Monday, December 19, 2011

PCV Plays Tourist

I had a great week last week.  I was a tourist.  I rented a car (with Peace Corps permission) and along with 3 friends, toured Upolu.  I had to eat my words, since I’ve been saying that Savaii is a more beautiful island.  They are both beautiful.  Mountains, beaches, more shades of green than you can count, waterfalls, and friendly people.

I got to see where two other volunteers live.  Both nice places and all three of us have very different situations.  I stopped to buy a soda at a small store and had an entire conversation in Samoan.  Ok, it was the kind of conversation I’m good at “Hi, how are you?  I’m fine, thanks.  Do you have a cold can of soda?  How much?  Give me one, please.”  The man, once he got over his surprise at a palagi in a rental car talking to him in Samoan, seemed to appreciate my efforts, so we chatted for a couple of more minutes.  He seemed genuinely appreciative of my efforts to speak his language.  His kids were just flabbergasted.

My road trip companions were nice enough to let me make a detour to see my host sister from training.  Love her and it was great to see the look on her face when she realized who was driving up.  First, the surprise that I was in town and second, that I was driving!

My favorite tourist site was To Sua.  It costs $15 tala to get in and was so worth it.  The deal is that there’s a giant lawn/garden on a bluff overlooking miles of beach.  There are fales to lounge in while you enjoy the view.  The big draw is a giant swimming hole.  It’s caused by a lava tube that brings water into the “hole”.  The water is turquoise and crystal clear.  Since you have to climb down a long, vertical (but new and sturdy) ladder, I opted to just take photos of the two younger, fitter, braver volunteers as they climbed down.  They swam through another tube into another, smaller swimming hole and loved the experience.  My fear (aside from heights) was that I’d get halfway back up, my thighs would give out, I’d lose my grip on the ladder and I’d fall onto the wooden platform below.  I don’t know how they’d haul me out of there with a broken leg or two and even if they hauled my carcass up, it would ruin my trip to New Zealand. 

We spent several hours there, enjoyed a picnic lunch and watching a thunderstorm on the ocean.  It was overcast and coolish.  Perfect.  A bonus was that for most of our time there we had the place to ourselves.

To see some great photos and video, check this out.  Worth your time, I promise.  To Sua Trench Photos and Video

We spent the night at the Taufua Beach Fales.  Rather than sleeping in the fales, we opted for two rooms at their Mt. View Resort.  Still under construction (a pool is underway, along with a restaurant), it was a fabulous bargain and very nice.  We dined at the main restaurant at the beach where food is delicious and served family style.  Everyone we met there (including several other PCVs staying there) were incredibly friendly.  There's something about dining open-air, bare foot that just makes it easy to relax.

The Taufua Beach Fales, by the way, are run by a family, who also hire people from their village.  It's a true Samoan story of strength.  They lost 13 family members and their entire resort during the 2009 tsunami.  Having seen photos of the resort immediately after the tsunami, it was inspiring to see it now, booming.  The owner told me that at last week's "fia fia" night, they had 90 guests. 

On our way home toward the north side of the island we drove through a valley, following a main road, which is the route many of the volunteers take on the bus, including 2 that were in the car.  Buses are not a lot of fun, but at least they have the pleasure of looking out at one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  I’m not exaggerating.  Truly stunning.

As we were driving back I started dreading returning the rental car and getting on a bus to the wharf.  Then I realized the only thing between me and a week off in Apia was money.  Heck, that’s why I’ve been scrimping, so I hit the ATM and talked a hotel which was running a weekend special to give me the rate for the week.  Air con.  A kitchen.  With an oven.  And a toaster.  It was like a preview of Auckland, although I’m hoping my room there isn’t next to a neighbor who starts blasting Samoan music at 7 a.m. and continues until after midnight.  Details.  I had a couch and a remote control.  They say that PC will help you find yourself.  I found a couch potato.
I headed back to the village on Saturday on a very crowded ferry, and, as always, I was carrying too much crap.  But really, I was introduced to a store that has enchilada sauce.  And refried beans.  Not outrageously expensive.  I couldn’t resist!

I ran into a guy I know on the ferry and he gave me a ride back to my village, which was a treat.  As we drove near my house one of my Year 8 girls saw me and yelled “I love you, Nancy.” 

I was home.  I’ll remember that when I get on the plane in a couple of weeks to come back from Auckland.

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