On Sunday night, we finally got approval from the Brown IRB on some revisions we made to the project. Now we are only waiting on our Samoan translations to be approved before we can actually start collecting data. In the meantime, we decided we'd hit the beach.
On Monday, we decided we'd try out a new part of the island known as Airport beach, named because it sits along the outer side of the airport runway. All we were told about getting there was to park in Industrial Park and walk along the fence. So we did. The "trail" (really just a slim opening between the fence on one side and bushes on the other) was covered n trash, but we wanted to find the beach so we kept on going. And going. And going. Eventually, we were on the far side of the airport pushing our way through the bushes or climbing on the large rocks leading into the ocean. We looked at each other in despiration, but we agreed that at this point we might as well complete our journey and go all the way around.
We eventually did make it to a beach, but access would have been much easier if we had started in a different place. We relaxed in some shallow pools formed by the rocks for a while and attempted to swim (it was a bit too rocky). At this point it was late in the afternoon, so we continued along past some very cool rock formations and blowholes before making it back to the road. Our journely brought us not too far from our house, so Kirstin and I headed home while Gabe and Susanna hopped on a bus that took them to retreive our car. The whole shebang took 4 hours and took much more energy than we had anticipated spending on a day at the beach. But so it goes. I made us chicken parmesan for dinner, and we watched a movie (Doubt) before going to sleep exhausted.
Yesterday, feeling a bit less adventurous, we decided we’d drive out to the western side of the island and find a beach there. We were aiming to go to “Palagi Beach” on the very western tip, but we could not find anyone in the village to tell us how to get there. We kept driving around to the northwest just to see the sights, but were eventually forced to turn around due to a construction crew. We eventually settled on a beach in Agugulu (we asked a villager for permission), and spent a few hours reading on the beach and wading in the water (despite the strong current).
Today, after practicing taking anthropometric measurements on each other and running through our research protocol (see, we do SOME work here), we returned to Larson’s Beach, which still gets all our votes for most beautiful beach on the island. Because it was high tide, the water was high enough off the rocks that we were even able to swim around. The beach is particularly great because it is extremely secluded and we do not need to worry about intruding upon a village (as is the case with most beaches here).
This evening, we were invited by Rive (pronounced Ri-vay), one of the four Samoan researchers we are working with, to his Church in Nu’uli. A bit of background: The Christian missionaries did quite a number here as with most of the South Pacific (One website says the island is 98 percent Christian). Every village has at least one church, often many more. Different types include Congregationalist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, Catholic, and just about anything else you can think of. Many of the Churches we pass on the road have architecture that clearly dates them back to the colonial era.
We met Rive outside his Church just before six for mid-week services. Engraved above the door was the name of the Church, “First Samoan Full Gospel Pentecostal Church.” As strange as this sounds coming from a nice Jewish boy, I was actually glad to see this because it meant a much more musical service. Before we even entered, we could hear the music blasting, and inside the church I could barely hear anything over singing accompanied by keyboard, bass, and even a full drum set. We were the only palagis (white people) present, but everyone seemed too caught up in the service to even notice us. There were plenty of claps and raised arms and shouts of “Amen!” as the gospel music played. Despite a few repeating English phrases, the entire service was in Samoan (which actually made it more enjoyable), but the music was beautiful and it was interesting to hear the sermon belted out in some unknown language.
When the service was over and people began filing out, a good number approached us to introduce themselves and welcome us (a great demonstration of Samoan hospitality). Rive gave us a little tour, introducing us to his family and the Church’s Pastor. As we were about to leave, Rive’s mother asked us if we had eaten yet. We had not, and so we accompanied Rive, his parents, and his little sister to the Chinese restaurant next door. I’m beginning to that “Samoan food” simply translates to “Massive amounts of food,” as plate after plate arrived at our table.
We were all stuffed after the meal, and we profusely thanked Rive and his family for inviting us along to Church and to dinner. Katy later commented on how weird it is for us northeasterners to understand genuine hospitality and kindness, but that’s really what Samoan culture is all about. Churches one of the main centers of culture and community here, and it’s great that we are already being invited to join in. While I’m not sure I want to become a regular church-goer, I am certainly interested to see some of the other types of services and take up Rive’s offer to return with him for a Sunday service.