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Pictures of our Samoa trip
(Part 3: Apia/Upolu: 47th Independence Day - June 1st, 2009)
Part 1: Island of  Upolu: Part 1
Part 2: Island of  Upolu: Part 2
Part 4: Island of Savaii
        Samoa Map                 Map of Upolu 
                             Map of
                           the Pacific
latest picture: June 2, 2009
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103  Tautala, Liliana and Inise on the
steps of “Mt. Vaea Prayer House”,
where on May 31st, the 47th Indepen-
dence Celebrations of Samoa begin
with a dedication church service .....
 104  ..... the invited guests start
to fill the Mt. Vaea Prayer House .....
105  ..... and outside, a policeman
is caring about the parking lots
Former Western Samoa was the first Pacific island colony to achieve independence. This was on June 1st, 1962. We are lucky to be on the island when Samoa is celebrating its 47th anniversary. Since a very long time we are looking forward to this exceptional event. And when we receive a personal invitation for the official program from Nora, the Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, we feel very lucky and privileged. To be invited officially, however, means also to comply with the dress code.
106  Personal invitation from the
Head of State to attend the official
ceremony of the 47th Independence Day
of the “Independent State of Samoa” (not
to be mixed up with American Samoa)
 107  The “Royal Samoa Police Band”
enters the temporary stadium at the
Parliament House in Mulinuu/Apia
108  The black limousine with the
Head of State – Their Highnesses Tui
Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Masiofo
Filifilia Tamasese – arrives, lead by a
small motorized police escort on
heavy motorbikes
Where do we get suit and tie, and where an evening dress? Luckily, Samoa has also its own official dress up called “Elei”. “Elei” is a Samoan shirt that men wear above their trousers and is equal to suit and tie. Therefore we buy a festive white one for Emil, which is suitable also for the Thanksgiving Service on May 31st, where “white” is required. Myself, I decide to wear my white trousers and white blouse. It’s expected only to enter the prayer house if dressed completely in white.
109  His Highness, Tui Atua
Tupua Tamasese Efi, inspects
the Guard of Honour
 110  “Salelesi”, the closest
traditional servant, makes his
reverences to the Head of State
111  The police battalion
is giving his presence
“If you do not want to get stuck in the traffic jam, you should leave already at 5am”, recommends us Marco, our Honorary General-Consul, two days before the opening ceremony. He and his Chilean wife Maria Ines invited us to a traditional Samoan lunch at their lovely “farm” in a beautiful forest setting. Therefore, we put our alarm clock already for 4am. In darkness we drive through the still quiet roads to Malae Tiafau Mulinuu, thee marquee at the parliament house. Pedestrians in big numbers are already on their way too.
112  Spectators made themselves
comfortable under a shady Mango tree
113  Also at the Old Parliament House
spectators have gathered in big numbers
114  Participants start to line up
We arrive way too early. Not even the police that are regulating the traffic have shown up. And at the grandstand preparations are still going on: Garlands of fresh tropical flowers are being placed at the comfortable easy chairs for the members of parliament and the diplomats, ready to be placed around their neck on arrival; chairs are moved around and a program is placed on each seat. First, we feel a bit lost, but as soon as we show our invitation we are being seated. Yes, and I even get one of the wonderful garlands with yellow spider orchids and pink blossoms – my first one in the South Pacific!
Different institutions and a women’s association join the parade
Thousands of Samoans gathered in the meantime under a sunny sky to celebrate this historic day. Punctually at 7.12am, the black limousine with the Head of State arrives, lead by a small motorized police escort on heavy motorbikes. His Highness, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, inspects the Guard of Honor and settles down together with his wife at the richly adorned podium. After the speech of the President of the Methodist Church of Samoa, His Highness delivers his powerful 47th Independence Anniversary address. When the flag is raised and the National Anthem plaid, followed by 21 gun salute, we share the deep feelings and emotions of the Samoan people.
Colorful college performances
At 9.30am the entertaining part starts, with school performances and parades. There is hardly any school class or institution that does not join the marches – from ministries, NGO’s, religious groups respectively churches, telephone companies, shipping companies, red cross, women associations to even soldiers and sailors from New Zealand, just to mention a few. It is a colorful sight. In the meantime we are served orange juice and mineral water; a plate with pawpaw, banana chips, orange bits and coconut pieces as a snack, and fish, lamb, pumpkin and baked potato later for lunch.
121  Students presenting traditional songs
 122  A “Matai” (village chief)
with traditionally tattooed
stomach is addressing the audience
123  Participants waiting for their turn
Exactly at noon, everybody rises. His Highness leaves and boards his limousine, time for us to move on to the tip of the Mulinuu peninsula to watch the final spurt of the “Fautasi” Regatta Race – the traditional rowboat race. It is a familiar sight to us: Many times we have seen these racing boats practicing in front of “our” house, and many times we have been awakened early mornings by their rhythmical drumming. The 45 rowers in a team are quite an impressive sight.
124  Like us, this young girl gathered also
in the afternoon at the tip of the Mulinuu
peninsula to watch the finish of the “Fautasi”
Regatta – the traditional rowboat race.....
125  ..... the first 45-men-team
“La o Samoa I” from Lepea near
Apia is racing past .....
126  ..... two more out of totally seven
boats are following in close competition
Again we are the first ones to arrive in the evening at the Independence Garden Party at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. The organizers seem to have already realized that we belong to the invited guests because we do not have to show our invitation anymore. The local ladies all wear long dresses. Often the “Elei” – Samoan shirt – of their spouses are tailored from the same material. Tailoring is quite common here and it is fast and low priced, sometimes cheaper than to buy one from the shelf.
His Highness, Head of State Tui Atua
Tupua Tamasese Efi and His Excellency, Prime
Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi
are watching in the evening the performances at
the Independence Garden Party at the Robert
Louis Stevenson Museum in Vailima
Polynesian dancers entertain the invited guests
Not knowing anybody, we seat ourselves at one of the long empty tables in the garden tent. Suddenly, we spot our Honorary Consul Marco and his wife Maria Ines. They are at a round table one level higher. Possibly, we might join them. Emil goes to have a look. But Marco has obviously made other arrangements. Never mind! Soon we are joined by Colin from the Samoa Soccer Federation and a guy from New Zealand who is living and managing a hotel in Samoa since many years.
Different Polynesian islands are participating with their traditional dances at the performance
The conversation is interesting, but we are settled at the wrong place (a pity nobody told us!) and miss some of the evening program, at least until we spot an empty table at the higher point and move. The performances are excellent: We are able to watch the traditional Samoan fire dance as well as presentations from Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tahiti and Hawaii.
One of the bands, which entertain the
participants of the Independence Garden Party
The traditional Samoan fire dance is one of the highlights of the evening
Drinks and food are served in abundance: We enjoy read wine and salmon as a starter. But when the opulent main course arrives, unfortunately we have to give it a miss. Our stomachs are not used anymore to such heavy food in the evening, because since a long time, we skip this meal altogether. When the show is over, His Highness and the Prime Minister leave. So do we.
136  On the second day, the village
of Safotu from Savaii is performing
with the Samoan flag .....
 137  ..... and the cheer leader
puts his whole heart und soul in it
138  The village of Tafua from the
island of Savaii is also participating
The closing ceremony begins one hour later than the day before, but it still means getting up at 5am. The weather god is not collaborating today. Rain pours down already before the start of the festivities, and organizers and the police are busy to divert the water that accumulates on the tent roofs and to remove exposed chairs and tables and dry them. We wonder if the four villages – Tafua, Poutasi, Vaimoso und Safotu – will still perform if it does not stop raining.
139  Three village princesses (Taupou),
dressed in decorated barkcloth (Siapa)
140  A village princess presents a
coconut to the Head of State as a gift .....
141  ..... followed by young men with a
palette of meat and young women (in the
background left) with a fine mat (Toga)
Surprisingly, they do! The rain fails to dampen down neither their spirit nor the one of the spectators who turn up once more by the hundreds. We are very impressed by the diversity and the precision of the presentations, and especially also of the devotion of each single performer. New to us is also the customary presentation of gifts – a practice still used in the villages for example for funerals, wedding ceremonies and expected sometimes – of course on a smaller scale – from visiting tourists. Today, among others, three huge pigs, carried on bamboo poles, and at least a dozen finely woven mats made from Pandanus leaves in competing sizes are presented to the Head of State.
The dancers from Vaimoso near Apia present
a coordinated performance with a lot of action
The villagers of Poutasi from Upolu’s South coast are very brightly dressed
With it, the two-day celebrations of the inpendence come to an end. Finally, the Royal Police Band marches in its immaculate white outfit. While the flag is lowered, the band plays the national anthem. Since I can think of, national anthems always have had that emotional effect on me, and Samoa is no exception. For both of us, it was an incredible experience to be able to participate to the 47th anniversary – an event that we will treasure and that has brought us the unique “Treasure Island” much closer.
145  The police are marching into
the stadium for the closing ceremony
 146  The flag is lowered while
the national anthem is played
147  The “Royal Samoan Police Band”
is playing for the last time, thus marking
the end of the 47th Anniversary of the
“Independent State of Samoa”
More websites from Samoa:
Articles in newspapers about us in Samoa:
Article: "Switzerland couple have travelled to 163 countries", Daily Newspaper "Samoa Observer" - April 5, 2009
Article: "World travellers take fond memories", Daily Newspaper "Samoa Observer" - July 1, 2009