A Samoan 'gondola' experience in Asaga
Luai Tavita nearly became a priest. He even spent seven years in Rome studying at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.
But his real dream was to become a tour guide in his home village of Asaga.
So when the village asked him to take over running their village river pool and beach fale operation he leapt at the opportunity.
Today the 35-year-old takes great pleasure in hosting visitors to the sparkling pool on the other side of the road from the sea, guiding them down a winding path in the mangrove forest and having them ride back on a canoe.
He said he loves meeting new people, and sharing culture with them.
“I love to learn not only the different languages but I love to learn attitudes, cultures, environments. All of us have different environments, how we cook, how we live.
“That is why I was so happy when my village told me to come and run this.”
When he lived in Rome from 2007 he was the only Samoan at the Basilica. So learning Italian, the language of all his classes, wasn’t an option. While there, he learned to speak Latin during his studies and Spanish from his Brazilian and Ecuadorian classmates.
“If you speak Italian it's very easy for you to learn Spanish,” he laughed.
Before the coronavirus struck, more Europeans were travelling the distance to Samoa than before.
National statistics reveal 3.8 per cent of arrivals to Samoa were from European countries in 2019, up from 3.2 per cent in 2017.
Last year when a group of 18 Italians stayed in Savaii, they were thrilled to learn their Samoan host could speak their language.
“All the youth of our village did a Samoan traditional song and dance performance for them and they were so excited,” Mr. Tavita said.
“It was their first time for them to be in Samoa and they saw the real Samoan life, how we live, how we cook, and how we dance.”
Even in English, Mr. Tavita speaks with a hint of an Italian accent, accentuating every sentence with a question mark.
Asked why Samoans from Upolu should travel to Savaii, he said Savaii is home to a more authentic way of life.
“It's different, no?
“Savaii is where you will find the real Samoan life. In Apia people live like tourists, like people from overseas. They buy their food ready made from the supermarket.”
The village of Asaga and the management of Amoa Resort have developed a partnership and today Amoa’s guests report their visits to Asaga are among the highlights of their trip.
Resort Manager Elisabeth Siaosi said it has been positive to grow the relationship and bring more money to the village, and visitors to experience Samoa’s own “gondola experience.”