Tag Archives: Samoa

The First Post…and it’s about food.

19 Nov

Eating fried fish under a gorgeous rainbow

Oy, it’s been almost two months since I’ve been in Samoa and I’ve been promising for one that I’d put up a blog “tomorrow.” Apologies. What can I say for myself after two months? I’m very tan, slightly mutilated by mosquitoes and coral, and still learning what it means to be Samoan. I’ve also had a string of crazy, random experiences, which I would’ve never predicted. I wrote to my friend Anh about one weekend in Samoa and she remarked that it was an ulimate Agnes-like sentence. Judge for yourself: “I’ve been hanging out with Mormons, met Miss Samoa, got on Samoan tv as part of the audience for Samoa’s first variety-show, hiked off the beaten-path on the side of a waterfall with a one-eyed local with a machete and a gun leading the way, swam in the warm Pacific, and lost a lot of stuff, of course.” And that’s only half of it. I’ll try my bestest to write as close to real-time as possible.

But please don’t think life in Samoa is always high-octane. It’s a slow, relaxed beach-life, which is inducing madness for someone as restless as me. I’m never the one to sit on the beach and read, but as I drive by roads on Samoa, anytime of the day, all I see are people sitting in fales, just sitting and hanging out. People are very okay with sitting and waiting. It could be the national pastime. Almost all shops close at 2 p.m. on Saturday and all day Sunday, so your weekend could be shortened to just a few hours on Saturday. Very few restaurants exist in Samoa and they are only in the capital, but the restaurants are closed on Sunday. Funday Sunday is also Snoreday Sunday in Samoa. It’s a big feast after Church and then naps all day long.

The excitement begins rather early on Sunday, around 6:30 a.m., when the boys begin preparations for the to’onai, or Sunday Feast. It’s a giant spread of taro, breadfruit, chicken, mutton flaps, fish, and a series of coconut-based dishes that are all baked in an earth oven, an umu. Everything is made from scratch, which is why the whole process can take up to 3 or 4 hours. The boys build the oven by lighting rocks, they scrape and strain the coconut for cream, they climb trees to gather breadfruit, and they weave baskets to carry the food in. When they’re finished cooking, the boys drink a few bottles of vodka, beer, whiskey (on an empty stomach!) and nap. Then they wake up around 2 p.m., eat, and take another nap.

Here’s a video of the to’onai at my landlord’s house:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCoISh700pE

And other random photos:

 

Mr. Samoa 2009 being seduced by a fa'fafine (tranvestite)

Hiking through a trecherous slope

 

A note and a warning

9 Oct

I was deeply divided about starting a blog about my experiences in Samoa and my time at a microfinance institution there. First, there are many excellent Peace Corps blogs about Samoa, which I’d highly recommend. Secondly, as I’m cynical and a whiner, I am terribly afraid that I’d only bitch and say negative things. But in the end, I am blogging, because I have great hopes for this blog. (And this is easier than individually responding to all the email requests for updates. No, I kid. Please Pleease don’t stop emailing me. And if you aren’t, start. You don’t know how I much crave for snippets of familiarity, especially after operating the whole day in a foreign language. I may not always have time to reply back, but I do read).

I hope that this blog shares interesting facts and knowledge about Samoa, a place that some people think is in Africa. (For the record, go to Google Maps. Type in Samoa. Keep hitting the zoom out button—don’t give up. It’s the speck next to New Zealand.) I hope that it offers an honest, more complete perspective on microfinance. Most importantly, I hope that this blog facilitates discussion. I exited the banking sector a few months ago to explore the vague but promising world of international development. It is as complicated and puzzling as reputed. There is no single answer, no single silver bullet to eradicate poverty. There are many things wrong and right within microfinance. (Alas, it’s my cynicism that automatically placed the “wrong” before the “right.”) I’m still formulating my opinions, trying to wrap my head about this exciting, frustrating idea of “putting poverty in a museum”, and I apologize in advance if my speculations and conjectures are just that. Please correct me, argue with me, or you can even agree with me.