Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Samoa Contiki Tour

I turn on my computer this morning hoping for some love but alas….. there was none! I miss everyone back home so much. Friday night drinks, slurpees, fashion (I read all about Alex Perry’s Terrigal skirt from fashion week today), magazines, TV and news…. Reading the news online is so different to flicking on the TV or radio and hearing it all on the hour every hour.

So I haven’t updated everyone for awhile but I am well. I’ve been really busy and I had no idea entering into this position that it was going to be quite so demanding. The last month has been an incredibly steep learning curve. At times I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster at that point where you reach the top of a loop and your body is completely unnaturally flipped upside down. I am LOVING the research aspect of this position and also the strategic thinking that it requires. Resourcefulness cannot be underestimated here. I would actually suggest that resourcefulness and flexibility would be the key elements required for working in a developing country. I am very fortunate to have great resources to work with.

The last 2 weekends my new very dear friends Antony and Marcus have taken me on a Contiki tour of Samoa. Ant is an IT guy for SamoaTel but he has just started this job after working at Aqua Samoa as a diver dan for the last few years. Marcus is a flying high pilot with Polynesian Airlines. I feel very lucky to have fallen into their circle as I’ve been able to experience a side of Samoa that I’m sure some of the other AYADs are still to see. The first Contiki tour consisted of packing Kate, Alex & I into a truck and heading to Piula Cave Pools. This pool is in a theological college and runs through a mountain out to the ocean. It is absolutely stunning and almost as blue as the Blue Grotto in Malta. After jumping off the rocks and having a bombing competition (which Ant clearly won) we swam up to the back of the cave where the only light coming in is from the water. It was amazing and refreshing but so strange to be swimming in fresh water – I just kept sinking!

From here we drove up a mountain to a stunning view of Apia and the Bay Village. Whilst the boys for some reason became obsessed with electricity and inspecting the power poles, Kate & I took in the incredible view. Since we’d watched 6 episodes of Lost the night before we were both awaiting the emergence of Sawyer – to our bitter disappointment we were just loaded back into the car with our trusty tour guides and taken to our next destination. When we reached Lalomanu Ant went and chatted to one of his many relatives and we were permitted free entry to the beach where the remainder of the day was spent relaxing with a trusty Vailima in hand.

The funniest thing about staying home and watching Team America on Sunday night was that recently I’ve realised that this movie is actually based on real people. Sure it plays on the blatant stereotypes of George Bush and his team of merry men but I’m pretty sure that I met the real Team America this week at EPC. They were well disguised as a group of ADB (Asian Development Bank) consultants who intend to save the world. They walk in here with their idealistic policies and projects, massive salaries and expectations through the roof and seem absolutely blind to the fact that just across the road there are people earning 50 cents an hour and eating one meal a day because that is all they can afford. I’ve stared at them dumbfounded as they’ve demanded a glass of water or 50 photocopies of their document and just want to kick them in the ovaries everytime they boss Ina (the general manager’s secretary) around, like she is their personal slave. It is amazing that these people become consultants because they are purportedly the best in their field yet have no respect let alone cultural understanding that will enable them to put their practices in place. The whole ‘save the world’ concept is interesting. I had met a few people along the way in my preparations for Samoa that thought I was coming here to ‘help’ the Samoan people. Admittedly I am in a position that is helping EPC progress, particularly on an international level but as far as making a noticeable difference I think my capacity extends to acting as a sounding board for my counterparts frustrations. I find it difficult to sympathise with consultants whose projects don’t seem to work when they haven’t contextulised the situation at all. I’m positive that if someone walked into their life and said “Now listen to me sonny, you are doing this all the wrong way. You are supposed to hold your fork in your right hand and your knife in your left hand. No arguments, this is how it will be done.” that their response would be bugger off. No one wants to be told that what they are doing is wrong and it must be fixed. One can only expect resistance to change with this type of approach. So in answer to my Canadian neighbour who inquired about the squealing and hysterical laughter she heard on Sunday night I must say that although watching puppets enact a sex scene was humorous the realization that the film was non-fiction was even funnier.

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