Talofa Lava. Welcome to the country of my parents, my grandparents and my ancestors before them – Samoa. Samoa is the treasured islands of the South Pacific. I’m proud to boast of my cultural heritage which originates from this beautiful country, the paradise of Samoa.
I invite you to visit Samoa. Why?
Samoa is found in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. The people have big hearts and welcome you with open arms to experience their culture. Laughter is commonplace and life moves at a gentle pace. For the Samoan people, it’s the culture and nature which breathes life into the beautiful Islands.
Samoa has become a very popular destination to visit and it’s very understandable.
Samoa consists of ten islands, each offering very distinct and different environments to explore. Samoa is simply a postcard of beauty and wonder.
From the rainforest covered rugged volcanic mountain peaks of the two main islands to the vast valleys leading down to a coastline ringed with a necklace of white sandy beaches.
Within these lush green fertile valleys, grow banyan trees towering above the rainforest canopy which is full of tropical blooms and numerous varieties of vegetation.
Cascading waterfalls dropping into rivers that cut jagged lines through the valley floor as they make their way to the ocean.
The coastline is a wonder in itself, with sparkling white sand beaches, in some places stretching for miles, and here and there are walls of sheer cliffs that drop straight into the Pacific.
And beyond the beaches out into the blue lagoons are scattered the rest of the islands that make up the Samoa archipelago, some inhabited, others with only natures wildlife, protected by the fringing coral reef that keep the powerful force of the Pacific Ocean at bay.
And amongst all this natural beauty and picturesque valleys and coastline you will find nu’u or villages with their churches, meeting houses and open fale or homes encircling the malae or village green.
For it’s the people, culture and nature that give life to these islands.
Samoa is home to people proud of their strong Fa’a Samoa – cultural heritage, that live along side these natural wonders. Samoa is a traditional society governed by Fa’a Samoa (Samoan Way) – Where family is all important, respect of ones elders is strictly adhered to and being of service to your family is duty. The Polynesia culture here is about 3000 years old.
The people are friendly and will welcome you with open arms to experience their culture.
Laughter is common place and life moves at a gentle pace.
English Poet Rupert Brooke wrote on a trip to Samoa in the 1800’s “You lie on a mat in a cool Samoan hut, and look out on the white sand under the high palms and gentle sea, and the black line of the reef a mile out and moonlight over everything. And then among it all are the loveliest people in the World, moving and dancing like God’s and Godesses. It is sheer beauty, so pure it is difficult to breathe it in.”
The Samoan siva, performed by a young maiden is the most graceful dance you will ever see.
The movements are graceful and angelic as the dancer tells a story with her hands, while as if weightless, she glides across the floor.
From the graceful movements of the siva, to the fast actions of the fa’ataupati or slap dance performed by the men, Samoans love to perform and for the visiting tourist taking in a Fiafia night, or cultural show is a must.
One dance the siva afi, or fire knife dance is performed by young boys or men and is the highlight of every show as they twirl a large knife, with burning flames at both ends around their necks, through their legs, under their arms, and over their bodies, to the rhythmic beat of the wooden drum.
Samoan dance today is a mixture of the old and the new, and they are very distinctive in their style and movements from their Polynesian cousins around the Pacific
In Samoan culture food is a social event that brings together family and friends. Samoan people tend to go to a lot of trouble to cook up big servings of the most delicious Samoan delicacies mixed in with Chinese and Western influence dishes.
Delicacies on the Samoan menu include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka, (raw fish in coconut cream), both are must try dishes when you’re visiting Samoa.
In Samoa, young men can be seen sometimes paddling their canoes out in the lagoon to catch fish, while others have gone into the plantations to cultivate and harvest what is needed for the daily meals.
The bounty of the ocean provides crayfish, snapper, masimasi, octopus, tuna and more, caught that morning and served that evening.
The plantations of bananas, taro, tropical fruits and vegetables picked that day add to the freshness of the meals.
The freshness organic nature of the foods make you wonder why food like this doesn’t taste the same as at home.
With this abundance of food, selection becomes the hardest decision to make. Breakfast could be on the beach dining on papaya, picked from the tree nearby or fresh bananas from the bunch dangling from the banana tree – how fresh is that!
If you’re out in the villages dining with a family, you won’t see the microwave and stoves, for out the back is a cooking fale where the umu (earth oven of hot stones) is laid three times a day to cook the meals.
No oils used here, fishing is wrapped in banana leaves with freshly made coconut cream poured over, pork and chickens are cooked whole and tucked in the gaps are taro and green bananas ready for baking and octopus in coconut cream placed in half coconut shells.
Then once the stones are red hot and the food placed on them, banana leaves are placed all over the food to seal in the heat and two hours later the umu is lifted, the piping hot food is served, no artificial flavours and additives used here.
This is the beginning of a series of articles on Samoa. This article was an introduction to the beautiful island country. The next series will look at the general history of Samoa, the language of the people and things to do in the treasured islands of the South Pacific.