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