As I stepped off the plane into the sauna that is Samoa, I realised that it would be weeks before I was properly cool and dry again. I quickly learned to face the humidity head on and embrace the tropical weather!
Samoans are amazingly friendly people, always quick to say hi, there were a number of conversations had with locals that ended with “oh my cousin Bill lives in Brisbane, do you know him?” (I’m from Adelaide!). Oblivious to my protests, people would always stand up for me on a bus (and then usually plonk a couple of children onto my lap for good measure), stall holders in the markets were always friendly and we would laugh together at my terrible attempts as I attempted to ask for a coconut in Samoan.
Projects Abroad Samoa is managed by three of the most dedicated people I have ever met; Alex, Sene and Josef. I worked closely with Sene on the Nutrition project. The team’s enthusiasm about the development of projects and engagement with the Samoan community is a credit to them all.
The Nutrition project is still quite young and is constantly developing. There was no such thing as a typical day on the nutrition project, we would sometimes visit schools and run healthy eating classes. Otherwise, we would join the National Health Service nurses on community outreaches and provide basic health checks; such as testing blood sugar levels, weight and blood pressure, as well as engaging with the women’s groups regarding diabetes and the 30 day healthy eating challenge. A great part of the project was the Zumba workshops, which were held during the outreaches or our Monday Zumba sessions in the local market. This encouraged the stall holders to get up and move around, often the only time in the day they would do this. The future holds great things for the Nutrition project as it grows and develops.
What can I say about my host family, Jacinta and her extended family welcomed me into their home and I quickly became a part of their family. I had my room to myself, if you don’t include the two resident geckos who I named Hank and Dave. The shower was lovely and cold and the food was good, the family went to great lengths to provide me with fresh fruit and veggies after learning that this was a part of my usual diet at home. The family even bought me a cake on my birthday, which I then took with me to the beautiful Namua Island (as close to a private paradise that I have ever been) and spent a wonderful weekend snorkelling and relaxing on the beach, coconut in hand.
There are plenty of ways to fill the weekends in Samoa, exploring Apia and the markets, or eating out at one of the many fabulous eateries in town. Visiting Savaii or just travelling around Upolo was easily managed with local taxis. The ‘To Sua’ ocean trench was a highlight for me. Samoa caters to all tastes, whether its adventure or leisure you’re after. You’ll get an orientation to the town during you’re induction, and it’s really easy to find your way around.
Ultimately, Samoa was a wonderful experience that ended far too soon (an unfortunate illness brought me home early) but I can’t wait to go back! If you have a sense of adventure, don’t mind heat and bugs, and being asked where you’re from 100 times a day, then Samoa is for you. It’s a country well deserving of support from volunteers… and the coconuts alone make it worth all the effort!