To begin with you need to know that I lived and worked in Samoa for nine years (2005 – 2014). Samoa has and always will be in my heart, blood, and life. After living away from Samoa for nine years I was blessed to return to Samoa for a wonderful 4-week trip. After some reflection, here are some of the things that we noticed had changed in Samoa over the last 10 years.
1. More Cars
If you remember in 2009 Samoa changed the side of the road, they drove on so that farmers could easily access farming equipment from New Zealand and Australia. This has led to an influx of vehicles, particularly from Asia. There are so many cars now in Samoa. Don’t try to drive to town through Pesega in peak hour because it is almost as brutal as school pick up in Australia, cars are everywhere. The thing is even car rentals are importing Asian cars because my brother hired a car, and he couldn’t figure out how to use the radio because it was speaking in Japanese, and the writing was in Japanese. I am not saying Asian cars are a problem, I am saying the number of cars on an island where less than 300,000 people live is inconceivable.
2. More Plastic
I love that there is a ban on plastic bags in Samoa. This is amazing for our country. The thing is the bags that they have brought in to replace the plastic bags also seem to be made with a different kind of plastic. I am no scientist, and I could be wrong so correct me in the comments if this is not true. The stronger bags are stronger and can be used multiple times, but it feels like it is made from some form of recycled plastic. So, kind of like trading one form of plastic for another?
I also noticed more plastic bottles. I don’t know if it is me but when I lived in Samoa, we would get the massive bottle of Le Vai or whatever water company and use some form of a pump to put it in smaller containers and to drink with. It lasted the two of us a good week or so. I have not seen as many of the bigger bottles this trip, more of a move toward single serve bottles. I am going to admit this trip that was me, we used the single serve bottles, mainly because of convenience as this was more easily accessible from the stores and I couldn’t remember where the bottle refill stations were. Yes, that is an excuse. But more plastic seen in Samoa this trip. Would love to hear of some recycling programs that are happening. Tell me in the comments.
3. New Buildings
Driving through Vaimoso we noticed a beautiful new building that looked like it was built high into the sky. The lights glimmered in the evening sky and my mouth dropped at the beauty I was seeing. What is that? I asked. It was the new arts building in Motootua. There are many new buildings around Samoa, especially in Apia. When I left there was no Taumeasina, no Lava Hotel. The number of new buildings was great to see.
What was disheartening was the number of buildings that are being left in disarray and the many buildings that are discarded. One thing I guess that has not changed is that Samoa have not implemented their maintenance plans for many of their buildings. This leads to small problems getting bigger. Getting so big that the thought of fixing it is too much so instead we will build something new and then guess what still no maintenance plan implemented. Then the cycle begins again. I bring this up because when I left the TATTE building, which was built so that there was a single building to hold most of the government ministries, was only just a few years old. It was a beautiful building. I did not have an opportunity to look inside this trip but the outside there are rust and water damage stains on the side of the building that show the lack of maintenance.
I stayed at Lava Hotel for almost two weeks. Lava Hotel opened 2019 it is new. The thing is already I saw broken wooden tiles in the restaurant area that were not fixed. If you get a chip in your car windscreen and do nothing, just keep acting like everything is ok and you don’t see the chip. Over time the chip is going to grow into a full-blown crack. If you treated the chip with some silicone fillers at the first sight of it, you could have saved yourself a bunch of money. Now because you let it grow you must replace the whole windscreen costing you more money.
While the new buildings are great to see. It is the neglected older buildings that show me the issue is not that we have a lack of buildings in Samoa it is that we have a lack of understanding on how to maintain them so that they last longer than 20 years.
4. More Tourists
There were a lot more tourists compared to when we lived in Samoa. It is great for the economy and for the businesses in Samoa. It was great to see that many of the tourist destinations also updated their venues to accommodate the increase in patronage. While we were there the hotels and car rentals were all fully booked. While this is great for the economy, what is the impact on the environment. With increased cars on roads there is an increase in air pollution, noise, and traffic.
While we were at To Sua I saw a tour bus from Return to Paradise. How awesome would it be if each of the hotels offered tours or collaborated with a tour provider so that groups could visit various destinations without needing to hire cars. Even better Samoa Tourism could invest in regular buses that go from town to these destinations. We have shopping buses here, even a shopping tour would be something.
5. Eftpos Machines
Eftpos Machines and the ability to pay by card was very rare 10 years ago. It is increasing in it’s use in major stores and hotels. However, paying using American Express is not accepted. There were signs in some places that said American Express was accepted, but this was not the case. Cash is still the way to go so make sure that you exchange money somewhere because you will need it.
If you liked this blog you may like reading 25 Interesting Facts About Samoa