Two large events happened in June that brought a lot of us volunteers into Apia. The first weekend was Independence holiday for Samoa and the Peace Corps was invited to march in the parade. The American Embassy, who was also marching with us, had matching uniforms made for us. Unfortunately they neglected to make bottoms as well as tell us to bring our own and it resulted in a hilarious mismatch of bottoms including a bright pink lavalava and some jean shorts. Well the morning of the parade, we all woke up bright and early 6, scarffed down some breakfast, and started out towards the parade grounds in our spanking new puletasi tops. About 2 minutes down the road, we got a call from our friend at the embassy kindly asking us where the hell we all where and could we possibly move as quickly as possible as they were waiting for us to start. So we hopped in a taxi until we could no longer go any further because of the crowds then hopped out and hoofed it. We all quickly were engulfed in the crowd and it was overwhelming us. Out in the village, and even in Apia, the crowds are usually extremely sparse and a crowd so thick you can barely move is completely unheard of. So here we were in the midst of one and it was, at least for me, more claustrophobic than even the rush hour shopping was in Osaka, Japan. When we reached the parade grounds, we saw the American flag and matching puletasis on the far side of the field and rushed over so we could get into the parade. At this point, we all realized that Samoan parades are slightly different than American ones. See, in America, we tend to have our parades walk down the street with crowds on both sides. Usually there are floats, dancers, people chucking candy at kids, and bands. Well in Samoa, we marched a total of 100 yards, stopped in front of the bandstand with important heads of state and dignitaries sitting there, yelled out “Happy Independence Samoa!”, and walked away and off the track. We all looked to our Country Director Dale and he nodded, “Yep, that’s it. Thanks for coming in”. Turns out the parade is mainly for the people sitting there in the bandstand and everyone else just watches on TV. So there’s no point to marching through the streets. Interesting version of a parade, but it was fun doing it with my friends.
Also, a side note, apparently my family is the one family on the entire island who is responsible for making the flower necklaces that the heads of state buy and then wear at the parade. The night before, they had relatives over harvesting my mother’s gardens, and then an assembly line of women making various style necklaces. Apparently they can go for between $25-50 each so great once a year event for them. It was really cool watching them make the necklaces at such a high quantity.