I’ve officially been in AmSam for 1 week (it feels like much longer) and figured it was time to share the 10 things I love most about being here. Things could very well change over the course of the year as I learn and experience more so I’ll hopefully be updating my top 10 list in a new post at the end of the year. They aren’t in any particular order because it’s just too hard to rank them…
1. The scenery – Everywhere you look you see mountains and/or ocean in the most vivid colors I’ve seen anywhere. AmSam gets almost 150 inches of rain every year, but even on the rainy days the island’s natural beauty is breath taking.
2. The people – The Samoan people are amazing and so friendly. A few of us stopped by a bush store (similar to a poorly equipped gas station mart in the states) for some food the other night. When the cashier found out we were the new WorldTeach volunteers she went and got her camera and another employee and took a photo with us. They Samoans love their palagi visitors and we love them back. The 9 palagis I’m sharing this journey with are great as well :) They are a wonderful group of people with a wide range of backgrounds, but we all get along so well. I’m excited to get to spend a year adventuring in the South Pacific with them!
3. Fa’asamoa – Samoans have their own unique way of life called fa’asamoa. Samoan culture is very traditional, relaxed, and family oriented. People will go out of their way to help you and appreciate even the small things. They live simple lives but are some of the happiest people I’ve seen. You can’t eat or drink while standing because Samoan culture values the food they have and believe you should take your time to enjoy it. As great as the culture is sometimes we simply just can’t explain what’s going on around us. It’s these moments where we say TIS – This is Samoa. The phrase was coined by volunteers a few years ago and is still floating around the program :)
4. The food – Everyone knows I am picky. Very picky. But I told myself before I left that if I was spending a year in a new country learning a new way of life I needed to get over it. I’d say I’m doing a decent job and all the new things I’ve been eating are great! Taro is strange and starchy, oka is raw and pale, palusami is a strange shade of green, pisupo looks pre-chewed but it is all SO GOOD! The stores carry a local brand of Samoan made banana chips! They are my new addiction. A bag big enough to snack on for 2-3 days is only $1.50! Alex and I found a place called Samu’s during our scavenger hunt in Pago Pago on Tuesday. They hand make all of their ice-cream, and it’s good and cheap! Only $1.75 for a big scoop with chocolate sauce. And they had mint chocolate chip which is my absolute favorite!!
5. The bus system – The aigi buses are so fun to ride. It’s $1 per ride and the drivers own their buses so each bus is painted in a unique way. They are always blaring an eclectic mix of 90’s music and Samoan jams with the bass turned up to the point of vibrating your organs while you ride. I wish the buses at home were this much fun.
6. The size – I love that the island is so small. Yes, this little rock in the middle of the ocean lacks the amenities we are used to having in the United States but I really don’t miss them all that much. I’ve only been here a week and it has already made me appreciate everything we have at home. It’s great having an entire island of adventure in your back yard and the sense of family on the island is amazing.
7. The stars – If I go outside on any given night and look up to the sky I see more stars than I ever knew existed. A group of us went out the other night and on the way home we suddenly realized that it was the perfect night for star gazing. We were checking the sky out in front of a bush store before moving down by the shore in the park to get further away from the lights. We saw several shooting stars and spent a good 45 minutes taking in the view and enjoying each other’s company. We had a sessions today from a man who works in the testing office at the DoE. He said he drove by last night and wondered why the crazy palagi WTers were staring at the sky. It reminded him how lucky he is to have the amazing view of the sky he does.
8. The clothing – Samoans dress very conservatively. Women should have their shoulders and knees covered and would never wear a swimsuit to the beach. Shorts and t-shirts are the norm for swimming. They also wear some awesome island attire. Puletasis are the top and bottom that I talked about in my previous post and are worn for formal occasions like teaching and church. Lava lavas are basically a large piece of fabric that you wrap around your waist and tie with a cool twist that I have now mastered. It’s best to always wear leggings or shorts underneath because of the island breeze :) They are so comfortable and come in so many prints. I have 2 so far and will definitely be getting more! Flip flops are called slippers here and are worn for even formal occasions. I’m hoping I can get Chicagoans to adopt the Samoan way of dress when I return…
9. The weather – It is always 85 degrees and at least once a day a quick rain shower rolls through and breaks the humidity. The sun is usually shining and the ocean breeze completes the tropical paradise feel.
10. The language – Samoan is an interesting language and totally unlike the romance languages we learned in school. There alphabet is smaller, the letters make different sounds, they have something called a glottal stop, and they love vowels! For example, ‘Ae a ‘oe? means What about you?. Any time you see a ‘g’ it makes a sound similar to ‘ng’ but is very nasally. It’s by far the hardest sound to make of them all. One of my favorite things to say is Malo le soifua, which means I commend you for living – a greeting used here. Only in Samoa would they commend people for living!
Life here is crazy and beautiful and totally unlike anything else I have experienced. I’ve had many moments where I stop to take it all in and realize that I LIVE HERE and I couldn’t have picked a better place to call my second home.