Fellows Blog Posts by nicholaswclark

May 9, 2008 WS Samoa

There are parallel and sometimes conflicting legal systems in Samoa: the state system and the local matai (chief) system.  The state system being a relatively recent incarnation and the matai system being a traditional hierarchical structure used for many centuries.  Both have laws (formal and informal), courts, judges and punishments.

Outside the capital city of Apia, the matai system reigns supreme.  For many centuries it has maintained order in the rural villages.  Samoans attribute their long history without internal conflict and widespread...

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Apr 29, 2008 WS Samoa

It seems to be a requisite duty of a Fellow to provide the “You know you’re in…when” so here’s my take:

10. Rugby is life. American Football is called ‘American Rugby’. Though a Samoan-American is 40 times more likely to make the NFL than a non-Samoan American (thanks, ESPN), the more than 30 ethnic Samoan football players in the NFL, like Troy Polamalu or Junior Seau, do not have celebrity status. That fame is reserved for the Rugby players of Manu Samoa (National Team) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson born of a Samoan...

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Apr 19, 2008 WS Samoa

In the right place at the right time, I had the great fortune to meet the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa as a representative for Kiva. An SPBD entrepreneur was selected through Kiva by Advanta, an American small business banking company, to travel to the United States and speak at a few engagements about her Elei printing business. A big deal here in Samoa evidenced by a send off from the DPM. It even made the national newspaper:

One would think the content of a conversation with the...

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Apr 11, 2008 WS Samoa

Many Westerners come to Samoa and quickly make one of two judgments: all Samoans are poor OR no Samoans are poor.

That dichotomy can be perplexing, so I decided to engage a Centre Manager (loan officer) in a conversation about it. One who stood firmly with the belief that all Samoans are poor. None of this should be treated as a final judgment. Far too early for that.

To paraphrase:

Everyone in Samoa is poor, he stated.

If I ask the people if they’re poor, what...

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Apr 3, 2008 WS Samoa

I heard the claims before I arrived: “Samoans are exceptionally friendly.” It sounded simple enough; they must live with a tattooed smile and provide a helping hand to those in need. But, as I discovered, it is much more. Samoans have what I’ll call an aggressive friendliness. As I walk around town, the never-timid local Samoan will unfailingly pepper me with questions within the first couple minutes. All questions that I undoubtedly would be unwilling to answer a stranger in the US. And was quite reluctant to answer my first couple days here.


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Mar 26, 2008 WS Samoa

I’ve decided to provide a pictorial representation of the loan steps for SPBD. I’ll use thumbnails because I’d like to avoid crashing the Ugandan or Mozambican or any other countries’ internet cafes. This will alow you to see some of the guys (and gals) behind the guys (and gals). I’m confident that other MFIs have similar processes. It was incredible to witness it first-hand. Hopefully this will provide a glimpse.

After a village expresses interest in starting a center (microfinance group), a representative of SPBD...

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Mar 14, 2008 WS Samoa

Greetings, friends and strangers.

I’ll be spending the next 3 months in Samoa providing you with my observations of the country, people and most importantly, South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), the MFI at which I’ll be working and to whom you may have lent.

I will not offer my impressions of Samoa until several weeks have passed and I can start to make some sense of everything. Otherwise, it would only be a collection of incoherent ramblings about a country of which I do not even speak its native language.

Many have asked where Samoa is located. Or...

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