Friday, January 25, 2008



We wanted to get some beach time in before school started but boils and the weather were conspiring against us. It’s ironic that we moved to a South Pacific island, but we are father way from a beach than we were in Florida.

Finally, we headed out the Friday before school started for us (not for the students). We started with a bus into Apia to catch a bus to the south side of the island. At first the bus ride was uneventful, but as we neared our destination things began to get a little uncomfortable.

Typically, there is no talking on a Sāmoan bus. If it weren’t for the blaring music being played by the drivers, Sāmoans would ride the bus in complete silence.

Also there is a complex hierarchy on a Sāmoan bus. What I can glean from my outsider viewpoint is that young men tend towards the back and women to the front. The seats farthest forward are for older people. If someone with gray hair gets on, someone else will frequently give them their front seat and move to a back seat. Once a bus starts to fill up beyond seating capacity, there is a silent game of musical chairs every time a new person boards the bus. Kids on parents laps, kids on strangers laps. Smaller, younger women on larger, older women’s laps. People sitting in the aisle. There is a system to it all. No one ever speaks, but everyone seems to know who will move where. As a palagi, I seem to have the same status as someone with gray hair. A seat at the front always miraculously appears for me. So far I have only had to sit on Cale’s lap once.

Anyway, on the ride to the beach I witnessed a new development in the silent bus shuffle. At some point in the ride, the driver turned the music off. That was when my ears discovered that somewhere at the back of the bus someone was having a loud, presumably drunken, conversation. That someone started to harass the driver, demanding he turn the music back on.

“Pese, fa’amolemole. Driver, pese!”

Pese ([pess-ay] song or singing).
Fa’amolemole ([fah-ah moe-lay moe-lay] please)

I started to see the ripple of heads turning in front of me and eyes looking accusingly. The respectable women on this bus were not happy. Whispers of “Niu Sila” ([nee-ooh see-lah] New Zealand) and “Fiti” ([fee-tee] Fiji) filtered back to me.

Then, without a word spoken, the women began to shuffle. One woman moved back to a seat next to the drunken men. Another moved to another seat near by. A third moved to fill a seat left by one of those women. I didn’t see all the shuffling, but I felt it going on behind me. It was not long after that the bus stopped unexpectedly and the quieter of the drunken men got off. We got off at our stop before we could witness the rest of the situations resolution.

The beach itself was about a mile and a half off the main road, down a gravel drive. We would have had to hoof it, but an Aggie Gray’s Resort van was there and gave us a ride.

The beach was beautiful. The water was blue-green and went out forever. Black volcanic rocks jutted out of the water and formed a sort of island just off the shore. We rented an open fale for the night and spent the day in the water and relaxing with books in the fale.

That night it rained and blew like all get out. It was enough for me to wonder if I should be worried that there was some horrible storm out there. When I first say the blue tarp that was rolled up on two sides of the fale, I thought now way will that do any good if it rains. It surprisingly did despite the storm. We were dry in our bed (a foam mattress tucked in the corner of the two tarped sides).

Unfortunately, it was rainy all day Saturday. We were contemplating the mile and a half walk in the rain to the main road when a man who lived nearby offer to call us a cab. So we took a cab with our new friend and his son to his house.

On the ride our host was very upset to learn that we didn’t have any kids. He insisted we have one while we were in Sāmoa and became even more upset when he learned the Peace Corps didn’t allow it.

We experienced more of that unnerving fa’aSāmoa hospitality at his house. You know how uncomfortable I am around people. Imagine how hard it is for me to have a complete stranger welcome me into his house, have food cooked for me and send his kids out as sentries to watch for and stop the bus for us.

Stop being so nice to me! You’re making me nervous!

We stayed at his house for about an hour. The kids flagged down a bus and we rode back into town.

Of course, after all that travel and excitement, I needed all day Saturday and Sunday to recuperate for school on Monday.

— Sara

1 comment:

Barb Carusillo said...

You know, I just should have raised you guys in Pennsylvania instead of here in the Hoosier State ( The "Who's there?" state!). Back home in PA, people chat you up all the time, and it is considered friendly, not intrusive. Where did I go wrong?