Monday, June 4, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

I confess, I was dreading leaving New Zealand.  I loved not sweating.  Sleeping in a real bed in a cool room.  Having machines wash my clothes and dishes.  Eating cheese and spicy food.  Having fast, reliable and inexpensive internet nearby and available 24/7.  Taking hot showers.  Not having loud music blasting constantly.  Not living in a fishbowl.  Meeting interesting people and having deep conversations.

But I was missing Samoa.  Missing “my” baby and wondering if he’d started crawling while I was away.  Missing Tino yell to me every time he walks past my house, which is very often, since he lives next door.  Missing my friends.

I didn’t come straight home.  Instead, I eased back into reality.  Betsey, the mother of another volunteer, was flying out in the middle of the night of the day I was arriving so we’d made arrangements to meet and spend the day together.  I’m so glad we did.  She was waiting at the resort when I arrived and we started chatting like old friends.  The chatting continued for hours, until it was time for her to leave.  Ok, mostly I talked her ear off, but she was a good listener.

Betsy was in Samoa for two weeks and had a chance to meet most of the volunteers and see both islands.  Talking to an American close to my age was great because she could see that although it’s beautiful, life here is not without challenges.  Talking with her and with people I met in New Zealand also helped me process things and take a balanced look at my experiences here.  Spending the day together and enjoying the wonderful dinner she treated me to was a great way to ease back into my Samoan life.

On the ferry to my island, there were showing the live performances in honor of the holiday.  One was a group of women, mostly middle-aged, who did five dances.  Most of the dancing was traditional, but then they broke out a couple of numbers in which they imitated what you typically see on a music video.  Lots of booty shaking and suggestive moves.  I was shocked but the crowd on the ferry was loving it.  When a very heavy set fafafine (transvestite) started busting out some  really raunchy moves, the crowd was howling with laughter and I was right there with them.  It was quite a letdown when that performance ended and they moved on to marching bands.

When the ferry docked in Salelologa it wasn’t quite as crowded as usual, but there were still people pushing and shoving.  A woman in the waiting room grabbed my hand as I walked by and greeted me by name, with a big smile.  She’s from my village and seemed very happy that I’d come back.  A nice way to return to the island.

My bus wasn’t there, but after I asked for help, a stranger took me to a bus that goes to the far side of the island.  Usually they don’t stop in my village, but because none of my buses were running because of the holiday, he was taking everyone who needed a ride.  It was crowded, music was blaring, I was chatting with my seatmate in Samoan and we took a 20 minute detour.  Yup, I was home.

Last Friday was Samoa’s 50th birthday.  Before I left I’d heard that the government had decided to make not only Friday a holiday but also Monday and Tuesday.  When I got home and was making the rounds to deliver the chocolate I brought back from New Zealand I discovered that as of last week they’d decided to extend the holiday for the whole week.  School will now start next Monday.  That’s Samoa for you.

My house was in fine shape and the family seemed happy to see me.  My baby started laughing and did his typical face plant when he heard my voice.  All was right with the world until I picked him up.  At first he was smiling and laughing then he took a good look at me and burst into tears.  All evening he cried every time he looked at me.   Luckily by morning he seemed to get over his fear of the palagi and is back to smiling when he sees me.

Not surprisingly, I had to do a lot of cleaning before I could unpack.  When you live in an open house next to a beach in the tropics, dirt happens.  And the rats let me know they’re back because there was significant rat poop and pee on the toilet tank and seat.  If they’re going to get that close, couldn’t they just do their business IN the toilet instead of ON the toilet?

It’s Tuesday afternoon now.  I’m back into the village routine and it feels good to be back.  The weather has been rainy and cool which makes me long for a hot shower but it’s not a big deal.  I just hope I’ll be able to post this since I tried using the internet last night and after over an hour I was still waiting for my email and blog to open.  I gave up and thought longingly of the fast connection in Auckland. 

Then I heard Tino calling to me as he made the fire to cook dinner.  Yes, it’s good to be home.


  1. I think I caught the same performance on TV that you saw on the ferry. I think it was a dance group from American Samoa (an assumption as I had previously seen them carry the US and AmSam flags on to the field prior to their performance). There were comments made by others that it would be after all expected to have a shock factor at the end (the funnest part) as they were after all from AmSam.

  2. That makes sense. I was trying to envision the women in my village doing the dancing and it just didn't compute. Cheeky American Samoans. It was really funny.