Samoa is certainly a remote country for many of us. Its very name and the beautiful way it sounds invites exploration. Nadya Domashneva is not a native Samoan, yet for this very reason you have an opportunity to discover this land through her eyes: the eyes of someone who fell in love with it while striving to keep a realistic outlook. Let yourself get carried away by the words of a woman who adopted a life in a country that is very diff erent from her native Russia.
How did it happen that a girl like you, who comes from Russia, came to live in such a distant and outlying place?
I was born and lived in Russia until my 24th birthday. Life in Moscow is very hectic and fast. Time flies there like nowhere else (apart from Tokyo, people say). I really wanted to slow down or to do something to remember, not just metro-work-metro-sleep, metro-work etc. So, I went to Australia to study Graphic Design for 1 year. During this year I met my future husband, who came to Australia from Samoa (I knew of no such country on planet Earth) to visit his relatives. So we went back together and got married about a year later.
Was it difficult to get accustomed to the local climate and inhabitants of this wonderful country? Did you encounter any problems during your early days?
The climate was all right, because I had already experienced the Australian heat. The inhabitants of this country are friendly, and at first it seems that there is nothing very different. But later I discovered that there is a huge difference between us. Their family structure, their very well preserved traditions from the old days, the power of the Christian church and even their climate and location on the world’s map affect their attitude towards each other, the way they see and understand things and their humor. Two things you always have to consider: traditions and Christian ways.
It was a problem to get used to lizards, giant cockroaches, worms etc. Plus as it is an island in the middle of the ocean – the food supply is quite limited. The magic words “chocolate from overseas” remind me of the times in the Soviet Union, when good stuff could be found only in foreign countries. And, coming from Moscow, the lack of entertainment was quite shocking in the beginning. Clubs here are only open until midnight, we have one cinema and there is a circus, too. Nothing is open on Sundays, because it’s a church day. But now, after almost 2 years of living here, it seems normal and right.
What is the thing most particular to Samoa, when you compare it with the country of your origin?
It’s the landscape and, most of all, the skies! Skies are so beautiful! It’s like a dome covering the island. At night you can see stars at eye level all around you. Stars start at the horizon. You can see the Milky Way very vividly (because we are close to equator and have no pollution at all), and the moon has the shape of a smile, not of a „C“ like in the Northern Hemisphere. In the daytime, clouds are incredibly tall. They pile on top of one another. I guess it’s because of the evaporation from the ocean, which, by the way, you can see from almost any place on the island.
And on the other hand, can you think of anything that these two countries have in common?
Surprisingly yes. I think the common thing is how we raise our children. We are quite strict to them, compared to Australian, American or even European parents. From a young age Samoan and Russian kids know the rules and don’t run around disturbing people. I think Samoan methods are even more strict than Russian ones. In a traditional Samoan family the young ones are responsible for almost all of the household chores, they ought to serve adults, which seems a bit too much for me, but that’s the way people have lived here for centuries.
Is there anything about Samoa that you will never get accustomed to and on the contrary, is there anything you would never change about it?
Well, I guess I will never be able to live in a traditional Samoan house, which has no walls, only roof and posts. I had difficulties even to get accustomed to calling it a house. Though it’s really nice to spend a couple of days on the beach sleeping in one, minimum comfort, maximum nature.
However, as I already mentioned, I believe that Samoa has the most beautiful landscape. It is hard to believe that all these colors and the variety of plants really exist. The fact that you can literally step into paradise just by opening the door (that is, if you even have one) is fascinating. As well as the fact that you can swim in the Pacific Ocean every day if you like, and it will take about 10 minutes to get to the beach. It’s a crazy thought for someone coming from the Ural mountains, where my hometown is.
Do you plan to stay in Samoa forever or do you and your husband ever consider moving to any other places?
I would not mind staying here forever, it’s a great place to raise kids and enjoy life as it is. People have lots of time to spend with their families and friends, time doesn’t fly so fast. You can find time for everything. Work is not the most important thing in the world. To me, it looks like people appreciate true values over here much more than people from big cities.
Many people from America, Australia, New Zealand and some from Europe stay here for the rest of their lives. But, we might try something else. It would be nice to have a New Zealand passport to make it easier for our kids to travel and study overseas.
Do you ever visit your home in Russia and what do you feel when you’re going back there?
I went to Russia only once, after more than a year of travelling. I can’t say that I felt very good in Moscow. Everyone wears black, everyone is rushing, everyone is kind of grumpy… Though I know that is only a facade.
I was so happy to see my relatives and friends, they are the best, of course. But, as for the surroundings, the city… I don’t think I want to live in such a big place anymore. In fact my best time in Russia was when we went with couple of my friends to my country house, away from the noise and transport of the city (life in Samoa reminds me that place a lot with its relaxing on the edge-of being-boring atmosphere). Though before I went to Australia I used to be fond of clubs, parties, and restaurants. I had enough, I guess.
How did you learn about the Week of Life project and what do you think about it?
It’s kind of funny. My husband is an IT worker. Every day he fixes people’s computers and sometimes he sets nice wallpapers on their desktops. He searches for nice ones on the internet. So, some time ago, he found several really nice backgrounds made by someone called Vlad. We assumed that he was Russian. Later on I found Vlad’s website with his beautiful works. He is Russian indeed. In the section where he tells the public about himself was a link to Week of Life website with Vlad’s set. I really loved the idea and started shooting photos of my week the same very day.
I truly admire those members of Week of Life project whose professions are not connected with art, design or other similar things, where being creative is a part of the job. Still they find time and energy to create those beautiful sets and don’t give up on Day 3 or Day 4, when it becomes less entertaining and more obligatory. But, the feeling when everything is finished and uploaded is great! All the effort is definitely worth it!