Back in November 2013 Chris and I went on a 3 week holiday to Samoa. The first week we spent at Camp Samoa, an experience I’ll never forget. The place was a ‘sort of’ backpackers and the owner, a Kiwi bloke called Dennis, advertised it as a place where you could learn the Samoan culture (from him) while also helping with jobs around his plantation to work off part of your accommodation costs. I didn’t mind that the place was a bit of a building site and still under construction, but I couldn’t stand how filthy and unorganised it was. There was rubbish just lying about everywhere, water constantly running, food sitting out, and hundreds of aggressive mosquitoes both night and day.
Dennis himself was a bit of a strange man. A business man, he’d spent the past 2 years living in Samoa and claimed to know the culture better than any Palagi (white person). However, he couldn’t speak any of the local language, and before I’d even met a Samoan, he told me they were stupid, dirty, unintelligent and thieves. During that week with Dennis he would talk and talk, going off on rants about subjects like God, his businesses, how Samoan women don’t need equal rights. From the way he spoke I got the impression he didn’t like Samoa or the people much at all. All we could do was listen, and yet he barely ever asked us a question about ourselves or our lives.
However, a few good things did come out from going to Camp Samoa. I learnt how to use a machete, crack open a coconut, plant taro, and concrete a floor. And although not in the video, Dennis’s next door neighbour, who just happened to be a respected Samoan High Chief, invited us round for what turned out to be a very drunken dinner. He whipped out a guitar and before I knew it everyone was singing along while his ‘boy’ played percussion on a set of spoons.
After Camp Samoa we went out into Samoa to explore and experience the Samoan culture for ourselves. We went to the markets, got shown around a family farm and watched them prepare the to’ona’i (Sunday lunch), explored the main islands by bus, swam in an ocean trench, took our chances sliding down rock slides, swam with turtles and stayed at some beautiful beach fales. And no, the Samoan people did not come across as ‘stupid’ or ‘unintelligent’, they were open, friendly, generous, and seemed genuinely happy to meet us and learn more about where we came from.