thomas m wilson

White Man Moving Through

June 5th, 2007

I’ve been on Manono for the last couple of days, an island off the western tip of Upolu. Manono has no roads and no dogs. I walked around the island on the one path that goes through banana plants and past coastal villages. Often little kids would see me coming down the path from the vantage point of their parent’s fale and start shouting out to their friends: ‘Palangi! Palangi! Palangi!’ Palangi means white man. I tried to imagine an African American walking down a street in Australia while my kids ran out onto the front porch crying ‘Black man! Black man! Black man!’ Couldn’t do it.

Anyway, here are some images to lodge in my memory…


The leaf of Samoa’s favourite fruit.


Looking up to my fale’s ceiling, beauty was in the eye of the beholder.


I talked to a bee keeper in Samoa and he told me that in the past the majority of flowering plants would bloom in September or two or three weeks on either side of then. Well for the past ten years or so he has noticed that the blooms can be two or three months on either side of September. He suspects global heating is the cause. Other impacts of climate change on Samoa include increased frequency and intensity of cyclones. The ocean in the tropics is like a pot on the stove full of hot water. Turn up the heat just a little and the activity at the surface can become pretty turbulent. When a cyclone does arrive this translates into onslaughts of wind and water that can knock everything on the island flat.


That’s the rim of former volcanoe on the left – Apolima.

Goodbye Samoa. After coming from the bare, tussock-covered hills of Central Otago in New Zealand, I’ve found my way to the azure waters and rioting rainforest of Samoa. Quite a transition. Tonight a red-eye special, and tomorrow evening the concrete towers of downtown San Francisco. This kind of fast forward travel is impressive visually, but it can’t be good for the planet.