopped in the National Park Visitor’s Center. I had hoped to actually set foot in the park, but it is at least a 45-minute drive over the mountains to the other side of the island. People who had National Park Passports could stamp them at the visitor’s center, so I’m going to count it. The center normally is closed on Saturday, but the volunteers opened it because the Amsterdam was in port.
The skies threatened rain, but the light mist wasn’t enough to bring out my umbrella. It did seem to discourage business for the car wash sponsored by the local church’s youth group. They said after a couple of hours they only had two customers. It didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm.
After walking about three miles, sketching a church and some flowers as I passed, I headed back. Several vendors had set up on the pier, and some passengers were enjoying the free WiFi.
By the time we left, a tropical rainstorm had set in. I headed to the Lido for dinner – in celebration of returning to American soil, they served hamburgers, ribs, fries, potato salad and coleslaw. I think they pulled out the Fourth of July decorations.
Tonight’s entertainment was a collaborative project between Holland America and the BBC, whose producers edited segments from BBC Earth 2 and combined them with original musical scores, performed by the ship’s musicians. It was spectacular on the big screen, although I could have done with the snakes chasing hatchlings in the Galapagos Islands. I like nature shows that avoid death.