30 Dec Samoa Skips a Day – Moving the Dateline
The sun sets over Apia Harbor.
Samoa will be missing a day this week. Yes, that’s right, Samoans will go to sleep on Thursday 29th Dec and BANG they will wake up on Saturday 31st Dec. Friday 30th will be but a fleeting thought. An empty entry page in a journal. A blank square on a calendar. A meandering trail of thoughts…what if’s, what could have beens, what might have happened on that elusive Friday? We Samoan’s are kind of rebellious like that, always breaking the rules…
In 2010, Samoa adopted Daylight Savings, moving clocks back and forwards an hour. Ooh, the world was breathless. We were Ho hum. Big deal. So what. We changed the clocks, we went back to sleep. Some of us forgot ( guilty as charged) and so the family ate breakfast an hour earlier than the rest of the nation. Life carried on.
Tonight the sirens in Samoa will sound at midnight. Normally reserved for tsunami warnings and other such disastrous events – everybody will say goodbye to the Friday that never was and skip ahead to Saturday. Employers will still have to pay their workers for that missing day but tourists will not be charged for the room they didn’t sleep in on the 30th Dec, 2011. Desperate revelers in search of New Year’s Eve will be able to welcome 2012 in Apia and then dash to American Samoa on a 45min flight and welcome it all over again. Once again, the international media are going slightly nutty over this ‘epic’ event. Samoa skipping a day is trending on Twitter and random Samoans are being asked earth-shattering questions like – ‘Do you know anybody with a birthday on the missing Friday 30th? How do they feel?…Will there be mass confusion?…what abt computers and cellphones, how will they be adjusted? How will you adjust?’ Duh, duh, duh.
Why is the world so befuddled and somewhat appalled by something that seems to be no big deal to most Samoans? Is it because we know that things like time, calendars, and datelines – are arbitrary concepts – man’s attempts to exert some control over his environment? Or is it because (according to the stereotypes) we Polynesians take such a laid-back, relaxed approach to just about everything – that half the time we don’t even know what day it is anyway? And everybody knows Samoans are late to everything because of the infamous ‘Samoan time’… Or maybe its because we know that changing days, clocks and road directions really isn’t a big deal. Whether its Friday or Saturday according to some all-knowing calendar in the sky – a day in the life of Samoa, will still be the same.
The sunrise at Lalomanu beach will still be breathtaking as God touches the sky with light. The Apia roads will still have potholes everywhere because its the rainy season. The hot bread from the Lotopa Mariyon store will still be the bestest bread in the world, especially with a slab of Anchor butter melting on it. The people trying to go for a run at Tuanaimato will still need to carry stones because of the psycho dogs. The ramshackle wooden buses will still rock your world with Bob Marley and funky Xmas songs as they rattle past, even though Bob’s long dead and Xmas is finished. The mangoes will still be sweet. The lolisaiga will still be deliciously sour. The little boy at the McDonalds drive thru will still pester you to buy car air freshener, ask you for money and when you refuse he will swear at you, Ai’kae! People walking in front of others will still bow their heads and say tulou. The sashimi at Amanaki Hotel will still be divine. Almost as otherworldly as the faiai eleni in a coconut shell in front of Siaosi’s shop.
Along the drive from the airport, women will still sweep up cut grass with long handled coconut brooms while children cavort in freshwater pools and the young men prepare the saka for dinner. The village will still come to a standstill at evening lotu time, followed by the nightly dose of Jackie Chan, the Rock and the very latest movie releases, brought to us by local tv stations oblivious to those trifling things known as film copyright laws. The sun will set on Apia harbor in a humid blanket of black velvet while the hot spots scattered along the shoreline (and breeding in swampland at Fugalei and Vaitele) will light up with the best dance music, the most vivacious dancing and all accompanied by the heaviest consumers of Vailima beer. The clubs will close at 10pm and people will still get their late night dinners from Sunrise Restaurant- a styrofoam plate leaking with greasy goodness.
There will still be flying foxes feasting in papaya trees. (and people out to shoot them for a tasty treat even though they’re a protected, endangered species.) The moon will still cast her black diamonds on a midnight ocean as another day in Samoa ends. And a new one begins.
Tomorrow, whether it’s Friday or Saturday – in all the ways that matter – a day in the life of Samoa, will still be the same. Always beautiful. Frequently disgustingly hot. Supposedly ‘Founded on God.’ Sometimes frustrating. Often raucous with laughter. Occasionally angry and stone-throwingly violent. Forever redolent with the richness of aiga, of family, fa’aaloalo respect and tautua service.
(Can you tell that I miss you?)