Palagi: (pronounced paa-lang-ee) A foreign person, not of Samoan origin
Travelling to a new country offers a world of experience, new sights, new sounds, a new culture to explore. But living in a new country offers these things on a whole different level. All of a sudden you go from being an outsider to becoming a part of the place in which you live. You find yourself engrained in the daily happenings and you begin to adopt not only friends, but family.
Savaii is the largest island in Western Samoa and is quite a way off the beaten track. It is a step beyond the tourism trails of the South Pacific which presents an opportunity to explore Samoa for what it really is. You are not just staying in a hotel (although we are living in one), you are following the Samoan way of life. When you visit another country you find yourself drawn to the main attractions with an almost maddening determination to see everything that is on offer, but when you live in another country, you find yourself enjoying day-to-day life as if this itself were the main attraction. All of a sudden going to the local store becomes an adventure and visiting a friend becomes a journey. There is something to be said for driving through a local village and having kids run beside the car calling your name, the people know you and you find yourself becoming part of the scenery instead of the one looking at it.
We have lived in Savaii now for just over 7 months and although it feels like a lifetime, in the same step it feels like no time at all. Time passes differently here. Maybe it has something to do with the concept that you are working, just like you always have, but instead of the daily grind you are working in a place that you consider to be paradise. The boring and mundane parts of your day are more interesting than they would have been at home and something that would have stressed you out in a previous life becomes amusing and just another challenge for the day. You see things on a daily basis that make you smile, simply because they are different to what you are used to and although you come to a point where the simple things you would see on a holiday start to lose their charm, you gain a strong affection for the place and the people that call it home.
Here I am a friend, an aunty and a mother to a group of wonderful people. I am involved with the local tourism board and I am committed to the development of Savaii as a tourism destination just as much as I am committed to helping my new friends and family find their way overseas to experience the world for themselves. When you live in a place it is your natural instinct to become immersed in everything about the place and as a result you leave behind a little piece of your heart in every place that touches you.