Why are some Samoans in a bad mood?
Aug 30 - Sept 14, 2013, Samoa
After three nights at sea since leaving Niue, we reach Apia, Samoa's capital, early in the morning. In accordance with regulations, Joachim informs the port authorities via radio before arrival. "Let me know when you are at the port entrance, we will send a small boat out to guide you into the marina," they say. Strange, because the entrance is not difficult, but what the heck. When the time comes, everything is different. "You anchor next to the other yacht in the harbor basin", it is now called, "the immigration authorities will contact you of their own accord." The quarantine officer reports at around 9 a.m. and is there at around 10 a.m. A really nice young man in pinstripe lavalava, an elegant version of the wrap skirt that Samoans wear as a suit, so to speak. After he has made sure that we are not bringing in any vermin or unauthorized goods, we are allowed to lower the yellow Q flag. This is the signal for the other officers that they can now come on board. At the same time, his supervisor is doing the same thing on the neighboring boat. Both gentlemen must then be brought back ashore in the dinghy. Unfortunately, there is no floating jetty in front of her office and it is low tide right now. The step from the wobbly dinghy up to the first step is quite a long one. Joachim gives his passenger a good exit by pushing the front of the dinghy firmly against the concrete wall so that it is reasonably stable. Our English neighbor doesn't do that and his passenger is considerably thicker and more immobile, which ends up with both falling into the water together. Oh dear, a yacht threw the head of the quarantine authority into the water. And he had his cell phone in his skirt pocket, which probably didn't survive the saltwater flush. We wouldn't be surprised if this had unpleasant consequences for us and the English. Patiently prepared for everything that we cannot change anyway, we wait for the next visitors. We are positively surprised when the man from immigration shows up at 11:30 am along with the man from the health authorities. He looks interestedly at the two coconuts swinging in our fruit and vegetable net and asks where they come from. "I think they are still from Tahiti," I answer truthfully. "And this bowl, is it from Tahiti too?" He asks, pointing to a half-empty coconut bowl in which we usually keep limes. It is currently empty as it is forbidden to import fruit. I give him the bowl for inspection and tell him that it came from the Marquesas. He turns them in his hands in admiration and says, "So that's how big the coconuts in the Marquesas are!" These two gentlemen are also super nice, they also wear Lavalavas and Joachim has to bring them back on land too. They don't want to drive both of them at once in our little dinghy. That gives me the opportunity to talk a little more with the official from "Immigration" and to ask whether we have a chance in Apia of buying a good new underwater camera. "Yes, there is something like that at SSAB," he knows. I am pleased with the positive information, but remain skeptical. It is hard to believe that you can buy good technology items outside of Papeete in the Pacific. Then the waiting for customs begins. It is clear that he does not come between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Samoans take a lunch break. At 2.30 p.m. the neighbor asks the port authority by radio whether the customs officer knows that he is still expected. You want to take care of it, the answer is given. The nice thing about the spark is that everyone always listens to what is being talked about and so every message reaches all interested listeners, in this case us. When at 3 p.m. still no one came, the neighbor asks the port authority for permission to come ashore with the dinghy in order to go to the customs authority himself. We know from various sailor reports that this is quite common and we are depending on the permission. There is a lot going on in the customs office, and it also looks like someone is about to throw a party, all kinds of goodies are being carried into an outbuilding. Nevertheless, there is an officer who has the necessary forms and helps us and the English to fill them out correctly, which is unusually complicated in Samoa. Now we are finally allowed to move on land.
The first way leads to the port office, which is just behind the customs authority. We want to know if we can get a place in the marina, apparently there are several boxes free. Why we weren't given a seat straight away remains a mystery. In a large back room with five fully loaded desks sits Clea, an amiable elderly woman who beams at us and welcomes us. She is responsible for the administration of the small marina and explains that a jetty is unfortunately still damaged from the last hurricane and that not all berths are good. But we could go down to the marina immediately after registering and choose a berth together with her colleague Monti. Said and done. The mooring fees are bearable and we are extremely interested in electricity, which finally comes out of the socket again with 230 V. We haven't had 230V electricity for almost a year and a half. We always got by with 110 volts, but we could never use the high-pressure cleaner with it. Accordingly, some corners of Pagena that only the Kärcher can reach are dirty. A berth that suits us is quickly found and Monti kindly asks to hurry up. Actually he's already finished work, but he wants to wait at the jetty until we have docked. We have to walk a few hundred meters back to the dinghy, chug out to Pagena, prepare the fenders and lines and drive Pagena into the marina. Monti knows that this will take 20 to 30 minutes. We think it's extremely nice that he is postponing his end of work for us for so long. It took us a whole day to get here, but we like Samoa.
There are about twenty ships in the small marina. Some sailors quickly imagine themselves passing by while we struggle to find a working power outlet that we have the right plug for. We only know three crews superficially. It is always amazing how many sailboats are in the Pacific. Our jetty neighbors are Per and Elisabeth von der Oda, the nice Norwegian couple who helped us fishing the mooring buoy in Bora-Bora. At the sundowner, melodic jazz can be heard from the Oda, great! We find it even nicer that the canned music merges seamlessly into a great live concert that echoes from one of the harbor bars. The singer has a great voice and sings one world class hit after another. We haven't heard refrains like "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone", "You can feel it all over", "You gotta be cool, you gotta be free, you gotta be ..." - that's great ! The Samoans have really good taste in music, we conclude. After the concert, however, our enthusiasm for the sound system drops drastically, because now three neighboring bars are playing different music, all of which we find horrific and the blaring of which arrives on board Pagena as a wild mix. Only ear plugs can help.
We begin our exploration of Apia with a visit to the tourist information office. The incredibly fat receptionist is as competent and helpful as she is round. In no time we have an information package consisting of a city map and island brochure, we know how much a taxi can cost and which supermarket we should go to to find good bread. She calls SSAB about the camera so that we don't make the trip for free. According to her, to get there we need a taxi and she gives us a slip of paper with the necessary location information for the taxi driver. It's not a street address but a description of the neighborhood in which the shop is located. The first taxi driver nips us anyway and after a few hundred meters points to a shop that says "Photo" and claims that it is SSAB. For the short trip he only wants three tala (approx. 1 euro) instead of the agreed four. The shop turns out to be a small photo studio for passport photos, we don't want to go there. The saleswoman calls us the next taxi and tells him where to go. Finally, when we arrive, the range of goods from SSAB leaves us speechless: In addition to all kinds of paper goods, there are computers, cell phones, cameras, lots of shelves of interesting books, all imaginable teacher needs and, last but not least, sophisticated educational games. Everything at its finest, on a European level and sometimes even better when it comes to didactically well-made children's books. We hadn't expected that in Samoa. We haven't seen such a shop even in Papeete. Underwater cameras are two on offer, a no-name device and a Sony. The latter expensive, but still. But we'd rather have a Panasonic again than a Sony. When the question of whether you can order a Panasonic for us and how long we would have to wait for it is answered with a basic "Yes, no problem - we should have the camera here in 14 days", Samoa has another stone more with us in the board. We can email Rick to the buyer which model we would like to have and he will email us an offer. Wonderful! The offer in the Lucky Foodstore is also great and better than expected, only the bread counter cannot fulfill our wishes. Anyway, it stays that way, Samoa is great!
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