Rich Tradition and Culture in American Samoa

White Sunday (2nd Sunday in October) Performance in a Local Church. Following Monday (In US, it is the Columbus Day) is a holiday. Tutuila Island, American Samoa

(September 8 to October 20, 2023) With the exception of the poor holding (when strong winds like 43 knots) in the Pago Pago Anchorage, American Samoa has to be the friendliest island we have been on and the happiest people we have ever met. If you smile at them, they immediately smile back. It is not like any other place we have been.

Plus a hospital (US Standard Facility) visit through the Emergency room was $20.00. That included talking to the Dr, a blood test, another Dr. visit a day and a half later. If that does not amaze you, then nothing does. It sometimes takes a long wait though.

Having a US Post Office is wonderful. We received five boxes out of six packs. One was shipped by a boat by someone’s mistake in a USPS mainland. We were informed it usually takes 8-12 weeks so we arranged the local post office to return. This was sent by priority mail. Now, it needs to be sent back to the USA. (***Update: The last box was delivered to Pago Pago after about 12 weeks. It returned to the sender in January 2024, after four months of the original mailing. We were thrilled that we didn’t lose the box.) John’s friend has to re-send it to New Zealand after he gets it as it contains some boat parts.

I was impressed by the availability of Korean Kimchi and various Korean foods in the groceries. I was told there are 120 Koreans living on the island. I visited two Laundromats. Both are owned by Chinese. It seems lots of Asians run business on the island. One thing I didn’t understand is that some people don’t bother to learn English, a common language in American Samoa. A simple sentence like “What time do you open tomorrow?”, I repeatedly got an answer “OK” even after showing “a clock on my phone” in order to communicate.

American Samoa amazingly keeps their tradition and cultures in this fast changing world. Both John and I like them. One of the unique traditions is that many houses have a graveyard in their front yard. One told me this is a newer tradition. The land is a communal property (like family owned). They lease the land (sometimes just on the paper writing $1) and build houses. My guess is that if you have your family graveyard, the land unofficially belongs to you. We were also told, this is a tradition where their kids can remember their ancestors everyday.

Staying on a sailboat for six weeks was not an easy experience though due to frequent rain, strongly funneled winds at the anchorage, smell from the cannery, noisy in the harbor, and diesel fumes by cargo/tanker/cruise ships. The islands are beautiful but we were limited to anchor in Pago Pago as we were told by other boats. 

Village Daily Ceremonial Bell (Curfew Bell). When it rings (usually at 6PM Daily), everyone needs to be inside or stop at a building for about 15 minutes. I ignorantly walked alone and guided to stay in a grocery store nearby. Local elders and village chief stay outside with a cane to control this quiet time. One told me this is to “thank for a grateful day” in a good way to finish a day. I like this tradition a lot as all the kids and family members will be together during this time. Tutuila Island, American Samoa
An example of family graveyard in front of the house, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Each local bus is uniquely decorated. Riding a bus was my favorite in American Samoa. Loud and rhythmical music selection on a bus, released endorphins for me. Most buses are built on a pick-up truck with wooden structure. Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Local Pavilions by Cultural Center, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Rain Mountain, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
American Samoa Museum, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Starkist Cannery, Waterfront Side, Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Starkist Cannery (Land Side), Tutuila Island, American Samoa
I learned Tulsi Gabbard (“American politician, United States Army Reserve officer and political commentator who served as the U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district from 2013 to 2021”) was born in American Samoa.), Tutuila Island, American Samoa
Korean Fishermen’s Cemetery: I was shocked lots of these people ended their life in their 20th and 30th, some even teens. Most of them were buried in 1970th, when Koreans were working harder to make any $$$. Tutuila Island, American Samoa
View of Pago Pago Harbor Entrance, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

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