Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Last Tuesday, I told about some experience...

Last Tuesday, I told about some experiences of my bicycle ride in American Samoa. The local travel agent told me that many natives there spoke English, that they used American money and that I wouldn’t have any problems. She was right about the money and the language. However, when the sun dipped behind the mountain I was bicycling alone, in the dark, with the mountain on my left and the ocean on my right. I had counted on two more hours of daylight for a ride of about six miles.

A vehicle came up behind me and its lights momentarily showed the road and its rocky shoulder. I was glad to have a glance at the pavement edge again and moved a little more toward the center of the road. Later I stopped where several people were milling around at a hut with “open planning.” Its flexible walls were rolled up, and I could see its one central light bulb. I pushed the loaded bike through the deep pebbles, passing beside a family burial plot in front of the dwelling. Two men stopped talking and stared at me as I spoke to them in English.

“How far is it to the hotel?” I asked. The man who understood English said “Foe.” I waited. He held up four fingers, and repeated, “Foe. Light on pole.” Four more miles and I was to hear “light on pole” several times that night.

I saw dim light in three huts and at a larger structure that resembled a church. I pedaled on, wondering how I would know Pago Pago when I found it and how I’d find the hotel there. What if that church was the hotel and not a church at all? Haunting thought.

I turned around and rode back. A woman stood in the doorway of a small grocery store. She motioned for me to come inside. She looked me over. Her little store had canned goods stacked, one can deep, floor to ceiling against the walls.

“How far is it to the hotel?” I asked. The woman pointed up the road where I had been and said, “Light on pole.” Then, with a very serious face she asked, “Oh, why you not stay the night with me?” I smiled, thanked her and hurried back to the road.

A truck passed, pulled to the edge of the road and stopped. Two men got out. With no greeting, one said, “We saw you going the other way, back there.”

Friends or foes? “I rode back to check directions,” I said.

“We’ll put your bike in the back of the truck and you ride up front with us.”

I couldn’t tell whether this was an invitation or a command. “Is this a government vehicle or something?” I asked anxiously.

They sensed my apprehension, and one said, “Better still, you ride ahead and we’ll drive slowly behind to light your way.” Friends!

As I started on, one man called, “When you see a light on a pole, you’re at the hotel.”

I pedaled in high gear and the miles flew by. The waves made sweet music, the ocean spray refreshed my sweaty body and I liked Samoa. Suddenly, I was under that wonderful “light on pole.”

“Thank you” seemed so trite and inadequate. Then I remembered the lei around my neck. Resisting the temptation to hug both of those men, I lifted the wilted garland from my sweaty neck and put it over the head of the nearest fellow.

In my lifetime, wonderful friends have appeared when I most needed them. This time they disappeared, like ships that pass in the night.

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