Thanks to Projects Abroad and the Samoa Observer, for the past four weeks I’ve called Samoa home. And I think that even after I go back to Australia, I’ll still call Samoa home.
Because apparently I make a pretty convincing Samoan. Despite being a blonde palagi whose Samoan is pretty much limited to talofa, fa’afetai, and seki, whilst here I was able to convince a fellow journalist from New Zealand that I was in fact full Samoan, and my family ‘just had no idea why I was white’.
Personally I like to think that it all comes down to my thorough knowledge of the Samoan culture, and my ability to find my way around like a local, courtesy of many car trips with the Samoa Observer driver, (cheers Sone) rather than New Zealand’s inherent gullibility.
But living in Samoa has felt more like home than I ever thought it would.
Your country is beautiful. But you all already know that.
You have waterfalls that inspire awe and trenches that defy imagination. You have white sand beaches that shine under the warm Samoan sun, and blowholes that shoot water 20 metres into the air.
But that’s not why Samoa is beautiful.
You have a way of taking care of visitors that no other country can rival. You have a way of making people feel welcome and at home no matter where they’ve come from.
You have frangipanis that bloom in a vibrant array of colours, and more stars in your night sky than I’ve seen since I was young.
Wow!....Alofaaga Blowholes located in Taga, Savai’i
My time in Samoa was unlike anything I ever expected. I certainly never expected to meet a professional boxer, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be able to spell Lupesoliai in my sleep.
I also never expected to get so invested in the outcome of the Rumble in Paradise fight. I went full coconut. #teamparker.
I’ve jumped off cliffs into waterfalls, climbed down Mt. Vaea at night (not entirely on purpose), destroyed my hands making coconut cream, gotten lost, learnt to siva, eaten Koko Samoa ice cream at the Marina, talked to more professional boxers in one week than I have in my whole life, and have so far only seen seven Samoan land snails.
I’ve had my hair stroked by children on buses; on ferries; standing in the street and sitting at home. I’ve been asked if I have a Samoan boyfriend on an almost daily basis, and have been referred to directly as ‘Palagi’. I’ve eaten more pineapple and bananas than I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m not looking forward to the sour pineapple back home.
I’ve learnt that an Australian can beat a Samoan in a race longer than 400m but even in thongs, a Samoan will run 100m before you can blink.
I’ve learnt that time moves differently in Samoa, and that 8.00am really means 10.00am.
I’ve given myself whiplash on the speed bumps every 500m along your roads and have gotten completely used to the lack of seatbelts. Which is going to be a real issue when I’m back in Australia. As is the 40km/hr speed limit.
Having fun with a friend at our Savai’i home
But mostly in Samoa I’ve found myself a second home. I’ve been blessed with the most beautiful, talented second family I could have ever hoped for, and have met some of the most wonderful, hilarious people I think I’ll ever meet.
Leaving here will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do. But I’m not really saying good bye because I don’t think I could stay away from Samoa for too long.
For a tiny little island in the South Pacific, you definitely have Samoan sized hearts.
*Maddison Clarey is on her final year of studying Journalism at the University of Queensland. She spent four weeks with the Samoa Observer as a Projects Abroad volunteer.