OCTOBER 2000 NEWSLETTER
Hi folks our travelling around the world has come
to an end and Digby is back in Samoa working on the fruit tree project,
while Alison is now home at Cape Trib after spending a month cycling
around Ireland. At Cape Trib the main tasks are pruning Salaks and
watching the builders rebuilding the end of our house which burnt
down while we were in Europe. The cause of the fire is unknown.
This newsletter is basically some of Digby's observations
on life in Samoa over the last month:
" This week I've managed to spend two days visiting
farmers, both fruit and coconut plantations all over the island.
We'd usually finish up in some extreme backwoods spot after many
kms of rough tracks and having to ask at several shops or houses
as well as any pedestrians. Nauma would do all the location work,
and once we had actually found the farm and the farmer, would chat
lengthily in Samoan with him to get some of his management details
and procedures. He would then pass on to me what he thought I would
find interesting. At about this stage, we would discover that the
farmer, usually dressed in tatters, spoke beautiful English.
We had another two workshops on Wednesday, with bouncy
Samoan women lapping up the information. This time they were listening
and asking questions but the pressure on them to get their work
finished for White Sunday (tomorrow), meant that they were all busy
with their hands at the same time. Some sewing, some weaving pandanus
strips into wide brimmed hats, some cutting patterns, some doing
prints onto material. Even had a fa'afine (male dressing and behaving
as a woman) watching for a while, but he was responsible for preparing
our lunch, which was served as soon as Nauma finished talking. These
bloating lunches are a hard part of the job, as I keep wanting to
sleep them off for the afternoon.
Had a great day on Friday with Nauma taking me to
the fruit market to talk to all the mango sellers. I bought a sample
from every stall and found out the Samoan names for each local type.
There is a milk mango, a water mango, several apple mangos, oka
mango (which is eaten green and crunchy), and one used green for
pickling. There is also a Parrot mango, which is sharply curved
into a fish hook. You could literally hang it off your belt. Took
them all back to Nafanua where we had our own fruit tasting. One
of the apple mangos was a worthwhile fruit but they were all pretty
ordinary ie. bland and fibrous with very low acid levels.
We then headed out again to visit the mango seedlings
selected by Brian Watson, several years ago as the mother trees
for grafting to compare their performance with the imported varieties.
One of these (Tilafono) had some dropped fruit on the ground and
I was able to have a taste. Like eating a nectarine. No fibre whatever
and a sharp acidity on top of the high sugar. I've never tasted
a mango quite like it. The owner of the tree came out to chat, and
was able to tell us that it was planted by her grandfather in 1925.
So at least that one was a good selection. The variety has been
named after the owner of the property on which it was found, so
some Samoan families have been immortalised in a rather different
Took off after lunch on Saturday to climb the mountain
above the small airfield. I had been driven up the access road earlier
this week to inspect a farm and the farmer was quite happy for me
to come back to drive to the end of his road. Made it up through
his banana plantation without driving down any of his bananas, quite
tricky, and left the car in a clearing at the edge of the forest.
Started walking at 2:30 in the best patch of forest I've seen in
Samoa. Still a lot of regrowth, but open enough to walk at will,
with a canopy of meter diameter trees. Lots down on the ridges but
mostly intact forest.
There is meant to be a fort in the area, from the
Tongan wars of about 1500AD, but I realised after climbing for an
hour or so that the ridge I was following was fortified, rather
than there being any specific structure. Very steep embankments
running across the ridge, occasionally stone walled, but usually
the stones had been eroded out. Often moats across the ridge, below
the wall, with earthen "bridges" leading to the centre of the embankment.
Highly defensible positions, but seemingly a bit pointless except
as a last resort, as they don't defend anything in terms of land,
villages or crops.
My booboo for the day was forgetting that sunset in
Samoa is a lot earlier than in France, like 6:30 instead of 9:30,
and barely leaving enough time to get down again. I did, just (6:20)
after losing the way 3 times and having to fight scrub to get back
to the right ridge.
Went out to Apolima this morning (a small island
surrounded by reef,located between Upolu and Savaii). Gentle swells
and no drama Boat simply surfed in on a swell with about 3 feet
clearance on each side. Could be tricky doing it in a kayak! Coming
out was a bit more exciting as the wind had come up strongly and
as soon as he accelerated for the entrance, the engine stopped.
Lots of grabbing for the fending off poles while the driver was
pulling on the starter, but it started again and off we went. Swells
going back across the channel to Manono were higher than the boat
and breaking, but we just bobbed through them all like a cork. He
was going very slowly, except when there was a flat spot, when he'd
rev straight across. Lunch fortunately stayed down, but it was pretty
The islands sunken centre is very fertile, with a
small creek flowing through. Absolutely windless and as humid as
the proverbial turkish bath.The houses are all out the front where
there is some breeze. I was dripping in 5 minutes as we wandered
through. Nauma found a ripe pandanus fruit,that is used for making
necklaces, and arranged to collect and keep the seeds. This was
about two buckets full, with nothing to carry them. No problem.
Lots of low coconut leaves, 10 minutes later there is a woven basket,
lined with banana leaves, full of seeds.
Back to the farmer's home at the entrance to the island
and, of course, lunch: Taro, banana samoa, roast chicken and pork,
peasoupo with onions, boiled salt beef as well a green coconuts
and coco samoa.
While Nauma and I were on Apolima, Brenda was running
the judging of prepared fruits competition at Nafanua. Cakes and
puddings for the morning, and juices for the afternoon. We arrived
back at Nafanua in time for the fruit juices, but already absolutely
stuffed from the compulsory huge lunch on the island. Samoan fruit
juices are another cultural difference we've missed. These were
semi liquid fruit salads, with all sorts of strange combinations.
The palagis had been ruled out of the judging as they don't like
what Samoans like. But I wandered around for a taste of everything
anyway. The best one (and the winner) was a complex blend of all
the usual stuff but with peanuts blended in as well. The taste was
fantastic. Abiu and pineapple wasn't bad. And the coconut toddy
was excellent. Another odd one had the dominant flavour obtained
by boiling lemon leaves and pineapple skin, a sharp tang that I
enjoyed, but the judges didn't.
So this ends the latest news
all the best from alison and digby