Sunday, 21 April 2013

Waking up in Samoa

I had hardly been asleep a few minutes or so I thought when I felt a nudge on my back. My wife whispered “Wake Up! There’s someone at the door”.

My eyes opened reluctantly, I glanced at my watch. It was 9 o’clock in the morning and we were in a hotel room. The gentle tap came again and so I wrapped myself up and went to the door and opened it. There smiling happily at me was a young Samoan girl all ready to clean the room. I apologised and explained we had only arrived a few hours ago at 5am in the morning after a night flight from Sydney. “Could you come back a little later?”

She nodded reluctantly as the girls clearly worked to a routine. We were visiting Western Samoa in the Pacific and having done some research had chosen to stay at “Aggie Grey’s Hotel” on the waterfront.

In the heady days of colonisation of little nations by the world’s powers the Samoan Island’s were disputed by Britain, Germany and the USA keeping their gun ships handy to stake their claim. In this case it was decided that Germany was to be lucky superpower and the two main islands Savaii and Upolu became their colony in 1899, while the United States took over the smaller islands and much of the Pacific Ocean waters in the vicinity. Robert Louis Stevenson the author of several adventure books lived there with his extended family until his death in 1889. Western Samoa finally gained it’s independence in 1962 after having New Zealand as its colonial master following WW1.

So now we were in this warm paradise of “South Pacific” fame staying in the timber framed hotel owned by the aging Aggie Grey who had made her money trading with the occupying allied forces during WW2. She now employed the young men and women from her home village in the hotel and who were also the fia fia dancers at the evening’s entertainment. We loved the place. At the swimming pool my wife found herself swimming with the film star Robert Morley. The walkways had bunches of bananas hanging down for the staff to eat as they worked (and also tempting the guests) and there was all invading tropical perfume of exotic flowers and coconut oil. Needless to say I was entranced by the shy smile of the girls plaiting flowers to decorate the bedrooms as they sat in the walkways speaking to each other with a sound like the gentle murmuring of the ocean.

We explored the capital Apia with it German colonial timbered building and sat quietly in the numerous churches but kept clear of the children who with machetes busily cut the lawns with skilful swipes.

It was humid and the first few days the walks were short with frequent rests and long drinks and a cool off in the pool. We explored the island on day trips and discovered waterfalls and swimming holes and exotic beaches and so many churches that were told were built with building material meant to mend the roads, which clearly never were.

Mind you it could have been the pigs that dug up the road. They wandered about freely and wherever they wanted eating whatever they could find.

The bus transport was mainly converted trucks with seats and no windows. It was too humid for that. These plied their way to villages collected the locals to take them to the market and to return later in the afternoon with all their purchases in huge baskets or even building materials tied to the roof or in the aisles so access was an adventure.

On one trip we boarded the crowded tourist bus last and I had to sit next to the driver with the pretty young guide wedged in beside me. She chatted about everything under the sun and told me her surname was Schmidt which clearly came from the German colonial era. As the bus rattled along her bare leg and mine frequently touched and at one time she looked at me and said you are browner that I am, proudly placing her arm against mine to prove it.

Later we took a trip to the larger but lesser populated island of Savaii and walked over the lava fields from an old volcano eruption and shown the “Virgin’s Grave” where a young girl died in a lava flow. Later we nodded thanks at a refreshment stop when the owner proudly showed us her husband's grave in the garden outside the back door as we made to leave.

On the short flight back to Apia’s airport only we were weighed not the luggage before we boarded the light plane as there are some very big people in Samoa! The flight was delayed a little as a mother and her young child boarded late to be taken to the hospital on the main island. As she nursed her child I held the bottle of saline drip attached to his arm while my wife sat next to the pilot up front.

Another night at the hotel the staff also performed in the Fia Fia nights entertaining guests with their seductive dancing and singing and the girl that had served me in the hotel shop earlier now danced enticingly before me. The lights were turned down and the men juggled with their flaming brands.

When we returned I said I really wanted to go again but my better half shook her head and said “Wake up, the first time is magical but it would never be the same again.” Yet even she had been entranced with one of the male dancers!

It is nearly thirty years since we went there and I still remember the eyes the girl that danced before me and who looked only at me.


  1. I wasn't sure if you would come back by to see my response to your comment, so I am posting it here.

    "interesting...I appreciate that you have the courage to inform me of your displeasure with my writing. I assume all bloggers are practicing or trying to learn how to write. You are right...I do attempt different forms of writing and I do use them on my blog. I thank you for your honest evaluation of what I have written. I have no idea if I will ever write anything that you approve of but I will keep on trying and I will always encourage everyone to criticize my writing.
    Maybe one of the biggest problems in the blogging world is that very few have the courage to offer suggestions or criticism"

    again, I thank you for an honest evaluation and hope that all is well for you and your family.

    Old Grizz

  2. Eyes do remain in our of the soul and all..i wish magical moments never ended..but maybe being able to summon them up is magic enough..

  3. Beautifully written - what wonderful memories.

  4. thank you for sharing your's a nice read.

    I felt sad reading about the fighting over the island :( it's sad that they wanted to control a free island like that.

    The virgin story is quite intriguing, would love to know why she died there.

  5. wonderful writing, especially found the bit about the mother and child waiting to go to the hospital touching.. these (and of course, the eyes) do tend to stay in our memories.

  6. your memory is better than mine...I would remember the trip but I'm not sure about all the detail your have not forgotten.

  7. Sounds like you were surrounded by pretty flowers. Flowers being a type of girl.