Apia, Samoa Western
Tafoala! That’s “hello” in Samoan. Samoan is the native language, with English falling not too far behind. Samoans are dominantly devout and conservative Christians, so I’m not sure how my bikini and kimono ensembles are going to go down here… It was a rough night sleep. Along with a snoring Samoan, my dorm was h home to a Norwegian named Simon. He was a short, blonde haired kid, with little man boobs. Fun fact about Simon – To get to sleep, he played the only song on his phone (on speaker), a song similar to the music you hear when on call waiting to Telstra. It was awful. I threatened to smother him in his sleep… The next day, both guys had packed up and gone… Along with $100 Australian from my bag. Cheers guys. F*#king *******. A few minutes past 9am, I leave the dorm for breakfast, but breakfast is over. Recalling yesterday’s breakfast menu, this news didn’t sadden me in the slightest. It’s diet coke and a packet of gingernut biscuits #breakfastofchampions The smell of baked goods wafts through the hostel. At the grocer next door the food is in bulk, butchered, or baked. Long johns, scrolls, donuts, dumplings, cream buns, muffins. Fried, baked, iced and cream filled. I was not expecting this. As my airport shuttle driver so eloquently put it, “Samoan’s love their munchie munchie”. In the shops, there are no 250grams of allens lollies (that I can find), they’re all super sized or, Samoa sized. Samoans are typically a bit thicker set but there’s a real weighty issue here… Diabetes. In the 1990’s, Tsunamis hit Samoa, wiping out local crops and driving a need to import food, most of which was from America. This newly formed import relationship was a double edged sword and Samoa unknowingly opened the diabetes flood gate, creating a national epidemic. Of course America was happy to assist, extending a deep fried, sugar coated, helping hand. It’s comparable to what the bikies do with the drug Ice in rural towns… Role on through with cheap samples, creating a demand… And return to a town of people, money in hand, lining up for their next hit. Today, Samoa’s imported harvest comes in boxes and bags of refined sugar and highly processed, carb loaded junk (Mainly from America & China). Once you pop, you can’t stop… The weather outside is cloudy, with patchy rain. Determined not to let the average weather, stolen money and a bad nights sleep get me down, I get in my rental car, and start driving. Driving in Samoa is simple and since 2009, Samoans drive on the left hand side of the road (like Australia). Follow the main sealed roads, obey the traffic lights (if it’s red and there’s no traffic, you can drive on), stick to the ridiculously low speed limits and whatever you do, DO NOT hit the pigs, children or dogs… But mainly the pigs. Note, street signage is poor, to non existent, however, the roads are so few, if you get lost, you’ll soon find your way. Five minutes into driving, I see a massive, undercover market complex, with bright sarongs, shirts and homewares out the front. Naturally, I park in an area I shouldn’t, and head in to see what the markets in Apia have on offer. Almost every stall is selling the same items. To my surprise, so as not to undercut their fellow stall holders, items are also the same price at each stall. It’s an interesting concept that I’ve never seen before in a market scenario. This neighbourly moral strategy is not what I’m used to, and honestly, it takes the fun out of market shopping. I love a bargain and love to barter. It’s half, if not 90% of the fun! The handicrafts and homewares on sale range from earrings ($5 tala) to traditional Samoan bowls and decorative weapons, forged from the wood of the Samoan Tree. Jewellery is fashioned from coconut shells, sea shells, animal bones/ teeth, dried seeds and even turtle shells. Waste not, want not. Next to this market, is the main bus terminal. Watching the buses roll in and out takes me on a trip back in time, to an old world I’ve not seen before. The buses are charming, unchanged, bright, full of character and noisey as an ancient Massey Ferguson (a tractor). I’m captivated by these vehicles, in much the same way the trucks in Nepal captivated me, except here, they all come to one place (meaning I don’t need to hunt them down to photograph). A short distance from the handicraft market, is a fresh produce/ food market. Coconuts, taro, cabbage, bananas, baked goods, pumpkin, bread fruit, flowers… even tobacco, free of chemicals, dried in the sun, ready to roll. I get talking to a local stall holder named Suzanna. She’s been working at the markets for about a year now. When I asked her if she liked working here she told me, “I don’t really enjoy it but I need to work to get the money”. I put the question to her, “What would you rather be doing?” and she said, “baking my banana muffins and bread”. After offering some invaluable career counselling, Suzanna introduced me to fellow market workers Julie, Carolina and Chase. Chase, a 15 year old boy who the ladies tried to pass off as a 28 year old, for me to marry…. Predator paradise. Near the fresh produce markets, was a store called “Mr Lava Lava”. If you were around in the 90’s, you’ll know that musical genius “Shaggy” makes reference to “Mr Lover Lover” in his hit single “Mr Bombastic”. In Shaggy language, Mr Lava Lava sounds the same as “Mr Lover Lover”. Who is Mr Lava Lava? If I had wifi (wifi costs $30 tala or $15 AUD for an hour… I forked out once and never again), I’d be downloading Shaggy’s “Mr Bombastic” in a heart beat. Take my money iTunes, I have to hear that song outside of the confides of mind… Where it’s currently on repeat. Ah, the 90’s. I’d been driving around North Western and South Western Upolu for most of the day. Bitumen roads are no more. It’s all dirt, potholes, taro and banana plantations galore in this area. It has a real rugged, off the grid feel to it. As soon as the sun begins to go down, so does my mood. I’m seeing all of these great places and have no one here to share the experience with or talk to, and for once, I wish there was.