A month in Samoa

Hi! In January of this hallowed Twenty Twelve I spent 4 weeks in the humble, humid country of Samoa. We spent most weekday mornings at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, Samoa’s main hospital. The rest of our time was divided between visiting the markets, cooking curries for dinner, riding utes and vans and taxis to so many beautiful beaches and waterfalls, taking a ferry to Savai’i island, dancing on a rockin’ boat, eating at the only Chinese restaurant in town, singing, and sneaking into resorts for some poolside lazing.

Samoans are known for their relaxed way of life, their strong family bonds, and their friendliness. Every time I got into a taxi, the driver asked me enough questions to find out where I was born, how old I was when I moved to Australia, what I studied and how many siblings I had. People smile and nod on the street. Whole families camp out next to the hospital bed of their sick relative. The whole town shuts down on a Sunday–you can’t exchange money, top up your sim card, or even visit a bank. It was bizarre and refreshing.

I learnt so many things from Samoa, medical and non-medical. My skin discovered a new dimension of blackness. I was inspired by the internal medicine doctors. I was forced to slaughter cockroaches (equipped with a thong, a can of Mortein, and wads of toilet paper…with large quantities of screaming, trembling and wailing). I survived some of the worst gastro I’ve ever experienced. And I was able to glimpse a very different way of life: a people who’ve never known any other way to spend their Sunday afternoons than sitting in the grass, watching the odd car pass through their quiet village. Bet they’ve never heard of Mark Zuckerberg…and they’re better off for it.

^ Traditional-style Samoan huts, known as fale–open to the air on all sides, but with curtains that you can pull down.

^ Veggie market. They had weird-shaped lettuce!

To Sua Ocean Trench: climb down the ladder and swim in the brilliant saltwater pool that shifts with the tides!

^ Lalomanu Beach. Postcard perfect beauty.

^ You can’t visit Samoa without watching a fafafine (ladyboy) show. Classic!

^ Getting lost in the wilderness on Savai’i island. I think we were trying to find a dormant volcano. We never found it.

^ One of the famous pork buns sold at the hospital. Pretty similar to the Chinese BBQ pork bun, and almost as tasty. I hope it wasn’t this that gave me gastro. In hindsight, it looks a bit dodge.

^ Even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I am a lady.

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22 comments

  1. Hi Grace, your entry has inspired me to go to samoa for my elective. do u happen to have a contact for organising it? Im in England so if they have email that would be great due to the time difference!
    Charlotte

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  2. Hello Grace,

    Merry Christmas from the United States!

    I found your website while searching for OUM information and I am highly considering this applying to this medical school in 2014.

    Prior to seeing your post, spending a month in Samoa was one of concerns that I have. Your pictures have helped eased some of the anxiety and gave a gimps of the previous unknown.

    So it sounds like you have graduated from OUM and are working as an intern physician? Would love to hear more of your experience.

    Have a happy New Year,
    Ellen

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    1. Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for leaving a reply! I was a medical student at Melbourne University and spent 4 weeks on elective in Samoa. While I was there I did meet some students from OUM – I’m not sure how long a placement you need to do in Samoa for OUM.

      Let me know if I can help with any questions.

      :)

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      1. Hello Dr. Grace,

        Time for our annual catch-up, lol!

        So I just completed 1st semester at OUM. I met our Vice Chancellor, Dr. Lameko this past July during our new students orientation. I told him how excited I am looking forward to the Samoa clerkship from your pictures. Also, your are correct, Dr. Lameko is super inspirational! I hope you are doing well, and I love reading your posts.

        Have a great 2016!
        Ellen (USA)

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  3. Hey Grace,

    Thanks for your post – a couple of friends and I are going to Samoa for our elective and looking at this has made us even more excited! =D

    I just have a couple of questions I’m trying to answer for a project I’m hoping to do there. I can’t seem to get any information elsewhere – it’s just about the mindset of people in Samoa regarding certain healthcare habits. Do you think you would be able to help me out with that?

    Thanks so much,
    Ash

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    1. Hi Ash, when are you going? I’ll be at TTM in Apia for my elective in September, only a few months to go now :). Thanks Grace for the blog, I’m looking forward to my elective even more now!

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      1. Hi Lori,
        Just saw your post and was wondering what contact details you used to organise your elective at TTM? I am keen to organise mine there, however have had trouble finding the right contact details. Any help would be greatly appreciated :)

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  4. Hi Grace, your report sounds so great …i have send my application now -for next year, so i hope i get a place :) ….grettings from germany

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      1. Hmmm…it was a while ago – I can’t remember exactly. They’re a bit slow with replying emails, so it must have been at least a week or so before I got a reply. How are you going with your application?

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  5. I have send a email on Tuesday to this address medicalelectives@oceaniamed.org. I just ask if it´s possible to get a elective in August or September 2015. I´m a little bit insecure , because that´s my first application outside of Germany and it would be my last elective – so for me it´s a big dream to go to samoa and work there.

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    1. Ah, OK. Unfortunately I don’t know what the current email address is for elective applications. They are a little slow in their replies so hopefully you’ll hear from them within the next few days! Best of luck!

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    2. Hi Grace, Hi Paula,

      awesome blog, I really feel like going there, too! :) Paula, did you receive an answer already? Since Im medical student too I would also like to apply for an elective and wonder if writing an email is a propper way to try. Hope to see you there! :)

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  6. Hey Grace,

    Thanks for your post and the beautiful pics.
    My name is Svenja. I come from Germany, I also study medicine and I’ m very interested in a clinical elective at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital in Apia. I have some questions about this hospital. Do you have a private mail address where I can send my questions?

    Thanks a lot in advance
    Kind Regards, Svenja

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