Editor’s Note: Now that my sister, Jenny, is wrapping up her visit to Samoa, I asked her to write a blog that I could share with all of you. I told her she could write about anything she wanted about her time in Samoa. Below you will find her reflections on Samoa. It was an absolute joy to have my sister with me for two weeks to learn about my life here. In future posts, look for more of my own thoughts and memories on her visit, but for now, as she is about to depart Samoa, please take a moment to read through her thoughts on her time in the South Pacific!
Things I Learned During My Visit to Samoa
In no particular order, here are the things I’ve learned after visiting Kyle for 2 weeks in Samoa.
• Samoa in the winter has Houston summers beat for heat and humidity in the morning. I knew this as soon as I stepped off the 10 hr. Air New Zealand flight at 5:30 a.m.
• The term “clean” is very broad. Samoans idea of clean would not meet the US standards. However, I’ve been here 2 weeks and I’ve been perfectly fine. It’s all relative to where you are and I’m sure the same is true in other third world countries. Bottom line is that Samoans do the best with what they have and what they know.
• There are very few, if any safety regulations in Samoa. They pack the buses full with people until nobody can move, but people are friendly and accommodating. They hold random children on their laps, pass unknown bags down the aisles, and always move to make room for visitors (like me) to sit comfortably. I also noticed the lack of safety regulations when I was halfway through a river hike which consisted of climbing waterfalls and other dangerous landscapes. All of this without any type of safety equipment. I though to myself, “I don’t remember signing any waiver regarding safety.” Luckily I made it through with only a few scrapes and bruises!
• Samoans love music, including American music. They love it so much that they play the same songs all day, everyday, everywhere. I heard the same songs blaring on the bus, echoing in the taxis, and playing on Kyle’s neighbor’s radio.
• Samoans like to record American songs in Samoan and play them over and over as stated previously. The ones I’ll always remember (and probably won’t listen to for awhile) include Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” and Kid Rock and Cheryl Crow’s duet “Picture.”
• It’s normal to find pigs, chickens, roosters, dogs, cats, and cows wandering through the yards or down by the beach. Several times grunting pigs would meander around Kyle’s house. We also found them swimming in the ocean (piglets too)! Kyle also had a pesky povi (cow) that would run around his yard, with the owner not far behind trying to catch it.
• Roosters don’t only crow in the morning. They crow all throughout the day.
• The ants in Samoa are amazing little insects. They’ll find any crumb or dead insect almost immediately. They carry dead insects up walls and over anything. This has forced Kyle to keep all food and any trash containing food wrappers in Ziploc bags. Plus he keeps the bags, other food, and dishes in two large plastic tubs that seal up nice and tight. This also helps keep the rats and cockroaches away from those items.
• You can never have too many Ziploc bags. From keeping out unwanted insects to storing food in small spaces (like Kyle’s tiny fridge), Ziploc bags get the job done!
• Sleeping inside a mosquito net is pretty cozy. They do a great job keeping the bugs out and it’s like sleeping in your own personal tent.
• Always carry your own pillowcase with you when traveling to Samoan hotels, beach fales, etc. That way you know where the pillowcase has been.
• You can survive without all the extra toiletries. As long as you have a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, a razor, and some moisturizer (ladies), you’re set!
• I don’t think I’ll never complain about having to take my laundry down to the laundry facility at my apartment complex. It definitely beats hand washing all your clothes in a tub and air drying everything.
• Taking a cold shower can be refreshing and having it come out of the pipe inside your house is a luxury.
• A little dirt in the water never hurt anyone. Showering in it is no big deal and just be sure to boil it and filter it before drinking.
• Everyone should have a Leatherman. They’re very useful-especially to turn the shower on and off.
• Keep all bags zipped up. This prevents cockroaches, spiders, ants, and rats from getting in.
• Samoans have beautiful voices. From the choirs in church to the students singing in school, it all is music to the ears and puts a smile on your face.
• Mormons are alive and well and can be found riding their bikes around Samoa. Almost every village has an LDS church and you recognize them instantly by their cream exterior with blue trim. In addition, they usually have the best kept grounds in the village.
• Christianity is prevalent in Samoa. Besides the Mormons, I’ve also seen many Catholic, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, and Christian Congregational Churches, with the Christian Congregational Church playing an important role in villages.
• Samoans love to play volleyball. I didn’t get a chance to play with them, but we passed many games going on in people’s yards.
• Children and families are polite and respectful at mealtime. Guests and elders eat first. Then the children get to eat the food that is left or wasn’t finished by the first ones to eat. No food is wasted.
• You can ride halfway around the island on the bus for the same price of a 1 liter bottle of water. Drinks are very expensive, including bottled water.
• McDonald’s tastes just as good in Samoa, but often has to improvise if it runs out of something. We had fries similar to steak fries the first time we went to McDonald’s. Kyle said this was what usually happened when they ran out of fries.
• Making a 1 hour and 20 minute walk from the bus on the main road to Kyle’s village is a great workout and comes with a beautiful view. The road winds along the side, up and down the mountain. It’s even better exercise with backpacks and bags of groceries. I now see why Kyle has lost some weight.
• Children in Samoa are very similar to children in the U.S. In the classroom there are the well behaved and the ones that like to act up.
• Samoans have great teeth and beautiful smiles. Almost every Samoan I saw looked as though they’d had brace, but they obviously hadn’t.
• Hitchhiking is safe here, but watch out for the rare Samoan who will try to take advantage of the palagi (white person) tourist. Sometimes hitchhiking is your only option on Sunday when there are no buses and you don’t want to spend money on a taxi.
• Samoans love starchy foods. From bread to taro to fries to breadfruit, Samoans eat it all regularly. Saimini noodles are also extremely popular, but also extremely unhealthy. One bowl has 17 g of fat and over 2000 mg of sodium.
• Traveling through Samoa reminds one of the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. From the fales (Samoan homes) with thatched roofs made of palms to the landscape, I found myself saying to Kyle several times, “Swiss Family Robinson!”
• Samoans have great eyes! Walking down the road in the dark, they can see who it is from fairly far away with no flashlight at all.
• Samoans have a unique way of getting someone’s attention. It sounds like they’re trying to give someone a kiss.
• Samoans can read lips and have whole conversations without making a sound.
• Samoa had the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been to that many beaches around the world, but regardless, Samoan beaches are picture postcard worthy.
• Even in Samoa, Kyle still has his “systems” and ways of doing things. He’s adapting well and still is the same old Kyle.
• And last but not least-Always wear sunscreen!
To conclude, I’ve really enjoyed my time in Samoa and exploring it with Kyle, who is living and working here, has been a once in a lifetime experience. It was undoubtedly the best way to learn about the culture and people of Samoa.