Experience Fa’a Samoa

The Way Life’s Supposed to Be – Happy and Sustainable!

Whether it’s due to a remote location that has protected these islands from the pressures of modern society or being cradled in a robust and balanced culture that has evolved over 3000 years, Samoans know how to live life well. Our GDP may be lower than many countries but we score highly on any happiness index. Robert Louis Stevenson, the great story teller, called his fellow Samoans “the happy people.”

Furthermore, we’ve had plenty of practice living in harmony with nature – we’ve had to. Ensuring our survival on small patches of land in the midst of a vast ocean required making the best and wisest use of the natural resources available to us. Even though we now live in a cash economy, we recognise the importance of maintaining traditional skills and knowledge.

The well known survival expert, Ray Mears, visited the island of Savaii in Samoa and made a documentary (Part of the World Survival Series) that illustrated Samoan”s sustainable life style (see here).

Fa-a Samoa

Fa'a samoa, family, samoan

Family Life Is All Important to Samoans

 

Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) is a living code of conduct that governs not just language, etiquette, dress, customers but the way Samoans interact with each other and Mother Earth. In this Fa’a, family is all important and each Samoan understands the importance of being of service to family members. But family is also defined differently than westerners are used to. The extended family or aiga  (headed by one or several chiefs – matai) is made up of parents, brothers and sisters, children, grandparents, cousins, nephews and nieces living together within the village. When family members marry partners in other villages, the in-laws too become part of the extended family unit and in times of happiness or sadness all come together to pitch in. It’s because responsibilities are shared that we Samoans seem to have more time for laughter, relaxation and fun. We celebrate the moment and laughter comes naturally.

Visiting a Samoan village is one of the highlights of a South Pacific trip. Samoan Villages are spread out along the coastal highways of Upolu and Savaii. Village houses usually have a defined area which are marked off by small hedges of flowers – only houses in town have fences. Most Samoan villages still retain a very traditional lifestyle, with subsistence farming and fishing the main livelihood.

Our houses, called Fales, are perfectly adapted for the tropical heat with wooden posts holding up a thatched roof to cover one large open room. Mats made of woven coconut fronds cover the floor and at night blinds, similarly constructed are rolled down the side of the house to give privacy or protection from the wind or rain. Many families now use traditional fales for communal gatherings and live and sleep in with more modern bungalows.

The open style living is typical of Samoan social structure. Samoans share everything they have, from food to wages, with their extended families, and with the church. The church is the focal point of village life and the larger the church, the more esteem the village has over its neighbouring villages – the reason for so many elaborate churches around the island.

Village life revolves around the home for women, and the plantation or sea for men. After school, it’s back to the village way: smaller kids help out at home by sweeping the garden, whist the older girls help wash the clothes and the older boys go to the plantation. At the end of the day the youth gathers on the village green to play kiriti (a wild local form of cricket), volleyball, touch rugby ore to bath in the sea.

We Samoans, like all peoples of the South Pacific, are known for our love of feasting. Every Sunday, after church, the umu commences – pigs, fish and rootcrops are prepared in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven for several hours or more depending on the size of the feast. For large events such as weddings, an oven may take up to six hours to cook.

The following video, sourced from KivaFellows here, shows one family preparing a typical Sunday meal

Another important ceremony is the ‘Ava ceremony, (as experienced by Ray Mears in the video clip at the top of this page) that is held to welcome and initiate guests. ‘Ava is a traditional drink, consumed at all ceremonial occasions across the South Pacific where it is known as Kava in other parts of Polynesia or Yaqona in Fiji. Extracted from the roots of a Pepper tree family and mixed with water, this murky brown drink has an unusual taste and gives a tingling sensation to the tongue. ‘Ava is not alcoholic but mildly narcotic.

Samoa is perfect destination for families

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