Having experienced Samoa for a month now, I am admiring more and more the integrity of the culture of Samoa.
While some parts of the culture have been adapted by Western influence, the longer I am here the less innate and more purpose built things seem to be.
For example, every residence in Samoa has an aluminium can and a stick. One third of the can is cut off the end, the taro is propped up against a stick, and the can is used to scrape the skin off outside. There is no fumbling in utensil drawers for pesky elusive peelers, instead they use a practical tool that they already have – why buy a specific tool when what you have works?
Coconuts are husked on a stick and cut open by a well-positioned blow with a stone or machete. Cooking is done outside on a fire – why buy an oven when man discovered fire thousands of years ago? Food is bought on a daily basis – why stock more than you need?
Fale’s are built without walls. Not because of lack of materials or laziness but because really, what’s the point of having walls? It’s hot; they certainly aren’t needed for warmth, they are dry under the roof and there are certainly no snakes or anything to worry about that their mosquito net won’t keep out. It seems so simple really.
The SWAP headquarters are set up in a Western style house with louvered windows – it must be pretty entertaining for the locals to see us scurrying around opening and closing them when we use the air conditioning. Then they must shake their heads in disbelief when they see us at night sitting out on the deck looking at the stars (the whole Milky Way is visible out here at the moment, and I have seen more shooting stars here in a month than what I have seen in my whole life!) Palagi really can be nit wits sometimes.
The Samoan way of living is simply suited to the environment. Not surprising, really.
Generations ago, the majority of Samoan’s lived up in the hills on plantations; it made sense. Their crops and plantations are up there, there is plenty of rainfall and the temperature is much cooler. Also, there they were safe from the dreaded ‘fire wave’ that they knew about. The surge of water that was so big, and would come inland so far that it would take out buildings, uproot trees and destroy everything in its path. Sensibly, people lived clear of the beaches.
Not so many generations ago, the Palagi arrived, beaming at the thought of living on the beach, asking the Samoan’s why they would possibly live in up at the plantations when they could live on the sand and wake up to the sea. Slowly but surely, people began to move down to the beach, following the Palagi ideals of ‘paradise.’
Then the fire wave came. The result as we all know, was a catastrophic loss of life.
There are many villagers now that have abandoned their homes and have moved back to the plantations. Vacant houses sit side by side what was once prime beach front property.
Perhaps the Palagi way doesn’t really make any sense at all.