Saturday, June 23, 2012

Apia II

Farmer Joe’s is always a treat.  If it were air conditioned, I might never leave.  I didn’t buy too much, but really enjoyed looking.  I did buy some black rice vinegar.  I love the white rice vinegar and was reluctant to switch but decided to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  For less than $1 USD, I got a large bottle of mild, sweet, flavorful vinegar.  I also got a small, expensive bottle of ranch dressing.  I have everything I need to make deep fried dill pickles.  The dressing is for dipping.  I’m bringing a bit of the American south to Samoa.  If you’ve never tried fried pickles, don’t sneer.  They are excellent, especially when consumed while enjoying a cold beer.

This morning, as I was checking out of the hotel I asked the clerk if there was a 2:00 p.m. boat to Savaii.  She was unsure and asked another employee.  But she didn’t ask if there was a 2:00 boat, she asked when the next bus was leaving for the wharf.  She speaks English.  This is the kind of communication gap that can be so frustrating.  Did she not understand my question?  Did she want to encourage me to leave sooner, rather than hanging around the lobby?  I don’t know.  She told me the last bus of the day was leaving in ten minutes.  Since I know there is a bus that leaves at 1:30 p.m . for the 4:00 pm. boat and it was only 9:30 a.m., I knew that she was incorrect.

I decided to go ahead and catch the bus for the noon boat.  As I was dragging my very heavy luggage the two blocks to the bus station, a young man approached me.  He was walking to the market, next to the buses.  He approached me because he wanted to carry my luggage.  That is fa’asamoa at it’s best.  He was young, didn’t speak much English, but knew that it is wrong to let an older person, especially a palagi, carry heavy things.  What a sweetheart.

I caught the bus as it was leaving.  It was packed.  A crush of people standing cheek to jowl in the aisles.  I grabbed the rack above me and was ready to stand for the 90 minute ride.  Then I heard yelling from the back of the bus.  There was a young man sitting in the front row, holding a two year old girl.  People started yelling at him to give me his seat.  I assured everyone “Aua popole!”  “Don’t worry!” but to no avail.  He gave his child to the woman sitting next to him and I got his seat.

This was a “real” bus, not the homemade variety, so it was bigger and had cushioned seats.  When I say it was packed, I’m not kidding.  I was in the front row, which is two seats, an aisle and two more seats.  In the space from my row to the front of the bus there were 21 people.  Samoan people.  We are not tiny.  Of the 21, 7 were children, the rest adults.  In the space I was sitting in (designed for two) there were six of us (1 child) and I was holding someone’s backpack on my lap.  My face was nestled cozily in the armpit of a young man I’ve never seen before.  A middle-aged man sat on my feet and used my legs as a backrest.  There was someone seating on the back of my seat, so I was leaning forward over the backpack, toward the man sitting at my feet.  I’ve come a very long way in my battle for a need for personal space.  Imagine playing Twister on a bus.  That was us.

Because the bus was so overloaded the driver couldn’t go more than 25 miles an hour because he kept bottoming out.  To avoid that, he drove slowly and only on the smoothest parts of the road, which were frequently on the wrong side.  Oncoming drivers seemed to take it in stride.  Except for the car of policemen who stopped us.  I figured they’d do something because we were so overloaded.  They just advised the driver to stay on his own side.

The ferry ride was uneventful.  Just before we docked, the rain started pouring so I got wet getting to the bus.  Ten minutes later, the sun was out and I was steaming.   Not angry.   Literally, I had steam coming off my wet clothes. 

It was good to be home and see the family.  My baby was happy to see me and I noticed they’d planted a palm tree in front of my house.  I’m not sure why there and I’m glad I won’t be here when the tree is full grown and dropping coconuts on the tin roof.

I texted a friend in the village that I wasn’t coming back to school because I’d run off with Manu Samoa.  Her response text was that that was good.  At least I’d be with fa’i Samoa which is a humorous reference to how well endowed Samoan men are.  Yup, I’m home.

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