Twenty one years later, Samoa has changed a lot

Sitting with her book by the poolside at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel yesterday was Karen Stevenson.

Dear Tourist learned that the 61-year-old is the President of the Pacific Arts Association (P.A.A.) and she was in the country for the Pacific Arts Association Conference that concluded at the National University of Samoa last week. 

This is Karen’s second visit to Samoa. She was here 21 years ago also for the P.A.A. conference. 

Unfortunately, this time around, Karen hasn’t done a lot of sightseeing compared to her first visit, despite being here for 11 nights. 

“I haven’t really done any sightseeing, I mean because it’s rainy season and when I take time off, it was raining, so I just went a little to Beach Road, heading that direction and pass where the cave pools are, so that’s about all I’ve done,” she said. 

“I have been here before, so I didn’t really feel the need to do some sightseeing.”

In her opinion, the Samoa 21 years ago has changed considerably. 

“Comparing the last time and now, the development of Samoa has been huge. Apia is now a town, a city I must say,” Karen said. 

“When I came the last time, it was also for the Pacific Arts meeting and it was held at the Government Building, so there was this huge green grass area and now it’s not.

“I have no idea if the changes are good or bad. But everyone has always wanted to develop. I think if Samoa has to come into this 21st Century, it has to develop; it needs to have a town.”

Karen knows that the wave of change, in terms of development, is inevitable and in order to prosper as a nation, people need to accept change and advance more. 

Karen is Tahitian but she lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Her passion for Pacific arts and culture started at a very young age and it had to do with the environment she was exposed to during her childhood days. 

“I’m Tahitian, I grew up in Los Angeles but I grew up with Tahitian things around me all the time and I didn’t take them for granted, I went to school and I said oh, this is art. 

“I think it’s the idea of living in that culture, I don’t know why, but I have really been passionate about art, especially Pacific Arts. So I have taught Pacific arts for 30 years.”

Being a Pacific arts teacher, she is well aware of Pacific arts and culture. 

“My profession is to study the arts and culture of the Pacific, I am aware of the culture that exists here honestly, for over a week, I woke up, I had breakfast here, I went to the university, I was at the conference all day long, I came back I had dinner, I went to bed.

“So really I haven’t really done any sightseeing. Our conference dinner was more traditional food, so that’s the only traditional food I have had here.

“I have been to other Pacific Islands. I have lived in Tahiti and Fiji, I’ve been to the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and I have also lived Hawaii.”

Karen also acknowledged the success of the P.A.A. conference. 

“I think the Pacific Arts conference was really successful. The last conference we had two years ago in Tonga there was only 50 people attending and about 120 people at least attended this conference. 

“There were 11 white academics from overseas, whereas there were more than 50 Samoan participants, Tonga participants, Maori participants, Pacific islanders, by far 80 percent of the participants were Pacific Islanders, so to me that is successful.” 

Karen says the staff members at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel have also been really helpful and friendly. 

With the festive season just around the corner, she looks forward to spending Christmas with her daughter for the first time in four years. 

Other than that, returning to her homeland is all about relaxing and enjoying the summer. 

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