By Athan Makansi - KF8 – SPBD, Samoa
A picture captures a thousand words. Here are a few thousand words from my past 9 weeks with Kiva Partner South Pacific Business Development in Samoa:
Although poor, Samoa has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Bright, white sand, dotted with fallen coconuts and perfected by the sound of rolling waves make Samoa a good place for vacationers as well as for microfinance.
The beaches are complemented by large expanses of lush rain forest. The canopy of Falealupo peninsula is particularly stunning.
Every Sunday morning at around 5am the normally vacant stalls near the Apia harbor fill with fish venders and customers. Very quickly it becomes a bustling place. The smell hits you first. Body odor mixed with fishy smells, mixed with smoke from the barbecue stalls across the street and in the background the ever present salty smell of the ocean. Samoans gather on Sunday to buy fish in preparation for the tonai, a Sunday feast after church. Everything edible from the sea can be found in the market – tuna, barracuda, eel, parrot fish, octopus, sea slug guts (a Samoan delicacy) and seaweed!
Getting ready for church. 99% of Samoans are devoutly Christian, so Sunday is a very serious day. Traditionally, only one or two members of a family are allowed to stay home from church. Their job is to prepare the after church meal, called a tonai. Everyone goes to church; no stores are open, no taxi drivers are available. Church service is very lively with a lot of singing. But there’s no designated choir; everyone in the congregation is also in the choir. Samoans amazingly all have really wonderful voices.
For such as small nation, Samoa has a surprisingly large number of bars and clubs. In other words, Samoans like to have a good time. Every Friday and Saturday night these bars fill with locals and foreigners alike pining for a sip of the delicious local brew, Vailima, served normally in a 750 ml bottle. To everyone’s disappointment the government has stipulated that the bars close by midnight. This doesn’t mean the party stops then though. Most people grab their last bottle or two and head to the sea wall, a small stone barricade lining the Apia harbor.
The largest produce market in Samoa, the Maketi Fou is always open. It’s said that to have a family stall in this market is so prestigious that families members will actually sleep here to keep their spot. Food stalls in the back prepare quick meals or a cheap snack and the place is almost always packed from sun-up to sun-down. Around 25% of the food stalls owners have microloans from South Pacific Business Development, Kiva’s field partner in Samoa.
Rugby is Samoa’s most beloved sport. Fittingly so, for every Samoan has the perfect build for a rugby player – bulky and muscular. Here Manu Samoa, the national rugby union team, does the haka to intimidate their opponent, Papua New Guinea. Manu Samoa defeated Papua New Guinea in this qualifying match for the 2011 World Cup, 115-7.
Samoa has the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises of any place I’ve ever been. Consistently every morning is a collage of pinks, blues and yellows and every evening produces a new mixture of oranges, reds and purples. With sunsets like this every day, I feel like the luckiest Kiva Fellow.
Kiva Borrower Selesitina Fatu is all smiles during our visit. Thank you Kiva Lenders for increasing the number of smiles in the world!
Athan Makansi, KF8, is currently serving his fellowship with South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), Kiva’s Partner in Samoa./>