When he recognizes us as we exit arrivals, Anthony releases a talofa (hello) effusive that is followed by some diplomatic words and a snail-step trip to the center: “Our limit is 40km/h. Samoan police do not forgive! And they especially like leaving the airport here.”
It took us an eternity to arrive, but after hopping for a few months over several islands in the Pacific, we are mentalized to the dragging notion of time of these stops and we no longer despair, as in the beginning.
Apia: the route to the Samoan archipelago
In visual terms, the capital will hardly 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 remaining head island Upolu where traffic, noise and relative urban confusion do not reach.
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 pass the bus terminal. We see it full of gaudy old buses that divulge the names of the mini-companies that drive them. Or messages of encouragement, faith and hope such as “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 approached the coast on the opposite coast from the capital. We crossed several distinctly Polynesian villages, 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 ie 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 of 2009. 190 people died. Most of the survivors moved inland. Or to other countries. They are still so traumatized that they refuse to return 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 restock food and drinks at the small, well-kept roadside grocery stores. We soon found 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 the 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”.
Opportunities to thrive in Samoa are few. Like so many other Polynesian islands, the archipelago lacks valuable raw materials. The families that remain are the ones that inherited properties and manage to subsist and make a profit from the land. Those that have 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.
Many of the families they leave behind join them later, at a stage when they have already begun to assimilate the predominant cultures kiwi, aussie and North American. In the most exemplary cases, Samoan immigrants 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. But in Samoa, the ancient patterns of tattoos are beginning to lose cultural significance in the nation. In a simplified way, they serve to promote the new urban and marginal identity of the Samoans and the 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. Fiji and French Polynesia.
In Samoa, the sale of family properties is prohibited. Lands can remain in the same families for centuries on end. As we have seen, when they coincide with points of tourist interest – be they beaches, waterfalls, ponds, etc. – families keep guard members ready to charge visitors for entry. So they alleviate their financial needs.
In one of these forays into private volcanic land, the elders guarding the entrance to the trail force Anthony to sit in front of him and decompose him because we hadn't also sat down and given 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.
Then he tries to justify our delay. “Like so many others, their families are out. The only thing they can hold on to are the conviviality, customs and the money they get from these entrances. It may seem forced to you, but I don't blame them. It's the whole story of a people that is in question here.”
With this further adventure, we confirm that, in Samoa, tradition struggles with the old custom of escaping tradition.