Posted by: monsonmadness | August 8, 2011

The truth about American Samoa

Today was Nanna’s last day. She used her leftover currency to let the kids chose a toy at the store. The toys here are dollar store quality with a Toys-r-us price, but the kids were still thrilled and were able to get some good fun out of them before some of them broke! Matthew chose an ATM, Benjamin chose some cars, Hannah chose a tea set, Daniel chose some dinosaurs, Mary chose a kitchen cart, and Emma chose an animal puzzle.

We had a 3 generation tea party (with water to drink and chocolate to snack on) in the play house at quiet time. That was a lot of fun. We spent the rest of quiet time trying to get Matthew’s ATM to work and have him understand the concept of pin numbers and passwords being confidential!

After naps, we went to the beach for the last time. The tide was high and the waves were big, it was a little dangerous, but we had a great time. A yummy dinner, telling Nanna what we loved doing with her when she was here, put the kids to bed, and then it was time to leave for the airport. Won’t see my Mum again for another year. Sad.

We had a great time though, and she helped me so much. I got so much accomplished with her being here that I think I can face the week ahead now. All I have to do is get a classroom put together at the school that hasn’t exactly been built yet, attend teacher training and CPR certifications, finish organising and unpacking my house, and prepare a lesson for my new sunbeam (3 year old) class at church.

I wanted to blog about what my Mum thought about her trip to American Samoa. Truth is, we haven’t exactly been telling the truth. We haven’t told any lies, but we have been hiding a lot of the truth, meaning that we have been focusing really hard on looking for the positives, and we’ve been trying to ignore the negatives. This is our home now, and we are making the most of it. My Mum, however, viewed things a little differently, and I thought it would probably be fair to share some of that with you because some of you are considering coming over and you should know what it’s like. Here are some of my Mum’s thoughts (good and bad)…

1. American Samoa is not a place for tourists. It is not Hawaii, or Fiji, or any other exotic beach vacation spot that you may have in your mind. It is a place where people live, or people visit people who live here. It is not Americanized (except for the three fast food restaurants on the island) and life is extremely different from mainland USA. There are only a handful of beaches on the island, most of the coast line is black rock cliffs, and the beaches are very dirty. There isn’t very much to do for recreation here. People start their day really early, which means they finish early too. Everything closes at 3 or 4pm. There are 7 hikes on the island and we’ve already done four of them. The others aren’t really suitable for kids. I suppose we should spread out our activities, but we tried to do a lot when my Mum was here.

2. The beauty of the island impressed my Mum. She hadn’t realised that there were lush green mountains here, and she commented many times on how beautiful the water is. It has many gorgeous shades of blue, and it is as clear as bath water.

3. My Mum was shocked at how close we lived to the airport and how loud the planes were going over our house. The runway is less than a mile from our home, so the planes go over our house pretty low, and we can’t hear each other speak for about 10 seconds. Luckily the big planes only come in three times a week, and with the smaller inter-island planes, we only can’t hear for about 5 seconds. Hey, at least the walls don’t shake and the pictures fall off like when we lived on the railroad tracks in Provo.

4. My Mum found the garbage problem very upsetting. We have been screening our photos carefully, but this place is littered terribly and it is very sad. When we go to the beach, we have to go around picking up pieces of broken glass and other trash before we let the kids swim. Maybe I’ll take some photos and send them. Maybe not.

5. My Mum loved the friendly people. Almost everyone has a big smile for you, and she loved the people along the roadside who would wave at us as we drove by. People were so kind to her, and treated her like an old friend.

6. The dogs were not as bad as my Mum thought. Yes, they were everywhere, and some did chase us down in our car, but we didn’t have any personal encounters while she was here (a couple of very close ones). The dogs around our house have gotten used to us now, so they hang around waiting to be run over, but don’t very often bark at us any more.

7. Lastly, my Mum hadn’t realised the extent of the poverty here. I constantly struggle with it. Michael brought some teenage boys from church over to our house the other night and was apologising for the turned over cars and derelict buildings that you have to pass just before our road, the boys told him that we lived in the nice part of town, and he should see their homes. That made Michael quiet. It is heart breaking to see how some people live, actually how most of the people here live. One room shacks that look like old garden sheds to us Brits/Americans. We saw people who live in tents, no running water, no electricity. There are about 6 shacks on our compound where some very poor families live. Their kids are dirty and wear ratty clothes. As a follow-up on the “dolla’ boy”, the other day he just walked into our house and asked for five dollars. That made me so uncomfortable. I feel like my home is my sacred place and it was scary to have someone just walking in and asking for money.

8. ok, I can’t end on that, so I’ll have to tell you how happy my Mum was to discover a real treat, coconut M&M’s. Yes, they are so delicious, and we’ve gone through several bags as we’ve played games. If you’re a really good friend of mine, you might get to try some one day! Enjoy the pictures of us having fun with Nanna.



  1. Thanks Helen, I have been dying to hear what Miriam thought of her stay. I have wondered how she coped with the bugs, as I know when we are away together, I have to deal with them, and I am not keen either! It sounds like she didn’t find it bad enough that she is not considering coming over again in a year! I hope she has a good trip back, and look forward to talking to her again.
    Thanks so much for your blogs. They are fascinating. I really admire all of you for your positive attitude, and making the most of the situation. Love to all.

  2. I appreciate the candor of this blog. I was so glad that your mom could visit. I am sure that you have memories that will help make the next year, seem not quite as long. Do you have a strong supply of the m&m there or could I send you some? I love them too!!

  3. What a fun nanna your kids have.

  4. I agree that your kids have a great Nanna!! I admire your positive outlook on the not so positive situations you are facing. I guess our disgusting, gross, buggy, scary hotel room in Las Vegas might have prepared you a little bit, or might not seem so bad now!!

    • Ha! You know I’ve been thinking about that hotel room a lot lately. I really have. We were so scared with the big gap under the door and that anything could crawl in. It is pretty much exactly like that here, except the whole house and not just a room, and I was terrified at first, but now I am used to it. I don’t really flinch with the bugs any more!

  5. wow. great post. nice to hear her thoughts. we live in a crazy place. i’m so sad i’m missing her!

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