My Indepence day celebrations had started 2 weeks ago, my boss had been part of the Independence Day Committee (organisers) and I was lucky to go along with her to Savaii to watch the pre-independence day fa’afiafiaga’s (or more like, the Audition before the big day).
Savaii was something else!! I was a bit taken aback seeing as though it was my first time to Savaii and it was under work circumstances – let me tell you (and I truly believe Savaii is under-rated) IT IS SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL! FOR REALS!!!
Our trek that morning (last monday) started on the Va’a usu, we had left @ 4.30am in the morning to meet the rest of the delegation of committee members – the boat ride wasn’t really much of an excitement, the half asleep, half hungry, half wanting a cigarette made the trip a bit more painful – but on the whole, it wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe (we were on the Lady Naomi).
The hustle and bustle of Salelologa wasn’t as intense as Apia, on the touchdown, the two different attitudes of Upolu’ans and Savaiian’s were obvious, we were in cruise control mode here in Savaii.
After taking a few photos of villages for the National Beautification Committee (the A’ai competition) Sonja (the boss lady) sped through the minimal traffic of Savaii en-route to Safotu.
This village is what an Upolu village would have looked like 10 years ago (the beautiful part of 10 years ago).
It was here that we were greeting by the village matai and the congregation of 300 men of the village ready for the performance of thier fa’afiafiaga. They had been notified of thier participation a week earlier, so the short notice was a bit of a worry for the committee, but we were proved wrong, they BROUGHT IT! the ta’ita’i of the fa’afiafiaga was this chubby guy who could move like no one’s business! There songs were the bomb and they were definately a worthy choice for participation.
Next up, was Amoa College – we were being typical Samoans in the sense that we were 2 hours late after eating the food prepared by Safotu village (the tastiest Moa Samoa & the most colorful fish I’ve ever eaten)
Amoa college were all wide-eyed and anxious, I started walking around taking photos of everyone singing, thier pese fa’aleaganu’u was in direct respect to the Head of State and the Ministers of the Cabinet as well as a swipe at the Right Hand Drive issue. (which upon feedback by the committee members, was to be removed) ARGH! there goes censorship again! haha..
They were the bomb though!
We were then headed off to our last visit for the day, and that was the village of Tafua.
Tafua was my favourite place and favourite village, thier welcoming and hospitality is what Samoa is all about. Upon arrival there were Niu’s and local fruit (see how the inclusion of food just made it my favourite) were all spread out.
Thier pese faaleaganuu was so clear it sounded as if only one person was singing (at a massive volume). The surroundings of the Fale Samoa that they were performing in was breath-taking, the fale-samoa overlooked a basketball court that was framed by crystal clear turquoise colored ocean..
It was after this performance that the Fa’asamoa kicked in, the exchanging of money, ie toga’s and alaga povi’ and the whole shi-bang of the Samoan culture was on show.
I was given an Ie Toga (LMFAO!) out of all the times I’ve seen this sort of thing happen, I swear to g.o.d that I never thought I would ever recieve an Ie toga.. out of a fa’aaloalo and respect by the village (and all I did was take photos and eat thier food) It felt awesome and at the same time, I felt like I still had SO much to learn and so much about the Aganu’u of Samoa that I needed to get a grasp on.
So fast forward to the Actual Independence day!..
Monday morning @ 4.30am, Mulinuu was PACKED! buses, vans, trucks, walkers, tourists, food stalls, police – all with random uniforms walking side by side to Mulinu’u where the flag raising and the actual ’savali’ was to take place. In past years, I was told that the Savali started all the way from where the Kitano Tusitala hotel was, this year the parade was to begin at the Lands & Titles court and walk in front of the delegation tent.
I had arrived in the Samoa Tourism Authority car with Gwen (Miss Samoa) and we were dropped off next to the V.I.P tent (I was to be Gwen’s chaperone for the event) as we walked up and quickly did a mirror check and ie faitaga check, we were seated behind Ministers of Ministries – and three rows behind the Head Of State and about 9 seats to our left was the PM of Samoa.
The church service was held by a Methodist Faifeau (the most senior) and to some extent, it went on for ages! the sun was rising and our eyes were being blinded as we were seated facing the direct light of the sun.
The Head of State delivered a powerful speech into the importance of Independence and what it signifies for all Samoans living in Samoa and also all of those who live overseas.
He quoted Albert Wendt “We are what we remember” and thanked all that were present for waking up early and making the effort to be part of the celebrations (I held back tears because I was so hungry and I was half sleeping). Gwen was effortlessly cool and calm (pro!) and then the Camera’s came around (errr shame!) lmfao…
The National Anthem was played by the Police Band (who have had recent upgrades to thier band instruments) and the RIFLES went off! woahhhhhh that was something else, it said on the program that it was a 25 rifle salute, but it felt like Canons under the marquee, every canon shot that went off, was felt on the inside – and for any unpatriotic member of the audience would have been converted during that time.
And then the March began!… LMFAOOOO! (the Army, Navy, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts took the lead, I’m still unsure of where these army people came from, france or something like that?)
I whispered to Gwen that we had to walk with the S.T.A banner, the government departments had a requirement to walk, so we had to leave our comfortable seats (JUST before the food was coming out! LOL) and walk gwen through the grassy outskirts to meet up with our S.T.A colleagues.
We got there just in time, I took Gwens bag and Tiara holding case and told her I’ll hold it as I rushed her to walk in front of our banner. Gwen ran as fast as she could to the front our line, and I tried to find a place amongst the guys in the back..
As the march progressed, Gwens bag fell out of my hands and all of her stuff fell out, so I had to scramble to pick up everything while the line of our staff was moving (shux, talk about embarrassing) and mind you, Gwen’s bag was a bright PINK fala style thing..
So I quickly picked up everything and by that time I was the last in the line LMFAO…
So I walked as if it was meant to be, everyone of us were in white, Gwen and I however were the only ones with Red Teuila Ula’s that were handed to us in the main marquee.
We had to walk in front of these tents full of important Samoan figures and I was so dang shame that I didn’t even look at who they were..
We got in front of the Head of State and his wife, we all turned, and then I hear this “Ifo” – so everyone bowed, and since I was right at the back, I was the last to bow and just looked ridiculous – this bowing guy holding a pink bag and a tiara case LMFAO.
Oh man! it was awesome, definately one of my proudest moments, just having the experience was worth the early morning start and the scrambling to walk in part with S.T.A.
After the walk (and this is why I LOVE working in Samoa) we had the biggest breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast, corn beef, sapasui (samoan styleeeeeeee) choohooo!.. that for me, was like breathing new life!..
The rest of the day was hella fun, seeing the Savaii crews that were there was awesome, I felt like in some small way, I knew them..
I got home, and my next door neighbour was mocking me and my walk ! hahaha..
SHUX, Independence day was the Bomb – and if you ever get to experience it, its one of those ‘i feel awesome that I’m Samoan’ kind of moments!