Posted by: monsonmadness | August 17, 2011


As you know, I’ve been busy lately preparing for school. Getting games, activities, crafts and songs ready for 2 year olds is fun, but takes a lot of time. I have a book that has tons of ideas and as I was browsing through the other day I saw a cute craft for a cardboard tube set of traffic lights. Then it dawned on me that there are no traffic lights on the island, and my school kids wouldn’t know what they were. There are a couple of stops signs, and I’ve seen a yield sign before, but I think that’s it. No need for traffic lights when there’s only one main road and the speed limit is so low. This thought gave me the idea to write this blog, and fill you in a little on cars and what it’s like getting around the island.

When our mini van arrived, we were THRILLED. We could strap in all our kids and drive wherever we wanted. We were also celebrities. We had people coming up to us all the time checking out our car. We are the only 8 seater mini van on the island, and the only one with dual automatic doors. There are 2 other Odyssey’s here, but they are older 7 seater models. So, everyone recognizes our car when we go somewhere. Kind of cool.

The next cool thing was getting this license plate. I know you are all jealous. That flowerpot island is called Fata ma futi, and that’s where we go swimming the most. The phrase “Motu o fiafiaga” means Island of Paradise. Love it.

One of the things that I don’t love is how many miles we have to drive to get anywhere (934 in less than 2 months on an island 25 miles wide????) and how much money we have spent on gas since we’ve been here, way more than in Utah and that’s when Michael was commuting to Salt Lake every day.  The gas stations are hard to identify but once you know where they are, you are fine. You are not allowed to pump your own gas, the attendants do it for you, and you need to check the pump before you pay to make sure you’re getting what you pay for! It is hard keeping to the 25mph speed limit on the main road, but it is not hard driving the 15mph or even 5mph in each village. They are posted that way for a reason. The roads are mostly dirt tracks there, and full of potholes and dips. You DO NOT want to be driving faster than the posted speed limit or your car won’t make it to your destination.

The only other negative is the state of the car after each beach trip. Can you begin to imagine how much sand six small children can drag into the car from the beach, and then how damp their seats get when their wet bottoms soak through the towels? It is so humid that it seems like the car seats are always damp and stinky. They are always trying to smuggle secret treasures home with them as well, shells, rocks, starfish, you name it, and we’ll find those and more sand in all the nooks and crannies of the car.

So, speaking of the humidity and weather a little, as you know, Michael has been riding a bike to work every day. He loves the exercise and saving on gas money. What is tricky is what happens when it rains. We aren’t even close to rainy season here in American Samoa yet, but we’ve been told what to expect. The roads already flood when there is a lot of rain, and it’s supposed to be like that for months on end in the rainy season. Can’t see the potholes and very dangerous for cars, never mind bikers! It is for this reason, and because I feel so sorry for my husband who has to dress in an ugly poncho like this to get to work…

…so we just bought a second car! Can you believe it? We can’t! We weren’t planning on that at all, but we’ve already run into some scheduling problems with scouts, young mens, Michael needed the car for work sometimes, but I need it every day for school etc.

Cars on this island are SO expensive because they all have to be shipped in, so when people sell them, they always add a few thousand to cover that cost and because people will pay it. It’s the only way to get a car. We were so blessed to have someone approach us about buying their very well-loved and very well-taken care of car for a great deal. We are now the proud owners of a 1995 Ford Explorer which has somewhere over 200K miles on it (not sure exactly because the odometer doesn’t work any more!). The CD player and left door lock don’t work, and the driver’s seat is not very comfortable, but other than that IT IS AWESOME. It has virtually every new part replaced over the last few years and we are so excited. It’s actually the trendiest car we’ve ever had. Hello??? In the last 11 years we went from a Kia Sephia, to a Dodge Caravan (both with no power locks or windows) to our amazing Honda Odyssey. We’ve always gone for practical and economical, never had the  luxury of choosing something trendy or fashionable, just always bought what we could afford and made the most sense. We feel pretty cool now. Isn’t it nice?

Anyway, it’s perfect timing because I’m at the school every day setting up right now, and Michael has to drive into Pago for the next few weeks to go to legislative hearings.

So, let’s see…what else can I tell you about cars? Michael already wrote about the honking here. Honking is not rude here, you honk to send a message, like “I’m going to let you out” or “thank you for letting me out”. I like this friendly way of communicating on the roads, but when drivers abandon all rules to let someone out and other drivers are not aware of it, it can become quite dangerous!

What else is dangerous is the plethora of potholes on this island. We had been told that our car would get ruined if we brought it here, and boy were they right (we are still glad we brought it though). The bottom of our car is so low that we are constantly scraping it on the bottom of the lumpy bumpy roads, and there are some places that we just point-blank avoid because we know we can’t get through. Just so you understand how serious this is, know that I must it must be a desperate situation when I allow Michael to use the drill on the bottom of our car to screw in random parts that keep falling off. Scary!

Here are some photos (that don’t really do my post justice) so that you can see what I’m talking about. This first one is the road I drive every day down to the school…

This one is the main road…

And this is not a Photoshop editing job. This road just ends. There is more than a two feet drop where the road had just sunk or collapsed somehow. Don’t worry though, there is a homemade detour sign a few feet before it, and if you’re driving the slow speed limit, you are in no danger at all!

We have explored almost every part of this island by now. We live in the south where there are lots of people, no real “road ends” to talk about, but we have driven to the north of the island as far as we could go to Vatia when we went to the National Park. The road there ended like this:

We have driven west as far as we can and here is the end of the road at the ocean in Fagamalo…

…and here is the end of the road when we drove east as far as we could go to Onenoa.

And just in case you couldn’t tell what that blue thing was in the picture above, here is a close up of the village basketball stand complete with a piece of misshapen board nailed onto tree and a bottomless square crate. It’s all they’ve got people…


  1. This was very interesting! Congrats on the 2nd car! When we went from being a 1 car family to a 2 car family we couldn’t imagine how we did it before with only 1!

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