Saturday, February 6, 2016

It Simply VANISHED – Saturday, I Mean!


It is really quite amazing, and truly unbelievable! In fact I wouldn’t believe it if I had not witnessed it with my own eyes. I am absolutely positive that yesterday afternoon it was Friday, because as we were driving through town I commented about how it appeared that the town had completely shut down on Friday afternoons. Our driver even confirmed that the schools did not open on Friday. So there, it had to be Friday!

However, when I woke up this morning and looked at my iWatch, it told me that it was Sunday? So, what happened to Saturday? I mean honestly, at my age I can’t afford to lose a day by just having it vanish. So clearly something was wrong. Yesterday was Friday, today is Sunday; so I look at the ship’s newspaper, and sure enough at the top of the page it reads that today is indeed Sunday. It seems patently unfair that I’m being charged for a 22 day cruise, when in fact, we lost a day along the way. This should only be billed as a 21 day cruise, and I should go downstairs promptly and ask for a refund.

All kidding aside, I did lose Saturday, but I lost it to a good cause – the International Date Line. You see, long ago when the official latitudes on the surface of the Earth were being charted, it was decided that the 0° point would go through Greenwich, England. It is for that reason that we calculate time around the earth beginning at this 0° point, and it is known as Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. As everyone knows, there are 360° of longitudinal lines across the surface of the earth. So halfway around the world from Greenwich England, there is the 180° longitude which is known as the International Date Line. It is at that line that the day begins or ends. If you are travelling west across the International Date Line, then you simply add another day, or to put it another way, you essentially skip a day as we did last evening. On the other hand, if you are traveling in an easterly direction, you subtract a day as you cross the dateline so that in essence, you repeat the day. It’s all very confusing, and is very frustrating to me to think that I lost Saturday somewhere.

Moving along, let’s talk about our journey yesterday on one of the major islands in the Republic of Samoa. Until researching our journey, I always thought that Samoa was “American Samoa.” As it turns out, I was both right, and wrong. There is an American Samoa, and it is quite different from the Western Samoa that we visited yesterday. Western Samoa, or as it is now called simply “Samoa,” is composed of two large volcanic islands, and a few smaller islands in the far south Pacific. Samoa was the first Polynesian territory to become independent in 1962, and today it can boast a 99% literacy rate. We visited the largest island, Upolu, and docked at the Capital city of Apia. Once again our ship provided us with only a five hour opportunity to tour this tropical paradise before setting off for yet another day at sea.

Along with Bill and Jayne, we were very interested in seeing everything that the island had to offer, so for this reason we booked a half-day van with an English-Speaking Guide for the four of us. What we got in reality, turned out to be a little different. We did get a small van with a driver who was only marginally able to speak English. In real life, the man was a taxi-driver, and that’s what the gentleman did for a living, he was not a guide. It became quickly apparent that this idea of what to do with us was to simply drive around the city of Apia muttering something under his breath about what we were seeing. I presented him with a list of the things we had prepared that we would like to see, and believe it, or not, he had to pull over to the side of the road, and take out a map to try to figure out where to go. At one point, I asked the driver if he was born on this island, and to my surprise he said “no.” With a little more questioning, it became apparent that he had been born in the city of Apia, but had not driven to the opposite side of the island, ever. So we were giving him his very first opportunity to see what the other side of his island looked like. Needless to say, he was about as useless as a guide as one could possibly be. Fortunately, we had our own maps, and I had an electronic map that allowed me to follow where we were around the island. At one point, our guide took a turn down a long gravel road. At the end of the road there was a trail that went off through the woods on a rough steep pebble strewn volcanic path. When we asked the driver how long it would take to do the walk, he shrugged his shoulders and had to admit he’d never been there before. We all started out walking for a short distance, but quickly concluded that this was not something that we wanted to do.

Forgetting our disappointment with the guide, the fact of the matter is that we spent four hours touring what was a beautiful tropical island. The people all seemed very friendly and clean. They had an interesting way of living. It appeared that on large plots of land family units had individual homes. In the center of the compound there would be a large platform with a hard cool surface on top of which had been placed columns supporting a roof above. This open air shaded area appeared to then be where members of the family could come out and play, or weave, or simply sit and talk. There would also be several built-up graves plots; raised because of the water level.

I don't believe I have ever visited any place that had as many churches as we saw on this island. It seemed that for every 20 homes or so, there was yet another church. There were churches of all denominations from Catholic, to Methodist, to Mormon. The people on the island all had electricity, and according to our driver, they also had Internet. I find that more than a little surprising, but let’s take it at face value. The only lines that I saw running across the island were electrical. I saw very few phone lines, and I can’t imagine where they got the cable from. I never saw a satellite dish. The other thing that was strange is that we did not see air-conditioning on the island at all. The temperature while we were there was 92°, and I gather that’s pretty typical for an average day. The only time that we saw air-conditioning were in a few of the new buildings in the capital city, all of which were owned by the government.

I think you will enjoy my pictures when I’m able to get them posted; one of our very first visits was to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which was rebuilt in 2011 and was a stunning structure. We then visited the mansion where Robert Louis Stevenson spent his final years. From there we drove into the hills and saw some truly magnificent scenery including spectacular waterfalls. All in all, we drove the island for four hours, and in the process, only got to see one half of the landmass.

Last night during dinner we were talking about our experience, and Bill posed the question as to whether or not we would choose to go back to Samoa. While it was beautiful, all of us answered a resounding no! There really were no tourist facilities, and once you drove around, there wasn’t much to do. So I guess I add this to the list of countries I visited, and we move on. Today we are at sea on Sunday, February 7, in route to Yasawa-I-Rara, Fiji.

Lisa and I hope everyone is well, and that you, too did not lose your Saturday.

Jim meeting

No comments: