Samoa

Samoa Coastline
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Now back to our regularly scheduled travel posts! The next two will be fairly brief in comparison. Aren’t you pleased?!

The afternoon of January 27 we left Easter Island for the 9 hour flight to Samoa, crossing the International Date line along the way. As we noted earlier, the flights don’t seem as long as they are, as we spend a lot of time eating, drinking, and listening to lectures, as well as reading and watching movies that we download before leaving. And blogging, of course! The only movie I’ve watched so far was from San Diego to Orlando.

The lectures have been excellent. Lee Berger, the paleoanthropologist from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, has been telling us about the origins of Homo Sapiens and the discoveries, including his own, that help to trace our ancestors further and further back. As recently as 2000, the experts thought we knew all about human origins, there were no further discoveries to find, and that we should stop training new paleoanthropologists. You can imagine how Lee felt about that, being a fairly recent PhD. who was eager to find new fossils and clues to our origins. Fortunately, a series of serendipitous discoveries proved this wrong, and we are now in a new age of exploration.

His team uncovered 46 new cave sites near the places he’d been working for years. In fact, it was his then 9-year old son who found a major fossil, the partial skeleton of a rare 2 million year old hominid called Homo Naledi, a new species and, in Lee’s terms, a bizarre creature. If you want to read more about his discovaries, check out the October 2015 issue of National Geographic as well as the PBS documentary Dawn of Humanity. I know I will!

Before we reached Samoa, our cultural anthropologist and linguist David Harrison, a Swarthmore professor, introduced us to the Samoan culture. Most Samoans are of Poloynesian heritage, with the first inhabitants arriving as early as 1000 BC. It is largely an oral culture, and Samoans are able to commit astounding amounts of information to memory. They are very friendly people, always smiling.

Fun fact of the day: The Polynesians brought the first chickens to South America and brought back the sweet potato from Peru to the islands. Both are important foods in Samoa and other Polynesian cultures.

We arrived late, were welcomed by a group of dancers and fire dancers, had a (relatively) light buffet, and headed for bed. The Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resort was perfectly adequate for our one-night stay  (The only reason for stopping there was distance; we couldn’t reach Australia otherwise without a ridiculously long flight beyond the range of our jet.)

Here’s a fire dancer from the lunch-time entertainment; couldn’t get one of the nighttime performers. And you need a picture after all this verbiage!

Samoan fire dancer
Samoan fire dancer

The site is lovely, right on the beach. We opted to take the morning off rather than do an activity. I’m sorry now that I missed the visit to the Women’s Committee, with weaving and other demonstrations and a kava ceremony. (Kava is a mild hallucinogen.) Instead we slept in and enjoyed some quiet time.

Samoa–Lovely shoreline
Samoa–Lovely shoreline
Samoa–Pool at Aggie Grey's Resort
Samoa–Pool at Aggie Grey’s Resort

One thing we couldn’t help but notice was the numbers of flies on the island. At the buffets resort servers stood over the food with fans to shoo away the flies. The blur you see in our waiter’s right hand is the fan.

Samoa-Fanning away the flies
Samoa-Fanning away the flies

I visited the small crafts display in the lobby and had a straw headband woven for me, to hold back my messy hair. You can’t really see it, but it made me happy for the rest of the day!

Samoa–this lady wove me a headband
Samoa–this lady wove me a headband

Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to take it into Australia with me, so it sat on the plane. And I managed to break it a few days later. Oh, well, it was a fun experience.

At lunch we had a FiaFia, another dance show.

Samoa–FiaFia dancers
Samoa–FiaFia dancers

Here’s the big kahuna, waiting pensively to perform.

Samoa-Tribal
Samoa-Tribal “chief” waiting to perform 
Samoa–FiaFia lady
Samoa–FiaFia lady

And now we’re off to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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