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