Stu­dent’s in­sight into life and Is­land Time in Samoa

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

Be­fore leav­ing Aus­tralia to em­bark on my 12-month Aus­tralian vol­un­teer as­sign­ment to Samoa, I was ex­cit­edly telling ev­ery­one I met about my up­com­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

My vol­un­teer­ing as­sign­ment is part of the Aus­tralian Vol­un­teers for International De­vel­op­ment (AVID) pro­gram, an Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive.

Who wouldn’t be ex­cited about 12 months in par­adise?

The first thing most peo­ple said was, ‘Where’s that?’ or ‘You mean Solomon Is­lands?’.

Once we had es­tab­lished that I was about to be liv­ing on a trop­i­cal is­land, the next com­ment was usu­ally some­thing along the lines of ‘Oh, you’ll have to get used to Is­land Time’, or ‘good luck with the hu­mid­ity’.

Most peo­ple who have trav­elled a lot or worked in de­vel­op­ment know that ev­ery­where has its own con­cept of time, and that the rhythms of life hap­pen at a dif­fer­ent pace in each coun­try or re­gion.

While Ja­pan, for ex­am­ple, may be associated with a fast-paced lifestyle, ‘Is­land Time’ usu­ally has neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions around a slow pace of life and even lazi­ness.

I have been liv­ing in Samoa for six months now, but it didn’t take me long to work out that Samoans are def­i­nitely not lazy. Life just hap­pens dif­fer­ently.

In my role as farm man­age­ment trainer with the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, An­i­mal Pro­duc­tion and Health Depart­ment, I have been work­ing with staff to im­prove pas­ture pro­duc­tion (amongst other things).

One of my ini­tial sug­ges­tions was to be­gin plant­ing a dif­fer­ent grass species.

For a cou­ple of months noth­ing re­ally hap­pened, I con­tin­ued to make the sug­ges­tion to no avail.

Then all of a sud­den, one day I turned up at the farm and the first pad­dock had been sprayed out en­tirely and planted with new springs, as if overnight.

I have since worked out that a lot of farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties do ac­tu­ally hap­pen overnight here . . . ahh that hu­mid­ity.

Sim­i­larly, we wit­nessed the con­struc­tion of a new school on what had been a bare block of land, within a mat­ter of weeks.

I had jok­ingly made the com­ment to my part­ner one af­ter­noon as we were pass­ing the con­struc­tion site that the open­ing day must be com­ing up soon.

Lo and be­hold, a cou­ple of days later we drove past the open­ing day, with 100 kids in at­ten­dance, al­ready in their new school uni­forms.

The thing with Is­land Time is that things ei­ther hap­pen very slowly, or very quickly.

It all de­pends on how far away the dead­line is and how im­por­tant that dead­line is to the com­mu­nity.

For­mer De­niliquin woman Emma Hand em­barked on an ex­cit­ing new jour­ney in Fe­bru­ary this year, de­cid­ing to spend a year in Samoa as part of an agri­cul­tural pro­gram run by Aus­tralian Vol­un­teers for International De­vel­op­ment. Emma left the fam­ily’s Mayrung farm af­ter com­plet­ing high school, go­ing to Wagga to study An­i­mal Science at Charles Sturt Univer­sity. She ini­tially found the pas­sion for her cho­sen stud­ies while help­ing her par­ents John and Ju­dith on the farm. Emma is now com­plet­ing her Masters of An­i­mal Science and works as a re­search as­sis­tant at CSU. Here she gives Pas­toral Times read­ers an in­sight into her new life in Samoa . . .

When the dead­line is ap­proach­ing and it ap­pears as though it won’t be reached, us ‘Palagis’ tend to be­gin stress­ing; the typ­i­cal Samoan re­sponse is one of re­laxed re­as­sur­ance.

Just when you think all is fail­ing, the en­tire vil­lage, or work team, bands to­gether and gets the job done.

It is a won­der­ful com­mu­nity achieve­ment to have such com­mit­ment to help­ing each other out.

But what does this all mean to de­vel­op­ment?

Although it is great that our pas­ture im­prove­ment project is now un­der­way, the fact that the ma­jor­ity of the ac­tual work hap­pened, quite lit­er­ally, overnight meant that I ended up hav­ing lit­tle in­volve­ment.

The job has been done, but there are a few changes that I will make for next time.

So, my valu­able les­son is that it is im­por­tant to es­tab­lish, as early on as pos­si­ble, how things hap­pen and what ac­tiv­i­ties are car­ried out when, and, how time in gen­eral works in the coun­try you are work­ing in.

Learn to take ad­van­tage of this and work with it. In the fu­ture, I will be learn­ing from my Samoan friends that most stren­u­ous ac­tiv­i­ties are best car­ried out in the evening, to avoid the hu­mid­ity.

It is also im­por­tant to en­gage as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble within the com­mu­nity in the early stages of plan­ning any changes; in my ex­am­ple, ev­ery­one from farm staff to the CEO is im­por­tant. This has a twofold ef­fect.

Firstly, the com­mu­nity is given a chance to take own­er­ship over the project and, there­fore, has a much greater in­vest­ment in and un­der­stand­ing of the project, as such, the project is far more likely to be com­pleted suc­cess­fully, with com­mu­nity pride.

Se­condly, com­mu­nity mem­bers gain an un­der­stand­ing of the process and are far more likely to un­der­take sim­i­lar projects af­ter we fin­ish our roles and return home; thus achiev­ing ca­pac­ity build­ing . . . and, af­ter all, that is what we are here for.

Emma Hand get­ting up close and per­sonal with the fresh drop of Fiji Fan­tas­tic Sheep lambs.

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