“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Samoa

23 March 2010
I’ve arrived in Samoa!! This is country number 67 – and my first small Pacific island. I remember when I was little and watching the commonwealth games, I remember thinking that the Samoans and the Tongans and the Fijians were so different from us. They were the epitome of foreignness. It’s funny and ironic, but arriving in Samoa is the complete opposite. I feel like I’ve come to as close to a tropical home as I could have. I think it must be because I am finally on a Polynesian tropical island, and Polynesia is home. I’ve seen other tropical paradises, so much so that I feel at home in the tropics, but I have always felt them to be more foreign than this one. Make no mistake, I am not home, this is still a foreign country, but it has familiarity. Perhaps once I’ve been here a while, I’ll change my mind, but the faces and the looks of the people are lovely.

There are slatted glass windows of the 80s in every home, but no mosquito nets. Everything is open. I even saw a lady’s breasts through her open windows as she got changed to lie down on the mat on the floor! There are lovely open fales where just the pillars of the sides exist and roofs (no walls), and everyone sits communally and shares the breeze then lies down to sleep right there.

It’s really quite funny to see all the pigs walking around. Dogs are everywhere too, but there is something different to have this huge snorting beast wandering past. Pork is probably the most important food here – though expensive too. Big feasts require killing an entire beast, of course!

We got a flat tire on the way home from the airport, and since they certainly aren’t wasting electricity here, one would think it would be a scary situation, but when everyone’s homes are communal and open to the public, it doesn’t seem possible. I wasn’t being taken to some crazy place to disappear forever. They are too nice and too small town and too local. There must be crime, but perhaps not in the same way that we have? Am I being na├»ve?

I’m sleeping in an open fale where I hope I don’t roast (it's very hot here), and tomorrow I will have a lovely tropical fruit breakfast and wander around town. I hope I get to dive and swim and relax and get my paper done. I will discover what Guadalcanal really is because I mentioned it being here, but it isn't. Because the reef disappears into the deepest of oceans just off the coast, the color of the sea in Samoa is very dark! What spectacular ocean, though. My freckles have come out! It must be something about the southern sun.

I took the bus out to the coast, and what a fun experience! Even though we spent an hour waiting for it to depart, it was a prime example of the wetness of humanity (sticky bodies leaning in above boxes of leaking produce, bread, etc. There was a complex order of sitting, foreigners and women and elderly were first, but I didn’t need to worry about it because they just told me where to go.

Some of my interesting conversation: The top 5 questions I was asked: Where are you from? (NZ – a common answer here) What do you do? How long in Samoa? Why Samoa? Have you been to Savai’i? The beach? The mountains? Are you married? (No) What? Why not? Do you want to meet a Samoan man? (Perhaps I do -- They do all the cooking!) Actually, I probably don't as everything is shared with the entire family, so one income is everyone's.

Samoans are happy in their own skin and have lovely wide smiles. They seem content with life, even if life isn’t so easy for them sometimes.