Samoa in 4 words: God, Family, Food, and Rugby
Day 3,256 since October 10th 2013: 198 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
I love it when a plan comes together
What a time I have had in Samoa! So many kind people, so much beauty and soooo much love and support. It is in times like these I feel I’m being carried up and forward. And perhaps I was even meant to be doing this. We are seeing progress once again.
Last week’s entry: This Danish Pālagi has been exploring Samoa
I don’t think anyone in Samoa would take offence by the title of this entry. Afterall, Samoa has more churches per capita than what I can remember seeing for a very long time. And these houses of worship are highly active with churchgoers showing up regularly. Family is paramount in Samoa. Big families and close connections. That should be clear to anyone who knows just the slightest anything of Samoa. Having ten siblings is common. Food?! Oh boy, portions are generally large, there’s lots of variety and it is soooo good! No wonder you see some big boned people trotting around in Samoa. It is quite the temptation to eat, and eat, and eat! And in my experience the kindness of Samoans will never let you go wanting for more. Rugby! Yes, they are passionate about it in the same way sports fanatics go bonkers about sport just about anywhere else. And they are good! Samoa’s standard 15-man game and the rugby sevens are consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous countries.
Coastal Walk Lava Fields, south side of Upolu.
Tour Samoa invited me to see some more of Upolu, which is Samoa’s main island (but not the largest). I was picked up and brought for brunch at Forest Café which is a really nice place almost in the center of Upolu when you follow Cross Island Rd. We then checked out the Baha’i House of Worship, a faith I have previously come across in Uganda. In Samoa as well as in Uganda, the Baha’i complex is a lovely and very well-kept place to visit. I had a chance to pronounce Papapapaitai Falls as we made a stop at the sign. The falls themselves were visible across a canyon. A hike along an adventurous trail on the southern coast was a true highlight. “The Coastal Walk Lava Fields” is very much what it sounds like. Lava ran from a volcano to the ocean. The rock formations and the ocean crashing against the coast is well worth a visit! And then a stop at the highly picturesque To-Sua Ocean Trench. When I climbed down the ladder, I met two Kiwis who convinced me that the water was so perfect that I couldn’t lose the opportunity. So, I headed back up the ladder, across to the parking lot, changed into my shorts, made my way back, and yes…the Kiwi’s were right: it was well worthwhile.
To-Sua Ocean Trench
From within To-Sua Ocean Trench
Coastal Walk Lava Fields. Can you see me? :)
The Honorable Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo (who’s been hosting me) took me to the fish market last Sunday. He’s a great hardworking guy with a good sense of humor. We left home at 05:00am and arrived at the market less than ten minutes later. The market was already busy but rather calm. No shouting. Just a really nice and calm atmosphere as life went by. Lots of people having calm conversations with each other and fish vendors trying to keep flies away from the fresh catch lying before them. Squid, eel, crab, lobster, and fish of all sorts of colors and sizes. There was a lot to look at. And the prices were surprisingly low. I would be eating delicious fresh fish all the time if I lived near the market. Fish where I come from live in cold water and are not very colorful. Usually dark in colors or silvery. At this market some of the fish looked like what you’d find in a tropical aquarium. Bright and beautiful colors. Wayne bought some fish, shopped for some taro, banana, breadfruit etc. Wayne and his wife Ramouner actually run a plantation and are self sufficient with all of those products (except the fish). But Wayne likes to support the local community.
Apia Fish Market.
A calm and pleasant atmosphere at Apia Fish Market.
The Ekalesia Fa'apotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (Congregational Christian Church Samoa).
I enjoyed joining my host family in church later that same Sunday. I have been open to visiting any house of worship since I left Denmark in 2013. It gives me an insight into our world and the people we share it with. I was able to spot some differences between this church and how it’s done back home. First of all, everyone dressed up for the occasion and preferably in white. Really nice clothing and the women wore hats. Lovely. In Denmark you pretty much just go to church in your everyday clothes. I also noticed that women were seated to the left and men to the right. In Denmark you can sit wherever you want and men and women are mixed. Another difference was the singing. In Denmark I find the singing is often not very joyous and most people (like me) mumble and often do not know the melody or the lyrics. In this church it sounded like EVERYONE knew the lyrics and melody. And there was no mumbling. Beautiful powerful singing. The entire service was in Samoan so I didn’t pick up on much of what was said. But it was a nice experience regardless.
I got a few "not votes" which mainly were due to my choice of footwear. Beach flip flops are the way to go. Ramouner went shopping with me and bought me the Talofa-shirt and lavalava.
On Sundays after church Samoans sit down to enjoy to’onai which is a traditional Sunday lunch. Food was once again plentiful and delicious. An enormous variety was laid out on the table and then we dug in :)
To’onai! So much food!! :)
It all sounds really nice – doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. Samoa is such a lovely country which has a lot to offer visitors. Good food, scenic sights, kind people, it is a safe country, great snorkeling and diving, and you’ll be able to find both modern life in the city and rural life everywhere else. Gardens are generally kept meticulously! Seriously, it is astonishing to see how well kept the gardens are. There are many countries I would like to return to and Samoa is definitely yet another one. I’m sure ultra-wifey would love it.
My friend Anita (in Hong Kong) encouraged me to get a massage and transferred the money. Thank you :)
While this sounds like a writeup of paradise it has been a mentally draining week as the logistics and bureaucracy of moving forward within the Pacific Ocean is tough (to say the least). I was thankfully able to once more count on the support of Swire shipping as management granted me permission to join their ship to Tonga. Swire Shipping truly connects the Pacific and I have felt a lot of love and support from the company ever since I met with them in Singapore. That took care of the logistics. However, I cannot join a ship if I do not have my paperwork (bureaucracy) in order or if I test positive for COVID-19.
Maria (right) and Cassidy (next to me) invited me for dinner at Taumeasina Island Resort. They are teachers at Robert Louis Stevenson Secondary School. Ben (left) tagged along and the four of us had a great evening :)
As many would be aware of, the Kingdom of Tonga was struck by a volcanic explosion earlier this year followed by a tsunami. In other words: they have had plenty on their mind this year. To request entry into Tonga at a time when their borders are shut needs to be argued well for. Reality is that I can only do so much on my own. Fortunately, I have had overwhelming support from the Government of Samoa! Last Friday the Honorable Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo arranged for a meeting between Mrs. Peseta Noumea Simi, CEO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and little me! Yup, I sat there with my bushy beard and my tired eyes while she kindly listened and took notes. The ministry is one of several which fall under the Honorable Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo. The intention was for the Government of Samoa to formally use its diplomatic channels to contact the Government of Tonga. Think about that for a moment!? A country, which I’m not a citizen or resident of, reaches out to another country on my behalf, and asks for permission for me to visit!
As you may imagine, a lot of people got involved. And weekends aren’t the best time to get bilateral bureaucracy solved. Swire’s good ship was due to arrive Tuesday this week and depart Wednesday. As it turned out we needed an extra day and fortunately for me, the good ship Papuan Chief arrived Wednesday and left Thursday. It was a long and nerve-racking process. A great deal of long emails went back and forth between last Friday and yesterday morning. A great deal of prominent people including ministers, doctors, CEOs etc. were dragged back and forth in the email correspondences. Then Tuesday evening at 7:09pm an email arrived from the Hon. Hu’akavameiliku, Prime Minister of Tonga, confirming that I would be welcome in Tonga. WOW! This was made even more impressive as I was informed that a State of Emergency that was made on August 1st 2022, to be applied over all the land and sea areas of Tonga, had been renewed and remained in effect from August 29th 2022 to September 26th 2022! Now it was a waiting game. Tonga’s Prime Minister had informed that “Health” would contact me to finalize details. Could I hope for the Tongans to get it ready in time for me to join Papuan Chief? Then Wednesday evening at 10:07pm an email ticked in from Mr. Siale Akauole, CEO for Health in Tonga. Mr. Siale Akauole informed that Tonga’s Chief Medical officer of Public Health, Dr Reynold Ofanoa, had provided advice on this particular case on behalf of the Ministry of Health to the Director of Marine and Port, Mr. Kelela Tonga. And that there would be no health issue preventing me from coming to Tonga based on my vaccination status and recently negative result on a PCR test. WOW!
One of Cassidy's students from Robert Louis Stevenson Secondary School wanted me to have this as a farewell gift. It came with an amazing handwritten letter. The little Jesus Christ image was a gift from Maria.
At 11:30pm Wednesday, I received an email from Mr. Leonaitasi Kuluni of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. It contained a diplomatic note (official authorization) for me to enter the Kingdom of Tonga as a passenger arriving onboard Swire Shipping’s good ship Papuan Chief voyage no. 2215N. For several days I had no idea if I would be able to join the good ship or if I would have been left behind. So much needed to fall in place. If the paperwork had not arrived on time, then my backup plan was to cross the border to American Samoa for a few days and hope to catch Swire’s good ship Highland Chief ten days later. It was back in 1999 I learned always to have a plan B, C and even D. But that’s a different story for another time. For now, all I wish to do is convey my absolute gratitude for all the incredible support offered to me and Once Upon A Saga. It blows my mind that we do not only have the extraordinary support of large international shipping companies, but also by high-ranking ministers and governments!? It is hard to believe that I once as a schoolboy, stood in the middle of a creek, being bullied by older boys who were throwing rocks at me from both sides. And now I have personally witnessed generous support from the highest levels of nations. It was my friend Zach who introduced me to the Honorable Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo. And it was the Honorable Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo who saw to all of this. A true man of action!
My Samoan family. Or at least a part of it. I'm flanked by Wayne (the legend) and his lovely wife Ramouner. Wonderful caring people. To the left you have Florence next to Lanessa (in green). And Rhonda is to the far right. Rocky took the photo. All people I saw on a daily basis. Such kindness and generosity. My Samoan family for 18 days. Fa'afetai :)
As such I joined the good ship Papuan Chief on time. I will miss Samoa. It is a special country by so many different shades and colors. But first and foremost, from the hearts of its people. Perhaps it is the fa’a Samoa – the Samoan Way. Fa’afetai :)
I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - In love with yet another country.
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Once Upon A Saga