Manono Island

Manono Island
Apolima-uta, Samoa

Apolima-uta, Samoa

After giving a local lady, Twuila, a ride into town, I returned my rental vehicle and checked out of the hostel. Outside, along the main road in Apia Harbour, a renewable energy/ sustainability rally, with police escorts, chanting and signs reading, “There’s no planet B”. Even Miss Diva Samoa (Yeh, that’s a thing) took part in the rally, walking down the road, face melting, waving like she was on a float in a pageant #glamourous I make my way to the main bus terminal and catch a bus to Manono Uta, where I’ll take a boat to Manono Island. The buses are old, have wooden bench seats, wooden floors, decorated with pictures and quotes. One bus has orange perspex windows making the world look like marmalade. When seats on the bus runs out, passengers sit on each other’s laps. On the bus to Manono Uta, an elderly Samoan man sits next to me. Gradually he inches closer, and closer to me, until I’m sandwiched to the window. He leans in and asks me if I want to go to his village. I tell him I’m headed to Manono Island. He continues to ask more questions. Where I’m from, where I’m going, and if I’m free tomorrow? I say “no, I’m going to Savai’i” “Are you going alone?” he asks. “Yes” I reply. He asks, “can I come with you?” “No” I say “but I want to come with you” he says… Not far from the airport, I notice what appears to be a large solar farm being installed… Feasible, after witnessing this mornings random rally. My bus seat buddy starts to talk to himself, in a language I cannot understand (that could be any language other than English). I’m certain this guy is not all there. The school girl sitting in front of me asks if I’m alright, as my face is most likely saying, “I’m about to jump out of the bus window”. The crazy guy gives me an elbow nudge, urging me to go with him to his village, pointing outside, indicating this is his village. NFW! Complete and utter relief that he’s finally off the bus. The school girl previously front of me, is now sitting beside me and introduces herself as Joanna. I asked Joanna if she likes living in Samoa, about the presence of the U.S Peace Corps and how the western world, technology and pop culture are influencing the youth of Samoa and threatening tradition. Joanna has lived abroad for 4 years but after returning to Samoa, she can now see the benefits to self esteem and an appreciation for the little things. Samoa has been somewhat sheltered but the rise of social media and pop culture is chipping away and altering Samoa’s (and the rest of the worlds) younger generations, influencing fashion, behaviour and changing the way they view themselves and the world. Technology, in all its glory, could be the new generations doubled edged sword.. putting kids in touch “screen to screen” and yet, out of “human” touch. As Samoa is somewhat removed from the rest of the world, and in some ways considered backwards. From what I’ve seen, Samoans values and way of life is a product of little western interference and not knowing (or lusting for) any different… social media in particular threatens that. Maybe Samoa’s youth will still continue to uphold their good ole Christian family values and traditions despite technology and social media. There’s no denying, its having an impact! Johanna advised me the U.S Peace Corps in Samoa are working to help improve issues like the countries poor reading average. From the bus, I board a small boat and begin my voyage over to Manono Island. Manono Island has no cars, no roads and no dogs. It’s not completely devoid of annoyances, it still has cats and children. Off the boat, about 50 meters away, under an open fale, sit 4 people. Jovanna and Alessio, an Italian couple living in Sydney since 2012 and a German couple, Robert and Carla. As I approach them, a Samoan gentleman named Apa greets me, takes my bag and shows me to my very own, little green cottage/ fale positioned on a hillside, surrounded by banana plants and other tropical flora and fauna. At the front, my fale has a small set of stairs leading up to a porch and inside, nothing more than a two beds and a table. It’s basic & comfortable. The boats takes us all out snorkelling for an hour (aka sun baking for me, as there was no spare snorkelling gear). At 4pm, we assembled at the back of a fale, to watch the preparation of a traditional Samoan dinner called an “umu” (Ground oven). Apa, (our guide/ liaison on the island) was sitting on a special chair that had a metal rod with a serrated end pertruding from the middle. This serrated end is used to scrape the flesh out the coconut. Being a hands on kind of gal, I sat on the other chair across from Apa to help scrape out some coconuts… And, the palm of my hand. #shredtilibled. The massive bowl of coconut shavings were then rung out, to extract the coconut milk. A pinch of salt and an onion were added before wrapping small portions of the mixture in baby taro leaves, a banana leaf and a bread fruit leaf, sealing the mixture for cooking. This is called, Palusami (coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves). German Robert tried his hand at weaving a basket from a palm frond. It was a long, painful, yet amusing task to watch. A cold shower before consuming the most delicious meal I’ve had since arriving in Samoa. My favourite part of the meal was the Palusami. Scrumptious. After dinner, we sat in the open fale and played a rather competitive game of Uno. I’d forgotten how to play, it’d been so long… Then it all came flooding back to me… The last few days had been lonely and mentally challenging (high anxiety), as I struggled to sleep, eat and enjoy my holiday. I’m not sure if it was the company (after a few days of limited conversing or welcome human interaction), the change of location, or both, but as I looked up at the stars in the night sky, I felt happy again. Manono is a Ma-yes-yes.

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