Utterly charming, utterly friendly, and our minds are blown! Apia is the capital of what used to be known as Western Samoa, but that ended in 1997, and the country is now known as the Independent State of Samoa. It is beautiful, tropical, humid, and very hot. Our first stop was the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the most prominent landmark in the city that could be seen from the ship.
We arrived at the end of St. Mary’s Catholic School 8th grade graduation. All of the graduates wore a sash, and the girls wore white dresses with flowered wreaths on their heads. Some moms and guests also had gorgeous flowered wreaths, and people wore leis of flowers and candies. We approached the first lovely girl below, Tuaimoana (Tua), and asked if we could take her photo to show our blog readers how beautiful and festive graduates here in Samoa look. She graciously said yes, removed her beautiful orchid lei, and put it around my neck. I protested to her and her mother, Anna, but they were insistent that I take it as a gift. I have worn it all day and will wear it every day until it is unusable. Then, they wanted pictures of us with Tua and with Anna. So sweet. Next, we were very taken by Clara in the second photo, so charming as the girl with so many leis made of wrapped candies. She also insisted that both Mike and I take one of her leis. Again, her father also wanted photos of us with Clara. In the third photo is pretty Lurline, whom we encountered outside. We talked with her and her mom, Maria, who works at a resort. Everyone spoke perfect English, and we gave all of them cards with our website so they could see their beautiful faces smiling out at everyone who reads this.
Clara’s father told us that the fabulous wood ceiling, which can be seen in most of the interior cathedral shots, is local redwood and teak. The man who designed and built it was a priest from Italy. It is the most beautiful and interesting ceiling we have ever seen in a church, and of the hundreds of churches we have visited around the world, will probably be the most memorable. The stained glass windows running around the sides of the church depict the Stations of the Cross, an interesting way to include them in the church architecture. The dome is gorgeous, depicting the coronation of the Blessed Mother surrounded by Samoan-faced angels. Around the bottom can be seen tribal leaders, the ocean, Samoa, palm trees, and clouds that look just like it did this morning. What a magnificent marriage of traditional Catholic Faith and the Samoan culture! It was very moving to see. In one photo can be seen the choir loft with a pipe organ! It is my understanding that humidity makes it extremely hard for the organ pipes to stay in tune, so it was a surprise to see a magnificent instrument like this in Samoa. The church was alive with people. Everyone…and I mean everyone…had a warm smile, a hello to us, nods of greeting. It was the friendliest place we have been so far. There is a real joy and a very sweet spirit here.
The rest of the photos are from around town…a fabulous fan palm in front of the Visitor’s Bureau; the city clock tower (looking like a lighthouse)…check out the banner announcing the Pacific Games…it says, Samoa We On; a Flea Market with everything under the sun, on the main street, and look at the Superman figurine, with a strange face and a curl on his forehead!; and, finally, two views of Apia from the ship, with breaking waves. It makes it look like the calmest, most peaceful place on earth.
One last comment….we lost 25 hours last night and an entire day, as we crossed the International Date Line. We went to sleep on December 1 and woke up on December 3. We had been 3 hours behind California time, and now we are about a day ahead. My cousin’s birthday was December 2, so he wrote to ask me if he was still the same age, or a year older, since his birthday never happened? Good question! There was a question on board about Hanukkah….how many candles get lit after skipping the first day, December 2? Is December 3 now the first day, or do you “catch up” on the second day? So many questions about this weird dilemma……it is like being in the Twilight Zone, missing a day of your life!