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Volunteer becomes tour guide for visiting friends

Here in Samoa, volunteers don’t just bring skills, experience and a new perspective to their assignment.

Some also bring tourists, and in Haylene Goh’s case, she brought five.

Ms. Goh is a volunteer Audiologist working at Senese under the Australian Volunteers International programme, from Perth, Australia. 

Five of her friends from across Australia travelled to Samoa to visit her and see the beautiful country she has been working in for the past 10 months.

In just one week, they squeezed in all the tourist hot spots in town, trips to the South Coast beaches, and even a shopping trip to Frankie’s for fabric, to have matching outfits made in the iconic Samoan fashion by Marilyn Exquisite tailors in Vaiala.

They also pursued their own interests - Joe Ralley, who is a community radio host and doctor in Melbourne, took time to visit the studio at Island Base FM to check out the station here.

“We heard the music coming through, and we’ve been tuning into Samoan music the entire trip on the radio, and it’s been nice to have that on,” he said.

And lawyer Shakti Nambiar, who is a judge’s associate in Melbourne, spent a morning at the Courthouse in Mulinuu, and even watched a trial.

“It was cool that the Supreme Court and the District Court are in the same building,” Ms Nambiar said.

“I spoke to the registrar, who was lovely, and told me about how lawyers in Samoa primarily study in Vanuatu, and how community justice works.

“I was interested to hear that it doesn’t seem to take the place of formal justice in the courts because everyone needs to come to the courthouse over their titles,” she shared. She was also interested in watching the proceedings happen in English, despite being in Samoa. 

Though he intended to visit as a tourist, Darwin-based doctor Nicholas Goulding spent an afternoon at Moto’otua Hospital, tending to a potentially broken foot after falling from a "slack-line". 

“I didn’t completely know what to expect,” he said.

“There wasn’t much of a wait, and maybe we were lucky but it seems to be more efficient than where I work. I quickly saw a nurse, got triaged, x-rayed and that was all done by the time I saw a doctor.”

Slack-lining is walking along a suspended strap like a tightrope which is closer to the ground. Mr Goulding brought his strap from Darwin and had tied it between two coconut trees on the beach, when he unfortunately fell off. 

The group have also experienced a variety of Samoan food. But Mr Ralley said he regrets not trying turkey tails.

“That’s one thing I would like to try next time, it seems to have really taken the island by storm,” he said.

Oka and poke were two favourites, and Melbourne lawyer Richard Hughes said taro was his favourite.

“I know it’s not very popular with tourists, but I really like it. It’s all about how you use it, it’s a great side dish,” he said. He especially enjoyed it with palusami.

Eric Höfgen, chemical engineer from Melbourne, said his favourite food was from Manusina Beach Fales. 

The group also visited the Samoa Tourism Authority’s Cultural Show on the waterfront, and had a mixed experience there.

Mr Ralley said the emphasis on family values is something western families may have lost sight of compared to Samoa.

“But we make up for it with strong friendships, which is kind of nice. Coming here as friends has been nice from that familial point of view. 

“It did remind me that we don’t spend enough time with our families.”

Their host and tour guide, Ms. Goh, said it was been really nice to show her friends the place she calls home today.

“It’s been really cool, and nice to be proud of where you are living. I have definitely felt that this week.”

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