Christmas at home? C’mon, give me a break! I’m already conforming to the world of work and employment, ain’t that traditional enough? With the opportunity of almost two weeks off over Christmas and the New Year, I knew that it was only a matter of “opportunity”. The question was, what opportunity? The one that went….”where will we go this time?” To be honest, I began thinking about this “opportunity” not long after I began my new job in June 2008, and as soon as I knew that we would have time off over Christmas and the New Year.

So, how and why did we pick Samoa? Well, we had already decided that we would be going to Ecuador and the USA for 4-5 weeks in mid-2009, so we wanted something that was clearly not too expensive, wasn’t touristy, and we’d never been to before! Before too long, we came up with the Pacific Islands, and through a process of elimination we ended up with Samoa. But it was cyclone season in December! Yeh, so it was, but the beaches looked gorgeous, the fares were decent for that time of the year, and the small country, which is effectively a few small islands, appeared void of those things called resorts! Cocktails, beer, western food, bikinis, white t-shirts with gold writing? I say leave that to your own country! (If you live in a western one!) In the grand scheme of things, it was all looking good! So, being the risk-taker that I am, I figured we’d give it a go!

Now, for two well-travelled persons, having globe-trotted the world, we totally screwed up not only our flight over, but back as well. They say that there is as first time for everything. On this trip, there was a first, followed very closely by a second! We did it in style and it was a monumental fu……….oops, proverbial! My years of studying Drama at university proved efficacious, and in theory, we probably should have missed our trip altogether.

Please allow me to set the scene: It’s 3.15pm on Sunday afternoon, 21st December. There I am, in my shorts and singlet top, having recently come back from the gym. Our backpacks are on the floor, as are most of the clothes and goods we are taking overseas, and we are getting our last bits and bobs ready. I always leave a copy of our passports, tickets, insurance and other relevant details with my dad (affectionately known as Doobie….another story, for another day). As I am checking something on the computer, Doobie casually strides in (with a copy of our itinerary in his hand) and says, “Ombi, I think there’s been some kind of a mistake, but this says that you were supposed to have left a couple of hours ago!” My heart sank to my ankles in a nano-second, as the only thing I could compute was, “F@#& we missed our flight!” As he handed over the bit of paper, and I indeed physically saw our error, I felt nauseous, whilst at the same time trying to work out how we were going to get out of this one! After repeating that same four letter word copious times, I went into fight or flight mode! I wanted that flight badly! I did not care about the money, but I wanted to be overseas! Think Ombi, think, think!!!! Everything else was a blur, as my mind scrambled for a solution!

By this stage, Dad had discreetly walked out, as he figured it was pretty much all over red rover! Not I, said the hen! Conversing only with myself, and with a determined focus, I ran to dad and told him that I was just about to call Polynesian Blue (Virgin Blue) and extend the truth; tell them that he had not been well, and that he, and not our flight was a priority. I did not ask anyone’s opinion or advice, and swiftly made THAT phone call. Sounding distressed, and armed with the gift of the gab, seemed to do the job, and $200.00 later, we would be catching a flight the next morning at 9.15am, on Monday the 22nd. It was an el-cheapo flight so in theory, no changes could be made. The cancellation and transfer fees were waived, and all we had to pay was the difference between the tickets we had already bought, and the cheapest ones available on our new flight. Quite frankly, I thought that $200.00 smackeroos was a bargain! Alex shook his head at my acting efforts, but was amazed that I had pulled it off! We were going to Samoa, like hell or high water!

Relieved, we continued to pack, and get ourselves organised….as I had these visions of arriving at the airport the next day all ready to rock and roll, and being told, “You missed the boat (well, plane!) love!” I shuddered! How did we manage to stuff up the date? Who knows? Confusion around the date and time I guess, as Samoa is almost 24 hours behind Australia! Glad with all of that hoo-ha behind us, we finished packing, had a decent night’s sleep, got Doobie to drop us off at the airport, and caught our flight out to Samoa the next morning. The routing was Melbourne to Auckland and then Auckland to Apia (Samoa). The flight was fine, and we arrived at 7.35pm………on the night before the day we left! Got that? Left at 9.25am on the morning of the 22nd of December, and arrived at 7.35pm, on the evening of Sunday the 21st of December. Confused? I certainly was!

It was hot and humid, and we made our way to Valentine’s Motel, near the centre of town. We had done some research, and figured that we should book the first few nights, until we’d figured out what to do, where to go and what to see. Hadn’t we organised our holiday? Of course we had! We’d booked the flights and purchased the Samoa Lonely Planet Guide! It was around 9.30pm, by the time we got ourselves to the hotel, where we were greeted by Justin, and his beautiful and hospitable wife, Verona. I was trying to explain that I had erred with the days we wished to stay as we had missed our flight. Justin was looking at me a little baffled! We eventually worked out that I had NOT mucked up the reservation exactly because I HAD made that mistake in the first place. This was proving to be a comedy of errors. I was not so much physically tired as I was mentally tired. All things cleared and sorted, we were soon in our very simple, but clean upstairs room. Almost ready to go to bed, I had this feeling that I should check our tickets again………..but wait…there’s more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yep, it’s the famous 6 free steak knives!!!!! My eyes bulged out of my head, with the grim realisation that we had also made a mistake with our return flight!!!! Uttering that famous four letter “F” word several more times, both out aloud and under my breath, Alex wanted to know what was wrong. So, I told him: We were supposed to be flying home early afternoon on Saturday 3rd January, to be arriving later that night, or so we thought. But, with the time difference, we would actually be arriving on Sunday the 4th, at night. Is there a problem? Well, seeing that Alex had to catch an early afternoon flight on the Sunday, to go to San Francisco for a computer conference, I was figuring that we had a mini-disaster on our hands. Needless to say, our first sight-seeing trip would be to the Polynesian Blue office early the next morning. I truly could not believe this was happening. Alex was actually far more tranquil than I was, despite the fact that the urgency was to change his flight and not mine!

Goodnight! We went to bed exhausted!
Rise and shine! Off to the Polynesian Blue office we go. I mean, how else does one begin their Samoa experience? The office was full of Samoans! My heart sank! We had been lucky getting over here, but I figured changing the return flight wasn’t going to be so easy. Apart from the fact that it was possibly going to cost a small fortune to get back, I was doubting whether there would even be flights available. We had already “pushed our luck” getting over here! We discussed that we would probably have to get a new ticket for Alex, as it was imperative, and that I would stay on the extra day. Lady Luck, however, was clearly on our side. The lady in the office was most courteous and helpful, and she called Polynesian Blue in Australia, so that I could try and sort it out. After a tense 10 minutes as the Australian lady spoke to her supervisor and searched for the availability of flights, we were told that there were only 2 places left on the morning of Thursday the 1st January, arriving late at night on Friday the 2nd (remember that the flight itself is only 7 hours or so). Again, we would not have to pay cancellation or transfer fees, but the difference between our original “cheap” ticket and the cheapest one that was now available. At this point, we did not care what we would have to pay. Surprisingly, it was only $225.00 each! I thought it was going to be way more than that! Needless to say, we were relieved, and now we would be able to really begin our holiday! In actual fact, we had neither gained nor lost any of our holiday time, as our errors saw us “gain” upon arrival, and “lose” upon departure.

There really is a first time for everything, and like most things we do, we did this in style! A total balls up of humongous proportions. We figured that an extra $600.00 for two errors of this magnitude was a real bargain! As my mum would have said, “Everything apart from death can be fixed!”

Too right! Let the Samoa experience begin.

Ombi

“I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t.” – Lucille Ball.

(Photos:1.- Self portrait, Ombi & Alex in Apia, Samoa. 2.-Uninhabited bliss, Lalomanu Beach, ‘Upolu. 3.- Take off, Samoan-style, ‘Upolu Island, Samoa. 4.-The Samoan flag. 5.-Ombi & Verona, Valentine’s Motel, Apia, ‘Upolu. 6.-Traditional Samoan flower, with spider on leaf. 7.- The “window” of opportunity; Manase beach as seen from Tanu’s seaside fales ,where we slept,, Savai’i, Samoa.)

Written by Ombi and Alex