It’s been hot lately. Just enough rain to add to the humidity level. I find it ironic that there’s no word in Samoan for humidity. Because I’d be using it every day. There’s also just one word that’s used for “nice” and “beautiful” but manaia doesn’t do the place justice. The intense turquoise color of the sea when the clouds are dark and stormy? So much nicer than “nice”. I could list pages of examples.
It’s been so hot that I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Samoans have been commenting to me in the last few days. I’m not sure if they’re really noticing the heat that much or just noticing that my face is beet red, my hair is dripping wet and stuck to my skull and my clothes and skin are damp. The problem is not just the heat and humidity, it’s the lack of a breeze. Right now it’s in the 80’s, humid and not a breath of air moving. And it’s after 7:00 in the evening. Hot.
I went to the market today to get some vegetables. My boss gave me a ride to the Tuisivi store, at the end of my village. That doubles the number of buses that can take. Many of the buses turn around just past the store and don’t go the next mile and a half to my house. Within two minutes, I got a bus. I went to the market and bought a $15 head of cabbage, a $5 bag of cucumbers and a $2 avocado. It’s probably the last of the avocados I’ll see until I’m home since we’re at the end of the season. One of the vendors I buy from regularly had saved it for me.
She also mentioned she yelled at me in Apia last weekend. She saw me getting off the bus from the wharf. I didn’t hear her in the crowds and honestly might not have recognized her. Even at home I have problems when I see people out of context. I’ll chat and be friendly with a cashier at the grocery store and know her name, but when I see her at the gas station, out of uniform, she doesn’t register. A shortcoming on my part. The fact that she saw me getting off the bus builds my credibility. I’m not a rich palagi, taking a taxi. Just like a local, I take the crowded bus for the hour to hour and a half ride.
I was only in the market in Salelologa for about ten minutes. I caught the same bus for home that I’d taken there. But he didn’t go straight home. Instead, the full bus pulled in at the wharf to wait for people getting off the ferry from Apia. We waited for 20 minutes. During the wait I “played” with two boys on the bus next to me. They were 7 and 6 and at first just wanted to use the only words they know (bye bye) on a palagi. When they realized I spoke some Samoan they were shocked but willing to chat. Then we played ish, or rock, paper, scissors. Then I gave them a donut that I’d just bought from the guy selling them to people on the buses. Their mothers (or grandmothers, hard to tell) were sitting behind them and chuckling during our interaction. The bus was from the other side of the island and clearly these guys didn’t know there’s an old Pisi Koa here. It was fun and helped the sweaty time pass.
My next door neighbor and brother were on the ferry. We had a nice reunion. That brought more stares from the bus next to ours. People on my bus are used to seeing me interact with people I know. The other busload just watched as we hugged and exchanged greetings in Samoan. The fishbowl effect that Peace Corps warned us about. Guaranteed, somebody, someplace on the island tonight will be telling someone about the Samoan-speaking old woman they saw on the bus today.
I made a comment in my blog yesterday about something that was “typically Samoan”. In this case, a hotel room that wasn’t very clean and had a problem with the door. It’s easy to generalize and I don’t want to give false impressions or offend. My host sister in Upolo, for example, was a stellar housekeeper and her home was at clean as she could get it. Cleaner than my home in Savaii, for sure.
I’ve noticed, though, that attention to details is just not important here, generally speaking. Cleaning is an example. People take great pride and work hard to keep their landscaping looking good. Twice a day children gather “rubbish” which means leaves. But they leave chip bags, soda cans, etc., scattered on the perfectly mown lawn. They spent a lot of money on our new school hall along with a lot of effort but the paint started peeling off within weeks of completion.
I think part of it is the heat. My parent’s mantra was “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” When it’s so hot you can feel your skin melting and your brain swelling, though, good enough is, well, good enough.