Monday, May 28, 2012

Enchiladas in Auckland

For the first time since October 5, 2010, I ate cheese enchiladas yesterday.  I finally found an open Mexican Restaurant, across the street from the Sky Tower, called Mexican Cafe.  For $15 NZD, I dined on chips/salsa, cheese enchiladas with rice and refried beans, salad and a dollop of guacamole.

Were they as good as the enchiladas I grew up with at Casa Molina in Tucson, AZ?  No.  Were they as good as any enchiladas in Tucson, AZ?  No.  But very few stack up to the stellar Mexican food in Tucson.  I can already hear my friend in Santa Fe protesting that NM Mex is better than AZ Mex but he's really from Michigan, so what does he know? 

These enchiladas weren't on a par with either AZ or NM grub but they were good and really made me happy.  And the sauce didn't have tomatoes!  The chips were cold but fresh and crispy and seemed to be homemade.  The guac was stellar and a nice touch.  The rice was bland and the beans didn't taste quite like refried beans should but they didn't detract from the cheesy focus of the plate.

How did it feel to eat my favorite food after going without it for so long?  Good enough that I'm going back for seconds today. 

Viva la comida Mexicana!  Good on you, Mexican Cafe!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I've tended to travel to places very different than the United States.  Partly because of the economics.  Developing countries tend to be cheaper.  But also to explore the differences in culture, lifestyle, geography, etc. 

I'm finding that New Zealand is very different in many ways than the United States.  Here are some things I've noticed:

Samoa - things I thought were uniquely Samoan are actually Kiwi.  For example, Jandals is what Samoans call flipflops.  They were invented in New Zealand.  The donuts that I thought were from Samoa?  Nope, Kiwi inspired.  Going into a grocery store here, I see every product I can find in Samoa.  They just have more variety here.  Why is it that the only frozen vegetable you can get in Savaii is mixed veg?  If they can ship that, they could ship frozen peas.  Broccoli.  Cauliflower. 

Food - Kiwis do not eat Mexican food.  There are a handful of restaurants in Auckland (which are usually closed) but from the menu, they aren't authentic.  Any time a menu advertises that it's enchilada sauce contains tomato sauce I cringe.  There are no tomatoes in enchilada sauce.  I've searched high and low for green chiles.  None to be had.  Not fresh, canned, frozen or dried.  Damn.  In six months I'm going to eat Mexican food until I burst.
Can't fault the seafood, though.  Huge, succulent green lipped mussels are readily available and cheap.  I've been eating them daily.  Because I'm lazy, I've been eating the marinated ones.  Pop open the plastic container and slurp.  Lovely.

Food here is generally not cheap.  Once I solve my technical issues, I'll post a photo of a box of granola that sells for over $30 NZD.  Please tell me that food prices in the States haven't risen to exboritant levels.  I bought lamb yesterday for $18 kg.  That was on sale.  It was delicious.  I baked a kumara (similar to a yam), sauteed courgettes (zuchini to me), made a tossed salad and quick fried the lamb in a hot skillet.  Then I opened the mint sauce, which really is a sauce, rather than the sort of jelly we have in the United States.

Bathrooms.  Like many countries around the world, toilets here have push buttons rather than a flush handle.  You get two options.  1 button for number 1 and 1 button for number 2.  Makes sense.  The other thing popular here in upscale homes is a "wet room".  Instead of an enclosed shower, the entire room (either whole bathroom or a separate room) is a shower.  The wetroom at Janey and Andrew's was stellar.  A HUGE room with a window, deep tub and showerhead with great water pressure.  And the water was hot.  In another place I stayed you could brush your teeth or do your business while showering.  I had the same thing once in a hotel in Buenos Aires, but that bathroom was so tiny it was a necessity, not a luxury.

Bare feet.  I asked Andrew about the bare feet thing.  I go bare foot a lot.  Always have.  Always in the house.  Frequently I teach barefoot.  Which sounds weird when I see it written down, but seems perfectly natural, in context.  I would never consider, however, strolling through downtown Auckland, in winter, in bare feet.  What's up with that?  Seniors, kids, teens.  Dressed up or casual.  And no shoes.  The Ministry of Health is working on a campaign in Samoa to encourage people to stop spitting and to wear shoes outdoors.  It's not healthy.  And cold. 

Attire.  Aside from the bare feet, I've noticed that hot pants are VERY popular in Auckland.  Since I haven't been in the United States in two years I have no clue what the clothing fads are.  Doesn't really matter to me since I'll continue to wear the same stuff that I've worn for 20 years.  Perhaps I need an intervention.  Anyway, hotpants worn with panty hose or leggings are very common here.  I'm far from a fashionista but here's a couple of tips.  If you want to wear your shorts that short, cut out the pockets that are hanging below the hem.  Also, if you can see the line on the pantyhose where the reinforcement at the top starts, either wear the kind that has no line of demarcation or wear slightly longer shorts.  I strolled through a mall yesterday and found very few items that I would consider buying, even if I was in the mood to buy.  Let's just say that working girls would have a field day shopping here.

Language.  Yes, they speak English here, but with an accent.  I was in the grocery store with Janey and needed her help to translate what the cashier was saying.  First she asked if I wanted to have my fish (which was sealed in plastic) wrapped in newspaper.  I could neither understand her or grasp the concept.  Then she asked (I think) if I had a discount card for that store.  I do the same thing here that I do in Samoa when people speak quickly and I can't hear/understand.  I just smile, nod and let them think I'm an idiot. They're not far wrong.

There are some phrases here that are commonly used.  I may adopt them...

Easy as.  Cheap as.  Fresh as.  Kiwis seem to like to encourage you to use your imagination.  Let's say someone is commenting on the how easy something is.  They'll just say "Easy as."  That leaves you to fill in the blank.  Easy as...falling off a log?  Easy as...pie?

Fresh seems to mean "nice", "feeling good".  I'm not sure exactly, but if you're referred to as fresh, it does not mean that you just pinched someones bum (or butt, if you're an American.)

I was told before coming to New Zealand that they don't like Americans.  I was told that by some Kiwis in Samoa.  If they are this friendly and polite to me, what are they like to people they actually like?

Speaking of friendly and polite, I bought some lasagna the other day for dinner.  The restaurant had just opened and all I had was either a $50  or $17 in change.  The bill was $20.  The nice owner took the change and called it even.  I offered to go to the store next door and get change but she insisted we were even.  "It is my small gift to you.  Eat, enjoy." 

I love it here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Amazing New Zealand

This has been an extraordinary holiday.  I've eaten...seafood, cheese, hearty breads, salads and all kinds of spicy Asian food, mostly.  I've spent a lot of time thinking and praying about the next chapter and am feeling calm and centered, knowing that something magical is waiting. 

Most surprisingly, I met a wonderful man here and we've fallen in love.  He's kind, funny, sexy, and has the most amazing heart.  His life is here and mine isn't so we plan to blend our lives somehow. 

Wait - that isn't my holiday.  That's Julia Robert's journey in Eat, Pray, Love, which I watched last night from the comfort of my couch, wearing my jammies.  Ok, so I haven't bumped into Javier Bardem or fallen in love, but the eating and praying parts are true.

The food options here are amazing.  Until you live someplace where your choices are very limited you forget how amazing it is to be able to walk into a grocery store and buy anything - raw or ready-made, that you could want. 

Auckland has lots of food courts.  Not the kind we have in American malls.  These are more like the ones in Singapore, where there are a variety of small restaurants, usually Asian or Middle Eastern, around the outside of a huge room with tables and chairs in the middle.  You choose your dish and dine.  Or, take it home.

I've been overwhelmed in the food courts.  Too many choices.  The night I arrived back in Auckland, I went to the place on K road.  It's not far, but all uphill so I felt I deserved something special.  But what?  There was Hong Kong style Chinese.  Ooooh.  Peking duck? 

There was Indian...spicy and naan.  Or maybe the halal Middle Eastern.  Or Vietnamese?  Or Thai?  It all looked fresh and delicious and the blend of smells made my head spin.  All that lusciousness on one place and I only have a few more days.  What to do?

I ended up with spicy Penang Curry from the Thai stall.  $10 for chicken and vegetables in a curry made perfectly to order.  I was so confused by all the choices I forgot to get spring rolls.  It didn't matter.  It was delicious.

The first time I flew to New Orleans I sat next to a fellow foodie who said I should plan to start eating early and continue until late so I could taste as many delicious Cajun dishes as possible.  That's how I feel here.  Like Julia, in the movie, I plan to enjoy the food, walk a lot and not worry about the calories or feel guilty about the pleasure.

I have the eat and pray covered.  The love I have waiting for me back in Samoa.  I really miss my kids.  I can't wait to hear my Year 8 neighbor yell hello as he cooks the family dinner over an open fire and I cook mine nearby on a hotplate.

Javier doesn't know what he's missing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taranaki, Two

Sunday was another stellar day in Hawera, in the Taranaki region of the North Island of New Zealand.  We had both sun and clouds with a bracing wind.

While Andrew headed off for a tennis match with a mate (how'm I doing on the Kiwi lingo?), Janey and I took off for a nearby museum.  The Tawhiti Museum is the creation of one man, an artist dedicated to learning/teaching about the history of both Europeans and Maori in this region.  He's created both life-sized and miniature figures depicting life as it used to be.  His work is truly amazing and worth a visit.  How wonderful, too, to see someone making a business of his passion.  I couldn't help but wonder if he was married, though.  Presumably the museum started as a hobby at home and I can just picture the woman in his life yelling "It's about damn time you get those bloody little people and the rest of the crap out of here!"

In addition to the historical displays he's created there is a huge display of tractors and other farming tools.  Lawn mowers, hand tools, etc.  You could easily spend hours in that section alone.  We spent about 2.5 minutes, not having much interest in antique farming implements.

The very thoughtful and generous Janey took me home where we warmed up and enjoyed tea accompanied by three kinds of cheese, two kinds of crackers, almonds and dried fruit.  Have I told you that I've begun begging Andrew and Janey to adopt me?  The cheese and the conversation were the perfect way to spend a brisk Sunday afternoon.

We hit the grocery store then visited friends of hers.  They'd been to Samoa recently on vacation.  They chose Samoa in large part because her father is from Samoa, although he moved to NZ over 50 years ago.  It was nice to be welcomed into another home and I really enjoyed hearing their perspectives about Samoa.  I hope they'll be able to return before I leave Samoa.  I'd love to play tour guide.

Another delicious evening of seafood, including more of the delicious and unique Bluff oysters, chilled marinated Green Lip Mussels, sauteed monk fish (which is the price here that it was 20 years ago in the USA) and a salad.  I've been very, very spoiled.

We finished the evening by looking at some of A. and J.'s travel photos.  They've been to so many places around the world and Andrew's photos are excellent.  Much better than mine, which is why all the photos shown here were taken by Andrew as they showed me around the region.

Monday I'm off to New Plymouth, where I'll spend the night to be ready for an early morning bus departure for Taupo on Tuesday. 

I hope you enjoy Andrew's photos...

Janey and Andrew, the most amazing and generous hosts.  We were half way up Mt. Taranaki.  Notice that Andrew is wearing a t-shirt and sweatshirt.

Janey never takes a bad photo.  Notice that I appear to be freezing despite wearing Cuddle Dudz (long underwear, top and bottom), fleece top, fleece jacket and Andrew's heavy jacket.  I'm a Florida/Samoa wimp.

From the mountains we headed to the sea, near New Plymouth.  If you are ever in New Zealand, you must go to Taranaki.

Pedestrian bridge with the mountain in the distance.  The bridge is stunning and designed to look like whale bones.

It was warmer at sea level.  Shortly after this I even took off my fleece jacket because the sun was so warm. 

Fishermen enjoying a beautiful day.

There were plenty of surfers enjoying the waves for which Taranaki is famous.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Terrific Taranaki

Prepare yourself for gushing. I'm about to tell you about my last few days on vacation and it's been so great that gushing is required.

I spent a few days in Auckland, a city I really enjoy.  Comedy club, great food and a stellar hotel.  On May 18, I hopped a bus to Taranaki.  New Plymouth, to be precise.  Buses are a common way to travel here and very comfortable and convenient.  It cost me $1, plus $2 handling for a ticket for a six hour ride.

I thought I hadn't gained patience in Samoa, but I was very content on the bus.  I had the seat to myself and the scenery was so spectacular I ignored my book and just sat and stared and thought.  It was great.  Two years ago I would have been an impatient mess.  Did I mention I saw four rainbows throughout the ride?  Along with sunshine, mountain views along with views of the coastline?

There was a bit of a snag in getting my rental car, but in true Kiwi form, people came to my aid.  The nice lady at the bus depot let me use her phone even though there was a pay phone nearby.  The man at the car rental place said he'd drop off the car instead of me having to go further than expected to where they were.  He was prompt and friendly.

Then the only nerve wracking part began...driving.  Left side of the road, steering wheel on the right.  Beautiful, windy, narrow roads with people driving at insane speeds.  Ok, they were only insane to me because sitting in the back of the bus I didn't get the same sense of speed and I was going WAY faster than I've ever driven in Samoa.

It was a bit nerve wracking but I made it to Hawera with no problems (did I mention it was raining, off and on?) and with only one stop for help.  There was that one tiny moment when I stopped to ask for directions and the man said no such road existed.  Hmmm, was this Kiwi humor?  Invite the stranger to come to a non-existent house?   No problem, though, it was a new road and I arrived at the beautiful and luxurious home of new friends I'd met in Bay of Islands.

The couple, J. and A. have two fur covered "children", friendly labs and they all greeted me with enthusiasm.  J. had prepared a delicious dinner and that was the beginning of a wonderful stay in this incredible part of the world.

A. grew up on a farm here and is passionate about the main feature of the Taranaki region - Mt. Taranaki.  On Saturday they took me on a tour of the region, with our first stop half way up the mountain.  Incredible.  Amazing.  Breath taking.  Can you feel the enthusiasm gushing?  As we stood there, the clouds blew away from the 2 mile high peak of the snow-covered mountain that rises starkly from the relatively flat dairy lands.  A. was disappointed that clouds kept us from viewing the other two mountains that are across the country but the views we had were so spectacular, I was far from disappointed.  What a region - from seacoast and surfing to mountain and skiiing in less than an hour.

Because of the steep rise in altitude, the cool air was even chillier and there were patches of snow on the ground. I felt at home, though, because we shared the lookout platform with folks from Fiji, who were also wearing heavy coats (mine belonged to A.) and sandals.

We hopped back in the car to warm up and head to New Plymouth, where A. had an appointment.  While they took care of business, I enjoyed the really good, free museum.  The interactive museum focused on both the Maori and European history in the area.  Interesting stuff.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant.  I really like my fresh snapper but the green lip mussels in a garlic cream sauce that A shared with me were fabulous.  Plus, there was a delicious salad that did not involve cabbage!  Shall I gush more about the food? 

After lunch they took me to a lovely park, on the ocean, that features a unique walking bridge over a small river.  The very cool part is that when you stand at one end of the bridge it is perfectly aligned so that Mt. Taranaki is centered in the distance.  Stunning.  Plus I had fun with J. as we waited to take photos when there weren't any people walking or riding bikes across the bridge.  We compared the Kiwi approach, which was to wait quietly and patiently, to the American approach.  I held myself back from yelling "Hey, you...move it along there.  Can't you see people are trying to take pictures here?"

After some time on the beach, watching surfers, kids, joggers, dogs and just generally people enjoying the end of a sunny day, we headed back for home.  We spent a quiet evening watching rugby and a cooking show, talking and, of course, eating.  A. shares my passion for seafood so we started with a special treat.  He introduced me to his favorite food, Bluff oysters.  OMG.  Rich, large, meaty and tasting of the Tasman sea.  We enjoyed them raw, with a bit of lemon, served on toast points. 

Dinner was more seafood.  I helped with a tiny bit of prep but J. did the cooking and made a great salad (no cabbage!), seafood curry with mussels and shrimp and fresh scallops with chili.  Spicy seafood.  Could it get any better?  Yes.  A nice white wine and good conversation, along with a fire to take the chill off made it perfect.

Today we're going to a local museum which is highly rated and I can't wait.  Photos to follow when I'm not hogging J. & A's. internet.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tranquility in Paradise

When you think of a tropical island in the South Pacific, do you envision silence?  Disturbed only by gentle waves lapping on the beach and birds chirping quietly in the jungle?  Sorry, my brothers and sisters, but you are incorrect. 

Here’s a blow by blow of my last night in Savaii before vacation. 

10:30 p.m.  I turn out the light and a few minutes later I’m in dreamland.  A happy place with air conditioning and no bugs.

11:16 p.m.  I was awakened by the sound of children’s laughter.  Actually, it was the boys in the family who are 23, 21, 18 and 14.  I believe the cousins who live on the other side of my house were with them.  They are 13 and 16.   They were in the fale closest to my house.  They were very happy.  Unfortunately for me, that was expressed by braying like donkeys and squeals of glee.   Much better than yelling in anger or pain but still makes it hard to sleep.

12:45 a.m.  The boys are still laughing and talking.  One thing about Samoans, they can laugh for hours.  Drunk or sober.   In tonight’s case I believe at least the older boys mirth was partially alcohol induced.  Samoans don’t just chuckle, they go for full on belly laughs.  And most have a similar laugh.  Women have a certain laugh that you can recognize a mile away (or at least a couple hundred yards) and the men have a male version.  Good for them for letting it all out and enjoying living the moment.  I just wish they could do it a bit further away from my bed.

1:15’ish a.m.  I doze back off.

2:35 a.m.  War breaks out between the pigs and dogs that sleep on either side of my fale.  I believe the dogs won the skirmish, since I heard a lot of piggy squealing as they headed to the back of the compound.

4:16 a.m.  Dear God, there’s something on me, get it off, get it off, get it off!  I felt something slide across my face and leaped out of bed.  No mean feat for a woman of my size and age.  As I stood there, breathless and confused, heart pounding, I realized a massive storm had blown in.  The wind had blown the curtain across my face.  Ok, back under the sheet.  The wind kept blowing the curtain and a mist of rain onto me.  I lay there, listening to the thunder and watching the strobe-like effect of the lightening through the blowing curtain.

4:42 a.m.  A brilliant flash of light inside my fale and the smell of ozone.  Lightening  must have hit the tree over my fale.  Electricity is out but my computer escaped unscathed.  After unplugging everything to make sure nothing is on fire, I crawl back under the sheet, scratching bug bites and wiping rain off my face.

5:00 a.m.  I’m waiting for the church bells.  They don’t happen.  I fall back to sleep.

5:30 a.m.  Brother’s alarm goes off.  He hits snooze.  Six times.  I counted.  I’d like to meet the sick individual who researched the most annoying sound possible to use to yank people out of a perfectl y nice dream.  My brother didn’t get up for another two hours, by the way.

5:40 a.m.  Pig and dog war erupts again.  This time the pigs are battling some really stupid 6 month old puppies who think their barking is going to scare a 300 pound boar.  Pigs are still at my fale.  Puppies are running back to their house, barking all the way.

6:20 a.m.  Ah, the sound of morning in Samoa.  Roosters, birds chirping and the family stereo playing full blast.  Another Saturday morning in paradise.

6:35 a.m.  Clearly it’s time to feed the pigs.  They’re squealing and my neighbor is standing inside the front fale yelling for his son to get up.  He sleeps in the fale next to mine.  He just yells his name.  Over and over. 

6:40 a.m.  I’m up.  The rain has eased a bit.  There’s music now from both houses.

7:55 a.m.  My neighbor finally came back to the fale to wake up the son to feed the pigs.  Now, instead of yelling from the front house, he’s standing 15 feet away from my fale, just outside where is son is sleeping.  Instead of just yelling his name, he alternates with “sole” (dude).  I just heard a teen age grunt.  Maybe the yelling will stop.  Please, make the squealing of the pigs stop, Clarice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last Day, Term 1

Today was officially the last day of the first term.  It’s also my last day in Savaii before leaving tomorrow on vacation.  My boss, the teachers and kids acted as if I was leaving forever.  I kept reminding them I’ll be back before school starts in three weeks.  Nice to know I’ll be missed.  One of the teachers reminded me to bring gifts.  I told her I was bringing her Ramen noodles, which is what we eat for lunch every  day.  She told me to bring chocolate instead.

I was the first teacher at school.  The few kids who came early joined me in the office.  They thought they’d get to continue watching The Lion King but I had a surprise.  I downloaded the photos and video I’d taken during Sports Day and we had a slideshow, followed by videos of the sack races and tug of wars.  The kids enjoyed them.

Today was very low key.  No decorations, no dancing, just speeches and announcing the top students in each class.  Things started about 8:15 a.m. when I was told to start singing with the kids.  I led songs and controlled mayhem until about 8:45 when I ran out of impromptu ways to amuse 250 kids and parents.

The ceremony itself was typically casual.  People talking and wandering around.  I took photos while the rest of the teachers huddled together to finish their grades and report cards.  Mid-way through the program, the principal drove off.  Seems he left his cell phone at home.  One teacher arrived about an hour into the program, just in time to announce his grades.

After announcing the grades, each class was supposed to perform a song or poem in honor of Mother’s Day.   One of the teachers was absent the other day and I was subbing so got the opportunity to teach them a poem.  I wrote it and they learned it, all in less than an hour.  Two girls recited it first, then the class recited it together.  I was very concerned but they were stellar.

After the ceremony, most kids went home.  Year 8 stayed to help with cleanup and a few of my fans hung around just because.  I headed to the office to upload the photos.  I wanted to get them off my camera before I go to New Zealand.

As I was packing up my stuff and getting the office cleaned up, a kid came and told me it was eating time and I should go downstairs.  I hadn’t seen any food so was a bit surprised.  The School Resource Officer had purchased fish or chicken plates with coleslaw and fries from the only fast food restaurant on the island.  She said she did it because I was leaving.  It was a very generous gesture and although my fish and chips had been sitting out for a few hours, they were tasty.

After too many rounds of goodbyes and hugs, we headed our separate ways.  I decided to go to the post office in town.  About 30 seconds into the ride I realized I’d made a huge mistake.  I thought an early afternoon bus ride would be relaxing.  I hadn’t considered it was the end of term for everyone plus big crowds doing Mother’s Day shopping. 

I thought the bus couldn’t hold another person when we stopped to pick up 13 high school students.  I was in the front seat, crammed in with my knees pressed into the metal bars in front of me.  As the kids got on, several had to stand on the stairs in front of me.  A couple were forced to lean over the metal railing so they were halfway in my lap.  Two guys were hanging out the door, holding on by looping their arms through the window next to me.  It was cozy.

That’s when it hit me.  The Post Office was closed for lunch.  Hmmm, what to do.  I could get off and just stand around for 45 minutes until it reopened.  But it was hot.  I could stay on the bus to the market and just wait the 30 minutes or so until it started the return trip and get off then.  Or, I could take the bus to the fast food place and get an icy cold smoothie.  Yes!

When I got off the bus, I noticed the parking lot was jammed and there were a lot of police standing around.  Had there been a robbery?  Fight?  Nope, just a bunch of people in the mood for fried chicken.  I stepped inside and saw there were no empty seats.  I looked at the row of tickets hanging in the kitchen, waiting to be served.  I knew that even though I just wanted a beverage, my ticket would be taken after all those ahead of me.

What the heck, I had to wait any way, I might as well be rewarded with a smoothie.  While I waited, I chatted with a woman who lives in a nearby village where there is another Pisi Koa (Peace Corps Volunteer).  She asked how old I was and when I told her, said “That is too old.”  I get that a lot.  Too old for…?  Working?  Living?  Living in Samoa?  Maybe I have an expiration date stamped on my forehead that I never noticed.

After waiting almost an hour in the crowded restaurant, which is not air conditioned, I got my smoothie and headed to the road.  A few minutes later, my “good” bus came by and I hopped on.  I considered the fact that I had a seat and a smoothie.  I would check mail another day. 

Now I’m home and I’ve already taken a quick shower to rinse off the sweat.  Rap music is blasting from the house closest to me.  The house in front of me has the TV on at full volume.   Based on all the activity in Salelologa today, I’m guessing that tomorrow morning, which is normally the big shopping day for the week is going to be a nightmare.  But if I want to get to the ferry, I have to catch a bus.

It will make the quiet and luxuries in New Zealand all the sweeter.

People in Samoa Who Make Me Happy

First, I’d like to talk about my pe’u (boyfriend), Julius.  He has a drooling problem and can’t sit up on his own for long but has the most enchanting grin.  He’s shy and when I talk to him he laughs then plants his face downward.  Usually into a mattress.  He seems to cry only when he’s hungry and has never failed to smile when he hears my voice.   I can’t imagine not being able to see him every day and watch him grow up.  He’s five months old.

I also love my young stalker at school.  I wrote recently about the Year 1 girl with the nerve to come to the office and ask me to turn on her favorite video song by the 3 Stooges.  For the last few weeks she’s become a stalker.  From the time I arrive at school until the time I leave, she’s there.  Watching everything I do, with love in her eyes.   I will so miss being a hero to these kids.  

Yesterday, because it is the last week of the term, the teachers had tea together during an extended interval.  My “stalker” stood outside.  She is tiny, so just peeked over the window ledge.  She watched me.    She’d say “Hello, Nancy!” and I’d smile and say hello back.  Then she’d wait.  After a minute, she’d say it again.  I’d smile and respond again.  After about 50 times, the other teachers grew annoyed and sent her out to play.  When interval was over she was supposed to be in her classroom but she wasn’t.  She was waiting for me to walk upstairs so she could shyly touch my hand. 

I love all the kids in different ways.  I wish you could visit the school to meet these amazing children.  Cheeky, shy, friendly, quiet.  They each are charming in their own way.  Isaac, for instance.  He’s  15 and in Year 8.  He’s as tall as I am and I have no doubt that he is stronger than I am.  But he has the heart of a child.  This morning as he walked toward me he started waving with both hands and saying hello in English.  He’s one of the kids who has been left behind.  He’s missed several years of school and been ignored in classes because he is slow.  But he loves to learn and I love to see the look in his eyes when we work together and he gets it.  There is nothing more gratifying than seeing someone grasp an idea and realize they’ve learned something new. 

My friend Meripa is a teacher.  She is a tevolo (devil).  She insists she’s an angel and she is, deep down inside, but her sense of humor causes the devil to come out.  No matter what the event, I can always count on Meripa to lighten the moment by playing the fool just to make people laugh.  She’s also very patient about explaining things to me when the Samoan is flying, fast and furious. 
I’m a big fan of most of the bus drivers and their helpers, who are called “supakoko”, which sounds a lot like “supercocko”.  That would be a hard title to live up to.  I depend on the buses to get me anywhere I need to go.  The drivers now stop if they see me walking, even if I haven’t flagged them down.  The supakokos carry my bags and make sure I get a good seat, relatively speaking.  Sometimes having any seat, and having someone sit on my lap is as good as it gets.

This is just a very short list of people I see every day who make me happy.