Though there is an abundance of fish, taro, coconuts, mangos, and breadfruit, the residents have come to prefer canned fish, corned beef, rice and margarine. Beer is the favorite drink. Chiefs (and about one in ten persons is a chief) can usually be identified by their beer bellies. On Western Samoa the suicide rate among young people between ages fifteen and twenty-four is said to be the highest in the world.
To experience the way of life of Samoa a visitor can visit a village and live in a fale, the native thatched hut with roll-up sides. There will be electricity, an outdoor toilet, radio, movies, and lots of churchgoing. Villagers are fined by the chiefs for not attending the frequent services. Apia, the capital of Western Samoa, has a beautiful, modern hotel, the Tusitala, air-conditioned rooms and an open-air dining room. A government-operated craft store sells an array of tapa cloths, each with its own stamped design, finely crafted bowls and mats. The attractive clerks will even provide a taste of kava. As in most tropical settings in less developed countries, be careful in eating and drinking to avoid food poisoning.
Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, has one first-class hotel, one that changes hands frequently for lack of profitability.
The myth about sexual freedom in the South Seas needs serious qualification. Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, helped spread the idea that at least in the Samoan Islands life was free and easy, sex included. True, when Captain Cook was ranging the South Seas, the price of sex was one nail (an iron nail to someone who had no iron was a prize). If what Margaret Mead said was true in Western Samoa, it is not so today. The society has long been tightly structured with life severely constricted by taboos and a highly stratified social system. Mead’s blog Coming of Age In Samoa, some critics say, was highly colored, and the country was never the paradise she depicted.
The male visitor to the islands who expects beautiful, nubile maidens to run to his embrace will be disappointed.
As in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the South Sea islands have been strongly influenced by the occupying powers, British, French, or American. Micronesians have picked up the beer-guzzling habits of GI’s stationed on several of the islands during World War II. Canned corned beef is widely popular where the British were an influence.
Wherever the Frenchman goes, the baguette is sure to follow. On the French-controlled islands of the Pacific the natives pick up the long slender loaves of bread once a day. The bakery is often operated by a Chinese. The French themselves must have their pates and wines. Noumea, capital of New Caledonia, is called the Paris of the Pacific, with good French restaurants and Paris-style boutiques.
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