Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Little Pieces of Peace of Mind

One of the great things about the weather in Samoa is that is always feels like the end of summer. Maybe school has started already, or maybe it’s just about to, but it’s still warm enough to play outside until the sun is just beginning to set and everyone has to go home for dinner. The weather should start turning chilly soon…but it won’t because it’s Samoa. But it has that great feeling that you get at the end of summer that I’m having a hard time capturing in words – it’s calm, relaxed, and everything is just about perfect. There are a few instances that stand out in my mind that seem like perfect little pieces of peace of mind that comes with this type of weather.

While visiting Manono, it was freakin’ hot because the sun was out all day. Late afternoon rolls around, and most people in our group took a walking tour of the island (you can walk around the whole island in about an hour and a half). I didn’t feel like getting that sweaty, so I opted for a porch party instead. Probably not the type of porch party you would think of, though. The fales we were staying in were just barely big enough for three single beds (which is really all you need), and they had great little porches with plastic chairs on them. I was sharing a porch with two other girls, and it was more of a reading party than a porch party. The sun was still really hot, but I was in the shade and could feel it just barely beginning to cool down. The light was coming through the porch at that perfect angle that shows the day is getting on, but not in any particular hurry. The crickets were chirping, the mosquitoes were buzzing (of course), and occasionally the birds would add their own little tune. I was sitting at the perfect angle so I could see the end of the dock in the sea. The tiny little boat we came on was barely bobbing in the soft waves, and there was a traditional Samoan canoe next to it doing the same thing. It would be a picture worthy of a postcard if I could have gotten the angle right – seeing the boats in the water framed by the edge of the porch. Everything about the moment was perfect.

Beach fales at Manono

Guess which boat took 26 of us and all our backpacks to Manoano?

Another one of my favorite hang out spots is this cute little road-side fale in my village. They are little more than raised platforms with a roof – actually, that’s exactly what they are – but they’re perfect for sitting in. We have a few such fales, but the one I prefer is set just on the downward slope of a hill at one end of my village. As you sit in the fale looking out at the ocean (why would you look at the road when you can look at the ocean?), the trees and bushes are just starting to clear out on the left, and the fales on the right are far enough away that you have a basically unobstructed ocean view. Since my village is set on cliffs, this means you look straight out onto the ocean until the world ends, but it really doesn’t end because there is nothing to stop the water – it’s endless water. When the sky is spotted with cotton-candy clouds, it makes the perfect match to the blue water so you have an infinite sky, with clouds placed accidentally on purpose, that meets the endless ocean. Sometimes when the clouds aren’t just right, the sky looks like harsh wallpaper put up against the ocean. It doesn’t mean to clash, but because of that, it makes it so much more obvious that it shouldn’t be there, especially not looking like that. This usually only happens when the sky is a solid sheet of gray. This fale is my favorite thinking spot, and it does wonders to clear the mind.

Another benefit of living in Samoa is the night sky. It’s not as unobstructed as I thought it would be – there are a surprising number of streetlamps – but it’s still better than any view you could find in the middle of a town in the States. Hundreds of stars, although I can’t recognize many constellations yet. I can find Orion, but I’m pretty sure he’s upside down (from the northern hemisphere, I’m pretty sure Orion’s head is above his feet when you’re facing north, not vice versa). Again, the beauty of the sky is only increased by the ocean, especially when the moon is out. The moonlight bounces off the water, creating bright spots on the waves in the otherwise pitch-black water. Compared to the water, the sky is positively bright, and you still get that sense of infinity when you try to take in both the sky and the ocean. I recently stayed at Lusia’s for the first time, the favorite PC hang out spot in Savai’i, and my favorite part about the night was sitting on the end of the dock, feet dangling over perfect blue-green water that darkened slowly as the sun went down, watching the stars come to life. It is unbelievably peaceful, giving you that sense of calm, accepting, insignificance within the world.

Samoa has some of the most spectacular natural beauty I have ever seen. Everywhere I look, I feel like it fits perfectly on a postcard. My words and pictures don’t do it justice; I wish you could all see it for yourself. I consider myself lucky that I have lived here for almost 8 months and I am still, almost continuously, struck by the magnificence of everything around me. Sometimes it wears off, but it has always come back and it makes me so happy to be so appreciative of the scenery around me.


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  2. Natalie, I especially love this one! All the best.