When he recognizes us as we exit arrivals, Anthony releases a talofa (hello) effusive which is followed by a few diplomatic words and a snail's pace trip to the centre: “Our limit is 40km/h.
The Samoa police are not forgiving! And they especially like the exit from the airport.”
It took us forever to arrive but, after hopping around for a few months on various islands in the Pacific, we're set for the dragged notion of time of these stops and we no longer despair, as at first.
Apia: the route to the Samoan archipelago
In visual terms, the capital is unlikely to be praised by the most demanding visitors.
Organized around a wide bay partially protected by coral reefs – which is also its port – Apia contrasts with the rest of the main island Upolu, where traffic, noise and the relative urban confusion do not arrive.
Nearly a quarter of Samoa's population (44.000 inhabitants) share the long coastal avenue, and the streets that stretch into the city's interior.
Once installed, we left the hotel in discovery mode. We went through them paying attention to the unavoidable peculiarities of the Pacific islands.
We passed the bus terminal. We see it full of old, garish buses that display the names of the mini-companies that drive them.
Or messages of encouragement, faith and hope like “Life Goes On"and "Glory to god”. They are, above all, students, the passengers of those automobile relics.
Protect themselves from the scorching sun in the shade of the structures at the stops and indulge in lively conversations that only the purchase of shaved ice and one or another trope interrupts.
The day-to-day life of the city takes place between an atypical combination of Polynesian and colonial buildings and architectural aberrations of modernity, with an emphasis on the seven-story “Soviet-Samoan” building in which the government was installed, overshadowing the city. speak which houses the tourism authorities.
The twin towers of the Catholic cathedral beckon us to the opposite side of the street. For decades on end, the church decorated the waterfront in white and blue, and statues of Our Lady and various saints blessed Apia.
Upolu Circum-Road Travel
In the days following arrival, Anthony shows us the wild and bucolic slopes of Upolu, a distinctly volcanic island that the rainy tropical climate is responsible for keeping lush.
We approach the coast on the opposite coast to the capital.
We cross several distinctly Polynesian towns, organized around their speak communal spaces in which men carry out the ceremony of ava (in other South Pacific countries, coffee), a drink made from an intoxicating root.
Local women's committees meet to decide the best management for their villages or produce the i.e. toga, huge rugs made from dry leaves and siaps, fabrics made from bark with motifs of the island's fauna and flora.
Still the 2009 Tsunami Legacy
Already by the sea, we are surprised by the widespread destruction that devastated some other villages. Half reticent, Anthony explains to us the tragedy that caused it. “all these villages here have not yet recovered from tsunami 2009. 190 people died. Most of the survivors moved inland.
Or to other countries. They are still so traumatized that they refuse to come back here.”
Despite the protection of a barrier reef that makes the water even more turquoise, the beach and village of Lalomanu were also devastated. Even so, more recently, a native preferred to take risks and not waste his tourist potential. built speak and small bungalows that accommodate foreigners surrendered to the beauty and exoticism of the place.
We continue to explore the south coast. We do this with strategic stops to stock up on food and drinks at small roadside grocery stores.
We quickly realized that they are almost always part of households. As a rule, we need to shout for the owners, or the children to show up or deign to wake up from their nap.
Edwin and the Emigration Condemnation
On one of these occasions, we awakened Edwin, a pale-eyed forty-year-old native, paunchy and sleepy that, on the pretext of explaining his many traditional tattoos, more than serving customers, he sums up the story of his life, spent trying to earn the money Upolu could never give him.
“I've worked on board and on land. I changed countries 5 or 6 times. I can't say I won't go out again but I was really fed up. For now I need some time at home”.
There are few opportunities to prosper in Samoa. Like so many other Polynesian islands, the archipelago has no valuable raw materials.
The families that remain are those that inherited properties and are able to survive and make a profit from the land. Those with members working for the government.
Or in one or another tourism business, which has finally started to develop and already represents 25% of the country's GDP but is far from solving the life of all Samoans.
In the most exemplary cases, immigrant Samoans contribute to the success of these nations.
Samoan Blood of New Zealand
While staying in Upolu, we realize how proud they are that we know that Tana Umaga – one of the best players and captains of the rugby team All Black – have Samoan blood.
But the conversation would quickly change its shape if we mentioned the Auckland gangs to which the newly arrived youngsters from the archipelago or the outlaw children of emigrants end up being part of.
In which they adhere to a culture of conflict and violence exacerbated by rivalry with the Anglophone clans and the indigenous Maori who, despite being at home, suffer their own discrimination.
Tattoos and the Volcanic Lands: Resist Traditional Samoa
Tatoo is a word of Polynesian origin that had its first written reference in Samoan armadillo and was introduced to Europe by explorer James Cook and his crew.
In Samoa, age-old tattoo patterns are beginning to lose cultural significance in the nation. In a simplified way, they serve to promote the new urban and marginal identity of Samoans and Maori.
Meanwhile, land tenure law has changed little in Samoa. Rigid customs affect foreign investment and deprive the archipelago of the financial benefits enjoyed by competing parts of the Pacific. Tonga, Fiji and French Polynesia.
In Samoa, the sale of family property is prohibited. Lands can remain in the same families for centuries.
As we have seen, when they coincide with points of tourist interest – be it beaches, waterfalls, lagoons, etc. – families have guard members ready to charge visitors for entry. This alleviates their financial needs.
In one of these forays into private volcanic lands, the elders who protect the entrance to the trail force Anthony to sit down in front of them.
They let him down because we hadn't sat down and made the greetings required by island protocol.
The host only gets away with worse consequences because he makes clear that we are outsiders and are not aware of Samoan habits.
He then tries to justify the delay to us. “Like so many others, their families are out of town. The only thing they can cling to are the socializing, the customs and the money they take from these entrances.
It may seem forced to you but I don't blame them. It is the entire history of a people that is at issue here.”
With this further adventure, we confirm that, in Samoa, tradition struggles with the old custom of escaping tradition.