Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things I Miss From Palagi Land

I’m happy to be home.  Really, I am.  I’ve been busy working on a couple of projects and getting my house in shape.  In addition to cleaning out a ton of bugs and detritus from ants, spiders and termites, I’ve also been organizing.

I repacked the palagi/warm clothes I used in New Zealand.  I tried to explain to members of my family why I wear different underwear in Samoa than other places.  In a word – I wear the coolest, breeziest undies here, which means boxers.  Abroad, where there’s air con and cool air, I wear much more feminine stuff.

With the help of two of my brothers I also rearranged my furniture.  I’ll post photos soon.  I moved the bed so I don’t have to crawl into a small space every night to attach my mosquito net and again in the morning to make the bed.  Plus, now when I sit on my bed to read, work, etc., I’m not facing the open door, on display for everyone to see.  Now my forward view is of my family’s toilet.  So far I haven’t really noticed comings and goings but if anyone wants me to keep a log of how many times a family of 13 visits the throne, let me know.

I’m at the internet cafe in Salelologa, trying to do a variety of things that my dial-up is too slow for, including sending docs to PC in Apia with edits/suggestions.  Sadly, the internet here is down.  They hope to have it back up in 30 minutes.  Explains why I’m sitting here typing this.

Other things I’ll miss from palagi-land, also known as New Zealand:
·       A washer and dryer in the bathroom.  I’m almost caught up with my laundry, having done 2 buckets every morning this week.  Only 1 bucket to go.  Unfortunately a big storm moved in and this morning’s clothes are hanging in the rain.  If the sun comes out later, that’s a good thing since they get a second rinse.  If it lasts for the predicted 48 hours, they’ll get moldy and have to be rewashed, if I leave them outside.  If I bring them in, I’ll get slapped in the head with damp underwear every time I move from my kitchen to my bed.  My bed, btw, is the only place I have to sit in my house.  Unless you count the toilet and I don’t.   Add couches to the things I miss.

·       Grocery stores.  In Auckland, near the fish market is the nicest grocery store I’ve ever seen.  It’s part of the New World chain and is large, clean, bright and filled with stuff I either can’t buy here or is too expensive to buy here.  Poor Donna was a great sport as I spent over an hour there, strolling up and down each aisle, looking at stuff I wished I had room in my luggage for.

There was cheese, breads and pastries, meat, fruit, vegetables and tons of prepared foods.  There was a huge bin of live, enormous mussels, dirt cheap and begging to be taken home.  There was fresh shrimp, which we can’t get in Samoa. 

Can we talk about the fish market?  It’s a retail operation and one store has lots of prepared foods.  I bought marinated mussels for a song along with a prawn salad that was so worth every penny.

Donna  was a sport in cheerfully going with me to multiple stores but doesn’t get why I take such pleasure out of visiting grocery stores or luxury homes, lusting after stuff I can’t have.  I just like knowing they’re out there and who knows...someday.  I doubt if George Clooney is going to be asking me out any time soon, but I like looking at him, too.

·       Restaurants!  Fast food, elegant spots with great views, greasy dives, I love them all.  Food courts in Auckland are very different than in the USA.  They feature lots of Asian and middle-eastern cuisine.  Sushi, kimchee/bulgogi, kebabs, pizza...the list goes on.  Pretty much everything but fried chicken and burgers.  It worked for us, though, since one food court met my desire for diversity in my dining and there was a Burger King next door for Donna.

I like knowing that if I don’t feel like cooking I can grab something on the street.  Or, enjoy a relaxing venue with white tablecloths and someone serving me delicious cuisine that involves stuff like pate and sauces I’ve never attempted at home. 

I like being able to buy a cookie, hot from the oven and crispy sweet, then head next door for a cappuccino to go with it.  Let’s face it, I like a lot of food.  I enjoy variety in food and I like it convenient. 

·       MacDonalds and Subway.  I had my first taste of a Big Mac in Rotorua, 14 months after the last taste.  I had a moment and needed a cigarette after.  I’d forgotten how tasty it can be.  I had the same reaction to Subway.  For three years I worked off and on in a building that had a Subway in the lobby.  After years of subs for lunch almost every day I swore I would never eat at Subway again.  I take it back. I ate there 3 times in 2 weeks.  Much like I’ll probably be craving ramen when I get home although I’ve eaten enough for a lifetime.

·       Internet access.  Auckland has internet cafes in every block and they are very inexpensive.  About 1/5th the cost I pay here.  Plus, faster and more reliable.  And I don’t have to take a bus 45 min. each way to use it.  Let’s be honest, sitting on my couch in my FL home with my laptop inches away at every moment, constantly connected to WIFI spoiled me.

·       Crisp sheets.  My sheets tend to always slightly damp.  When I slide in at night I stick to them.  Sheets in palagi land were crisp and made a lovely rustling sound when I moved.  Before I left home, I changed the sheets on my bed every night for a week so that I could savor that feeling of sliding in between crisp, fragrant sheets.  I miss that.

·       Driving.  I love the freedom that having a car brings.  I can be on my own schedule, going where I want to go without having to hoof it a mile to catch a bus or get to my final destination.  I discovered I also just miss driving, with no destination in mind.

·       Anonymity.   Ask someone in my village if they know who I am and chances are excellent that they will say yes.  People around the island know who I am.  The ones who don’t know me still say hello and seem interested in watching what I’m doing, wearing, eating, etc.  I’m different here.  In palagi land, I’m just one of the crowd.  It’s a city with lots of people and lots going on.  What I’m doing is of no interest to anyone.  I miss that anonymity although I’m sure I’ll miss being a minor celebrity after some time back in the States.

·       A remote control.  Cable tv, a couch and a remote control.  What could be better?  A room with all that, air con and no mosquitos or other critters.  I miss the Discovery Channel and Food Network.  I miss being a couch potato.

·       Hot showers.  When it’s hot outside and the water is tepid from being in the pipe in the sun, cold showers are no biggie.  Even when the water is really cold, like this morning after a couple days of rain, they work and I get clean.  But it’s not the same as luxuriating in a hot shower which is as much about mental health and relaxation as getting clean.

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