Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mo Money Mo Problems

Samoa and I have come a long way in the last 5 years. When I walked into the Digicel store in October 2008 to buy a cell phone, I didn’t have much money in my pocket, and Samoa’s fledging cell phone industry was still in its nascent stages. I chose a basic Nokia out of the 3 or 4 options available, filled out a little card with my name and some personal information, handed the cashier $50WST and that was that. I went through that process again yesterday and ran into lots more red tape.

Annual inflation here is a little crazy. In an old post, I quoted annual inflation as between 1 and 3%, and based on anecdotal evidence since I arrived, that actually seems a little low. I was looking forward to the cheaper cost of living, and relative to San Francisco, things have been okay. But my brain’s pricing estimator is still programmed with 2010 prices, and grocery store trips have been jarring. $12WST for Weet-Bix? $4WST for a quart of milk? Oof.

As the amount of capital increases, investors and investor attention increases. That simple cell phone transaction above has a lot more eyes on it.

First of all, I had to wait in a really long line. Pricing schemes have allowed cell phones to become widely available across the socioeconomic spectrum. And after SamoaTel was de-regulated, the market was flooded with cell phone data plans. Just after I left Samoa in December 2010, I started to receive Facebook friend invites from students attending the school where I worked. Cell phones reached ubiquity while I was here the first time around, and they’ve only added to that.

Side note: just as I reached the counter, I looked over and Filifili, one of the kids I’ve kept in touch with the most, was standing 10 feet away, waving patiently.

I told the man behind the counter I wanted a Nokia 111. He scoffed a little. “Do you have Samoan ID?”


Aside from passports, I’ve never seen nor heard the phrase “Samoan ID”. Further, how could he tell that I wasn’t Samoan? What gave it away? And finally, why does it matter?

“Our policy is to only sell to people of Samoa.”

I was forthcoming in admitting I did not have a Samoan ID, but I claimed I was moving here and needed a phone. After much pleading, he told me I’d need to bring in Samoan ID or a Samoan passport or I would need to find a Samoan who could “vouch for me”.

After hearing this last part, my brain whipped out its internal Rolodex. Peace Corps? Other teachers? Old students? Filifili!

I turned across the room and shouted his name. The cashier cried, “Uso!” The impatient man behind me in line joined in. One of us made the elongated kissing sound. Filifili’s ears perked up.

He vouched, and now I have a phone.

One last story before I sign off:

I drove Dan’s car home tonight by myself. Dan’s house is located at the end of a maze of roads in Moata’a, and I have said to Chris and Blakey several times over the last few days that I wouldn’t be able to find his house on my own.

But there I was, driving through the streets and backroads of Moata’a, realizing this situation was difficult for 2 reasons:
  1. I never drove during the Peace Corps, so knowing how to get to places off the bus route was all about being on foot; and
  2. We were all teachers, and most of us lived on school compounds rather than private residences, so our spots were centrally located within the community. We were easy to find back then.

Eventually I broke down and called Blakey to get clearer directions (none had been written out; I’d mostly been relying on visual cues). Oh well. Technology only complicates. Until the country gets GPS.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Me and Filifili. I took him to lunch today.

Many of you have probably heard my rant about how Samoa needs coasters, and lo and behold, they got them! But... they're laminated. That green part isn't absorbent, which kinda defeats the purpose of the coaster all together. Two steps forward, one step back.

Pinati's Samoan street food got a huge facelift. But don't worry. Jesus is still up on the wall.

A new restaurant in town, The Edge, serves Samoan nachos made over taro chips with Samoan veggies on top. Delicious.


Patty said...

How was driving on the other side of the road?!? That seems like the scary part to me. And I am relieved to read that Jesus is still there.

Matalena Jantoc said...


Today was the first time that I came across Samoan Pride on fb, so when they recommended checking out your blog, I thought, why not? I was kinda disappointed though that it wasn't Tutuila. That's where I grew up, but my curiosity got the best of me. I have to say you've managed to make me laugh. I was in Upolu in 2007 for the first and only time and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures in our beautiful Samoa. :)

timas said...

lol @ the laminated coasters! but remember, samoans don't like waste.

Encounters Nepal said...

Everest Base Camp Trekking often touted as one of the most beautiful of trekking trips in the whole world and rightly it is. Located at the lap of world's highest peak, Everest Base Camp (EBC) is rewarded as the best trip Nepal has to offer. Since 1920, Mt Everest has captivated intrepid men and women. There were some exploits of legends like Sir Edmund Hillary, George Mallory and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa to put the mighty mountains on the map. Thousands of adventurers followed them making huge sacrifices. EBC Trek is designed to fulfill the dream of many people to experience the historic route to the base of world's highest peak. Since the beginning, Everest Base Camp Route has gained massive popularity and a lot of appreciation. The highlights of Everest Base Camp Trekking are the stunning views of Mount Everest, legendary Sherpa culture, wonderful Namche Bazaar, Tengboche Monastery, the best viewpoint of Kalapatthar, and beautiful Chhukung valley among many others. We gradually ascend through the wonderful Sherpa villages enjoying the magnificent Himalayan scenery, wildlife and visit a number of Buddhist Monasteries. EBC Trek culminates with a fine opportunity to trek to both EBC and nearby peak of Kalapatthar (5545m) for spectacular views of the Everest. Savoring the high mountain views with the unique and life defining journey, EBC trip can be combined with Gokyo Chola Pass Trek, or Everest Three Passes packages as well, making the journey bit more challenging and rewarding too. Encounters Nepal has carefully devised an itinerary with a number of rest days that offers an exceptional way to acclimatize safely. Having had hit the Himalayan Trails since so long, we have learned never to rush a trek to altitude in the Himalaya. Taking an extra few days makes all the difference to really being able to enjoy the trek and trekking in Nepal.

Sappa Tamang said...

Namaste from a Beautiful Himalaya Nepal
Nepal Base Camp Treks is government register agency (licensed trekking guide team) in the Nepalese Himalayas Ranges… After working 18 years (since 1997) on the tough trails for several years as a mountain staff crew, and working so hard to develop our fluency in English languages, We became a guide in the year 2000 to 2002. We have spent the past 18 years as a professional Himalaya trekking guide, working for several Trek & Expedition companies in Kathmandu; we have now decided to work as an independent guide and self leading to provide all our national and international clients, who like to enjoy their Himalaya trekking holidays tour with us (
In the last 18 years working experiences, our team have become very well-known with many Trekking Destinations throughout the country, this includes: The Everest Base Camp Treks, Annapurna Regions and Langtang Valley Regions, As well as Upper Mustang Treks, Manaslu Circuit Treks, Annapurna Circuit Trek,Ganesh Himal Trek, Helambu and all non tourist regions. Our teams at Nepal Base Camp Treks have studied well the lay of the land & our knowledgeable about local flora and fauna, cultural history and environmental issues in the areas where we trek are absolutely sound today. Our guests truly appreciate our services. We are able to guide Trekkers hoping to climb high passes Chola, Renjo La, thorong La,Larke La, Kongma La and peaks, & can take them to show exclusive spots for any adventures across the Himalayas. Nepal Base Camp Treks experience also covers the well known peaks of Mera Peak climbing , Island Peak Climbing,Lobuje Peak Climbing, Phakchhermo Peak, Pisang Peak, Tent Peak Kalapathar Peak & Gokyo Peak, and we have led expeditions across many high passes in Nepal, covers some famous mountains: Manaslu Circuit Larke Pass, Ampu-lapcha Pass, Makalu sherpani col Pass, east col Pass, west col Pass, Chola Pass, Renjula Pass, Rolwaling Tashilapcha Pass, Ganjala Pass, Ganesh himal Pangsang Pass, Thorong Pass and Tilicho Pass…ON THE WAY, AFTER ALL THE TRIALS & HARDSHIPS…THE BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS…we are now an accomplished guide team who helps our guests unleash the best experiences ever in High Himalaya and Wild Adventures under their feet
Treks come in many forms on Nepal's rugged Himalayas: ranging from the relaxed easy trekking where you can experience Nepalese Culture and Village life,Chitwan,Dhulekhel,Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara Ghale Gaun, to tea-house trekking in popular regions, Annapurna, Everest, Lantang, to unique treks into areas of Nepal that are off the beaten path and seldom visited by foreigners or remote non-touristic area Tawal Village, Chitwan Chepang Hill. All treks offer superb scenery and viewpoints into Nepal's exotic ancient culture. With our kind of experience, we can tailor your treks to meet your conveniences in any way that's comfortable to you.
Nepal Base Camp Treks (Pvt. Ltd.)
Post Box: 10114, Bhagwati Bahal Mark, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: + 977-1-4436088. Mobile: +977-9851111874

Anjan Tamang said...

Nepal Everest Base camp Treks' s heartily welcome to you. Nepal Everest Base Camp Treks Pvt. Ltd. was established as a successful result of decade’s long involvement and long experienced in Nepalese tourism industry. Having had experience of operating and leading wonderful adventure Trips in some of the most captivating vistas of Nepal Himalayas successfully. we have been providing service with interesting trekking packages. i.e. Everest Base camp trekking, Everest three pass trekking, Everest trekking, Annapurna base camp trekking, Annapurna circuit trekking, Annapurna ghorepani poon hill trekking, Ghorepani poon hill trekking, ghorepani ghandrunk trekking, khayera ridge trekking, Annapurna sanctuary trekking, Poon hill trekking, Annapurna Trekking, Manaslu trekking, Manaslu circuit trekking, Manaslu Tsum valley Trekking, Langtang valley Trekking,Langtang Tamang heritage Trekking,Langtang Gosainkunda pass Trekking,Helambu Trekking,Helambu cultural trekking,langtang Ganja la pass trekking,Upper mustang Trekking,Mustang Trekking,Jomsom muktinath trekking,Upper Dolpa Trekking, Ruby valley trekking,Ganesh himal trekking etc to several kind of recreation loving tourist destinations since 2005 however we are keen of promoting our company service therefore.
Nepal Everest Base Camp Treks Pvt. Ltd.
Saat Ghumti Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Mobile No:+977- 9841902116

Restaurant in Rajendra Nagar Market said...

wow all the information is so good..nice blog..
Restaurant in Rajendra Nagar

Sappa Lama Gomso said...

Welcome to Base Camp Trekking Tour! Hundred percent pure lands of highest Himalaya's adventures
Trekking in Nepal is one of the best adventure government registered company operating all adventure holidays trip to world most popular mountains Everest Base Camp Treks, Annapurna Base Camp Treks, Langtang Treks, Manaslu Treks, as well Upper mustang trek, Ganesh Himal Treks, Langtang Ganja La Pass Treks and all popular sightseeing tour of Ancients Kathmandu Valley and relaxing Chitwan Lumbini Tour on your desirable local budget for national and international travelers to Nepal.
Nepal Base Camp Treks (P) Ltd.( may be your next Trekking and Trekking Company in Nepal for any Trekking Agency in Nepal to highlander Himalayas Everest base camp, best mountain sceneries Annapurna Base Camp, recently promoting Manaslu Circuit Trek, several High passes Thorong La Annapurna Circuit,Gokyo Lake Chola Pass,Gokyo Lake Renjo La Pass, Chhukung Kongma La Pass, Rolwaling Tashilapchha Pass, Gosaikund Lake Pass, Kathmandu Valley Cultural trek and tour,Dhulekhel Namoduddha, Nagarkot trek, Bungmati Tour, Chiwan Chepang Hill Trek, Bandipur Tour,Pokhara Valley trekking tour,Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, Annpurna Ghandruk Trek, Kanchanjanga north to south Pass,Langtang Ganja La Pass, depending small group travelers to joining group travelers on your desired budget to standard budget.
Nepal Base Camp Treks offers you very popular non tourist destinations as remote regions of manaslu Tsum Valley Trek, Nar-Phu Valley Trek, Tamang Heritage Trail, Ghale Gaun Trek, Kanchanjanga Base Camp Trek, Rolwaling Camping Trek, Upper Mustang Cultural Trek, Lower Dolpo and Upper Dolpo Trek on very reasonable social trek in non touristic destination to better understand your holidays with our professional team
Our team in Nepal Base Camp Treks is very profession of peak climbing experiences of most popular Island Peak, Lobuje Peak, Mera Peak, Phakchhermo Peak in Everest Region and Pisang Peak, Kanguru Peak, Chulu Peak in Annapurna Circuit Region and Tent Peak in Annapurna Base Camp.
We guaranteed you best services and trouble less during your lifetime holidays journey with our professional mountain local team and wish you have a nice journey and see you soon in Nepal here to dream your adventure awaits you, as I remain
Yours sincerely
Sappa Lama (Sagar) and team

Sappa Lama Gomso said...

Nepal Base Camp Treks (P) Ltd (team guide) are not only provide you a perfect holiday tour services, also here to organize your trouble less trekking holidays in scenic green hills to icy peaks where reachable on foot.
There are hundreds of best and fantastic trekking tour operators in Nepal, offer you to choose many popular trekking destinations in high Himalayas as, Everest Base Camp Trek, Everest Chola Pass Gokyo Lake trek, Everest Gokyo Renjo la Pass Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Circuit Thorong La Pass Trek , Upper Mustang Trek,Annapurna Nar –Phu Hidden Valley Trek, Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek, Manaslu Circuit via Tsum Valley Trek, Langtang Valley Trek,Gosaikund Helambu Trek, Kathmandu Valley Circuit Trek and untouched tourist destinations of Ganesh Himal Camping Trek, Tawal Earthquake Area Camping Trek, Upper Dolpa Trek, Makalu Base Camp Trek and much more… as you desirable.
If you are looking for perfect trekking operator and perfect guide who take care all your responsible and looking unexpected trouble free holidays in Nepal, our professional guides, Bibek Gurung, Buddhi Tamang, Anjan Waiba, Debman Tamang and female guide Pramila Lama are our young and 10 /12 year experienced license holder in Nepal Base Camp Treks (P) Ltd.
We are fully government Registered small group trekking company in nepal and trained under the ministry of tourism sector around 10/15 years. We operate only trekking in Nepal Himalaya and small peak climbing.
You are heartily welcome to Nepal Base Camp Treks (P) Ltd. to experience your wonder trekking activities in Himalaya with our team believes "providing good service" is our motto. Our team also believes not to regret your past, not to worry about future but let's enjoy the journey with us.