Last month, Alan (another Peace Corps Volunteer) and I used up our vacation days traveling in Western Samoa. It was the tropical vacation I think everyone believes I have been living for the past 2 years. We met up with several Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Samoa and having our own Peace Corps experience behind us; it was impossible and a bit undesirable to completely tune out underlying issues and challenges faced by the local people, but much easier than in Fiji. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful or uninterested way; however, sometimes it is essential to take a mental break. This is nearly impossible for us to do in Fiji, even when temporarily enjoying the beautiful beach, due to our deep knowledge of underlying issues that exist here. In addition, given the size of Fiji, we know just about everyone!
So, in Samoa, we were able to let our guard down, relax, and I was even able to wear a bikini for the first time in 2 years! It was such a great feeling to be anonymous. We were able to walk down the street and see absolutely nobody we knew. It was such a freeing and liberating feeling. That being said, for 2 weeks, we were able to completely relax in an island paradise.
Our trip involved visiting both Upolu and Savaii Islands and lots of time on the beach. Samoa ‘s tourism is much less developed than Fiji’s, so it was easy and affordable for us to access and enjoy the nicest beaches the country has to offer. We slept in beach fales, which are traditional huts right on the beach. They are round structures without sides and stand about 3 feet above the ground. During high tide, when leaving your fale, your feet might get wet from the crashing waves. It was a simple lifestyle taking cold showers, sleeping on mats under a mosquito net. At night, we fell asleep to the noise of the ocean. And during the day, we spent our time lying on the beach, eating, reading, swimming, and snorkeling. Samoa has the clearest most beautiful water I have EVER seen. I still dream of the aqua blue color. It was absolutely spectacular!
We found it interesting to compare the Melanesian culture in Fiji to that of the Polynesian culture in Samoa. We noticed in Samoa, they seem to be less shy than in Fiji. They are willing to put themselves out there in conversation and in dance moves at the night club! Their traditional dance, Fiafia dance, involved fire dancing and appeared to be much more colorful than the Fijian meke. However, we felt girls were sexualized in these dances at much too young of an age!
I visited the Peace Corps doctor in their office to have my boil looked at. I was given more antibiotics, specific instructions for keeping it clean and more bandaging materials. I am thankful for their help and advice, and now 8 weeks later, it is completely healed.
This trip made me long to explore more of the South Pacific. It is such a unique and beautiful place with deep and interesting culture.
Disclaimer: We were not oblivious to challenges faced by Samoans which, when comparing with Peace Corps Volunteers serving there, we discovered the presence of similar issues such as non-communicable diseases, gender equality, domestic violence, STIs, and teenage pregnancy.