Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, February 28, 2014

Apia, Samoa

Apia is the Capital of the Republic of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa, now just Samoa) an independent country. This Samoa is still a 92% agrarian culture. The island grows taro, vanilla, pineapple and other exotic foods. Unlike American Samoa, this Samoa is in a different time zone, and even on a different day. The International Date Line, separating one day from the next also separates the two Samoas. The recent history, the colonization of the Pacific, missionaries, WW2 etc., all shaped and reformed many islands, cultures and people. I even believe that people on just one island are a little different from those on the next island even when the next island is just one hour away by boat. Apia, on the island of Upolu, is just one of four islands that combined make up Samoa.
The history of Samoa fits the Polynesian model. The historical time lines are similar to those of Tahiti or other Polynesian islands. They are one genetically close people. European and American influences have changed some of today's political ideologies. Yet the people, the Samoans, are the same people on both sides of the dateline. While American Samoa was under U.S. influence, mainly due to WW2, Western Samoa gained independence from Great Britain as recently as 1972. Apia, the biggest town, is the center of the new political, independent thinking. So far Samoa has done very well. Naturally, a power struggle is in progress, yet the people I met are happy people and are mostly following the tribally proven ways of old Samoa. Via elected officials the islands strive to fit into the modern world.
We took a bus tour around and across the island. The roads were narrow but all tarred and in fair to good shape. Driving is on the left side of the road. Samoa tries to emulate, New Zealand who seems to be their biggest trading partner. Many Samoans go to New Zealand to further their education or to work for awhile to learn their trades. New Zealand is being admired as a child looks up to their parents. Culturally they are the same people.
The Island's natural beauty is stunning. Deep valleys, high and delicate rolling waterfalls, lush greenery, clean houses, ready smiles and friendly waves make for a country that is easy to like. We had demonstrations of peeling a coconut and extracting the coconut milk; we ate the inner flesh of the nut and sampled taro during our lunch at the famous Faofao beach where we swam over the coral in turquoise waters and dried out in a fale, in the shade. We also had grilled chicken and other Samoan delicacies for lunch. As good tourists we were greeted with the obligatory drums, song and dance, all so part of the Polynesian way of life. We were shown an idyllic island life, but the reality of life on Samoa is not far away from this picture. If I did not have a familiarity with the western world already, life in Samoa could be good.

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