Exploring Samoa

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July 10th 2009
Published: July 10th 2009
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Outside of Apia (and beyond)

I finally get off the ship when it’s still AM! So, Dave, the Navigator (2nd Mate), calls me last night to see if I’m still interested in sharing a taxi to go explore and I say, “of course”. I work a bit in the morning, just trying to get the guys off the ship to enjoy the island a bit. Why are we working on the 4th of July again?

So after I get ridiculously antsy, Dave is finally ready to leave... we get outside the gate and I greet a taxi driver with a “talofa” (Hello!). We start asking about the going rate to have a taxi take us around for the day and he tells us he knows the perfect guy. We wait for 5 minutes and Misa shows up. First impressions are always lasting, but this guy really makes a first impression. He’s about the same height as me, weighing about twice what I do and has his left hand nails painted with red fingernail polish. I haven’t mentioned yet that his thumb nail is about 3 inches long. I wonder to myself if he is fa’afafine (the men on the island who are raised as women, a separate story in itself), but act nonchalant. We barter down to 225 Samoa Tala (about $90 US) and off we go on our grand adventure. He speaks perfect English and loves it that I’m trying to use my limited Samoan words.

We decide to go to Digicel first to get a cell phone... well, I’ve only seen the downtown Apia area Digicel which is always crowded. He takes us to another store that is still crowded, but manageable. I pay about $45 US to get a cell phone with about an hours worth of long distance talk time, though free incoming calls. I want to collect cell phones, I have to come back to this place for a vacation. After Digicel, it’s about noon and I’m starving. Misa... where’s a good local place to get some quick food? Oh, I know a fish and chips place, is that okay? Yes! We stop at Freddy’s, a small open air stall that not only sells food but also is a little mini-mart for the locals. We order 3 fish and chips, some Vailima (the local beer), and a Sprite for Misa. We sit down and enjoy, I burn the top of my mouth with the hot fish and delicious fries. It was excellent.

Okay Misa, we want to go to the other side of the island, but with some stops along the way. I’ve heard there is a Baha’i Temple on the island, one of only 8 in the world. Before we get there, we see a lovely Catholic church and get an explanation of the Catholic faith on Samoa, as Misa is a practicing Catholic, yes, red fingernails and all! This place is apparently where the Archbishop resides and preaches the word of God, there are multiple open air altars around the open air church. This church defies my previous thoughts of too much ceremony and visual necessities that I’ve seen at Catholic churches in the US. It’s open to the air, still clean and pristine, but in a more down to earth way. There are stained glass windows everywhere and it looks so inviting. Even more impressive are many other worship altars, placed in various gardens, garden furniture instead of the normal wooden pews that I’m used to. If I didn’t know better, some of the altars could second as the locations of virginal sacrifice, but what a great way to praise the divine. Nature inspires spirituality and these places definitely feel holy.

We get to the Baha’i temple and don’t really know what to expect, but find the place surrounded by gardens teeming with butterflies, roadrunners (yes, the beep beep kind), flowers and stone work. The visitor center, though totally deserted, defines the beginnings of the faith in general and on the island. It was very similar to what I learned at Yogaville, “Truth is one and paths are many”, though with a much more organized thought of one true God. They believe in the unity of God, mankind and the “oneness” of the two together. Walking into the sanctuary, though I’m sure it’s named something else, the architecture makes sound travel from the slightest movement. Even whispering seems too loud, so my camera clicking started to make me feel a little guilty. It sure didn’t stop me from taking photos though. On each facet of the second story, there is a phrase in Samoan and English that looks like it was taken from many of the major religions that discusses the unity of God and man. The architect, a French guy, designed windows that run up from each facet to the ceiling, again, similar to what I remember of the Lotus temple in Virginia. It was beautiful, though I can imagine that a sunset would turn the sanctuary into a rainbow like no other.
The next stop along the way is Papapappai-tai Falls, and yes, I actually know how to pronounce this properly (though it took a few times). I read about this 100m falls in my South Pacific book, but the only way to see it is from a lookout off the road. It has to be a couple of miles away from the falls, but even from there you can see the power of the water as it breaks over the rock wall. Climbing back into the car with Misa, he tells us a local legend about the falls. Supposedly there were some convicts who escaped and fled to the falls for shelter, since no one dares to make the dangerous hike to its bottom. Supposedly, the convicts made it there and built a sort of hideout, from which they would sneak out in the evenings to raid some of the local fales (houses). This consisted of a rope bridge that traversed the space across the water. They would take the loot back to the hideout and carried out a meager existence in relative solitude. One of the convicts fell in love with a girl from the local village and she became pregnant. When he found out, he told her to go to the base of the falls and take the rope bridge over to the hideout and cut the bridge behind her. Supposedly she did and the lore is that their descendants (the convicts too) are still living there and that is really why no one ventures to the falls. He said he wasn’t sure if it was true or not.

Next, I tell Misa that I am interested in renting a beach fale to stay in one night. He takes us to this surf camp, though that name doesn’t really explain exactly what this place contains. It’s my tree hugging kind of hippie surfer place that I have dreamed about. There are small fales with a mattress and mosquito net, breakfast and dinner are included for about $44 US. The beach is immaculate and the water breaks in so many spots that I immediately think of wall diving. Where is the closest dive spot? Oh, there’s a shop next door... just drive down the road and take the next left. Yeah, shop isn’t what I’d call it. There is a hut with rental gear and a couple of New Zealand expats who run a dive spot called Liquid Motion. It’s $40 to dive off their boat, which also seconds as a fishing or snorkeling boat. Did I mention it’s a 2 minute walk on the beach to the surf camp fales? The owners of the dive boat, Vanessa and Ian, are super cool and recommend Lupe’s (still in the same spot) for a Vailima and quick bite to eat. Dave and I settle for a couple of Vailimas and talk about the excellent find that we’ve just discovered. This little bar is run by Sala and his family, who is the brother of the surf camp owner. I imagine this is a kicking spot at night, with Bob Marley pouring out of the CD player and free flowing Vailima. Dave decides to stay in one of the fales and surf the next day, I decide to come back tomorrow to dive at 1000. Life is good.

So what’s on the other side of the surf camp? I don’t know, let’s go find out. Well, there’s a seafood restaurant that’s part of another hotel called Sinaleina, so we go for a dip and walk over to have another drink. This time I figure that a fruity, umbrella drink is in order. I get a Sina-colada, but it takes 15 minutes to get it. What’s up with that? Well, as I take my first sip, I find out that it’s make from fresh coconut, not just the juice, but the cream that the Samoans make as well. It’s the first time I’ve had a pina colada that wasn’t blended with ice, it was on the rocks. As Brittany would say, OMG!

I leave Dave for the night, with a bon voyage, see you tomorrow and Misa takes me back across to the Northside of the island, back to Apia. We talk the whole way, me asking about fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) and him asking about how I feel about being in the Navy. I think it’s a rare thing when both people genuinely want to learn about the culture of the other person. He asks about our mission there and the purpose and I ask him about his wife, 2 daughters and son. He wonders about if I’ve ever been to war and I ask him about kava (which he doesn’t even like, by the way).

Finally as we get closer to town, I ask him if he’ll take me to the maketi foa, or produce market. I am hoping he can shed some light on fruits and vegetables that I’ve never seen before and he agrees to walk in with me and show me around. The market is maybe the size of half a football field, lines of tables crowded with fruits, veggies, homemade sauces, and flowers. I get a cold, fresh coconut to drink, an umu cooked (that’s the underground oven) breadfruit, a passionfruit and some small bananas. There is taro everywhere, jackfruit (which I still have to try), Samoan oranges, etc. At this point, it begins to rain and I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures with all these people looking at me, so we just walk back and forth for a while, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Finally the rain dies down a little and it’s time to go back to the ship. I run into a couple of guys from the ship, one in deck and the other a supply type... I offer to give them a ride to the bar, but end up getting out with them to have a beer. This seems to be a trend, doesn’t it? 1, 2, 3...5 throughout the day. Yikes! Anyway, we stop and I get some tuna sashima... they don’t mess around when it comes to fresh fish. The colors of a fresh fish are veritably recognizable and it’s evident that this was caught today. With a little bit of wasabi soy sauce, yummy, down it goes. This is the same bar that I’ve been to a couple of times now, the bouncers Va’a and Shima are friendly as always. Shima has a little crush on me, blushing in those dark cheeks as I shake his hand and give him a small side hug. Falofa... fa’afetai-tele... tola... yes, I’m getting there.

So, here I sit in my double bed on my beautiful ship, thinking back on my day. I can say, with a sigh and a smile, it’s been a great day. Tomorrow could be even better though. Any day underwater is a good day. I wonder how you say turtle in Samoan?


28th May 2013
Baha'i House of Worship

Baha'i House of Worship - Apia, Western Samoa
Oh what a beautiful photo of the House of Worship! Would you be willing to share the high resolution image with me? -hopefully yours, Rick
24th December 2013
Baha'i House of Worship

Copy away... I don't know that I have the original anymore, I've moved so much! Sorry for the late response.

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