Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tofa soifua

When you leave Samoa by air, the last thing you see before you enter the plane is this sign. Sadly for me, it was what I saw on Thursday. My assignment completed, it was time for me to say farewell and fly to Sydney.

It's been very tough saying goodbye. My time in Samoa has been incredible and I've been so fortunate to have worked with, and otherwise meet, so many wonderful people. Not to mention how beautiful a country Samoa is.

I know Sydney has its own beauty but at the moment, I'm having to work harder to find it. It smells funny, it feels far too busy, there is a cacophony of noises that are both familiar and strange and no one smiles as they walk down the street.

On the flipside, I've already had some amazing food; simple food that we too often take for granted. Incredible cheeses, good Chinese cuisine and, my highlight thus far, fresh strawberries.

Other than sheer exhaustion (sensory overload!) my main problem thus far would be accepting the reality of my situation. I keep referring to things, places and people in Samoa in an inclusive way. Next week our paddling club will start regular training nights (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm if anyone's interested). We commence an interesting project at work this week.

In spite of the change of location, I'm hoping that it will continue to make some sense to talk about Samoa in such a way. I'll still be in touch with friends and I'll definitely be requesting the latest news and gossip that's doing the rounds of Apia.

If nothing else, I certainly have many more things I want to say about Samoa and my time there on this blog. And having taken close to six thousand photos, I'm sure I can find a few more to put online.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Teuila races

After the Miss Teuila pageant, the fautasi race is probably the most popular event of the Teuila festival. As in the Independence Day race, fautasi crews compete in a five kilometre races that starts at Faleula and ends in Apia harbour. Once again, two teams were the ones to beat. The Manono crew that won the Independence Day race and the Don Bosco crew that took top honours in American Samoa earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, I didn't watch the race live. Due to the reef and shallows, the race needs to be held in conjunction with high tide, so it started at 6am and I'm not much of a morning person. This didn't stop me from making a bet on the outcome with a colleague from my paddling club. We made a deal that if the Manono team won I would buy him a beer; if the Don Bosco boys took out the prize then he would buy me won. I'm happy to say that I'm now owed a beer. The Don Bosco team beat the Manono crew by a decent margin. I think it's a good thing. The Manono boys have won everything in sight for the last three or four years, so a changing of the guard is healthy.

The fautasi race isn't the only race during the festival however. This year our paddling regatta was incorporated into the program. It was a great day and we had a fantastic turn out. We had nine teams in the social division and three clubs submitted teams for the more professional divisions.

We decided after the last regatta that we needed a uniform. You have to look the goods even if you're actually not that good at all. Thus, we decked ourselves out in matching tshirts and lavalavas. Alas, it didn't bring great results, but that doesn't matter. We had a good time of things. In the more senior divisions there were some fantastic races. The Pualele club edged out the Paddles club in the big races but had to fight hard for their wins. The 500m final for example saw less than a second separating the first two boats, with third place finishing less than two seconds behind them. Very exciting stuff.


Teuila festival. It's the biggest event on the Samoan cultural and social calendar. It's a week long celebration of the fa'asamoa and is full of events aimed to attract Samoans and palagis alike. Fairy lights are strung up all along Beach Road, making Apia harbour look even more beautiful at night. Stalls are set up next to the Government building where people sell clothing, art, food and demonstrate traditional crafts such as tattooing and weaving.

The biggest event of the festival is of course, the Miss Teuila pageant. Eleven women from Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and the United States competed to win the illustrious title. The build up to the pageant is pretty big but the event itself is even bigger.

I watched the pageant live on television with some friends of mine. It turned out to be far better than going to the event itself (well, I think so anyway). My friends were caustic in their appraisal of the contestants' efforts, which was hilarious. Mind you, the girls don't do themselves many favours. The talent round was particularly awful, with only one girl really showing any considerable talent. The highlight however, was (as always) the interview round.

On the topic of what she would focus on if voted as Miss Teuila, contestant number 1 had to say that "fundraising for the old people so they have more days to live on earth" would be one of her priorities.

Contestant number 11 stated that, "as a strong believer that women can do anything, women can do anything."

Yet another contestant, when asked what the best things about Samoa's environment might be, simply responded, "The best thing about the environment of Samoa is its features." The pregnant pause that followed, and the laughter from the audience, eventually convinced her to think about her answer and elaborate somewhat.

Miss Samoa Australia, when pausing for breath at the end of one mindless statement, demanded that the audience wait: "Please, I haven't finished......just kidding". No. You weren't. And I'm beginning to wonder what on earth you were raving on about when you mentioned the chattels in all the other countries of the world, that clearly made Samoa the best place to be.

The comments of the evening came from the outgoing MissTeuila, who bemoaned the loss of title. No more free air travel and "free lunch will be a distant memory". She even begged the owner of a beauty salon in Apia for just one more full body workover. Still, she insisted that any tears shed by her on the night would be tears of joy, not sadness, and thus my friends and I took her at her word.

The winner on the night was Pearl McFall, this year's Miss NUS (National University of Samoa). A work colleague's daughter came second, although thanks to winning seven of the ten category prizes, I'm pretty certain she doesn't mind one bit. She has something like six or seven return flights to New Zealand, hotel accommodation, cash prizes, wine, manicures, massages, etc., to enjoy.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Followup on the follower of fashion

Early last week I had several of my clothes disappear from my clothes line. I discovered a few of them on the body of the village security guard. Hilarity ensued.

Later that week I was called over to my landlord's house (conveniently no more than 30 metres away) and I was formally presented with my clothing and an apology on behalf of the security guard, his family and the landlord's family. It was an interesting moment of fa'asamoa.

Anyway, the end result of all of this was that not only did I have confirmation that someone liked my clothing enough to pinch it off the line, I even had it returned. Fantastic!

Sadly, my dreams came crashing down this morning as I discovered that the security guard was in fact fairly critical of one item of clothing. Imagine my horror as I noticed that he'd "coughed his rompers". No. My rompers. Now imagine my horror at discovering this after I'd been wearing them for half a day!

That's one pair of shorts that won't be making the trip back to Australia with me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Isa, Sala and Te'a

Meet Isa, Sala and Te'a (l to r). They live on Namua. They're wonderful kids with infectious attitudes and brilliant smiles. Their family is similarly delightful. It's been an absolute pleasure getting to know them all over the last year.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A small exercise in irony

Saturday's Observer contained a story and a letter to the editor, both of which caught my eye. The letter to the editor bemoaned the poor quality of the quiz show that has just started on local television:
I agree that it is high time that such a competition should take place in Samoa. HOWEVER, the quality and the phrasing of the questions are very poor, very confusing and need considerable improvement.
But more importantly, there needs to be a proper evaluation that the answers are correct. A lot of the answers given by the quizmaster are WORNG!

I had to laugh.

The story, following on from the recent decision to shut the majority of the nightclubs in Apia for three months, focused on two tourists to Samoa who think that the shutdown order is great. Mr Backlet, in particular thinks it's great because
Despite the nightlub business being a fast money turner, only violence, corruption, prostitution, gambling, immoral sexual and gangster activities will happen as a result.

His travelling companion, Mr Coan, was in complete agreement, saying that Samoa is a wonderful country because Christian values are being upheld. Mr Backlet continued, warning Samoa against accepting foreign cultures and ideas. What? Like Christianity?