My first day in Samoa was incredibly difficult mentally, physically and emotionally. Samoa is a lot more third world than I anticipated and for the first time in my life I feel like a minority (everyone stares and calls white people Palagni’s). The females in my group are constantly getting honked at and one of the girls was actually licked by a man who was trying to sell her lavalavas out of a plastic bad. (luckily know big Samoan girls have tried to sit on my face yet). I was having all sorts of doubts about calling this new place my home as Honolulu did nothing to prepare me for this transition. Contrasting the heavily Americanized island of Hawaii where our orientation took place, Samoa is a much different place. Trash is littered everywhere, skinny desperate dogs roam the streets and despite my previous fantasy of beautiful sandy beaches, nobody swims in the ocean (the local beaches in Apia are fairly polluted and Samoans believe that the ocean is a giver of life and not a play ground). I’m living in a rather narrow room with water warped tile floors, a desk accompanied with a plastic chair and a foam mattress on top of a wood bed frame. My two walls consist of full length windows with open jealousy’s (glass panes that twist open much like blinds) and 4 sheets to block out the heat. Despite this airflow, I still will wake up in the middle of the night in a hot sweat (the humidity is like nothing I’ve ever felt). I went to bed that night to the sound of stray cats tearing each other apart, and an overwhelming dose of homesickness.
Luckily, Sunday the Samoan day of rest, was exactly what I needed to adapt to this brand new environment. We woke up at 8:30am to attend Catholic Mass where the people were welcoming and excited to have us there. Samoan Catholic church is much like any other Catholic church I’ve been as it is structured very much the same just in a different language. After service our Academic Advisor took her to her house where we had a traditional Sunday fest. We all sat crosslegged in a Fale (traditional samoan hut with a grass hut, and wood supports), as Jackie’s family members brought us plate after plate of food. We had Taro and coconut cream roasted under banana leaves, a brown octopus dip, raw tuna in a white sauce, noodles with pork and bread fruit. And once we couldn’t eat any longer (nobody finished their enormous portions) they brought out dessert; custard pie, mango ice cream of coco Samoa (easily the most rich and delicious hot chocolate I’ve ever had). Later that night me and a handful of girls on my program became friends with this extraverted Fijian student named Melanie. She invited us to drink Kava (a ground up plant mixed with water that gives a mellow intoxication effect) at a friend’s house later that night. After a ten minute cab ride to god knows where, we sat cross legged in an empty living room with five Tongan men who ended up being our peers at University of the South Pacific. For the next three hours, the combination of incense, Kava, and beautiful music produced a unique feeling that I still have trouble putting words to.