Tuesday, November 15 (Day 77 continued)
Apia - Mananoa
I’ve got a lady boy gently shaving hairs from my right knee.
This will really help. Trust me.
What new madness has Apia served up this time? Well, rewind back to the all-out-war between the schools at 2pm and I will explain. I’m in Apia to sort out one or two things and then try to head south before the final buses of the day depart. Firstly, I pay a visit to the Polynesian Blue office. You may recall that the airline refused point blank, after 55 days of deliberation, to refund any of my money for my two no-show travel companions. To make matters even more annoying they are now telling me that I must pay them some extra cash to check in my backpack. Yes, I’ve got tickets to Auckland for three people but they won’t allow me to even use my two extra tickets to check in a bloody bag free-of-charge. This is beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned so instead of dealing with some joker in a ‘customer service’ office in Australia, I’ve decided to talk to the airline’s representatives in Samoa. They will consider my case and get back to me on Monday morning.
Across the road is the Central Bank of Samoa. I’ve popped in here to pick up a set of uncirculated coins. For seemingly no apparent reason, Samoa has decided to change all of its coins and notes this year. It means that currently there are two different kinds of coins and notes in dual circulation. Yes, there are two different kinds of 10, 20 and 50 sene coins and two different kinds of one and two dollar coins in punters’ pockets as we speak. The same applies to 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 tala notes.
They also decided very recently to change the side of the road they drive on from right to left. I guess there must be some rationale for these decisions, but you also might assume that the Samoan Minister for Funny Decisions just decided to enact these new laws after a particularly heavy evening of 5pm clubbing in Apia.
Instead of taking a couple of minutes I’ve wasted the best part of an hour at the central bank. Consequently, the high street banks have now closed (3pm), meaning I can’t change my euros, and I’m in danger of getting stuck in Apia for the night. (Not that this would be any bad thing)
As I leg it to the bus station I’m suddenly overcome by a strange premonition that something crap is about to happen. I slow down, sensing that I need to keep my wits about me and, just like that, I trip over a divot in the pavement and go somersaulting up into the air. I guess this all lasts less than a second but as I’m hurtling upwards I’m trying to calculate how I can land to cause the least damage. But as I try to cushion my fall on my side I realise that I haven’t compensated for the 20 kilo bag on my back. I hit the pavement with a double jolt and roll over to see the knee of my best jeans has been ripped wide open. A crowd of a dozen or so Samoans are gathered around (in silence), no doubt wondering why this silly palagi is cursing himself and then taken what must seem like the rather bizarre decision to further injure himself by taking a temper-tantrum fuelled kick at a nearby wall. Shite, my knee is split open, with blood pouring out everywhere.
So, here I am, down some dirty side alley at the back of a Samoan fish market pouring water over my knee, cleaning my wound up with cotton wool buds and applying alcoholic hand sanitizers, whilst scolding myself aloud with a few choice expletives. Do you have any plasters please? I ask members of the gathered crowd. Somebody points to the medical clinic I’m lay crumpled up in front of; the medical clinic whose divot in the pavement caused this accident. I crawl inside the front door and am greeted by a guy best described as a Lady Boy. Do you have a plaster please? Yes, sure, but let me just put some cream on that cut.
How kind of him.It’s a muggy November Tuesday, 20,000 kilometres from home, and I’ve got a Lady Boy shaving my right knee so he can put some antiseptic cream and a plaster on my wound.
Thanks mate, see you!
Special discount for you. Normally, 50. For you only 40.
I assume he means 40 sene for the plaster and get out a 50 sene coin.
No, 40 tala, sir.
FFS, if the gay lord doesn’t want 15 euro for putting a plaster on my knee. That’s the pay for 20 hours manual work in Samoa. As I’m inside his clinic I can’t argue too much. I’ve been shaven and ripped off by a Lady Boy. He’s probably the first true capitalist I’ve met in this country.
As well as buggering up my knee, ruining my best jeans, smashing my sunglasses and getting ripped off and shaven by an absolute gay lord, I’ve also missed the bus. There is apparently one late bus for workers but now I’ve got to sit on my rucksack for two hours fighting a running battle with flies and knats, which are trying to find a way into the uncovered cuts on my hands so they can lay their lovely eggs.
With a cloud of exhaust fumes trailing a couple of metres behind us, our bus struggles for 20 minutes up the steep hill that serves as the inter island road to a spot high above Upolu which is inhabited by a colony of very scary looking dogs. Apparently, many of the island’s least loved dogs are regularly dumped here by communities that no longer need their presence. Over time they form packs but I’m told that some individuals do come up here every day to make sure they are regularly fed. There are lots of expensive churches up here as well as fantastic views of the northern coast. One of the houses of God belongs to the Bahai, the religious sect that worships all world religions within their own belief system. There are only seven other Bahai temples in the world; the religion said to have originated in Persia in the mid-nineteenth century. There’s a touch of space age sci-fi about the temple’s design. From here the bus flies down the hill (it could be done in neutral) for ten minutes or so until it reaches the southern coast.
I’ve arrived during the nightly 6-7pm prayer curfew. If you arrive in a village during this hour, you are expected to sit on the ground and wait for the hour to finish before you continue on your way. It is another of those lovely small details that helps make Samoa so different from other countries. Home for the night is Maninoa Surf Resort, a collection of simple beach fale that share the same attractive beach and lagoon with two adjacent luxury resorts, where the going rate is around 400 US Dollars per night. I guess the rooms must be gorgeous but I could have ten nights of paradise at Maninoa Surfers’ for the same price these punters – mostly from the US and Oz – are paying for a single night of luxury.
My only neighbours are a very nice 40-something German couple, who help me to further clean up my injured knee. The German lad has had to drive all the way back to Apia to get cash out of one of the city’s ATMs after they discovered it is only possible to settle your bills here by cash.
At dinner I'm joined by a nicely-spoken German girl, who is teaching at one of the local schools, her butch Samoan boyfriend and an elegant Aussie lady who lived and worked in Samoa 6 years ago. She’s back on holiday and hanging out with her former students who are enjoying a couple of days away from school by the sea. Her head is spinning as she observes her old students all grown up. Maggie is working with Aboriginal communities in Australia to try and improve their lot. She tells me that the Aborigines are still considered as the lowest of the low by white Australians. Government policies, education curriculum and general propaganda are all aimed at keeping the Aborigines firmly in their place at the bottom of the food chain.
Try talking to most white Australians about this, Maggie says, and you will find they are in complete denial of what is going on. They will tell you that Aborigines have been given land and money and they are still ‘lay about alcoholics and drug addicts’.
Australia is stuck in the nineteenth century when it comes to the Aborigine question, Maggie tells me.
Academies are only finally being created that might allow the Aborigines to be educated in a way that both satisfies the needs of the Anglo-Saxon education model as well as the very oral-oriented nature of Aborigine culture. It is only natural that Aborigines should be suspicious of an Australian state education system that only helps perpetuate the myths and lies about the island of Australia’s history. For anybody that wants to learn more about the treatment of Aborigines during the 1930s, you should check out the film Rabbit Proof Fence:
We enjoy the school kids entertaining us with some theatre and then sit next to the waves and stare out at the stars – one of my favourite South Pacific pastimes. With me regularly questioning reality of late, we spot not one but two small fireballs in the night sky over the course of just thirty minutes. Many people never see a fireball in their entire lives; only the usual thin flash of a shooting star. To see two in the space of thirty minutes in the same area of sky, viewed from the same Pacific beach is downright bonkers