Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 01, 2008

FRI, 5-09-08

AMERICAN SAMOA - Its nice to be back in America for a day. This is the only U.S. possession in the southern hemisphere. The people are very friendly and proud to be American. Our tour guide says they want to become a state but people on the street don't seem to think that's a good idea.
My suspicion is that politicians and business leaders want Samoa to become a state because they see advantages for themselves. But the people are happy with their present status. The same thinking has been apparent in Puerto Rico and Guam. And to a large extent that was true during New Mexico's many years as a territory.
Samoa and New Mexico have other similarities. As in northern New Mexico, the basic social unit in Samoa is the extended family. However native Samoans own all the territory's property, which gives the 65,000 of them plenty of room to spread out and build houses for the next generation on their land, which is so rich it can support the entire family.
Certainly some Samoans have outside employment. They contend that jobs are available for anyone who wants one. But many choose to stay at home and farm at a subsistence level. It's not a bare subsistence, however, there is plenty for everyone. No one goes hungry and no one is homeless, according to what they tell us.
Unlike Fiji, our previous stop, the countryside is tidy. Every extended family, which they call tribes, is proud of its land. Every tribe has a large central gathering place for family functions and entertainment of guests. The many we saw had no walls but good roofs.
Despite having been cannibals, they converted rather easily to Christianity, although the first few missionaries became dinner before the natives got the idea. Many Samoan young people go to Hawaii or the mainland for college.
Fans know that college and professional football has many outstanding Samoan players. This is despite the Samoans being known as one of the least fierce cultures among the Polynesians. The problem is that everyone else in the South Pacific plays soccer.
Our tour guide told us Samoans are very religious and many go to church schools in America. She said she has a scholarship to Brigham Young University. We finally pulled out of her that an older brother is on a football scholarship at the University of Utah as a quarterback.
When we asked for his name, the last name was Seau. He isn't the first Seau to play football, but it wasn't something she was going to volunteer. Samoans are extremely humble and unassuming. She ended the tour by apologizing if she had offended anyone. That had to be very far from anyone's mind.
Something else reminded me of home. Like Santa Fe, Samoa has no houses on its hillsides. I couldn't find anyone who knew of a law against it, as there now is in Santa Fe. Maybe they think it is more aesthetic. Maybe they don't have as many rich people, as Santa Fe does, who can afford to blast trails to the top of hills.
Or maybe, since much of capital city Pago Pago is built on the slope of a partially collapsed volcanic crater, it is just too steep. But it surely makes for a beautiful bay. The South Pacific is mostly made up of extinct volcanoes. And in this portion of the Ring of Fire, a number of beautiful bays are in the calderas of old volcanoes.
A few, with small openings to the ocean, were strategically important during World War II, as bases for large naval fleets. The United States used Majuro in the Marshall Islands and Japan used Papua, New Guinea as such strongholds.
My wife Jeanette thinks we should move here. Not only is it beautiful and the people charming, but the men do all the work, including housework. And women are considered princesses.

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