Posted by: monsonmadness | July 13, 2011

You want something done, you gotta do it yourself!

This is the ship that our container came in on

So this is what we did this morning:

7.30am – show up at the OMV. Lady who took flash drive  home yesterday with all the office information on it still wasn’t in. She shows up at 8am and we get our temporary license. We’re on our way!

8.45am – go through security at the port and make our way through to customs. Told that it was too dangerous at the port for children and that they’d need to wait in the car. All shipping was done in my name, so Michael gets to take care of the kids in the car and I get to sort out the container.

9.00am – Told at customs that they are busy unloading a container of frozen food, and they can’t fully open the doors to let other containers in. It will take several hours, and we should just come back tomorrow. Also told us that we would need to pay to have our container brought inside.

9.10am – I take matters into my own hands. Go to port administration and get stamped approval that our container can be released to us.

9.15am – Go to port forklift office and tell them I’d like my container taking over to customs. They tell me that can’t do it because of the frozen container being unloaded and I would have to pay them etc etc. They also said I needed a stamp from customs.

9.20am- Go back to customs and am told I don’t need a stamp, but I should just come back tomorrow to get my container.

9.25am- Go back to forklift office and tell them I don’t need a stamp and I’m ready for them to deliver my container OUTSIDE of the customs area. He takes my container number and says he’ll do it.

10.00 am- No sign of container, take matters into our own hands again. Drive around the port until we find our container, then find a forklift driver who is sitiing around doing nothing (because no-one at the port is allowed to work while they all wait for the frozen stuff to be unloaded, 4 men were unloading, and everyone else at the port were watching and waiting. Question…if all Samoans are so concerned about the safety of frozen food, how come I got food poisoning from thawed chicken on a counter last week?) Anyway, I pointed out our container to the forklift driver and told him I’d like him to take it outside of customs. He agrees and does just that. I don’t have to pay a fee because it’s 10 feet away from the customs door!

10.20am – I find a customs officer, tell him our container is outside and that we’re going to open it, and drive the vehicle inside for inspection. Two officers come to watch us. No-one else can fit inside the container to get into the car, so I get the privilage of backing it out myself. We fit the mattresses on top of the kids in the other minivan, then I drive it into customs and open it up so that it can have a K9 inspection.

10.30am – I go to the customs office to complete paperwork, import fee office to pay fees, and administration office for receipts.

10.45am – We drive our mini van out of the port. HOORAY!!!!!!!! Everything worked just fine and is intact, and we saved lots of money doing it ourselves without a customs broker.

That's our container...the grey one on the top

You're carrying my car around with only magnets?????

Tight squeeze and a scary reverse with no visability

They're having a good time

So, do you want to know the lesson that I learned today? In the US, we are so used to efficiency, great customer service, the customer always being right, and getting things done on time. In Samoa, they don’t give two hoots about your time, and aren’t really concerned about working either. They have 10 people doing the job of 1, and it still doesn’t normally get done, but here’s the thing. We are the ones who get our knickers in a twist. We are the ones who are stressed and think that things should be done our way. We are concerned wasting time. The Samoans take everything in their stride. The don’t have any stress. They are relaxed and happy people. They have very low expectations and that seems to work really well for them.

I have a lot to learn. The “American Helen” would rush home and get to work on unpacking those boxes, finding a place for everything and starting to organise this house of chaos. The “Samoan Helen” is thinking. “Forget the boxes, that’s enough work for one day, I think I’ll make the family some chocolate chip cookies now that our baking things are here”

Signing off, it’s time to hang loose…

To be unpacked...some other time 🙂


  1. Well done and Well said! We could all use a lesson from the tropical lifestyle. You are an inspiration. Hope the cookies were good! 🙂

  2. Crazy story Helen! Way to have a positive attitude! Hang loose!

  3. You are the best at getting things done! I’m so glad everything was intact! And I’m intrigued by this “Samoan Helen”!!!

  4. If I hadn’t seen these photos I might not have believed it: there is your van in one piece and all is well! You really do deserve another helping of those cookies after everything you pulled off. Amazing.

  5. I’m so glad you got everything. And, good job on letting the boxes wait. Choclolate chip cookies are much more important.

  6. I just love reading your blog. Whether you are “American Helen” or “Samoan Helen” you are ALWAYS Amazing Helen. Way to get things done (and not get things done, too). Miss you, love you, happy you are adjusting. Hang loose, baby!

  7. The Samoan Helen is learning quickly…so what kind of cookies did you make???

  8. I think I could use a Somoan lesson on how to “hang loose.” Good job leaving the boxes for another day. I’m so enjoying reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing you family adventure with the rest of us!!!

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