* Not really, but kinda
Last year, a delightful twist of fate brought two PCVs together. One of us was serving in Samoa, a tiny island in the South Pacific. The other was serving in Guyana, a small country in northern South America. Their host countries spoke different languages, were vastly different in size, and were separated by thousands of miles. But, as we swapped stories, we realized that Samoa and Guyana have much more in common than you may think – and not just a hot and humid climate. Here are ten shared things that made us go “woah!”
–Gabriella (GM) and Zack (ZA)
1. Island Time.
GM: So Guyana isn’t an island, but it happens to be the only Caribbean country that isn’t. There’s enough Caribbean culture to make “island time” a very real phenomenon. Things happen “jus’ now,” which could mean anything from in five minutes, to in a couple days, to never.
ZA: Samoa *is* an island and life is slow, abysmally slow. One can never fully intend on any event to take place on time, and if there is no food provided, then you’re certainly out of luck. The amount of times I have shown up at the “designated starting time,” to only wait for hours is comical. This is just the way of life and it happens at all levels, including parliament.
2. Golden Teeth.
GM: Guyana, nicknamed “El Dorado” for its gold deposits hidden in deep jungles, loves local gold jewelry…and, a bit of tooth pizzazz as well. You can find folks rocking not only gold fillings, but gold to fill in front tooth gaps.
ZA: An extremely popular fashion trend, yes you read that correctly, fashion trend among Pacific islanders is golden teeth. Oral hygiene is very poor in Samoa, so many adults are missing teeth. Possessing a decked-out mouth is a sign of wealth and prominence. So bling up!
3. Dem Imports Though.
GM: Craving cheese and living in rural Guyana? The only kind you’ll be able to find is called Anchor brand – it’s a white cheddar from New Zealand.
ZA: And guess what? In Samoa, Anchor is the most prevalent source of all dairy products! (Milk, cheese, and yogurt.)
How does this even make sense? Does New Zealand have an exclusive distribution deal with countries most people have never heard of?
There are some other weird imported goods we have in common, like Milo (a powdered drink mix similar to Ovaltine) and Axion, a paste that you dampen and pick up with a sponge to wash dishes.
4. Vinyl Flooring.
GM: Most houses in Guyana have concrete or wooden flooring. But, for reasons unfathomable, all Guyanese feel compelled to cover this flooring with tackily-patterned plastic sheeting they call vinylay. Available in the finest 1970s colors and patterns, vinylay starts to rip apart and shred after a while, making for a fun patchwork look.
ZA: The majority of homes in Samoa are constructed completely of concrete. I believe this is due to its being cheap, durable, and safe. Concrete floors aren’t very pleasing to the eye and are difficult to keep clean, so why not cover them with tacky vinyl? Known as kapeta in Samoan, you purchase it at any hardware store. Over the year the vinyl will begin tear and rip apart. When this happens you are in for a treat as you can begin to see the years of different layers that have accumulated beneath.
5. Love of Coconuts.
GM: Coconut palms are everywhere in Guyana, and coconuts are used for all kinds of things. The milk adds the signature flavor to savory cookup rice; the grated meat sweet buns, sugar cake, and salara; the water is a perfect way to hydrate. The oil is used for cooking and to smooth skin and hair. Brooms are made from the frond stems, and roofs made from the whole frond. Crafters use the shell to make bowls, jewelry, even buttons!
ZA: Known as the “Trees of Life,” palm trees are extremely important to Samoan tradition and culture. They were once used for almost every basic necessity in daily life from homes, to food, to clothes. Today, they are used less for building homes, but still used daily. Fronds are used for thatching and brooms, and woven into all sorts of things such as baskets and hats. The coconuts produce an oil for skin and hair, a refreshing drink, cream for an exceeding amount of dishes, and delicious meat for the sweet sugar-coated “German buns.”
6. Love of Bingo.
GM: Not much to do in your village? Need a fundraiser? Want a chance to win a new set of lunch bowls? It’s Bingo time! Usual rounds can win you various foodstuffs or homewares, but for cash prizes, you’ll need luck in the coverall rounds. Don’t forget to bring your split peas or pebbles to mark your cards!
ZA: B-I-N-G-O! Bingo is serious sport in Samoa. Every village hosts one or multiple games throughout the week. It certainly is a money grabber if you’re in a pinch and need a fundraiser. Prizes vary from thousands of tala (Samoan currency) all the way down to a box of washing detergent. It is a sight to see hundreds of mostly women packed into an open fale (building), drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and sitting on mats marking away on over 4 cards at a time.
7. 1960s Commonwealth Babies.
GM: Guyana gained independence from British rule on May 26, 1966. Since then, the young country has experienced its ups and downs, with lows in the 70s-80s under a government that forbade most imported goods and forced foreigners to flee.
ZA: On June 1st, 1962 Samoa became an independent nation. In 1919, New Zealand gained control of the colony from a defeated Germany post-World War I. Another coincidental tie-in? Samoa is a part of the British Commonwealth, its ties to New Zealand making this possible. To this day they still consider themselves a Commonwealth nation.
8. School Canteens and Schoolyard Scenes.
Going to school in Guyana or Samoa? The canteen will be close by, serving up snacks and beverages to teachers and pupils alike. In Guyana, the canteens generally open around 10 am and close just after lunchtime. This varies from school to school in Samoa, but typically the canteen opens as school starts and remains open until the end of the school day.
Popular snacks include:
|Salara – pastry made with grated colored coconut||German Bun – sugar coated pastry made with grated coconut|
|Pholourie – puffy savory spheres of wheat and split-pea flour and spices||Pankeke – puffy sweet sphere of fried dough|
|Plantain chips||Taro and banana chips|
|Roti with chicken – chicken curry rolled inside flaky flatbread||Keke pua’a – fried buns filled with seasoned chicken|
|Cooldown – Kool-Aid style drink mix packaged into plastic baggies||Coffee, tea, Milo|
|Chicken Foot – thin strips of dough fried until crunchy and served with mango sour (sauce of green mango and spices)||Koko araisa – rice cooked with samoan chocolate|
|Egg ball – hard-boiled egg rolled in mashed sweet cassava and fried||Egg/tuna sandwiches|
|Channa – chickpeas that have been boiled until soft and mixed with seasonings||Popcorn
9. Giant Centipedes.
Oh, you want to be able to sleep at night without fearing a 6-inch-long centipede might be scuttling across the floor, waiting to pounce the moment you emerge to visit the bathroom? Too bad! Guyana and Samoa both have giant centipedes. Their sting packs a really painful wallop, and they are almost impossible to kill. Just keep beating them with your sturdiest shoe!
10. Can You Hear Me Now?
Want to get a phone with decent cell coverage? Want to have a monthly plan?Well you are out of luck! Samoa has only two distributers, one being the company Digicel. It just so happens they also provide service to the country of Guyana. Digicel must be searching for a market of tropical nations. Unlike in the States all phones require you to prepay for your credit (minutes) and data. It seems it is a romantic advance in both Samoa and Guyana to ask for credit to talk to each other.
Sure, our countries have lots of differences, but we hope you enjoyed this peek into some of their surprising similarities!
Wanna read more about Guyana? Check out Gabriella’s blog! You can find the link to her page on the Peace Corps blogs page button at the top!