Friday, October 26, 2007

A reminder of the good life

The last month has been pretty busy and the usual rollercoaster of emotions that comes packaged with the coconut tree and coral cuts when you arrive in Samoa has been in action again. The time between the end of SPG and now has seen both of us somewhat remedy our festering island fever by taking a trip off island. While Matt’s trip was all about 60 hours of traveling, a mid-west American wedding and lots of TV, mine was in aid of a much needed educational experience and mental health retreat that focused around Westfield, paved footpaths and hot showers.

In planning my trip I held very high hopes for the benefits that would be bestowed upon my project on my imminent return to Samoa. However, like many things in Samoa, a stubborn barrier to entry has surfaced namely in the form of a large islander baring a warrior tattoo. I worked very hard to have one of the senior EPC staff members attend the Public Relations Institute of Australia National Convention with me in Sydney but alas – it seems the bright lights, $2 shops and single men of my motherland provided a much more enticing experience than that on offer at the convention. Whilst the topics raised in the program were enough to get me thinking about new strategies we could implement here at EPC, not even the free food could convince my colleague to attend a full day of activities.

It was difficult to hide my disappointment in the fact that my colleague deemed it unnecessary to attend the convention which cost EPC $1500 in attendance just for her! The disappointment was only curbed slightly by the humour (bordering on fear) that she did bring to the trip. Upon arrival at Sydney airport she promptly took off to immigration and pushed to the front of the line all the time calling out to me “Which line do I go in?”. After we were let through we headed to the baggage claim where she left her laptop sitting in the middle of the walkway obviously oblivious to the signs and announcements proclaiming that any unattended baggage would be considered suspicious and those guilty of such a crime would be prosecuted. When it became obvious that my colleagues second suitcase (for a 3 day stay) had not arrived with us we lined up to report the mishap. As I tried to explain how to fill out the claim form my colleague proceeded to tell everyone around us that she hoped her bags hadn’t ended up in Iraq!!! So now that I have returned from my trip she is insisting that I take full responsibility for compiling the contact report (after all she had very little contact with the actual assignment) and I am left without my senior staff member support to be able to implement any of the strategies that I learnt!

All is not lost however. Despite almost being run over three times within my first two hours back in civilization, losing a brand new hair slide and parting with an unnamed amount of money to a homeless man when I felt overly generous at 3am Saturday morning, I had such a great trip home! I look down at my perfectly manicured toenails and believe that the stress that I will go through now that I’m back on island was all worth it. My visit home reassured me that what I have been missing is not due to a glance back through rose-coloured glasses but that I am completely justified in missing the things that I am homesick for because they are all simply brilliant!! My friends, paved footpaths and gutters, high heels, hot showers and safety after dark. Commercial convenience, confirmed appointments and bars without plastic garden furniture. I had been feeling somewhat less polished than the people and places surrounding me since stepping off the plane but it wasn’t until I asked “What’s a Martini Club (the band at MadBall)?” that I realized that I was in need of some serious monthly media injections. Thus, this is a plea…. send me some magazines, DVD’s burnt with Aussie programming, updates on what’s happening and for goodness sakes next time I come home encourage me to keep my mouth shut until I have surpassed an obligatory 3 month quarantine period of being back in civilization!

Prior to me setting sail for home we had had a pretty hectic month. The house at Vaivase-Uta had to some extent turned into a drop in centre as AYAD’s repugnant to let go of the dream (?!) all began to stay “for just a few nights”. Whilst these guests were welcome, both their standards of cleanliness and strays picked up on the Apia seawall were not. It was a testing time for all and Kate, Matt & I breathed a collective sigh of relief when we closed the door on the last of our guests. That said we still seem to be getting an occasional knock at the door from strays with broken hearts. I think we’ve all learnt some valuable lessons here a) the rules for houseguests were developed for a reason and should have been enforced, b) I should cease to be generous and henceforth allow Matt & Kate to make decisions about who is allowed past the sacred front door and c) never trust a time parameter given to you in Samoa.

The phase that I entered a few months ago whereby I embraced the notion of living a healthy lifestyle has long since subsided. My efforts to exercise were surpassed by humidity levels exceeding 85%, my efforts to eat healthily disintegrated along with my bank account and the enthusiasm to put some effort into my appearance blanched as my Samoan colleagues started to mention that I looked ‘fat’ despite my best efforts. I suppose the combination of these factors has led me to take up the sport of Va’a (outrigger canoeing) where I can pass off sitting in a boat and observing the sunset as a feasible contribution to a healthy lifestyle. I got my organizing cap on about a month ago and have started a social paddling group with one of the guys I met through SPG Vaa. It is really a lot of fun. We head out each Wednesday evening and it is truly beautiful to be finally using the water that encompasses Samoa. We will compete in our first regatta in a month’s time so watch out for the breaking news.

Well that is about it for the moment. Christmas the pig is still doing well. She has grown quite a bit. Her increasing strength is showing through her fervent desire to dig trenches in the backyard. When she ran away a few weeks ago it took both Matt and our friend Shay to tackle her to the ground and get her in the car to bring her home. The fact that she had been rubbed with oil and resonated of a smell very similar to rosemary and garlic was somewhat alarming but she’s pretty happy in the rolls-royce of pens that Matt & Shay subsequently built and I’m holding out hope that she will make it to her namesake day without further distress.

Nothing has changed here since before my visit except that maybe now I’m seeing it through brighter eyes knowing the end is nearing and I have to make the most of my time left. Daily, I amazed at the differences between myself and the Samoans. For instance I brought back presents (all food) for the people I work with and not one person said thank you, offered to share the choccies with me and then proceeded to ask where the rest of their presents were. There was also an interesting government directive in the paper a few days ago telling the Samoan people that as the tsunami/cyclone season is upon us we should all be fasting from 12midnight to 12noon as a sacrifice to God so that (I quote) “He sends the cyclones to destroy Niue not Samoa”. I suppose there is nothing like getting straight to the point.

Mum and Dad visit in 6 weeks time then the Busabout crew arrive 6 weeks after that. I have a drunken promise sealed with a hug from Nic and Wade that they will set foot on the island and am holding out hope that the Hadley’s will revisit so the next 5 months are bound to speed past. Can’t wairt to hear from you and don’t forget to send me media injections!! (PO Box 2133 Apia Samoa) xxxxx

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