So, a few weeks ago I got back from spending a month in Samoa and Fiji. Interesting places. Perhaps I’ll blog a bit more with some observations on them in the near future.
Today I just want to make one curious observation. Apparently, for as long as anyone can remember, cars drove on the right in Samoa (this is “Western Samoa” I’m talking about, as opposed to American Samoa). For some reason however, their wacky PM pushed to change all that. In September 2009, Samoans were all forced to start driving on the left hand side of the road. There were a lot of protests leading up to it and predictions of widespread mayhem, but fortunately, things went pretty smoothly.
Why did the PM push for this? He claimed it was to make used cars cheaper in Samoa by taking away the need to import (left-hand drive) cars from North America and by encouraging Somoans living Down Under in Aus and NZ to ship cars back home. He also vaguely claimed it was “To bring Samoa more in line with other Pacific nations.”
Personally, I suspect it was really more about xenophobia on his part, which his secondary reason seems to allude to. While in Samoa, it seemed there were almost daily comments from him in the local newspaper that smacked of a real chip on his shoulder against the U.S. In fact, there was quite a number of “chip on the shoulder” sort of xenophobic comments in newspaper editorials etc. These comments were extended towards pretty much all foreigners, not just Americans. The Chinese seemed to be at least as big a target for such comments.
I think I understand where a lot of these comments are coming from, but I’d love to hear from some Samoans with their thoughts on the matter.
p.s. Apparently, as a follow up to his road wackiness, the PM is now pushing to have Samoa’s time zone changed. He wants to move the international date line to the East a bit so that Samoa will jump 24 hours ahead, and no longer be on the same “business day’ schedule with the U.S. I guess that’s one way of leading his country into the future.