Samoa 1984

I was in Western Samoa in May 1984. At the time, I was the Coordinator of Course Development for the University of the South Pacific, based in Suva, Fiji. It was seen by the Director as a good thing that I should travel to some of the other countries served by USP, so I arranged a trip to Samoa, Tonga and Niue.

These photos were actually taken as I was taking off to leave Samoa, but they're as good an introduction as any. The shadow of the plane can be at the bottom. Not a very big plane to be flying in across a helluva lot of ocean to another dot of an island.
This was SPIA: South Pacific Island Airways. From the Wikipedia page, and the shadow, it looks as tho I was on a DCH-6 Twin Otter. At one point, in one of these flights, the pilot drew back the curtain and told his half-dozen passengers that there were sandwiches in the Esky under the seat, and we shd help ourselves. So much for the trolly dollies on that route.

I'm just guessing these coconuts are being farmed for copra because of their density and regularity. This will look very ordinary to you. I was just fascinated at the time by the sight of a tropical landscape from the air.

Almost all of the photos I took in Samoa were during the drive to the airport. I've never liked taking photos of individuals or their private environments, but I really wanted to have some record of the Samoan lifestyle, so I desperately took some at the last moment - and one can gain some idea of it just from passing snaps, which are not particularly invasive.

So that was one village, and this may be another. It seems that there is plenty of space, and that the houses are arranged in a line or a curve.

A Samoan house is called a fale. You can see everything in them, including the double bed ...

... because they have no walls, just mats that can be let down for privacy or if the weather is bad. Some have thatched rooves, some iron. I spose I shd say 'had' from now on, given how long ago I took these photos.

It looks as tho these ppl had a separate dining-room ... not to mention an outdoor toilet. Both roofing materials are visible.

This area (village?) looked a bit rundown in 1984. It's prolly quite different now.

One of the un-missable aspects of Samoan villages (or whatever is the right word) is the church building. Missionaries (proselytisers) have been extremely successful in the South Pacific.

So that was one church, and perhaps half a mile away, this is another.

You have to wonder if people are not competing with each other.

This church is a bit different. It's in town. I can't remember if it's the JWs or the SDAs. The sign says it, but we were moving, so it's not legible. That's some guy blowing a trumpet up the top there, which will give it away to those of you who know about these things. I look forward to getting feedback ... yeh right. ... Update: Five years after putting this picture here, I've at last been able to establish that it was the Mormon (LDS) Temple, in Vaitele St. It had only been open for a year when I took the photo, in the building which was destroyed by fire in 2003. It was rebuilt, and opened again in 2005. The chap on the top of the spire is the Angel Moroni, one of those who ministered to Joseph Smith.

I know very little about Samoan culture, but you can't miss these structures. I think I'm right in saying that this is the grave memorial of a chiefly person.

We shd have a brief look at what Westerners do in the tropics. Life is a beach. The guy approaching was the driver who was visible in a couple of earlier photos, and my kind host, Graeme Ennor.

I took this photo without knowing what the significance of the building is, simply because we were driving past it. Now I know that the sign over the door, 'Samoa Mo Samoa', means 'Samoa for the Samoans'. The second line says 'Office of the Mau'. As usual, everything it explained by Wikipedia, q.v. And a Google search helped, finding the next image.

This photo was found on the Web here, but came with no date or explanation. It might have been taken in the 1920s.

Possibly the best-known resident of Samoa was Robert Louis Stevenson, whose house can still be visited. Samoans called him Tusitala - the storyteller - and one of the hotels in Apia has that name.

Stevenson's tomb is on the top of Mt Vaea above his house, and you can make the trek up there. These two shots are views on the way.

Stevenson's tomb has on it in raised brass letters his own Requiem, on one side in English, and on the side to which I'm pointing, in Samoan.

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Pity I didn't put my shirt back on for the photo: we got pretty hot climbing up Mt Vaea.


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