Isa Lei Fiji & Samoa: Fales, Faith & Flowers

Isa Lei Fiji & Samoa: Fales, Faith & Flowers

Bounty Island is part of the Mamanuca group of islands and it is the last island we visited in Fiji. Its look and feel and its guests are somewhere in between of both of the Yasawa islands we had visited before: a lot of backpackers but also some families, a beach bungalow not quite as nice as the on at Botaira but it did have hot running water… And here too the staff will sing Isa Lei at night – apparently a farewell song well known throughout Fiji – to their departing guests. It is sung multi vocal and sounds quite nice and a little sad at the same time. After 3 weeks in Fiji my final conclusion is that it is a fantastic holiday destination for Ozzies and Kiwis but not quite worth the trouble to visit on a 3 week vacation from Europe. It’s not that it’s not friendly, beautiful and exotic, because it certainly is, but there are islands in the Caribbean that are as nice as and also 3 times closer to home. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, as we happen to be, however…

Late in the evening of September 23rd we flew further East to Samoa, where we arrived early in the morning of September the 23rd. It was our second crossing of the international dateline! It still is funny to me but at the same time difficult to book hotels and flights around such a crossing. Our first night in Samoa I booked for the 22nd, even though we left Fiji on the 23rd! Erg verwarrend… 😉

We have rented a small car to explore the two largest islands of Samoa. While driving around there are a few things that do not go unnoticed. There’s an incredible number of Christian churches. Every village, no matter how small, has at least one and preferably one that is larger and nicer than the one in the next village. Not all that strange considering the text that is printed on the independence monument in the capital Apia: ‘Samoa is founded on God’. I’m not sure if there’s a relation but another thing we noticed is that everyone maintains their garden extremely well. You can see neat hedges and flower beds everywhere, even at the shadiest of huts. Because of that, Samoa looks clean and tidy, very fifties however, even though it’s a pretty poor country.

Many people happen to have a very good view of their garden, probably a good reason to keep it in shape so well. The traditional houses here, called fales, do not have any walls at all. An elevated floor and pillars to hold the roof up – but no windows, doors or walls. A voyeur’s paradise! Many seem to have plastic or palm leaf screens that they can lower between two pillars whenever it rains or gets dark, but privacy is obviously not high on their list of priorities. Furniture consists of a few chairs, a couch, a mattress with a mosquito net, a closet, sometimes a fridge and very often a TV. The so called ‘beach fales’ are available to tourists but, considering we have privacy and comfort much higher on our list, we are very happy with the more luxurious beach bungalows that luckily happen to be available as well. They all have magnificent sea views, sometimes with very dramatic surf.

Upolu, our first and current island, is very green. Not very suprising; it is very tropical and a lot warmer and humid than Fiji was so everything grows in abundance. One nice result is that if you are visiting one of the many waterfalls or the To Sua Trench (a couple of huge and deep holes in the ground that are interconnected as well as connected to the sea) you will often do so via a beautiful and lush garden. It’s fun driving around here; there’s lots to see and the people are all very nice. A downside of this apparent paradise is that the whole society revolves around the community people are born into and grow up in. Everyone is subordinate to the community and because of this children are left to be raised by older siblings. Children do not get much attention or love (or none at all) from their parents and usually grow up with a lack of self esteem because of this and unfortunately relatively many of them choose to end their lives prematurely… Despite this and the lack of wealth, things seem to be going well for many Samoans considering the fact that in general they are enormous (there’s always a great abundance of food; coconuts, papayas and bananas literally grow everywhere). That, combined with an abundance of huge tattoos, makes them a very impressive people…


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