Experiencing a different culture

Two long time family friends from Christchurch, New Zealand, are in Samoa to experience a different culture. 

The group of eight also came to Samoa to relax and escape the cold weather back at home.  

“Where we live, we are used to a lot more technology, here it is more basic,” John Gray said.

Rick Irvine and his family have been to Fiji, Bali, Thailand, New Caledonia and this is their first time in Samoa.

“We saw these other islands and thought we are going to give it a try,” he said.

The differences in the various destinations are significant for Rick.

“I find the people here a lot quieter, but I think there is good and bad for that as well. In Fiji for example, the people are loud and joyous people, whereas here, everyone keeps to themselves.”

“I think Fiji is got a wave in tourism and here I don’t think you can call that a wave yet, which is really good.” 

“You go to Rarotonga or Fiji, everything is commercialized and there are a lot of tourists. It is rustier here, which is quite nice. Here you have to go a little deeper to find where to go,” Rick said.

“There are a lot of secret spots, which you have to explore in a couple of days. That is actually quite nice, it is up to you to find them,” John added.

John and his wife Julie Gray have been to Fiji and Rarotonga.

“I think Samoa is still not as commercialized as the other islands,” Julie said.

“I can’t really see a big difference between the islands,” John added.

They have been going to the cave pools, different waterfalls and have passed by villages.

“We haven’t stopped at the villages; it is a little hard to get into.”

They also noted the difference in conversations. 

“It is kind of easy to reach the people, but I think in other islands they would make the first contact, here it is up to us to make the first contact.” 

“Everyone is really friendly and polite. We haven’t had any bad experiences,” Rick said.

The only issue John highlighted was people approaching him to sell him stuff.

“It is just uncomfortable to have that pressure on you and when you come for a holiday you don’t really want that.”

“Especially the pressure on the kids as well, that is not a good thing, when they just come for a holiday to enjoy,” John explained.

“The whole family caught a fish, which was great.” 

“The snorkeling was amazing,” Julie added.

“Probably the fishing, I would say,” Keegan Gray said.

Rick said in general, it has been a good, laid back holiday. 

“I loved the fishing. It is a good place to involve kids. We can all go snorkeling and fishing together. It is a good family destination.”

They are leaving on Saturday and thinking already of their return to Samoa.

“Now that we know how it is, we could plan a week,” Rick said

“What we do next time is instead of staying in one resort; we would go around seeing much more of the island. It is definitely a plan to come back. It was good to go with another family too.”

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College hosts Samoan language week

Samoa College will mark its inaugural Samoan language week in a bid to draw its students’ attention to the country’s cultural practices and customs. College Principal Karene Faasisila, Vice Principal and staff are behind the week-long program of activities that also include the ava ceremony and cultural formalities (folafola sua, folafola toana’i, folafolaga saumolia, sula toga). According to Taumaloto Kaisa, who is a teacher at Samoa College, the program involves the whole school and doesn’t just target the teaching staff. "The college’s principal, Karene Faasisila, vice-principal and staff have initiated a Samoan Week activity not only to end off another academic term but also to highlight the importance of Samoan practices to the students," he told Samoa Observer in an interview. "The program isn’t only for the teachers teaching Samoa or is limited to students who only take Samoa. It involves the whole school with the aim of emphasising Samoan cultural practices because we have seen that some students haven’t experienced most of our practices." The week-long program this week comprises five main categories of activities that will run until Thursday. Category 1 activities highlight the importance of Samoan literacy through speech competitions, impromptu speech competitions, spelling competitions and debates. Category 2 focuses on cultural formalities such as the ava ceremony and others (folafola sua, folafola toana’i, folafolaga saumolia, sula toga) and Category 3 is Samoan sports and games such as cricket, collecting coconuts and weaving baskets. Mr Kaisa said it is important students experience and participate in Samoan sports and games in order to find out more about their origins. "The importance of students experiencing these sports is because there are a few Samoan statements that derive from Samoan games which are incorporated in speeches and formalities,” he added. "It’s important that the students experience these sports so that they’ll know where these statements come from and what it practically means. "The fourth category is a demonstration of handcrafting, weaving and printing. Students are taught on how to weave various Samoan crafts (ma’ilo, polavai, polasisi)." Students would learn the art of weaving an ietoga (Samoan traditional fine mat) and instead of tapa-making, consequently Mr Kaisa said the college had found it difficult locating an expert in that area who could teach the students which is why the elei printing activity was added. All the four categories will be implemented Monday to Thursday before the staff and student body converge on the college hall on Friday where there will be traditional performances with classes competing against each other.

By Hyunsook Siutaia 30/09/2020
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