THE waves are whispering off the reef, but in my half-awake/half-asleep daytime slumber, I can’t quite catch what it is they are saying. I am snatching a languid nap on the veranda day bed, listening to this seaside lullaby and the resort staff singing as they work. I have flown, overnight, on the new Samoa Airways’ Brisbane-Apia route and on the only plane it its fleet, a 737-800. The airline launched last year to replace the former national carrier, Polynesian Airlines, which ceased flying in 2005, due to financial issues.
On board, the baby blue vinyl seats remind me of the interior an old FJ Holden and the seat belts are just as tricky to buckle as well. There’s no seat 13 on this plane, and in 14F on the flight over, apparently no button to recline my seat either, despite it not being in an exit aisle. The seat pitch itself is generous, with plenty of leg room, with some saying it’s a deliberate move to accommodate for the typically larger frames of Samoans. I don’t eat on the late overnight flight, instead preferring to lay across the three seats available on this leg, but despite having my eye mask on and my pashmina over my body, am shaken awake by a male steward, asking whether I want the “beef or chicken”.
I arrive in the Samoan capital of Apia just as the sun rises and am transported across the island to Seabreeze Resort in the south. This adults-only resort is a consistent award-winner, and it’s easy to see why. Owned by Australians Chris and Wendy Booth, there’s just 12 rooms all overlooking the ocean and where the staff and service are immaculate. Over lunch, I ask Wendy whether Samoa possesses a masculine or feminine energy, and she doesn’t hesitate with her response.
“It’s got a masculine energy. Everyone looks to the father of the family,” she says.
“The mother plays a very important role in Samoa but she’s quite happy to be in the background. The women are very powerful people in Samoa.
“The men are the fathers of the family but if someone wrongs you, the father will defend your honour.
“It is an interesting society and interesting in the village. Everyone shares the upbringing of the children. It works because everybody has something to give.
“There is no ownership in Samoa. The biggest belief they have is what goes around, comes around.”
There are 2000 people in the local Aufaga village and I have the incredible privilege of meeting some of them. I attend the local school, a make-shift affair for around 200 kids while their old school is being rebuilt, and there’s a sea of pink and green uniformed faces waiting for me. Turns out they have been practising their dance moves and singing all week. The boys do the haka and the girls perform a kind of hip hop hula. I am invited to repay the compliment and shake a leg, and the kids are in hysterics. This “palagi” (white girl) can’t dance.
I visit a village family who have cooked me an entire chicken as a gift that I share with a colleague, and watch as they roast a pig underground in a traditional umu, covered in leaves. They’ve done this just for us, and it’s delicious. I’m touched beyond words. For people who have so little to give, they have shared this feast with me.
My week unfolds like the daily tropical storms. I walk through steamy jungle foliage to visit gushing waterfalls, I swim, kayak and snorkel in the lukewarm ocean, and on my last day, a Sunday, I go to church. Some of the village kids remember me, smile, wave and sing out “hi Chris” like we’re old friends. There’s a pesky lump in my throat which turns to tears when the Samoans start to sing church hymns.
Oe my last night, I check into the Honeymoon Villa, which sits on its own private point overlooking the ocean. There’s a luscious lobster with my name on it and I dine, alone, under the stars. I have lounged on plump day beds and enjoyed a facial replete with local ingredients such a cucumber, honey, lime and banana. Later, when the moon rises, I snatch a sneaky skinny dip in my private plunge pool under the night sky. There’s a stingray, sashaying through the shallows. I search for the spiritual meaning of stingray. It means protection. I look out to the ocean and silently thank Brother Samoa for looking after me on my journey across the South Pacific.
On the Samoa Airways flight home, in seat 26A, my tray table is so damaged, I cannot actually eat my food from it, as it slides right off, and I note one of the drop-down screens which displays the safety message doesn’t deploy. For a short-haul flight, and boasting some great launch specials, it’s a good option from Australia’s east coast, but don’t expect any frills. The inflight entertainment is via wifi and you don’t need to download an App beforehand. There’s a reasonable selection of movies, TV shows and games to keep you entertained on this flight which is about five-hours long. The food and beverage is also retro…there’s the beef or chicken… but despite my initial scepticism about the chicken dish, it turns out to be tasty. Alcoholic beverages are extra, and you must pay in cash, but the full glass of red wine was good value for $5.
Back in Brisbane, my luggage arrives promptly, but when I open my case back home, all of my clothes inside are soaked, despite there being no rain in Apia when I leave, or Brisbane when I arrive. With only one plane in its fleet, Samoa Airways is taking a huge punt should anything go wrong on its routes which include Sydney, Auckland, Pago Pago, Apia and Brisbane. But the airline does have plans to introduce a second plane in March next year, and an agreement with Qantas and Fiji Airways to assist should the plane not work for any reason. I really wanted to like Samoa Airways, and overall, if you are looking for a retro ride that will get you across the South Pacific, for a competitive price, and pleasant and professional staff, consider this airline. With a few tweaks, and more attention to detail, this airline could make the Samoans proud of once again, having a national carrier.
The Global Goddess flew as a guest of Samoa Airways https://samoaairways.com and stayed as a guest of Seabreeze Resort http://www.seabreezesamoa.com
The children at Aufaga Village school desperately need reading and other school material. You can donate these to Seabreeze Resort and one of the staff, who lives in this village, will ensure they are delivered.
I CAN’T pinpoint exactly when, but at some stage in the conversation, Chris Solomona gets straight to the point. Of his penis to be precise. More so, the fact it’s the only part of his body from his middle back to his knees that is not covered in tribal tattoos, thus ensuring I spend the rest of our meeting trying to peek under his lava lava for confirmation. But this is not a story of sex. It’s one of seduction. A tale of tattoos, tradition and testosterone. Of tsunamis, tragedy and ultimately triumph. This is my tale of the South Pacific, welcome to my Samoan seduction.
The tattoos, deeply etched into Chris’ cocoa-coloured skin, scream of centuries of culture, tradition and the ultimate test of manhood…soul-searing pain. They speak volumes of this South Pacific paradise in which I find myself talking intimately with a man, whom I’ve never met, about the most delicious of subjects. Finding love, the Samoan way.
“We are still intact and alive in our old ways. We have a Council of Chiefs and laws you must abide by. The most common law is it is taboo to think about marrying a girl from your own village. If you marry outside your race you will get a slap on the back. They will say ‘that a boy’,” Chris says.
“There is quite a process that a man has to go through in order to get a date. Back in 1999, I was drinking kava and I saw a beautiful woman come into the market and I asked people for her name and some woman told me it was Nora. So I went home and cooked all this food such as taro and a roasted pig. On the way to her village I stopped and bought two bottles of beer. There was no way I was going to do this sober.
“I walked in to her house and I put the pig on the floor and then forget what I am going to say. I can see two girls but I can’t see Nora in this room and I am wondering if I am in the right family. It turns out she was in the kitchen cooking and when she came out and sat next to me and I felt like I was eating broken glass.”
“Two to three weeks later I spent the weekend with her family but there was no privacy. We went out for one year and there was no touching. I’m a modern male and this is paradise but we’re not that perfect,” he laughs at the sexual frustration.
Fourteen years later and the couple now have five children, all traces of sexual frustration seemingly erased. Chris, who manages the Samoan Tourism Association Cultural Village in the capital, may be a modern male, but traditions such as tattooing run deep within his veins. When the missionaries arrived here in 1830, they tried to stop tattoos but the Samoans refused to relinquish this crucial piece of their culture designed to test bravery and courage. But don’t be fooled. Chris describes the procedure, which takes several months, as “a world of hurt, pain and suffering you cannot explain”.
“It is pure pain and torture and something that no man in their right mind would go through. Coming out of it is like a second chance at living.”
A second chance at living is what this charming country knows all too well having survived its share of cyclones and a devastating tsunami in 2009 which claimed 189 lives in the South Pacific region, many of them Samoan children. Samoa is a land of love and loss. Of triumph over tragedy. You can’t have paradise without pain. The Samoans, who ooze charm, character and beauty, know this maxim all too well, for this is a country with soul.
According to Chris, if you want to find a Samoan man, first you need to find a Samoan woman.
“You find a Samoan woman and stay with her in the village and you mingle. Then, all the men in the village will be watching. In Samoa, you just sit back and wait and all the pieces will fall into place. Actually, waiting in the wrong word. You will be hiding,” he laughs.
I spend the rest of the day lurking behind coconut trees, practising my “hiding”. At the bar, at the beach, at the pool, behind coconut trees.
And I’m in luck. The very next night I stumble across my Samoan sista-in-crime in the form of Natasha Tamasese at Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa on the South Coast. What I don’t know at the time is that Natasha has married into Samoan royalty – the Tamasese name synonymous with one of the paramount chiefs of the country and highly revered. Yes, in terms of a wing woman, I’ve hit the jackpot. And best of all, I’m told there’s one unmarried brother in the family who lives in Queensland. Yes, you heard it, right under my nose. I’d reveal more details, but then I’d have to kill you all.
Aside from the opportunity to dine with the Tamasese’s, Sinalei is also home to Spa Tui I Lagi, named after the resort owner’s wife who died in the 2009 Tsunami. Even in languid Samoa, time marches on and tries to heal the deepest wounds. Joe, the resort owner, has found love again and just announced his engagement to Tammy. Yes, love, loss, tragedy and triumph. I contemplate these concepts during a massage at the resort’s oceanfront spa the next morning on the most perfect of days. My spa therapist mentions the sound of the waves breaking casually against the reef outside. “You can hear its voice,” she says simply. Even the ocean here is a seductress.
And so, too, is the language in this country. When Samoans speak in their native tongue, they tend to slowly wrap their mouths around each word, pronouncing every consonant and evocatively elongating vowels. On the flight home I fantasise about two things: learning to speak this lovely language to my new husband who is yet to learn of my existence, and a return trip to the South Pacific. Yes, you too, should wrap yourself around Samoa. I can guarantee, it will seduce you back.
The Global Goddess travelled to Samoa as a guest of the Samoan Tourism Authority. If you, too, wish to be seduced by Samoa go to http://www.samoa.travel for more information. Virgin Australia flys direct to Samoa from Brisbane once a week and several times from Sydney.
Spacifica Travel is offering a number of last-minute Easter specials to Samoa from $1449 per adult and $779 per child flying Virgin Australia from Sydney. The price includes return airport transfers, 7 nights for the price of 6 in the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in Apia, and continental breakfast daily. http://www.spacificatravel.com