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Stories articles and news abot Alison and Digby Gotts

COMING TO CAPE TRIB
ECO-CERTIFIED
SAMOA - STORIES

The Samoan Experience
Three days in Tafua
EcoTour Samoa
The Samoan Election
Pruning the Mangoes
Climbing Mt SiliSili
Fourth week in Samoa

Samoan Observer Articles:

Why is there no fruit on my mango?
Want more mangoes next year?
Green oranges or orange oranges?
In search of a Samoan Orange
The Hardest Cut
Rambutan - hairy thing from the forest
Rambutan revisited
Abiu - the emporer's golden fruit
Avocado - fruit or vegetable?
Carambola - star of the rainforest
Durian - the extreme tropical fruit
Rollinia - lemon meringue pies growing in the garden
Sex and the single pawpaw
Soursop - a taste sensation
The mulch story
Do it yourself pest control
The joys of soapy water!
The hungry fruit tree
Positive insects

BUSHWALKING /TRAVEL
NEWSLETTERS
FARM STORIES

MY FOURTH WEEK IN SAMOA

By Alison

(I took leave from TAFE for 18 months to be a 'spouse' and keep Digby company while he worked in Samoa. This was the first time in my life that I had not worked, and it was difficult adjusting)

The Women’s Network

It is interesting to reflect on how you find your feet in a new place, particularly if you do not have a work environment to develop your contacts. My first contact was Janet at the airport when I arrived – while I was waiting for the luggage to come through she gave me some great info and invitations – when I asked how she spent her time she said that she played bridge and went to the aerobics class every day and worked as a volunteer at the local school in the library a few days a week. So I turned up at the gym called Health Attack – in my mind it will be forever Heart Attack – and Janet was the first person I met and she introduced me to Joanne, from Canberra and Betty. Last week Betty asked if I would like to come to the weekly morning tea and gave the phone number of Diane who lived near me and could probably give me a ride.  I also turned up at the Tiapapata Art Centre and signed up for art classes every Wednesday and met the teacher, Wendy, who is from the US and married to a Samoan – been here 10 years – and at the art classes I met Robin, from Canberra and Chantal from France, both of whom are professional women in their own right on leave while their husbands work out their 3 year contract in Samoa. And so it goes on – while I was at my first art class Ecotours Samoa came through and I met Steve Brown who was running a tour and stopping off on the way and this led to other things. Surprisingly it is Steve who is the closest to being described as a kindred spirit

Art Classes

Every Wednesday morning I attend art classes, and when I feel inclined I go and spend Friday morning there as well just working on my projects. We have been doing printing using lino cuts, and this has been a wonderful medium to work with – gouging away at soft lino and digging out the grooves – just like carving your name in the desk when you were in grade 5. I have been working with fruit images and have decided to try and make a set of postcards of the different fruit at Cape Trib, so that who knows it may become something else we can sell to the unsuspecting tourist. It has been really good to just sit and gouge and gouge some more and talk to Robin and Chantal and get to know them a bit more and get their advice on Samoa . Then you roll the ink over the lino cut, place a card on it and then roll it so that the ink impression is transferred to the card. It has really got me in – have now created cards for Durian, Carambola, Rollinia.

Women in Samoa

My understanding of what the cultural expectations are for Samoan women has been developing – I may have mentioned earlier that I have been invited to join the Gender Equity team meetings at the UN – have yet to actually attend a meeting, so will keep you posted on that. But from the reading and the discussion I am learning that the Samoan culture and gender equity do not fit at all.

Brenda, the nutritionist on the fruit tree project has lent me a book ‘Taimatai Samoa’ which is the individual stories of seven Samoan women, all considered high achievers and now in their seventies or dead. It was a most humbling book to read. Several things really stand out: the role of the NZ govt in providing scholarships; the women’s ability to stand up to their husbands' wishes to stay in the home; and yet what seems like a contradiction – their commitment to the fa’a Samao (the Samoan way) which virtually expects women to serve their families and their husband’s family especially. The wife is so busy doing all the domestic duties for the husbands family, she does not have time to bring up her children, which are often brought up by the husband's sisters – the extended family tends to live in the same village though this is now breaking up. So they managed all this and still were able to achieve in a community sphere as well, though admittedly in the classic girl professions such as teaching and nursing. The scholarships were a real circuit breaker – when they were introduced in the forties, the Matai (the village chiefs) wanted the power to decide who would go , and of course would choose their own children. The NZ govt said no, it would be decided on merit and girls would also be eligible. These young women went off to NZ, stayed in church hostels or with families and had to cope in a whole new culture.

We were invited to Wendy’s for dinner last Tuesday – about 12 people there – none of whom we knew and one of them was a young smart Samoan woman in her early thirties – Eliza. Eliza was the first Samoan I have really had a heart to heart chat with – and I was glad I had read Brenda’s book because it helped me understand her own circumstances. She left the village at 17 as a scholarship girl, went to NZ, freaked out at school and learned to cope with the English and the expectations, went on to get an accounting degree, married a palangi, who was into video production. The marriage broke up after 2 years and she decided she wanted to come back to Samoa and help her country. She has set up a private video production business which produces a monthly video magazine on the latest news in Samoa for all the Samoans living abroad. She has bought her own house and is completely independent. We talked about how she could not fit in back in her village – she said she could not accept the violence – adults to children and men to women, and she did not see how she could ever develop a relationship with a Samoan male because he would not see her as an equal. In discussions about the violence later, Wendy said there was an organization called ‘Stop Smacking Your Children’ and there was also a push to try and reduce the level of corporal punishment in schools, which apparently is also fairly high and widespread, as part of the fa’a Samoa.

The Fia Fia

On Wednesday night we went to Aggie Grey’s Hotel for the weekly Samoan dance performance – I thought I was a bit slack taking 4 weeks to get to one, but my neighbour Ann who has been here for 2 and a half years has never actually been to one. It was rather good and very professional.

The fire dancing was particularly memorable – if you watched the New Years TV show which went round the world you may remember the fire dancing which was beamed around the world. Well seeing 10 young men with muscles cavorting in front of you with fire sticks alight at both ends, leaping and spinning and dancing is much better than watching it on TV, doing backward somersaults, their bodies glistening with sweat, all reflected in the pool. The performance was full of fun and energy - all the dancers are staff at the hotel.

Although this is essentially a tourist experience, it is possible to gain an insight into aspects of Samoan culture. One memory that will stay with me for a long time was the young woman proudly raising her missionary style neck to ankles costume with puffed sleeves and loud floral pattern to exhibit her tattoos to the audience of over 100 palangis - she did it with such dignity that the element of voyeurism was replaced by admiration and respect.

The next day in the street, the wind exposed another set of tattoos on the shapely legs of a young modern Samoan woman - but the only person who usually gets to see these tattoos is meant to be the husband. Apparently the church does not approve of the tattooing but it still goes on, even under threat of being barred – so it is quite a commitment and I am amazed that young women are still undertaking it.

When Digby had the fruit trip to the other island Savaii, he came to a community centre where all the men from the village were meeting to tattoo a young man – Dig and his work crew were there to prune the trees, and all the time they were there, they could hear the groans coming from the man being tattooed, lying on the ground. Later we were told it can take up to 3 weeks, every day, being jabbed with this shell blade 1 cm long , like a toothbrush with lots of little saw tooths which is laid on the leg after being dipped in ink and then hammered into the leg – tap, tap, tap – with two attendants fanning and holding his head while he moans in pain.

As well as the dance performance there was a buffet, and the interesting part was that they has a whole section of it devoted to Samoan food so we had – wait for it – Sea cucumber, sea urchin, as well as more normal things like banana cooked in coconut milk and taro leaves with coconut cream (palusami) and breadfruit cooked in coconut milk, followed by dessert of papaya cooked in coconut milk. You start to get the idea that the basis of Samoan cuisine is something cooked in coconut milk – and it is coconut milk prepared from first principles (first find your coconut tree) – not the stuff in the can which I have on good authority is like canned asparagus as opposed to the real thing. So one of my resolutions is to learn how to actually make real coconut cream and a traditional palusami. Agnes next door (my Samoan neighbour who is so shy!! has the coconut grating doover by her back door so I am going to rock in with a coconut and get her to show me how to do it.

Tiavea

Last weekend we went to the far east of the island to a remote village called Tiavea. Robin and Chantal both mentioned that this area was the most remote and that there was a long 4 hour walk along the coast (which neither of them had done between 2 villages and no roads, and some of the best bird watching on the island)so we decided we would go and check it out, maybe walk a bit of the way, and just see  how it went. The track to the village was about 5 km and was just a bulldozer scrape which had grassed over and wound its way down from the ridge to the beach below. There were very few cars that used this track and as we drove down we passed several people coming up with horses as pack animals.

When we got to the beach and the village there was a sign with the charges for the privilege of parking/swimming etc and a group of kids and a woman materialised to collect the money from the rich palangis.  As we were the only show in town, a few others gathered to watch, including an old man who turned out to have been a worker at one of the agricultural research stations where digby now works – once he discovered this common ground he appropriated us and told us to shift our car and park it at his house (fale) so that he would look after it for us while we were away – “I work for you” – were his words. When we told him we planned to walk to Uafoto, the other village his jaw dropped in disbelief that anyone who had a car would want to do such a stupid thing – ‘the track goes up and down up and down’.

We didn’t get much specific help so headed off along the beach and came to the river which we had to cross. In true Australian style we thought that there would be a crossing upstream a little way where we could step across and headed up stream to find it – well what we found was a group of young women all washing in what they thought was privacy until digs and I thundered through the bush. Interesting that they are washing, covered in soap suds but still wearing sarongs (lavalavas) which cover neck to knees. One of the girls spoke excellent English, came forward and introduced herself, shook hands with me, wanted to know my name, what we were doing etc. she said she had done the walk, leaving at 6 am and returning at 4 pm with her cousins from Hawaii, her name was Leh, and when we came back we should look for her at the house on the corner.

She told us we had to go back to the beach and cross the river there – which we did with digby wading out into the surf carrying the daypack above his head and jumping the waves which came up above his armpits. Then we walked along and found the track in the plantation of bananas and breadfruit and followed it up onto the ridge into the rainforest – real rainforest which is rare in Samoa and then down into the next bay which was a beautiful sandy beach with no-one around. Along the beach, there is a fire still smouldering, but no one around. We could not find where the track left the beach and wandered around for a while and then gave up and went back to Tiavea.

At Taivea, the village was sleeping, and soon woke up when we arrived back. Robert provided us with 3 coconuts already husked and with great style knocked the top off for us to drink – what a great drink it is – with all the coconuts falling on the ground at Cape Trib I keep making these new resolutions. Leh appeared with her cohorts – aged 18 years single girls plus the proverbial kids gathering around – it took me straight back to being in the Himalayas with all the same curiousity and friendliness – and the questions – how old are you, how many kids you have, is he your husband, where do you come from, how long you stay I Samoa, and with Leh there speaking beautiful English we actually had some meaning ful exchanges. Leh had finished school in Apia and had learned her English at school – amazing – and now hung out with her mates who we had disturbed washing at the creek. She said she would come with us on the walk and show us the track when we came back, and that we could stay at the beach huts run by her friend a bit further down the road. So we probably will.

When discussing this with Chantal later at the next art class, she was able to fill me in on the lack of a road to the village – there is no school – the kids have to work 2 hours up to the village school on the ridge and 2 hours back at the end of the day – and they are hit by the principal for being late. She has been trying to sort out how an aid program could build the road so a bus could get down there – the samoan govt is not interested as it is so much money. Chantal also knows Leh from her own sojourns there.

The Bahai Temple

Five kms up the road from us in the misty hills looking down over Apia is a Bahai temple – the architectural design is stunning and it is set in landscaped gardens with a sweeping promenade leading to the building which looks like a beehive. There is only one Bahai temple on each continent, and this one in the Pacific is rather unusual – when I asked why it was there it seemed to have something to do with the Samoan head of state being a bahai. There is a community of Bahai people who have settled in the vicinityf, including Wendy and Steve Percival who own the Art Centre. Wendy invited us to the last Sunday’s service because it was a special one to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The opportunity to close up how the building worked seemed a good one so we toddled along. The Bahai believe in the ‘oneness of mankind’ – there is only one god who is common across all religions who have had a variety of prophets coming along on his behalf. They also believe in the equality of women which is where Eliza gets her support to live in Samoa as she chooses. The service itself was interesting – about 300 people – 95% Samoan – the local tv camera crew turned up to film – yes we were recorded on tv actually attending a church service – I don’t know whether that helps or hinders our credentials. Brenda commented to digby that she had seen him on tv last night – this is a small place!

The acoustics were great for singing – the massed choir soared out into the space and the echoes seemed to enhance it – but for speaking it was terrible, the echo was so long that it ran while the person was reading the next sentence – you needed to wait about 30 secs after each phrase and most of the speakers did not do this so it was all a big babble, as most of it was in samoan anyway it really did not make that much difference to us. The Bahai do not believe in ministers – everyone is equal – you do not need someone to intercede between you and god – so there was no sermon – the service was made up of the choir singing, interspersed with readings taken from the book of Bahai’s founder who wrote in the 1800s.

After the service we all went over for a huge morning tea to the pavilion set in the gardens and lots of people came up and introduced themselves to us, and of course once they discovered digby’s reason for being in samoa asked him if he would come and have a look at their fruit trees. I can now imagine a little of what it must be like being a doctor in a social situation, with everyone wanting you to listen to their symptoms and give a diagnosis over a cup of tea! During morning tea, we got the sermon that we missed out on in the temple – from a visiting bahai who was an indian fighter pilot who had worked at Bamaga for the last 10 years with the council. He was a bit of a ranter, with no intellectual rationale or logic behind the statements he was pronouncing – you can see my own values coming through here – and I felt sorry for the islanders at Bamaga who no doubt listened patiently to it all for 10 years.

The following Tuesday Wendy invited us to dinner with about 10 other people – and the guest of honour was this guy again who was invited to address the guests between the main course and dessert – and we had another disjointed rant which lasted about 30 minutes – when I got home I was so angry with all the claptrap and illogical thoughts, it took me a couple of hours to calm down.

So I have had my religious dose for the next 10 years. Wendy prepared a beautiful dinner and this is where I had the long in depth chat with Eliza, so the evening was interesting despite the sermon. There was no wine – the bahais do not drink alcohol – and we wondered what other rules were imposed, as they claim that they do not adopt any of the social or cultural mores of the religions such as with the catholics not being allowed to eat meat on Fridays – they say they have cut through all that.

The Atele Orchard

I went out to the govt orchard at Atele, one of the places where digby works, although up until now he has not spent much time there as he has been concentrating on the orchard at Nafanua. Atele is a much larger orchard with thousands of trees – there is a mangosteen block of about 3 acres, the trees look about 4 years old and many are getting sunburnt and have had the shade protection removed too soon. Walked down the road in the orchard – the windbreaks are soursops and jakfruit and casuarina planted 2 metres apart. Walked along the soursop row and lots of rotten soursops on the ground, lots of ripe ones in the trees so I collected an armful and took them back to the car – digs and I pulped them and froze them for juice and then made soursop icecream which we took to Wendy’s for dinner and it was a great hit.

There is a huge papaya plantation – they are all at least 3 metres tall and they pick them with a long stick which knocks the stem and then you drop the stick and catch the fruit as it falls. The vine was about 2 feet deep amongst the papayas, and then I discovered pineapple rows completely covered by the vine interplanted with the papaya. I went out on a papaya picking expedition with one of the young women – she knocked them with the stick – I caught them as they fell more or less. With all the vine on the ground if you miss, they often have a soft landing, but there are volcanic rocks strewn through the whole orchard (oh for a bulldozer) and hidden by the vine so some of the dropped papaya splattered everywhere. There were lots of rotten papaya still on the trees. We walked randomly around for about an hour fighting our way through the vine, stepping over the rocks – ok for a hobby but not for a business.

Then into the abius and rollinia grove – thousands of ripe fruit on the trees which are in beautiful condition, with all the fruit dropping on the ground uncollected. My overwhelming reaction was that I wanted to step in and take charge of harvesting and marketing of all this fruit so it was not wasted!!!! I can’t help myself can I? The whole thing seemed inefficient and disorganised (to my eyes), the citrus so overgrown (digby has now taken charge of the pruning teams) that it made my fingers positively itch to turn it into something productive.

Future Plans

From meeting Steve at the Art Centre, I have arranged to join his next 7 day ecotour of Samoa which takes in 4 islands and 4 nights are spent staying in villages – the people he knows and the places he will take us – the bus has 4 seakayaks on the roof – will give a different insight into the place and I am really looking forward to it – a couple from Germany, a couple from the Netherlands, me, a local samoan, and an ecotourist student. This tour starts on the 7th April.

I have arranged with Chantal to give me private French lessons – 2 x 1 hr each week until the mid of June – so 16 lessons which will brush up my schoolgirl French from the 1960s – I am amazed at how much I have remembered. So this will put us in a really good position to travel in France through the alps. Who knows if I get really keen, when digby goes back to Australia I might spend the next month in france by myself, rather than Ireland. But I may be sick of the French by then – who knows – I can just decide when the time comes.

 

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Bed and Breakfast accommodation on an exotic tropical fruit orchard at Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, Lot 5 Nicole Drive, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, 4873, Australia - Tel: 0740 980057 - Fax: 0740 980067
info@capetrib.com.au.

Last updated December 19, 2013