Sunday, December 03, 2006

Adventures in Kiwi-Land - Our Stop in Apia

Well, we're back from our whirlwind tour of the northern island of New Zealand! On Saturday, November 25, 2006, we departed from the Pago Pago Airport, landing shortly thereafter in Apia, Samoa, en route to NZ.

What ensued was one of the longest, most agonizing delays in our traveling history. We had a nearly 12-hour layover in Apia! Which was my fault, of course, because I booked the tickets!

The first part of the layover wasn't so bad. We decided we wanted to get into the city. The only problem was that I had only exchanged so much money, and I didn't want to spend a third of it on a stupid taxi!

So we decided to brave the bus. We'd been on buses in American Samoa, so we were quite sure we could handle a Western Samoa bus. While we were waiting at the side of the street, the taxi drivers passed us by, laughing and taunting us for being so foolish as to take a jam-packed bus, luggage and all, for 30-minutes into Apia. After some waiting, we were wondering if we weren't foolish after all.

All of the sudden, a woman pulled her vehicle over to the side of the road and asked us if we wanted a ride. We were hesitant at first, but soon accepted her offer. As we were driving, we introduced ourselves, and she reciprocated. She told us she was originally from American Samoa, and that her brother still lives there and works as the Chief Justice at the Courthouse. Huh?! "Hey, you mean that your brother is the Chief Justice of American Samoa? The same Chief Justice that I work for and with day in and day out?" Yep, that would be the one. Talk about a coincidence!

She took us into town, where we ate lunch at the "Gourmet Seafoot n' Grill". Our waiter, an ambitious young Samoan rugby player named Joe, became the highlight of our lunch hour. Joe was more than a waiter--he was good company. He explained how he was the youngest in his family, and he felt that it was his job to take care of his parents. After all, that was the custom, and he loved his parents very much. However, he wanted to help his parents and siblings by becoming a professional rugby player, either in NZ or Australia. He already played for the Samoan national team, and he told us that he was considered one of the best players on the team, or in Samoa for that matter. (On a side note, I met an avid rugby fan a few days later in New Zealand who told me the Samoan rugby team was the "worst team in the world." Not being a rugby fan, I could neither agree with nor dispute his statement.) Joe wanted to make money to take care of his parents. But he was conflicted--he could not leave his parents.

I don't think I have met many people like Joe. Joe had a vision of what his life could be like, but an overwhelming sense of duty controlled that vision. I can't tell if Joe's decision to forego professional sports was the right decision. I respected him, however, for making a difficult decision that I knew most people in our "nursing home world" would never make in their lifetime. I hope to run into Joe again on a return trip to Apia.

After lunch, I wasn't feeling so well. We were pulling our luggage back into town, when two missionaries drove past us in their van. We knew them! It was Elder Jesmer and Elder Butterworth! We met Elder Jesmer in our Mesepa International Ward, and we met Elder Butterworth in Olesega. So, for all you Aussies out there reading our blog, we ran across your boy again! Both seemed to be doing great in Apia.

The Elders took our luggage around the corner to a church where we could rest for a while. Jessi and Jaydn got some local ice cream, and we caught a cab for the airport. Samoa's a funny place--the cab driver, Mui, asked us right off if we were Mormons. He hadn't any reason to know who we were, however. He had served a mission for the church as well. Small world!

Back at the airport, we were in for one of the longest nights of our lives. Our plane didn't leave from Apia until late--really late--approximately 1:30 am. And it was only 6:00 pm!

So, we played cards. Lots of cards. And it was hot. Really hot!! There were no shops open, no drinking fountains, and at about 9:00 pm, they turned on the Christmas tree lights. Four sets of different lights, the same tune, only each were at different measures of the tune. So it sort of sounded like "Jingle be--Jing--Jin--lls--le bel--jin--all--jin--the wa--jin--bell--all--gle be--the way..." I came down the stairs and looked for a way to inconspicuously turn off three of the "Jingle Bells" songs on the Christmas lights so we could actually hear a real melody, when a boy asked me, "it's very beautiful music, isn't it?" Actually, it was mind-numbing. I didn't have the guts to get under the tree and fix it, although my headache cursed me for not doing so. I also didn't have it in me to tell the boy it sounded terrible. So I headed back up to the card game Jessi, Jaydn and I were playing.

About half way into our game, some kids came up to watch us. These kids (six of them; had to be ages 4 through 11) weren't headed anywhere; in fact, their parents weren't even at the airport. They were selling things to people to make money. They were all siblings. They were ragged and dirty, but cute as can be. I could tell that they had worn their clothes multiple days in a row, and some had some very evident skin diseases. Eventually, the oldest two started playing the card game with us. They could barely speak English, but did well enough to play Skip-Bo.

About an hour later, the two youngest kids (about 4 and 5) started hitting me up for money! The youngest one hit my pockets, and I had a lot of change in my pockets! For the next hour they were grabbing my leg, pinching me, hitting me, and telling me to "give money!" I didn't want to; they were becoming extremely annoying! But I wanted to help. So I gave 5 tala (which is probably 3 dollars) to the oldest girl.

Later, the oldest girl (the one I gave the money to) pulled out a huge wad of money in front of Jessi, and said that they had a lot of money! I had been duped! Oh, it doesn't matter anyway. I saw what they had bought--a cup of Korean ramen. So I don't really know what to believe. I just know it's important to give, whatever the circumstances. I just don't like tricky kids! And I knew better when we passed through Apia airport on the way back home and they tried again!

A few more hours of Jaydn sleeping on our laps was enough for us. We were ready to get on the plane and go to NZ!