When I arrived in Samoa in 2001 my first impression of the island was the heat. As soon as I walked off the plane a heat wave hit me straightaway. After going through customs my auntie and my cousins were there to greet my parents and me. This was the first time I had met my cousins. They were very friendly and made me feel very welcome.
As we were driving to the village, I noticed that Samoa is a very green place, full of many plantations. There were a lot of churches along the road. I noticed many different villages and the village people who were working hard. It made me feel sad for them, but it is their way of life and they seemed to be happy people who lived happy lives.
When we arrived at the village of Leulumoega, I felt excited about the idea of experiencing a new way of living. We stayed in a Fale Samoa (a Samoan house). This kind of house is very different from a New Zealand house. A Fale Samoa is open, with no doors and no windows. This keeps it cool and breezy. It is made out of wood.
Samoans do everything outside. They cook outside, they do their washing outside by hand in a big barrel, and they even shower outside. There is no hot water, only cold water. But as the weather is so hot that feels nice.
At dinnertime, the ladies of the village cooked a nice feast for us. We had some of the traditional food. We had luau, pua’a (pork) and other Samoan foods that I enjoyed very much. We always blessed the food before every meal. Prayer is very important to Samoan people. On Sundays nobody works because it is considered a holy day, and a day of rest.
On week days I really liked playing rugby outside with my cousins, except on Saturdays when we all had to help clean the house. The girls cleaned the inside and us boys cleaned the outside.
Sometimes my uncle would go pig hunting all day and bring back a pig to cook for a meal. On other days my uncles just went and worked in the plantations. My grandmother would sometimes sew clothes on her sewing machine. She used a hand, not an electric sewing machine. She made me a Samoan shirt that I liked.
One weekend my parents and I travelled to the city (Apia) on the Samoan bus. On the bus, they played Samoan music and the music was turned up loud. When we arrived at the city we went to the Saturday Market to buy fish, vegetables and presents like necklaces and t-shirts for my brothers and sisters in New Zealand.
We also went to McDonald's. They only have one McDonald’s in Samoa. It is about three times more expensive to buy food there than it costs in New Zealand. But the hamburgers tasted the same. There were also Internet cafes in the town, where people would go and jump online.
I would rather live in Samoa than in New Zealand because the people there are very friendly and the lifestyle is more relaxed. I feel it is also safer there. I enjoyed getting to know my cousins and living in a bigger extended family with all the different generations living close by. The only disadvantages were the strict rules we were expected to obey and not being able to speak and understand the Samoan language.
But some things are better in New Zealand, like education and the changing seasons and because it is a bigger place.
Since coming back to New Zealand my mum has taught me a little of the Samoan language. So one day when I go back to Samoa again I will be able to speak to my grandmother. I am really looking forward to going there again.