On Friday morning I was supposed to be ready for a friend to pick me up at 4:45 a.m. We were headed to the ferry. I was going to Apia to see the PC doctor and my friend was going to a meeting at the Ministry of Education.
I was ready to go when she arrived just before 5 a.m. Not fully awake, but ready. When I turned the key in the deadbolt lock that serves as my door knob, it turned but nothing happened. I couldn’t get out. My friend got out of the car and was talking to through the window, asking what the problem was. Within minutes my host parents got up and came to see what was up. I felt like an idiot.
I passed my key outside through the gap between the wall and the ceiling, hoping that they could open the lock from the outside. They couldn’t. I was very glad the house wasn’t on fire. I was also concerned that the delay would cause my friend to miss the boat, literally.
My family suggested that I use the backdoor. But I couldn’t find the key. Eventually I found it on the floor where it had fallen. I believe it either jumped (unlikely) or a rat knocked it off. Unfortunately, that lock wasn’t working either. I was beginning to think I was in the Twilight Zone. Or that I was still sleeping and having a nightmare that I would be trapped in my fale forever.
By that time, my friend had taken off and I knew there was no bus to the wharf at that time. I was not smiling. I passed the key outside to my patient parents along with continued apologies for getting them up before dawn. As a tenant, I was a pain in the neck. After a few minutes, they were able to open the back door.
They suggested calling their friend the cab driver, since if he drove like a maniac, I might still make it to the ferry in time. The went off to call him and I grabbed my suitcase. As I tried to lock the door I quickly realized that it wouldn’t lock. I gave the key to my host mom and headed for the street. My parents insisted on walking with me and waiting until the taxi arrived.
The driver got there quickly and we made it to the wharf in record time. I made the boat. Onboard, I found my friend. I prefer to sit outside so left her in the air conditioning after agreeing we’d meet when we got off the boat. She assured me I’d be welcome to ride with her and the other pules in the Ministry van.
But when I got off the boat I couldn’t find her. I finally walked up to a van and asked the well-dressed occupants (in Samoan) if they’d seen my friend. I used her name. They said no. I asked if it was ok if I rode to Apia with them. They said sure and put my suitcase in the van. Air conditioned, uncrowded comfort. Much better than the hour ride in a hot, crowded bus.
A few minutes into the silent ride, I tried to make conversation by asking which schools they worked in. They didn’t work in schools because they weren’t with the Ministry of Education. It was a Ministry van but it was the Ministry of Women. Wrong Ministry, wrong van.
Samoans are very flexible so when they realized the problem, they sped up to catch the correct van. They caught it, signaled for it to pull over and they transferred my bag. I hustled into the van but my friend wasn’t there. Wrong van. Again. No matter, their were two vans from the Ministry of Education and my friend had taken the first one.
I went with them to the Ministry office and was lucky enough to immediately get a taxi to the PC office. That night I got a call from my friend. She said she’d seen me arrive at the Ministry and get in the cab. She also said that the other pules teased her all day because “You lost your palagi!”
Imagine the whole van escapade in the US. Somehow I just don’t think they’d let a stranger hitch a ride with no questions asked.
The visit to the PC doctor was uneventful. I got my flu shot, discussed my on-going battle with skin infections and found out my blood pressure was significantly higher than usual. I explained that I had a reason for that.