Fa Soifua, Samoa! Hello, world…

Afega blowholes, south cost of Savai’i.

I’ve been putting off writing this post, though I’ve thought of it often, at least in part because I keep waiting for the magical moment where I ‘process’ everything. As if, at the end of my time here, the camera of my brain will suddenly zoom out to the big picture and I’ll be able to confidently and intelligently (humorously even, maybe!) articulate a worthy summation of four months spent in Samoa. With less than 24 hours left in the country, I may be forced to conclude that this is just not going to happen. Processing this experience, it seems, will happen long after I’ve left these steamy shores (literally–the rainy-sunny combo is back) and probably continue well into my return to the States. Still, I can’t leave without writing something for both you, my loyal readers (hi dad!), and me to reflect on the unpredictable journey of the last few months.

So, here it is. Samoa in bite-sized chunks.

  1. Things I will miss.
  2. Things I will not miss.
  3. 4-month abstinence.
  4. Low point.
  5. High point.
  6. Conclusion?

Continue reading

Ia Manuia le Iupeli Auro o le Malo o Samoa!

A hearty congratulations to Samoa–50 years ago, they became the first nation in the South Pacific to gain independence. And let me tell you, they are damn proud of it! (As they should be.) The ‘Golden Jubilee’ celebrations over the last few days have definitely put to shame any 4th of July that I’ve ever seen. It started with a ‘march past’ parade for government officials (translation: 6 hours of standing/sitting in the sun, enduring a 1+ hour prayer, watching schoolchildren pass out, and almost getting into a group rumble after SPBD decided to cut in line) that it seemed like almost the entire country participated in, included a UB40 concert that brought visitors in by the hundreds from American Samoa, ended in a dramatic fautasi race (long boat with like 60 men rowing) and generally swelled Apia’s population to a size that caused me, at times, to feel like I was in the middle of Times Square. A very small Times Square, to be sure, but still. Things I have learned over this 5-day national holiday/celebration:

  • ‘Island time’ holds fast even during official events. You will be expected to show up early to ‘get a good seat’, but they are not expected to start until at least an hour after the designated start time. This applied to waiting 1.5 hours for a fa’afafine pageant to start (Samoan drag show), showing up at 4am to meet my coworkers for the parade….while no one else got there until 5am, ‘lining up’ for a parade at 6 and not marching until 11:30, watching the 10pm fireworks at 11pm………..the list could go on.
  • FINALLY, how to properly wear a lavalava. Of course, the theory of it is easier than in practice….
  • Samoan pastors/government officials may be the most long-winded beings alive. Not even swooning schoolchildren can put them off their epic prayers/pronouncements.
  • The public arena is fair game for a ‘pants off dance off.’
  • How ‘ava (kava) tastes. Which, by the way, is EXACTLY how it looks. Like muddy water.
  • I love my country, but I have never experienced the pure pride and wholehearted joyfulness that I’ve seen in Samoans as they celebrate Samoa’s birth.

This will be a short entry because, of course, these are my last days in Samoa, so I will have a longer farewell post for you later this week. In the meantime, I will let pictures serve as the thousands of words that the Samoan independence celebration truly deserves. Continue on for pictures

Scrumdown in the South Pacific

Apia Park Stadium

Alright, let’s talk sports.

Except, when I say that, I don’t mean catching up on the latest baseball stats or discussing the Kings’ chance at the Stanley Cup. A self-proclaimed sports nerd, when I really get going it’s not about “Tim Tebow: Savant or Flop” but sport as a sociological lens. What I love is discussing sports as an expression of gender, body politics, group identity, capitalism, and oh-so-much more.

So, sports in Samoa. In spite of their reputation for being rather hefty people, Samoans are also known as great sportsmen. In the United States, this can be seen in the disproportionate number of Samoan football players—these Samoan Americans are usually from American Samoan families (take a minute to think that through), and seem to possess an uncanny athleticism despite, or perhaps in addition to, their large frames. While Samoa doesn’t share the passion for football that is evident in their eastern cousins, they do have a passion for just about every other sport. Cricket and volleyball are played in the evenings in almost every village across the country. Soccer and netball are widely embraced by schoolchildren; weightlifting and boxing have brought much national pride to this country, and it’s not uncommon to see rudimentary weight bench set-ups outside in communal field areas. And, of course, there is rugby. Continue reading

I Dream of “Original or Crispy”

Blame it on too much Angry Birds, or my 200th piece of fried chicken since arriving…but it seems I’ve finally cracked. Luckily, I preserved it in video form for your viewing pleasure.

Three weeks left here! Stay tuned as I hopefully think of the most entertaining and informative blog posts yet.

Picking up Habits, and the Newspaper

One habit I’ll never get sick of: taking endless pictures of the epic clouds here.

Whenever you move to a new place, you expect to pick up new habits. If the move is more minor, say, switching neighborhoods in the same city, it might just be that your habits are re-wired–a new coffee shop to stop by in the morning, a different route to walk your dog. When I decided to spend 4 months living in Samoa, I figured I would pick up new habits that I probably wouldn’t be taking home with me. And that has definitely been true; I’ve become accustomed to cracking open young coconuts on a hot day, taking daily cold showers, drinking instant coffee, assuming all food is for sharing (well that one wasn’t much of a stretch for me)…to name a few things. However, I did not expect that I would get back into the habit of reading the paper. Continue reading

Not Glamorous, But it’s Life

What you think I’ve been doing for the last month.

What I actually do every day.

After a small break from blogging, I realized I’d better dust off my keyboard, lest I disappoint my faithful readers (hi dad!). The truth is, whether it’s a result of getting close to my 3-month mark, a continually stalled social life, or a focus on work in the office instead of the field, I just haven’t found much to be blog-worthy lately. My biggest recent triumph is that I found a rugby team to play with! Hopefully, I can put together something about rugby in Samoa, which is the only thing that really feels like home here. In the meantime, I thought I would write a little bit about (yawn) work, since I realized it’s a little bit unclear what I do here besides go joy-riding in yellow pick-up trucks, battle mosquitoes, and expend huge amounts of energy grieving over what to eat. Continue reading