Last week Marco, the Swiss consulate, called. We met Marco through SMUG (Samoa Mac Users' Group) and have been out to his place for a meeting before. Marco was having email troubles and was hoping Cale could come out and take a look. He and his wife, Maria Ines, offered to shout us (Kiwi slang) dinner in exchange for Cale's services.
Marco picked up us at the place we are house-sitting and drove us out to his home in Fasitoo-uta (very, very uta. uta means inland or away from the water). He took the scenic route along Aleisa road, which was really nice. It gave Annette a chance to see new parts of Upolu and had some excellent scenic views. Marco is a fount of information on Samoa and was pointing out all sorts of details and telling all sorts of stories. We drove through one district where that district's representative of Parliament has pledged to use extra money paid to him for being a committee minister to pay for the school fees of all the students in his village. Pretty awesome huh? Apparently this move has not made some of the other members of Parliament too happy, as their villages want to know why they don't do the same thing.
Anyway, as we are driving along we pass the sign advertising the home of the Magic Circus of Samoa. Marco goes way back with Bruno the owner and ringmaster of the circus. He asks if we don't mind a side trip for a visit. Of course we don't.
We turn off the road at the sign advertising the circus. Immediately to our left an area of jungle is being cleared for construction. We will later learn this is where the one-third sized house for the circus's two little-people performers is being built. On our right a in-ground swimming pool is under construction. We pass a row of three to four identical stone cottages and pull in to a small grassy parking area in front of an airy looking home at the top of a small hill. A guard schnoodle barks furiously at us. Somehow, after becoming accustomed to Samoan dogs, we are not intimidated.
Marco strolls up the hill in his signature easy, self-confidant gait calling out "Bruno." A large man with an immense protruding belly and completely bald head steps out from the house. He is stripped from the waist up and his torso is covered with tattoos. The top of the traditional Samoan man tattoo (the pe'a) shows over the waistband of his pants. An ornate golden crucifix hangs from a large, heavy gold chain around his neck. "Benvenuto!"
Marco and Bruno hug, kiss air and proceed to converse in rapid Italian. After learning we are American, Bruno greets us in Spanish, jokingly asking if they still speak English in the States.
For the next half hours the conversation switched from Italian to Spanish to French to English to Samoan with Marco making some brief comments in German after we were shown the Austrian bells that will be part of the Circus's show this year.
It was a little mind boggling, to sit on a porch in Samoa while the Swiss consulate and the Italian-born, American-raised, Samoan-matai ringmaster of a circus conversed in upwards of four languages.
Bruno showed us around the practice grounds and talked about his plans for the show this year. The circus will be in Apia in April instead of January and then will go on a French-speaking islands world tour afterwards. We also learned that when his parents were performers with the Ringling Circus in the States when he was a kid he used to go with them to Indiana to buy horses from the Amish. Apparently, the Amish have the best horses for circus bareback riders.
Eventually, we left the circus behind and continued on to Marco's plantation, where once again, we were one Swiss soil. Marco's better half Maria Ines provided us with a simply wonderful meal of salad, pasta and fish. After considerable effort, Cale fixed Marco's email trouble and while Annette and I admired Maria Ines's turtle collection (not live turtles, course).
So that was my recent surreal experience in Samoa.