As soon as our travelling debacle had been solved, we felt a huge weight come off our shoulders, and it is only after that point that we really felt that we had truly landed in Samoa. As soon as we walked out of the Polynesian Blue office, which was right in the centre of Apia, we breathed in the fresh air, and walked along the waterfront. The walk takes you up and around the Mulinu’u Peninsula, which stretches out into the South Pacific Ocean to the north west of central Apia. It was a great way to “start”our trip, as we were able to observe much. As in any country, its waterfront usually boasts a lot of activities and is a great place to people watch. Although it felt quite warm, and we wearing sunblock, it was very windy, which made it feel not so hot. Having said that, we would later learn, that we had slowly fried!
That night we were treated to a fiafia organised by Taufua fales. It was not a formal affair, but rather one where all the locals joined in. It was magnificent. Taufua Fales had a central dining area, where all the guests come together. Both breakfast and dinner (buffet style) are included in the price, and the food here was without a doubt the best we had in Samoa. Taufua Fales is owned and run by the amazing Tai, an intelligent yet humble woman who went out of her way to make her guests feel at ease. More on her later! Christmas Day was a casual affair, and despite the fact that Samoa is almost exclusively Christian, they don’t seem to get caught up in all of that commercial hype which I have so grown to detest. For the Samoans it’s clearly about spending time with family and friends and not about Christmas trees, ostentatious gifts and plasma TVs. Alex and I spent our time here reading, relaxing, swimming, sun-baking (well me, anyway), going for runs on the beach (me again!), snorkelling and eating! What more is there to do? Oh yes, and plenty of talking!
As we still wanted to visit the island of Savai’i, we had to make tracks. Tai offered to give us a lift back into Apia on the morning of the 27th December, as she had to go in for supplies, but we would have to get up early as she would be leaving at 5am. Whilst it sounded a bit hairy, we accepted! It was well worth it, as we had a really good chat to Tai, and saw things and met people we probably would not have otherwise. I want to share a story that Tai shared with us on the way to Apia: She told us that her 16 year old son had just spent a few days, including Christmas, in prison. I asked her why! She quite simply and clearly stated that she had often told him that if she caught him smoking marijuana, she would call the police. (Whilst hard drugs are not readily available in Samoa, due to the climate, marijuana is). Apparently, a few days prior, she caught him and a couple of friends in a room smoking, so she promptly called the local police, who gave the boys a talking to. Whilst the police were happy with the outcome, Tai clearly was not! She MADE them take the boys to a prison in Apia, where they spent the next few days. She believes in nipping things in the bud! Her comment to me was, “Marijuana today, what tomorrow?”. Her son apparently had thought prison horrendous and apologised profusely to his mother. Maybe he would think about his actions more than twice next time, his mother said. How many western mothers would have done this? Tai, I was impressed by your actions.
Once in Apia, we went to the fish market, which was buzzing with locals. There, Tai sat with one of the local vendors, chatting to her and others and ordered a guy called “Nico” to buy some coffee and “Samoan donuts” (deep fried pastry balls). What a great way to observe Samoan daily life. Nico was an interesting character. We had a good chat and he told me that he was currently serving 5 years in prison (he was half way through), for growing a few marijuana plants. The law is tough here, yet prisoners are allowed out on weekend, including murderers. Nobody really watches them- 5 days on the inside and 2 days out! Nico was not doing community service, he simply wanted to help out in the market. A completely different system to our own!
Later Tai dropped us off at the bus station, and we took the half hour bus ride to the north-western tip of the island, where we were to catch the one and a half hour ferry trip to Savai’i. It was only 9am, as we had gotten up and left Lalomanu so early. In no time at all, we were at the wharf, where we would catch the 10.00am ferry across.
Samoa was proving to be a fascinating place!
Dedication: I would like to dedicate this to a few people.
Mesepa, Justin, Valentine, Ray and Verona: Thank you for your laughter, your smiles and your cheeky grins. Thanks for reminding us about what is important in life. Maybe you are too young to understand, but it is our meeting people like you that changes our lives forever. We hope to come back and see you again!
Tai: What a woman! What a person! I know plenty of people that could learn a whole lot off you!
“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli.
(Photos: 1.- Apian waterfront. 2.- Local bus, Apia. 3.- Fuata (breadfruit), local Apian market. 4.-Fire-dancing at a fiafia, Laumei Faiaga, Apia. 5.-L to R: Debbie and Shivani. 6.- Even the dogs have it right in Samoa…….Work Hard, Party Harder (as seen above the door of a bar in Apia). 7.-L to R: Ray and Tine (Valentine) at Valentine’s Hotel, Apia. 8.-Lalomanu Beach, as seen from our balcony (That’s right…our balcony! We were literally staying right on the beach!) 9.-Tai strumming her guitar, Christmas Eve. 10.- Beautiful Lalomanu Beach, at dusk. 11.- At the fish market., Apia. 12.-Turquoise waters and blue skies…a taste of Savai’i. 13.- Ombi and Nico at the Fish Market, Apia).