Thursday, June 7, 2007

I'm in an Abusive Relationship with Samoa

When I agreed to attend the rugby match where Manu Samoa played NZ All Black Juniors I had no idea that I too would require a set of rugby essentials. Enormous shoulders, protective armour and a passionate desire to score. As Matt & I made our way through the crowd it became apparent that there was no guarantee that I would come out of the experience with a boyfriend or all limbs. After watching the group in front of us walk/squeeze through the turnstiles then pass their tickets back through the fence via a guard to their waiting friends, Matt & I realized that the decision to pre-purchase tickets, or rather a ticket each, was a bit daft. Through a combination of questions (on our part) and grunts, points & directive pushes from the officials we found our seats. But alas, we were informed that there were actually no seats left! Given the popularity of the event this was unsurprising, though we had purchased tickets E17 and E18 2 weeks prior for the tidy sum of $50 each (to put this into perspective $50 could buy 17 beers, 7 fish burgers or 3 weeks worth of electricity)! We were told to sit on the steps and I flatly refused which meant Matt had to don his ‘I mean business face’, puff out his chest (which he assures me is already huge) and protest to the Samoan mama ushering us around. Luckily at this moment 2 people got up from their seats, most likely to purchase more mutton flap sandwiches, and I pulled a swift move and slid into them. Score! The unprecedented play & exemplary display of teamwork from the Matt/Lauren combo had paid off.

After an interesting first half where Samoa made a number of mistakes but did manage to get some points on the board, we were entertained by some drunk dancers and ‘streakers’ (thank goodness no clothes were removed) at half time. As I returned from the bathroom I was walking down the afore mentioned steps and the Samoan lady in front of me decided it was a great place to sit…. so did…. on my foot. This was the start of my physical battle with Samoa. After grabbing hold of my leg with both hands, leaning back 45 degrees for leverage and pulling as hard as I could, I retrieved my foot from under the mammoth of Samoan flesh. I was left with a limp but luckily numbness to dull the pain. We sat through the remainder of the rugby match and left, sorely disappointed by Manu Samoa who appeared to be playing some combination of lacrosse, synchronized swimming and pin the tail on the donkey as opposed to rugby.

My next mission was waitressing at the SAF Annual Fashion Show. This is a fundraiser for AIDs that one of the other volunteers works for. As if walking around with a broken toe wasn’t enough, I was forced to act as the link between 200 Samoan people and their food. Having worked as a waitress in Malta I thought that I was somewhat prepared for this challenge – I had largely overestimated my skill level. About 2 hours into the night after I had fulfilled a multitude of fussy requests, learnt to interpret the various hand and facial gestures that indicated the need for another drink and reported a known criminal to the Transnational Crime Unit, I started to clear entrees from the tables. Most people had finished their mains and as such I thought it safe to remove near-empty platters from the centre of tables. As I reached across a table of girls in their 20’s I felt myself come unstuck. I was knocked to the side at the sound of a whip breaking the sound barrier, then felt a burning/stinging sensation on my arm. In disbelief I look down at the customer who was threatingly telling me, “I’m not finished yet!”. I had been bitch-slapped by a Samoan girl for coming between her and her food! Quickly, I retreated. Four hours later, nursing my bruised arm, broken toe and disorientated brain on my way to pick up Matt I started to laugh - I had been bitch-slapped for the first time in my life for doing a job at an event that I wasn’t getting paid for so to benefit the country that I am also not getting paid to work for!

Arriving at Cocktails on the Rocks, Matt and our mates and were good and jolly, seemingly having tried to outdo each other in some sort of drinking contest. Much to my disappointment they hit the dance floor while I stood to the side waiting for this bout of energy to be worn down from Matt so I could go home to bed. Being a spectator for drunken dancing is more dangerous than participating. People assume you are not having fun because you aren’t acting like some crazed grasshopper, piggybacking a wasp. As I stood quietly watching my boyfriend bounce of the walls, a well-meaning (or so I like to think) liquored up Samoan man decided this of me. It was only after slamming his hip into my left buttock and rendering me unable to walk that he realized that before his help, I actually was happy and the face that I was now pulling, in fact depicted unhappiness. The old adage that things happen in threes was my only comfort as I lay in bed bruised & battered that night. Samoa V Lauren. Samoa 1, Lauren nil.

New rules for houseguests….
Kate had an acquaintance come to visit us this week. Let’s say it was interesting and we now have a set of rules for all potential or future houseguests;
Do not expect your host or their flatmate’s to pay for everything you do – the host is a volunteer and does not in fact get paid a wage.
Please wear deodorant.
Please refrain from complaining about the country and way of life that you are visiting.
Please refrain from insulting your hosts friends and family.
Please refrain from negatively criticizing the host and their friend’s volunteer positions.
Please refrain from using the bath towels outdoors, for instance at muddy reserves or sandy beaches.
Do not use up the host household’s monthly pre-paid internet hours.
Do not arrange cava parties without informing the host or the household.
Please do not expect that the host is your tour guide (unless previously arranged), a tourism fale is located in town for your convenience.
Please wear deodorant (this is important).

I’ve been getting progressively busier at work over the past few weeks so decided to move offices. I now have my own office with a view of the harbour. It’s great as I can control the air con, gaze at the Pacific Ocean and shut the door for a bit of quiet work time! We also got new uniforms - Wednesday’s are blue days and Fridays are red days. It is actually nice to wear a uniform and not have to worry about what to wear each day. It also means saving my own clothes from wearing out a bit. Some of the clothes I brought over already have holes in them due to the poor water quality and need to wash so frequently. When I was issued with my uniform it fit perfectly except for at the hips, they ballooned out like some sort of tea-pot cover (the uniform, not my hips). I found this a bit strange and assumed the tailor had read the incorrect measurement. When I went to visit her and have it adjusted the conversation went as follows;
“Malo ou lelai palangi, Lauren” (hello pretty white girl Lauren)
“Malo, my uniform is a bit big, can you please adjust it for me?”
“Oh, eee, put it on……….. no this is ok I think. You will get fat like Samoa girl by December, you should keep like this.”
I couldn’t help laughing, surely if the remainder of the uniform was my normal size and I ballooned out to ‘fit’ the hips of the uniform I actually wouldn’t be able to balance (fit through doors or take up only one seat at the movies)! I am just praying that the seamstress isn’t some type of psychic that has predicted my downfall.

So here I sit having given up on my bout of yogalates and fitness… (perhaps the seamstress was on the mark). I’m too sore. The pain has come as a result of doing the yoga class run by the fairy frog prince who I have since found out is Argentinian. It somehow injured my back and I had some difficulty walking and sleeping for a few days after. I had intended to start running again this week but after agreeing to an outing with Marcus and Ant on Sunday all physical activity has been abolished until further notice.

Many of you would recall ‘the worst day of my life’ last year on Koh Wai, Thailand. The day when the snake fell out of the coconut tree onto my towel, I found a mouse under my pillow and I had a fight with Matt, all before sunset followed by the quick onset of self inflicted delirium then a scary closeness to death the next day. Sunday, was worse than this.

After a nice civilized morning where I finished watching all of my Grey’s Anatomy dvds (if anyone had the remainder of season 3 plus season 4 please send them via Marty!), cleaned the house then settled into the hammock for an afternoon of reading, Marcus called. I wish I had never called him back. We were invited to join Mac, Ant, Fab & Ann to walk up a mountain and visit a natural lake with gold fish living in it. I thought this would be pretty cool and had read about it in the trusty Lonely Planet so we agreed to go along.

Upon arrival it became apparent that I had just agreed to something I would regret. We parked in a field that was the home to a bull then had to traipse through a creek bordered by 50cm high grass, climb through a barbed wire fence then commence the ‘walk’. My new shoes were already saturated by the time I had to step into a puddle of mud and sink up to my knees in red sludge. A few more metres and I was literally stuck. Matt had to grab me under the arms and yank me out. This is where the short breathes started. As we walked further I was scratched, muddied up and sweaty. Ten more minutes and I had lost sight of the boys. As the terrain became steeper I was forced to start grabbing onto spiky, itchy bushes for stability. The onset of chaffing. Hyperventilation. Poor Matt. I was suddenly living my worst nightmare. For the past few weeks every time I’m a bit homesick or negative about Samoa, I tell myself that I really am only a few short months away from Westfield heaven, sealed roads and a concrete jungle. However, NOTHING could remedy my mood as I stood in the middle of the real jungle. I’m not entirely sure how, but Matt managed to calm me down and convince me to go on (I think there was some promise of re-setting my comfort zone levels or feeling a sense of achievement). 1 hour later and I was laying on my back, in the mud, mosquitoes in my ears, a leech on my leg, crying that I wanted to go home (and I meant to Australia, Sydney, the city). My legs were shaking, I was forcing myself not to throw up and I was thinking “people go on Survivor and do this to win millions of dollars, why the hell am I doing it by choice?” We never made it to the lake. The 3 hour round trip ended in me swearing and swearing that the most stupid decision I had ever made was indeed not, to have that last Bacardi, lime and soda that led me to delirium on Koh Wai but actually to continue on this glorified bush-bash after my first meltdown 2 hours previously. Rather than redefining my comfort zone this trek made me crave home more than ever. Wilderness is no longer my friend; I cannot even see the beauty in it now. Or perhaps it’s that fact that I still have mud in my eye, I just cannot see.

I think Matt & I may go away for the weekend. Matt’s family is visiting in about 6 weeks and we want to check out some places to take them. I can’t wait to leave the fish bowl that is Apia and head to a secluded beach for a few days. I’m sure I’ll have some great photos to share!

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