American Samoa: Sunday on American Samoa

We woke up, ate a quick breakfast and headed to church with the family. The entire service was in Samoan, so we sat quietly and had no earthly idea what was being said. There were lots of people wearing white and bamboo frond fans abound. It was hard to tell who was the preacher, because there were so many people speaking. Today was apparently a very important youth day. There were five girls and five boys who did readings. There were at least three people who looked like they could have been the preacher, but without understanding what was being said, it was very difficult to discern much of anything.

After the service was mostly over there was a youth performance. The daughter of the family we were staying with was one of the youth group leaders and led the group in a dance that was done to the song ‘Oh, What a Night.’ It was impressive. United States church youth groups need to step up their game, both in their singing and dancing. 

After church we were invited to have lunch at the church. They treated us like honored guests. They told us that white people rarely come to the church, so it is kind of like a special occasion to have someone from the mainland join them. I sat next to a Samoan lady who had actually lived in Northern Virginia, near McLean. Her father was the original representative from American Samoa to Congress, so they lived near Washington DC for several years. It was interesting to talk to her and learn about the history and political structure of the island.  Apparently each family has a ‘chief’, or elder man who represents the family. Within the village all of the ‘chiefs’ come together and elect a ‘village chief’ to represent the village. From there they elect a ‘High Chief’. Her father was a ‘High Chief’ and was well known throughout the island. While I am sure that the process is far more intricate it was interesting to learn more about the island, and about education and military are the two main ways that Samoans are able to leave to come to the mainland, she herself had gone to college in Idaho!

We headed home and got to experience something that Cole and Elizabeth, the Switchback Kids, had told us about. American Samoans take very seriously, the idea of Sunday being a day of rest. You don’t hike, you don’t swim, you simply rest. The entire rest of the day was spent lounging in bed, vacillating between napping and being mesmerized by the fact that we had wifi and could look things up on the Internet. Many of the stores are shut down and it is difficult to get around the island without a car, because the busses aren’t running. It isn’t a ghost town, because the church activities are very active. The pace just slows drastically and you can’t help but lay down and relax. I had plans to get tons of work down and I couldn’t overcome the island’s pull to rest, so instead I just lay on my bed.