I finally made it to Samoa. It has been a 23 year long wait to experience where my Dad grew up.
Departing on the 12th of January I made my way over to Samoa for 2 weeks of meeting a lot of family I have never met in my whole life and was about to experience a new way of life.
I was scared when it came to flying with Niah as I wasn’t sure how she would go on the plane; this was her first plane trip and my first overseas trip which was good to be able to share together.
Niah completely surprised me and was excellent compared to what I had imagined. Niah would get upset towards the end of each flight but I am assuming that’s because she was getting over having to be stuck in the same spot for so long and not getting to stretch her legs and move around.
We ensured we had lots of snacks and entertaining things for her to do like having books, the iPad with her favorite shows on. Niah luckily slept through most of it which helped us and her out a lot.
Getting off the flight and driving through the villages in Samoa had me looking from left to right and being intrigued with a place that looked so abnormal to what I have known for so long as the way of living in Australia. It was around 10pm at night and there was people walking all over the roads and roaming the streets, this being that it is the cooler part of the hot and humid days in Samoa.
The Samoan way of life is such a different way to what we live in Australia. We should be very grateful for the way we live in Australia with what benefits we receive from being here because their are places in the world that aren’t as well looked after by their way of living.
The villages are very different to what we are used to and its a real eye opener in that we in Australia are very lucky and take what we have for granted. I have so much more respect for the Samoan culture and way of life. When I say villages, it’s basically what we have in Australia as housing estates.
Houses in Samoa are huts made from wood or you will see house made from bricks. Most houses have no doors that you can lock up. The huts are completely open with no windows or doors. At night some will sleep with mosquito nets over them. Beds aren’t always used with most sleeping on mats on the floor as it’s cooler.
In Samoa you will find a lot of deceased family members are buried at the front of their family homes in cement stone graves. I loved this as you’re close to your family member always and never need to visit a cemetery.
There are cemeteries in Samoa but it’s a more common practice of having them at your home.
Samoa is a beautiful luscious place with lots of greenery, lots of fresh produce growing and free roaming animals. People of the villages will grow food within their own land of their home and their allocated spot within their village plantation.
My family had their own coconuts, breadfruit, guava, pineapple, bananas, sugar cane, taro, oranges and limes growing.
Lizards are everywhere and you’ll be sure to see them on the roof of the houses in the villages. I didn’t see very many within the main city Apia we where were staying but that’s not to say they weren’t around.
|Cooking the Umu – Taro, Breadfruit and Palusami
I was expecting to find a lot of Samoan food restaurants but that was a shock to rarely find any. Majority of the Samoan traditional made food was sold in the markets. Restaurants were mainly chicken, chips, burgers, stir frys etc which had me a bit upset as that wasn’t what I came to eat at all.
Luckily back in the villages with my family we were served up the food I was longing for.
The currency over in Samoa is tala; which usually changes to nearly double the aud dollar. Half the time I was thinking wow that’s so expensive when I would need to pay for things but then I had to remember that if I convert it to aud dollars it’s about the same as what we pay if not cheaper; which was most cases.
We are very fortunate once again for the pay packet we receive in Australia as most Samoan’s are working on around 100 tala (50 aud dollars) a week.
In town you will have your grocery stores, specialty stores and markets.
The markets run everyday with one being the flea market for all your clothing, accessories and souvenir items that will open at 8am every morning except for Sunday and close late afternoon.
The other big market which has your produce never closes. This is a 24hr market; reason being that the stall owners will come from a far town at times and it costs too much for them to go back home each day and return to sell their items. The stall owners will sleep there overnight each day so there spot is not stolen either.
As with most countries I’ve heard about; it’s all about knowing your prices. The locals will know you’re from out of town and in our case we aren’t as tanned as they are so we stand out like no tomorrow. They will try to bump up prices and take advantage of you if you’re not careful. We tried not to do any shopping at markets unless we were with family who spoke Samoan.
Security for their shops, banks etc in towns are men who will sit, sleep, stand outside of the front doors of the place. At night if you ever drive around town you will see men who sit in groups playing cards or talking that are looking after the places.
Police in Samoa can be found standing at corners in the main town monitoring the town and no doubt everyday you will see the police staff directing traffic in the high peak times along the main road.
Taxis were very cheap with a trip into main town being around 3-5 tala. There is no where in Melbourne that you could have a $1.50-$2.50 taxi ride. The base price starts at $3 before you even start your journey. A half hour to 45 min journey from main city Apia to my families village – Lufilufi was a 40 tala fare ($20 aud dollars).
Buses are an experience to be had over in Samoa, certainly not like Australia.
Most town village buses will be colorful, windowless and have wooden benches for you to sit on whilst they pump the Samoan pop tunes through the bus.
Buses can become over crowded and that’s when it starts to become a courtesy to offer your lap to other bus users.
Samoa is very big on seat belts unless you are in the front two seats, the rest well you can ride without. Car seats weren’t a big thing over in Samoa so our time in Samoa was spent with Niah on my knee. If you had a ute then you could fill your tray with people and this was acceptable.
|View from out the front of my uncles house in Lufilufi, Samoa
The weather in Samoa is really humidly hot. Days would be at their 30s but it was just thick humidity that would really get you. For the first few days we found it really hard to be in the country and just wanted to stay in our air conditioned hotel room but it does get a little easier being outdoors.
Samoa is a country that makes you want to be outdoors. You want to explore and take in your beautiful surroundings.
Where the appropriate footwear for thongs is everywhere – even work! What a life hey.
If it’s not thongs then it’s bare feet. Let’s just say a pedicure wouldn’t last long in Samoa.
In Samoa you won’t see anyone walking around with short shorts or skimpy clothing, neither at the beaches no women are wearing bikinis as this is not respectful wear.
Samoa traditional clothing will see most of the women in lava lavas (sarongs) and a t-shirt. Men will be in the same if not shirtless.
A place where the definition of hard workers come from. Most wash their own clothes by hand without washing machines and driers. They have few kitchen appliances like us and will make their own oven from hot coals and wood. You know when it’s meal times as the village will fill up with smoke clouds from the umus.
|Lady Samoa ferry from Savaii to Upolu
Samoa is split into two (2) islands – Upolu & Savai’i. Savai’i said to be the more beautiful island and I would definitely have to agree as they have stunning beaches. Although we didn’t get around to taking part in what savai’i have to offer attraction wise the brief couple of hours visit was nice.
Upolu is the main island with the airport being on this one. A short ride from the airport down to the port where you can catch the ferry across to Savai’i for 12 tala – adult, 6 tala – child and take your car over for 95 tala (one way).
To get around Upolu there is one road that goes around the whole island and you can tour the island within around 2.5 hours drive, which is what we did on the last Saturday before we left.
|Niah taking in the views on the ferry
Sunday is rest day. Where the town centres will be bare and everyone will be at loku (church). Shops will be shut and the town is basically a ghost town until you enter the villages where streets are filled with people in their nice Sunday clothes making their way by foot to church.
It is a day marked for slow travel if in vehicles and for all noise to be kept to a minimum.
There is different church sessions throughout the day, some even attending church twice – once in the morning and once at night.
Each village usually has their own church and you will see many of them as you drive through the villages. Going to church for the Samoan people is a routine habit where you will find nearly everyone goes to church.
As well as having their own church in the villages, they have their own village pool which comes at no cost to swim in.
Kids will keep occupied by free roaming on their families land or close by running around with their siblings, cousins or other village kids, swimming, playing sports like volleyball, rugby, cricket etc.
Saying goodbye is always the hard part. We became so close with family we never even known and met before and had a tearful goodbye. It was really sad to leave, we became so accustomed to the way of living in Samoa that it became normal and didn’t seem right that we were leaving.
The flight home with Niah was a pretty cruisy one as well that had us giving Niah milk most of the time and she would sleep through. Niah came back sick with the flu and a fever which is now finally making an exit from her. Upon getting back we went to the doctors who said Niah had a really bad ear infection with redness and fluid, which she then questioned me as to how Niah was on the flight as it would have been really painful. Niah barely showed any signs of an ear infection which shocked us both; such a little trooper she is.
I think with having young kids you need the stop over flights like we did so it wouldn’t be around an 8 hour direct flight. The lay over lengths were long but it gave Niah and us time to stretch our legs, have a proper meal and spread out a bit from the plane.
I wouldn’t recommend flying with Virgin Australia/Virgin Samoa as I think there planes are terrible for room in the seats. Air New Zealand was fantastic though which unfortunately we only had going from Melbourne to New Zealand.
Going to Samoa was one of the best things I could have done. We are missing the island so much now and are looking at flights to go back already. The way of life in Samoa is a good one, their is so much happiness even when they don’t have all this first world country problems like us.
Going to Samoa has made me understand my background culture more and understand the way my Dad would do things and why.
I’ll be posting the attractions we went too and the hotel in separate posts – keep an eye out.