28 Oct Samoa has Fences too.

I have a fence again. It’s made of chainlink and it has lines of barbed wire running along the top of it. It’s posts are firmly grounded in boxed concrete so that dogs and pigs and pesky chickens cant dig their way under it. There’s a gate with a padlock and every time I drive my car in or out, I have to stop and get out to unlock the gate and swing it wide open.  It’s annoying, especially when its pouring with rain, and I wish I were wildly rich and could afford an automatic gate with a remote control so I could zap my gate open and closed. But still, it’s a gate and it’s a fence and I like it.

When people from far away think about Samoa, they don’t think of fences and gates. They muse upon postcard pictures of white sand beaches and scuba diving in azure waters. They reminisce in Samoa chatrooms about how much they miss the islands (that they’ve never actually lived in. But their parents did. And maybe they’ve come to visit.) and the ‘communal living…where everyone shares…and life is much slower and easier…because you don’t have to work as hard…you can just grow some taro and live off the land…together with your aiga…everyone helping each other…‘ There’s no fences in those golden visions of Samoa. There’s no mangy dogs that bite you or child vendors selling air freshner outside McDonalds in these visions either. But hey, we all need our golden fantasies, don’t we?

Sure, lots of folks in Samoa don’t have fences. Lots of folks do live in villages with one family’s cookhouse bordering on another’s. I don’t know if life there is ‘easier…happier…slower…better’ because I don’t live in a village like that. I live in Apia and I have a fence. Of course I’m not the only one who has a fence. There’s a neighbour up the road with a gleaming line of chainlink all around their tiny faleo’o. Its clear they have their priorities straight. Like us, they built their fence first before building a house. Unlike my yard which is a barren wasteland, they also have carefully nurtured hibiscus hedges and rows of colourful flowers in their garden. When we lived up the mountain last year, our neighbour had a massive cement wall surrounding their luxurious home. At the top of this wall was some decorative trim that caught the sunlight and sparkled.  It took me several weeks to realize that it was thick triangular shards of glass, the size of my hand, wedged into the concrete and pointing skywards. It was explained to me that there had been a break-in at that house and when the #ManOfTheHouse chased after the intruder – he had been slashed with a knife. So post-breakin, the family had added the glass to their wall. Pretty and painful.

My fence makes me happy. During the daytime, I know Bella can’t ride her bike on the road because the gate is locked. At night when the zombies and mass murders are most likely to be out – my dog patrols our fence and I’m reassured because while chainlink and barbed wire wont keep a zombie out for long, it should make enough noise trying to get over that I will wake up and have time to get my gun and blow it’s head off from 20m away. (of course I need to buy a gun by then. And take some lessons so I can be a sniper worthy of Call of Duty.) In the meantime, my fence makes me feel safer than if I didn’t have a fence.

It also means that unlike when we lived in New Zealand,  I wont have random people knocking on my door when I don’t want them to. No more rambling conversation from the drunken lady who lived in her van parked in front of the neigbor’s house and who wanted to chat at least once every two days. No more cringing inwardly and making up excuses for the door sales reps as to why you can’t buy a security system…new tires…or donate to dig wells for poor people in some distant nation.  New Zealand was a nice country and had lots of nice things (like Boston Cream donuts, really crisp apples, cauliflower that didn’t cost $35 for one, and schools with lots of playgrounds and teachers who didn’t yell at small children and make them cry.) But NZ didn’t have chainlink fences. At least not in West Auckland. And I really missed my fence. I’m glad to be home in Samoa and to have a fence again.

So next time you’re envisioning the wonders of the paradise that is Samoa? Yes, dream of beaches and harmonious idyllic villages. But also add in some fences. Gates. Barbed wire. A few concrete walls with decorative glass shards. Because we have those in Samoa too.


  • Nan Sanders Pokerwinski

    Thanks for this reality check, Lani. I lived in American Samoa in the 1960s, and I don’t remember any fences, but I’m sure there are some now. Many other changes too, from what I hear. Many of us dream of returning to the idealized “paradise” we remember, but I suspect we’re really yearning to return to that time in our lives as much as to the place.

    October 29, 2015 at 2:41 am
  • Yvette Hellesoe

    Hahaha, make sure there are no trees growing next to the fence. I used to climb up the 7foot chain-link fence onto an ulu tree, then climb down to play with the neighbours kids (kids will find away to get out), Bella may. You don’t need a gun, just set the hot man on the zombie’s with a big iron rod (he’s fast enough) better yet! electric charge your fence, that would zap the idiots, when hot man is not there.

    October 29, 2015 at 12:20 pm
  • jody

    I guess this is more for those living in Apia and surrounds. Much of Samoa is still open and fence-less with wall-less houses. We still have a fence but it’s so useless that we all used it to climb over to the road (and even the 3 year old could follow us (:-nothing has changed really.

    November 2, 2015 at 11:52 am

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