Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Eatser with no chocolate

It is the strangest concept that when living on a tropical island everything slows down but still, I find myself short of time. A contradiction one may say.

Easter came and went with minimal fuss. I had a similar experience last year with regards to Christmas. When you miss out on the commercial frivolity, superfluous celebratory signage and token gift giving you tend to forget the holiday season. Here in Samoa, the papers were filled with tributes to Jesus and plenty of preaching. I’m quickly learning that Samoa is similar to Malta in more ways than size. There are certainly some obvious contradictions. Whilst people go out on Friday and Saturday night and drink themselves into a stupor, dip into a bit of adultery and flirt with a fa’afine they also go to church 3 times on a Sunday and repent their sins.

I’ve noticed some further contradictions….

Whilst the climate is conducive to growing just about anything, and very quickly, rather than maximizing their use of fruit and vegetables in cooking, Samoan people tend to eat a lot of deep fried foods. A typical example is the predominance of green bananas in cooking (these are not un-ripened bananas but a green variety). Admittedly they are not the most flavoursome of fruits but when Samoan’s deep fry them they take on more of a styrofoamic quality than anything else. I’ve resolved that the majority of food that I eat out of home is going to be oil flavoured. Funnily enough we were consuming some ‘oil’ flavoured chips a few weeks ago only to read the ingredients which stated “banana chips, oil, fats, traces of ash”. Interesting that they were actually taro chips and top score for admitting to inedible goods existing in the product.

Pre-departure training warned us of many of the difficulties we were bound to face living and working in a developing nation. It was quite scary that after being warned of all the diseases we were susceptible to, one of the AYADs contracted 3 of them within her first week. However, we were also told that most of the clothes that we were used to wearing would not be acceptable in Samoa. Enter the concept of the fa’afini. Fa’afinis described in western terms, are men who dress as women and sleep with men. In Samoa though, it is a) illegal for a man to dress as a women and b) illegal to partake in homosexual activity. Fa’afinis are considered a category unto themselves thus exempt from these laws. Further, fa’afinis seem to have acquired their dress sense from trawling the websites of Club Troppo, Rooty Hill RSL and DCM’s. Minimalist would be an understatement. So in addition to being a blatant contradiction to the statement of the law fa’afinis also surpass the boundaries of societal and cultural norms. Clothing deemed inappropriate for a westerner in Samoa is thought acceptable for a fa’afine to wear (the clothes simply transfer over, so my size would then be worn by a 150kg fa’afini – see exhibit A).

It is all proving for a very interesting time though. I am really enjoying myself. Work is very busy and doesn’t look like it will let up. I’m already looking at my work plan and thinking ‘How on earth will I get this done in 12 months’ and I’m still looking at it from an Aussie perspective. As far as time parameters go I think it is safest to multiply deadlines by 3 and divide actual time spent on a task by 3. I had my first run-in with the General Manager at work the other day (for a closer impression of what it was actually like, check out my blog). I basically spent 8 hours writing a cabinet submission and then was asked to re-write it (just type out what the GM wanted) because I was stupid – very interesting!

Matt arrives in 13 days & I can’t wait. I’m really excited about showing him around Samoa and setting up our home together. It will be awesome to finally have a conversation that doesn’t consist of a quick hi, I miss you, hope you’re well, I’m running out of cred……

Still keeping myself busy on weekends playing sport, going out partying with the other AYADs and my new Samoan friends then burning out my brain learning Samoan on weekday mornings and re-teaching myself all of the theory that I learnt at uni so as to use it in practice!

I love hearing from you all so please keep the emails coming & posting notes on my site!!!

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