This week (first in June) marks fifty years of Samoa’s Independence. And it’s times like these that I, as a sojourner, feel like Daniel of old, having my windows open toward the home country, and, requisitely, on my knees giving thanks to God (re: Daniel 6:10).

At the same time, I have been reminiscing and experiencing streams of indelible memories of past celebrations flowing freely in my mind as I selectively pick out the ones that have profoundly affected and influenced my life.

As I have consistently pined, growing up as a young boy in a semi-primitive village in Samoa is an experience that I will always cherish. The simple, carefree and happy life of the time is one for which I still yearn. The nostalgia is made more striking by the fact that I now live in the most advanced and most modern country in the world. The contrast is plain and intuitive, but also bittersweet and distressful at times.

During my boyhood years, people would travel - by boat and by bus - from outlying islands and villages to participate in the week-long festivities and activities. Those who stay behind in the villages treat the week as time for allegiance and respite. The only means of communication between the remote areas and the celebrations in the city was the transistor radio.

I remember the days leading up to the first week of June when families would make sure their radios were working properly. A couple of main preparations included new batteries (mostly Eveready brand) and a good wire antenna. Older batteries are usually recharged by “drying” them outside in direct sunlight. (Hence “dry cell” batteries? ...LOL!)

For better radio transmission and reception, the wire antenna is tied, stretched and pulled through tree tops, and the higher the better. It was therefore common to see these wires strung from one coconut, breadfruit or kapok tree to another. Sometimes an empty glass soft drink bottle - as an insulator - is threaded and suspended horizontally along the wire antenna. The transmission signal is enhanced as a result and the reception is better and clearer.
the longboats (fautasi)
Families would then gather around the radio to listen to the broadcasts of proceedings and activities. The most popular ones are the boat races, which the fautasi (long boat) race was the main event - and still is today. Families without radios, or with poor reception would listen with other families especially during the races.

Perhaps more importantly, it was during national Independence days that I initiated and found my own independence.

One year, when I was about eleven years old, and still cloistered and brooded under my parents’ and extended family’s wings in the village, I decided that I would spread my own fledgling feathers and fly into town for the celebrations. With my parents’ permission, I was both excited and apprehensive.

First, I took the bus with a couple of friends - not my dad or grandparents - to town and that alone was indicative of  personal freedom and independence. I had $4 (Tala) spending money with instructions to return home when my generous stipend is spent. Logically, I thought therefore that the less I spent per day, the longer I would stay in town. I got to manage money on my own and it was my first lesson in budgeting ... or lack thereof. But I think I did well since I managed to stay for three days (out of five). I learned the lesson of being self-sufficient; I lived on sugar cane and kekepua’a (pork cake) and an occasional small cone of ice cream.

I also got to stay up all night, independent and unsupervised. Apia for the most part turns into a city that never sleeps during Independence days, and so those from the villages, especially young boys, would just roam the nights out. My sense of independence was also felt when crossing the busy streets when my hand was no longer held and guided by a parent or an adult.

Samoa College Independence Commemorative Stamp
After my three days of independence, I was back in the village, and I felt that I have conquered something, overcome a challenge and accomplished a major task - all on my own. I must have quietly said: “C’mon world, bring it on!”

A few years after my Independence days' adventure, I attended school in town (Leifiifi then Samoa College) and I was glad that by this time, I had had my exposure to the city and I had already personally experienced a measure of self-efficacy aaand .......Independence.

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