Searching for the Samoan cover boy
By Astral Sligo & Piper Wallis
My camera loved Samoa almost as much as I did – the unmuted colours of the villages and sea, the captivating beauty of the flora, and the sparkling smiles of the unabashedly friendly children who crowded around me whenever I had the camera lens-cap off: 'Please Miss, take our photo!'
On my second day in the Treasured Islands, I had pitched up on the island of Savaii
. I had no plans other than to go diving, and hopefully to find some ancient ruins. I had nothing booked, but, as I was editing them at the time, I had my Jasons' map and guide
in my daypack, and knew that I wanted to get to the north of the island.
I headed to Fagamalo, and after a morning underneath the turquoise waters with Dive Savaii
(along reefs and investigating shipwreck sites, even spotting a barracuda!), I headed to Manase, a small seaside village picturesquely located on a long white-sand beach. I found some beach fale accommodation and set about relaxing for the day.
Sometime between my afternoon nap in the shade of a coconut tree, and my sunset swim, I took a walk along the main road of the village (the same road that encircles Savaii). I wanted to capture the vibrant hues of the painted bus stops – where bunches of bananas hung for all to help themselves – and the lush tropical trees that serve as a roadside border (a hedge of mango and papaya trees is my idea of heaven).
I was the only one on the road, it was not yet the cooling end of the afternoon, and I think most of the locals were sensible and keeping in the shade. Then I heard it; the rumbling whooshing of a bus with the deep bass of whatever music the driver was playing. I managed to snap a few photos of the audaciously coloured vehicle (such a feature of any time spent in Samoa). As I was checking the photos under the shade of a bus stop, two young school boys headed towards me.
We greeted each other, I asked how their day at school was and if they wanted their photo taken. One didn't want to, but the other boy stood and smiled and let me take a few photos. I knew these photos were good and would capture for me all the vibrancy and friendliness that I had so far experienced in Samoa.
I thanked him as he walked off towards his home and I went back to my fale on the beach.
Ten days later, I was back in the office in rainy Auckland and the 2013 Samoa guide was due to print. My trip to Samoa seemed to be a lifetime away as the designer and I looked through the few photos we had available for cover shots. Somehow the image we’d originally selected for the guide was unable to be used, and we were stuck, trying to find something that would really evoke a welcoming holiday destination.
We'd used a few of my bus and landscape photos in the guide, and everyone had commented on my photo of the boy at the bus stop. These were my personal photos, I hadn't travelled to Samoa as a travel editor, but as a visitor, and although I had asked the young boy his name, I'd since forgotten it. But as our print date got closer, it seemed this photo was our best choice. I felt a strong tension between feeling proud that this boy I had encountered was now going to be the face welcoming thousands of visitors to Samoa, and feeling guilty that I had no way of being able to credit him.
I’m always aware that when I travel, I am a visitor to the homeland, hometowns and sometimes the homes of the people who live there every day, and that my holiday is their daily life. This tension felt like a guilt. I endeavoured to get in touch with the village through people I had met on my stay, but I just couldn't make any progress in finding the young boy.
Nearly a year later, a colleague and his family were going to stay at the resort at Fagamalo. I had an idea – I asked him how he would feel about trying to locate the young boy and give him a thank you card that I made, if they succeeded. Happily, they agreed to do so. Read on to find how eight-year-old Piper Wallis enjoyed her recent trip to Samoa and her meeting with Sauni who was the face of the Jasons 2013 Samoa Visitor Guide.
1. What is the first thing you noticed when you got off the plane?
I noticed how hot it was, and the scenery.
2. Where did you stay? How many people were you staying with?
First we went to Le Lagoto Resort & Spa
with grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles. Next we to Coconuts beach resort and spa with mum and dad and stayed in an overwater fale.
3. What was the food like? What was your favourite Samoan meal?
Food was great and my favourite was the Lu'au/Palusami – taro leaves cooked in coconut cream).
4. What did you learn about Samoa?
I learnt about everyday life, the men climb the trees for coconuts. The mature coconuts or adult coconuts have brown husks. The baby coconuts are green and no husks. I loved the geckos and lizards. Samoa also has a hangi called an umu, which is cooked above ground instead of below.
5. Did you meet any of the local people?
Yes, I met a guy called Mathew who gave me two coconuts and showed me where he got them from and showed me some crabs in the jungle.
6. You helped find the young boy who is on the front cover of the Jasons guide to Samoa (thank you!) – can you tell me about that? Was he surprised?
His name is Sauni and he was very surprised when we found him and gave him a card and a small gift from Jasons. We met his family, he had 6 brothers and sisters. We got a photo of the family but his mother was too shy to be in the photo. His dad's name is Lave and he is a potato farmer and plays the piano. When we visited they were making their big Saturday dinner.
7. What was your favourite experience in Samoa?
A big snorkelling trip seeing all the fish and coral. Also the To Sua Ocean Trench was great, it's a big swimming hole that you had to climb down a step ladder to get to.
8. What's your favourite thing about Samoa – something that you'd tell other people your age?
Swimming with turtles and playing with lots of new friends in the pools. And playing with crabs.
9. Are there three words you can think of that sum up Samoa?
Steamy, beautiful, bright colours.
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White Sunday (in 2013 held on Sunday, 13 October) is the Samoan day celebrating childhood. On this day, children are allowed privileges including being served first during meal time. Find out more
Do you have any photos of Samoa that you think should be on our next Jasons Samoa Guide or Map? Email them to email@example.com