Things to know….

For the next several days, I’ll be posting about how I spent my last six weeks. Hope you enjoy a taste of my time in Samoa. You can find more information here


…before you come to Samoa

  • The appropriate response to “where’s your husband?” is “in the States,” regardless of marital status.
  • Corned beef mixed with canned spaghetti is just as valid a meal as fresh sashimi.
  • Air conditioning is a luxury.
  • Airport security shows up for work twice a week – when the plane lands.
  • Umbrellas are for sun, not rain.
  • There are 180.000 people in the country.
  • Internet is fifteen tala an hour.
  • Mozzies are not bad unless you forget your bug spray.
  • The only safe dog is a dead dog, and that’s still iffy.
  • The bus is built on an old sedan. 
  • Public Happy Fast Food is a very popular restaurant.
  • Bars close at ten pm.
  • Samoa has four inhabitated islands and four uninhabited islands.
  • Triple rainbows are possible. The word ‘yes’ is not used in Samoan.
  • A raised eyebrow signifies an affirmative answer.
  • The beaches are the most beautiful in the world.
  • A typical family will have at least three generations and four nuclear groups living in the same house. 
  • The sun rises and sets at six.
  • If you want a mince pie, you better get to the grocery store early.
  • The newspaper comments after the only riot in recent memory that the rioters are “very ashamed of themselves.”
  • Literacy is about 90% in both English and Samoan.
  • Cold niu is the best thing at the end of a long day.
  • Raw tuna is safe. Raw beef, not so much.
Siva Afi or Fire Knife Dance

…before you start rotation

  • The anesthesiologist may run out of general until the next flight arrives from New Zealand carrying more. 
  • There are seventy four physicians in the country. 
  • There are ten hospitals. 
  • Three have doctors. 
  • You may see a blue haired expat, a unicycle-riding palagi and a rugby player in a typical day at the OP ward. In the middle of watching your first delivery you may be told to go deliver the baby next door. 
  • Lunch at the hospital might be taro and flour stew. Salt is not available. 
  • If you show up to hospital every day, and come back after lunch, you will be labeled ‘keen’
  • There are twelve cases of HIV and one patient zero. 
  • Never trust a Samoan nurse when she says “Don’t worry.” She’s either about to stab you with a needle, cut you with scissors or abandon you. 
  • There is a lot of typhoid fever. 
  • Two attendings, one resident and one confused med student can handle a 42 bed ward, a 12 bed labor ward and a 40 patient clinic. 
  • Somehow, Irish medical students are overtaking the hospital with twenty of them visiting in one block. 
  • The only gloves are a size large. 
  • Good luck delivering a baby in gloves if you have small hands. 
  • It takes two months to get a pap smear read as it has to be sent to Australia.
  • Do not walk through the labor ward at lunch unless you want to deliver a baby.

To’onai or feast

attending – senior level physcian
block – a period of time in the medical school academic year, usually about six weeks
expat – expatriot, or a foreinger living in the country
general – general anesthesia, used to put someone completely to sleep for surgery
mince – chopped or ground beef or lamb
mozzies – mosquitos
niu – young coconut
OP ward – outpatient ward
palagi – foreigner, either an expat or a visitor
patient zero – one person who directly or indirectly infected everyone else who has the same disease
resident – junior level physician, still in training
tala – Samoan currency, currently trading about 2.25 WST to 1 USD
taro – a root vegetable, a little starchier and stiffer than potato, with less inherent flavor
ward – a medical division of a hospital that houses patients of a certain type

Fautasi or longboats

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