Friday, May 18, 2007


This week I was all about anti-Samoa. If I could have wished for one thing it would have been to have a Westfield shipped in and a day of shopping on someone elses (credit) cards. I don’t know why I was in such a terrible mood all week but it was like I was waking up in the morning and a grey cloud was following me around all day. I just couldn’t snap out of it. Had I found a genie in a lamp my one wish would have been to ship in a Westfield and let me loose amongst the capitalist glory. How I would have come out glowing, decked out head to toe in soft flowing fabrics sans any hint of fluoro, Hawaiian print or shapeless design. My hair would have been cut, permanently straightened and upon exiting the salon I would be clutching a bag of hair goodies that would tame the matted Dianna Ross-esque style that has taken permanent residence on my skull. Toenails pedicured, finger nails manicured and heels on my shoes that would be made from anything but rubber. A handbag containing perfume not aeroguard and hand sanitizer. Make-up, not sunscreen and antiseptic cream. Broadband internet, not 46kps dial up. A bar with clean furniture as opposed to plastic garden furniture and vodka not brewed from pig skin or something of the like in someone’s backyard. As such go the lyrics if I were to run through the Swiss mountains singing these are a few of my favourite things. It’s amazing that maybe I took off on this journey over 12 months ago in search of something that was missing from my everyday life and now finally here I am (locked into staying nonetheless) and I realize that all I really want is all of the crap that I ‘wasted’ my money on back home. There is no in-depth soul searching necessary. It’s all about relishing in the commercialism that so many, but no I, love to hate!

Luckily, as it turned out I wasn’t the only anti-Samoa AYAD last week. Quite a few of us seem to be going through similar withdrawals (albeit mine the more superficial). When Kate & I arrived home from work on Tuesday evening Matt put 2 bottles of red wine and a family size packet of twisties in front of us and said “Go for it…. You two are like a bitchy pair of magazines with legs”. We ended up having a fanstatic night and went we awoke the next morning the cloud had somewhat dissipated. Interestingly, the improvement in our mood also coincided with the eviction of Alex our original flatmate. At face value Alex was fine but as you got to know him it quickly became apparent that he had the social skills of a door knob and with him, like the usual annoying freebies you get in Easter Showbags came a teenage boy stench. How this man had no idea that the reason our house had no cockroaches or spiders wasn’t because we were lucky but because his smell was acting a deterrent is beyond me. When I left for work on Wednesday Matt took to the mega task of bleach-bombing the master bedroom. Kate had stated that there was indeed, nothing other than some magic chemical from Germany that she swears by (possibly arsnic) that would eradicate the stench from the master bedroom in which Alex had resided. Matt however, the superman that he is, managed to do so, in the process he also wore of a layer of skin and endowed himself with new finger prints due to chemical burns to the fingers. Nevertheless I can comfortably say that the result was well worth the work, a happy girlfriend.

Inspired by Matt’s incredible feat, Kate & I took to de-alexefying the remainder of the house. I arose at 10am on Thursday (yes, another public holiday) and did not stop cleaning until 6.30pm in the evening. The entire house is now stench, dust, grime, mould and Alex – free!!!! We are so much happier. Last night as we sat down to a family dinner I could not stop saying over and over “I love our new house”! Kate & I can’t get over how much better we feel living in a clean premises and not having to face the moody “my life is so hard” Alex on a daily basis. I could rant forever about how awful it was to have someone like him around all of the time but I’ll save you the drama. Please though dear friends, don’t be offended when I say that for the past 24 hours Ajax has taken a solid first place standing in my heart.

This week has been quite eventful for the nation of Samoa. The Head of State passed away, he was 95. The significance of this for me was getting another 2 public holidays. My Mum said to me “How does the government afford to pay everyone for all of these public holidays?” (since I’ve arrived I have not worked one full week due to holidays for Mother’s day, Easter, the rugby team winning 1 game in the international 7’s tournament, now the death of the Head of State and I suspect the next will be for when the prime minister sneezed a few days ago). The answer to my Mum’s questions is they don’t, richer nations do.
I know that I have mentioned this previously but pre-departure training was very much about acting in a culturally sensitive manner and accepting differences then acting accordingly. This week I was ready to run through the main street of Apia with a bulldozer and put a lock on government bank accounts to prevent access to any further foreign aid. I am sure that in many cases, foreign aid projects are functioning to almost their full potential but it is very difficult to see even when you are part of an aid program. I resigned to the fact that Samoan society (which is obviously government driven) has become incredibly complacent. It is a society that is aid dependent and quite happy to remain so. There is absolutely no capitalist drive here whatsoever. In stark contrast to many parts of Asia where if a gap in the market becomes available 15,000 entrepreneurial people will suddenly fill it, here you could literally hand over a shop full of saleable items and no one would do anything with it. People go to work and literally sleep under their desks because they know that there are no consequences – this isn’t due to impenetrable IR laws but due more to the fact that those who set the laws are doing exactly the same thing. There are many Samoans who are very highly educated and have ambition and resources to progress the nation into a greater state of development but they seem resolve to the fact that this attitude of laziness is unlikely to change and thus they cannot work without support. As a result they get off the island as soon as possible.
I am very opposed to idealism and by no means think that Samoa should be turned into a booming, capitalist nation. I do however think that the reliance they currently have on foreign aid is regressive. The opportunity for development is definitely here, the drive to do so is the factor missing.

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