So, Samoa. We spent more time in airports than in the air, but isn’t that the way it always goes? With a plane leaving Auckland sometime around 1am – having checked into Wellington at 7.30pm, we were itarting to lose the plot, and everything was alternatively hilarious and tragic. I made some of the worst jokes of my life, including after the guy in front of us who was in a wheelchair and his companion took 15 minutes to check in, I was like “geez, it’s not like he’s standing around waiting”. I am awesome. Our flight was delayed, so we played “guess where that plane just came in from?” I won. I knew it was Australia by how tired the people didn’t look.
Air NZ says that it’s rolling out personalised entertainment in August on all Pacific flights, but they hadn’t reached our plane yet. Geez, could I sound more whiney? Seriously, outside is one of the most beautiful places ever and I’m still bitching about the flight. It’s the dread of the nearly 6 hours return. Anji was right, I think we’re going through Tonga. We had steak pies and Kapiti Ice Cream. The air hostess poured me a double vodka and soda, which washed away the sicky feeling of Lindauer at Auckland Airport. I listened to Bic Runga on my ipod and tried to sleep.
It took a while to get through customs at Apia, and then fight off taxi touts. Someone from the airport eventually told us where we needed to trade in our vouchers, so we got lei’d and clambered into a van with plastic covered seats. Who needs knees anyway? We sat for another long period, waiting for a couple from business class. Privileged douches I thought, although as it happens they took that long because of one of their bags didn’t arrive. I rescind my judgment so that I may never lose a bag. The older couple sitting in front of us started talking to the rich yuppie woman who switched on her blackberry as soon as she got in the coach (I’d turned on my phone so I could take photos because my camera was in my bag, but then I put it away because I didn’t want to be that girl. Remuera Woman decided that it was vitally important that she share her wide knowledge with Yuppie Woman, so she started telling her about how in NZ most Pacific people live in the same area, and then started going on about how unfortunate they were, blah blah very very very condescending, and her husband chimed in with “I hired one once but…” It was at that stage that I leaned over and whispered to Karen “I hear they all know each other too!” and put on my iPod so I wouldn’t have to listen any more.
Sigur Ros made a good soundtrack for the lush tropicalness of the island. It was 7 in the morning, so the roads were full of school kids in different coloured uniforms heading off to class. Every little shop advertised Beer Valima. Almost all the houses we passed were open-sided fales. It was a little weird to see things like microwaves sitting out in the open. Horses and dogs and piglets and cats and chickens roamed around like the hoodlums they are. I miss Sebastian.
We were worried that our room wouldn’t be available when we got there, but luckily, it was, and we were shown to a very very cute over-water fale, the porter hefting my 20kg suitcase on his shoulder as he pulled Karen’s along. The fale had a bathroom that took up a good quarter of the space, with open sides. Not a whole lot of privacy in the room for two people, but I guess these things happen.
I threw our welcome garlands into the ocean and pretended to be doing a maritime funeral, but my camera lense was kind of condensed from the change in temperature. We decided to go eat breakfast (waffles), sweltering in the heat, and then put our togs on for the first time. The water was absolutely magic. So warm and lovely although not all that deep. I frolicked for a very long time before I turned wrinkly, and it was time for a great airport-taint-washing-off shower, recliners on our private balcony and stupid magazines to read (I’m looking at you, Madison!) We tried to nap before lunch, and managed to doze off. I volunteered to take the single couch-bed for the night, figuring I’d sleep fine with all the tiredness and the zopiclone. That was of course before the mosquitoes showed up.
At lunch, we ordered the house ros? because it was part of our meal plan, and if you’re looking at that and it displays like an ?mlaut, it’s because I am so very fucking rock’n roll. I had a fish fry that arrived in a big grass basket, with manioka fries and breaded eggplant, while Karen had a spicy raw tuna Ahi Poke salad. Yes! Being on holiday is nice.
Because I followed my wine with a couple of Vailima beers, when we got back to our over-water fale, I was very keen to keep on drinking, or at least to satisfy a long-held wish of mine – to be swimming and drinking beer at the same time. Our room’s minibar was complimentary, but of course, there was no bottle opener. Cue much much hilarity as I struggled to open my bottle. I wish that American Will had been there to open it with his teeth, or at least pretty much all of my male friends who all smoke and open their beers with their lighters. Instead, I put on my own comedy show for Karen, when she suggested I open one beer with another. You know how at imaginary keg parties they spray all the sorority girls with beer? That was me as the bottles slightly unclipped, spraying all over my togs and into my mouth as I sucked them down. Eventually the lid came off and I trip tropped down into the water, now on low tide, to float on my back and drink beer for a couple of minutes. Of course, it was half foam by that stage, but I achieved what I wanted to achieve, and Karen took my picture.
Then we had Quiet Time in our room, lazing on the private balcony. I opened the other bottle with the aid of the closet hinge (eventually) and finished up both stupid Madison magazine and the chicklit (but good-ish) book called something like The Easy Hour. I’ve read it before if that helps explain what entertaining reading material it is. Eventually, it was some time after 4pm, so it was obviously cocktail time. We put on our togs, but there was no bartender present in the swim-up bar, so we went into the main one instead, Oh wait, but first we checked in (reception wasn’t open when we arrived) and got free maitai vouchers, which we prompted used. We sat in the bar for two cocktails, me rereading jPod and taking photos of the ladies setting up the Palm Court in magenta and purple tableclothes with some turquoise napkins – totally Pretty Pretty Pretty colours! I got all whiney as 6.30 took too long to arrive for dinner. Crazy messed-up timetables!
The restaurant was dark, but nice. I had their Samoan equivalent of prosciutto & melon – spiced beef and papaya, as well as the daily special of WAHOO! fish with spaghetti. We drank the house red wine, topped up from carafes, and it was bloody tasty.. Go the Californian Cabernet. It makes me want to book a holiday to San Fran, to stay with O + S5, but to also do a day trip wine tasting around Napa. Remind me to win lotto. What else? We went back to our room, and I took my sleeping pills. I crashed out pretty early, but woke for a long time in the middle of the night to mozzies dive-bombing my ears. Cunts! Oh, and we had a moonlight swim in the pool, with bonus full moon and a bat flying overhead. Night swimming is my most favouritist.
The second day, I decided to have the cowboy breakfast. It was pretty much bologneise that was supposed to be served over potatoes, but wasn’t. I tell you this less because I imagine that you care about what I ate, and more as a jump-off point for talking about the surprising Americanisms of Samoa. When I’ve been to Fiji, and obviously Rarotonga, New Zealand has been their main major other culture. Here however, they drive on the right side of the road (assuming that they’re sticking to their assigned lane, which wasn’t that often based on our shuttle driver, and oh yes, just like a woman from Remuera, I will decide on an entire country’s behaviour based on one person). Their chicken is American (eww?) while their Rib Eye is from New Zealand. The posh toilet block by the restaurant has flat elongated shallow toilets with a crescent-shaped seat that auto-flush, just like most public American toilets that I encountered, and airdryers with the force of a hurricane that literally (LITERALLY!) are so strong they make your hand skin ripple, like the bathrooms in an Irish pub off Times Square I was forced to take an emergency poo in after visiting Sephora (PPP link).
Oh, and most most most magnificently, in the swim-up bar in the geko-shaped pool, they give you your cocktails (when the bar is staffed, that is, and they still have to go in to the main bar to get the ingredients) in RED PLASTIC CUPS! !!! CHK CHK CHK! So much excitement. We contemplated packing the cups to bring them home, but didn’t.
Karen, meanwhile, had banana penekeke which was billed as Samoan pancakes but is mostly deep-fried bananas with maple syrup, They’re so good that I had them for breakfast today. While we were stuffing our faces, the lovely staff were moving us from our over-water Fale La into one of the Royal Villas – Vila Aili. Did I mention that I got us a $1500 upgrade for free when the Garden Suite that we wanted wasn’t available but we’d already paid for it and our meal plan? According to the Coconuts website, the over-water fale is like US $399 a night, and the Royal Villa is US $400. We paid like NZ $4400 total for five nights, five days of meal plan at NZ $75 a day (Breakfast, lunch and three-course dinner, with lunch and dinner having unlimited (ish) wine and beer), flights and taxes. I think we win. Maybe? I dunno. Well actually, I think the mosquitoes win, but fuck’em, we got plugin thingies from the gift shop, so they can fuck off and die. Oh also, the plugins have NZ plugs, but most of the plugs here are American, to return to the earlier theme.
What else did we do yesterday? Lots of swimming in the pool, paddling and floating in the ocean. Did I tell the porn-star story about the beers already? I did. We didn’t get a bottle opener in the new room either, so there were more shenanigans. I found a handy wooden corner to pop it off, so to speak. I also popped it off when I woke up and heard Karen snoring. Very quietly, of course.
We took a stroll to along the beach to the Sinalei resort which we could see in the distance. It looked very close but took a long time to walk to on the sand, especially with my big blister caused by the arch support in my birki jandals that I’m not used to. The Sinalei beach was like Scorching Bay to Coconuts’s my little secret beaches, and there were shrieking children. We had a cocktail each at their dock-ish bar, then had a paddle. The tide had come in while we were there, so half the walk home was a wade. Exhausting. No one should have to do that much work on holiday!
That night being Saturday, they had a fire-dancing show in the restaurant, which made me think of the Patricia Grace book The Children of Champion Street in which a magical eel brings all the cultures together in Cannons Creek and they all dance their special dances. I used to work with her son and have met some of his brothers. They are all very very very attractive and look much younger than they actually are. And, a confession if you got this far – at Anya’s goodbye party at the See Dubya Eh, I pinched his bottom, and then looked away so noone knew it was me. Te hehe.
Anyways, the fire dancers were very cool, even if I had to drink kava that Karen wouldn’t take. I was supposed to say “Manuia” which made me think of Mike Brown, but of course in writing it, I realise that he has a P. But not a habit, if you know what I mean. Karen also wouldn’t get up and dance when asked. We just concentrated on our food – Karen had Tuna Tartar (with anchovies and egg yolk) and I had Oka, which is sometimes (well in Raro) known as Ika Mata, which is raw tuna soaked in lime juice and coconut cream. It is delicious. Our main course was the ever-present Cabernet and our steaks and afterwards, I had Chocolate Dream Cake full of molten chocolate fudge sauce. Holy crap it was good.
We were so stuffed we could hardly move (I’ve named my belly Brian,and Karen’s is called Andrew), so we went back to our room, drank Amarula and read each other a chapter of The Pirates! In an adventure with Napoleon by Gideon Defoe, who pretends to be related to that Cruise-oh guy. We keep getting the accents mixed up, but we’ve finally decided that the Pirate Capitan talks like a pirate, the Pirate with the Scarf (his number two) is a Scotsman with occasional lapses into Irishness, the Pirate in Green is a faaaaaaaaaabulous homosexual, the Governor of St Helena is a toffee-nosed Brit, and, surprisingly enough, Napoleon is comically French. I popped zopiclone and fell asleep by ten pm.
On Sunday morning, I had deep-fried bananas for breakfast and my first coffee in a long time. We took advantage of the high-ish tide to go snorkeling for the first time, 20 metres from our villa. Booyah! There were some rocks with isolated patches of live coral. but there were lots of fish. Schools of silvery fish, parrot fish that are more faintly coloured than in Rarotonga (EDIT: turns out they were trevalli), and really playful Pierrot fish, Or maybe clownfish. Karen and I aren’t sure (EDIT: turns out they’re Trigger Fish. Oh well!). They get all up in your face, which Karen sees as a threat (because it apparently butted her), while I feel it’s an invitation to follow. There’s a quite strong current from our beach, so a couple of times I floated down to the beach by the swimming pool, got out and walked up again. It’s like skiing, or going on a water slide with the gap in between to relax your puckered snorkel mouth.
After snorkeling and perhaps some showers from our rock tub, (insert pictures here), we went to chill out in the giant library/common space, and I found myself a marvelous Jackie Collins novel to pass the time. There were two shelves dedicated to abandoned German novels – except Karen informs me now that some of them were French and some of them were Danish. There’s also German information in the booklet in our room, so I informed her that there used to be a huge German presence in Samoa until like, 1860, or perhaps after the first world war (5th form history was a while ago) until NZ took over guardianship. “And boy, did they fuck up” says Karen (insert link to wikipedia article on killing thing here) – if I can’t find the link, it’s “that thing what Helen apologised for”. Have I mentioned lately that I love Helen? Fuck you, Code of Conduct, you’re loving the violation, you dirty bitch.
On the blackboard outside reception, we discovered that there was a bbq lunch, and we were gleeful. Did I mention already that our holiday agenda was sun, sea, drinking and eating? I was trying to come up with ‘S’ words there but failed. Karen suggested “snacking” but seriously, I’m totally limited to exactly three meals per day here. Apart from cocktails and Vailima of course. And if I happened to grab any fish. Heh. Anyways, I had ribs while Karen had some big steak of some “local” fish. It may have been groper, but apart from when I rub suntan lotion or chilled mango body butter on her, I am keeping my hands to myself. She says “the flavour certainly grabbed me though”. As would like to this dumbass Australian guy in the bar who says he’s counting our drinks, and then tonight told Karen it must be good book when she was clearly enjoying her reading. Douche. Ahhh Australians, we can hear them for miles around here. Some of them are nice enough though, like the woman in the pool who asked if it was me drinking the Catapult, and warned me it would knock me on my ass and then proceeded to fall back into the pool when trying to get out of it. They were merry and nice.
More snorkeling when the tide was higher at 4pm, more showers and pirates and hilarious beer-openings. At dinner, Karen ordered the escargot for an entree because she could, and daaaaaaaaaaamn it was fabulous, all butter and garlic and mushroomy. I had “cajun sashimi which was lightly seared tuna. It was so pink it looked like jelly, and it was delicious. Karen ate fish with papaya and I had the special of Mongolian chicken. We drank many glasses of cabernet sav (go Cali!) and afterwards lingered in the bar for more cocktails. There’s only two n the menu we haven’t had now, and we’ll take care of that tomorrow.
On Monday I had French Toast for breakfast. The waitresses have started giggling at me for the amount I drink – not just the beer and wine refills but the sheer depravity of having OJ and coffee AND water at once. More snorkelling was had, and we saw starfish and real parrot fish, only they were teeny tiny, and cardinal fish, and prettiness. I’m a bit scared of snorkelling in shallow water, due to the time that I had a panic attack and got cut up real bad on the Fiji coral at Malamala Island, so I get a bit angsty here when there are large banks of rocks’n coral to drift over only two feet below you. But I know if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s floating, so it’s not so bad. And when you find a live patch of coral it makes it totally worth it. Our equipment’s really good too, no leaky masks, or old snorkels without drainage valves. I so recommend this place, like woah.
Karen did some sketches of me but I look like someone else in them. I read more fabulous Jackie Collins and did imitation pilates moves in the pool. I had a burger “all the way” at lunchtime which meant it came with mushrooms and onions and apparently three kinds of cheese. Karen had a chicken salad served in a papaya. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s a damn shame there’s no drinks served in pineapples here, although their signature cocktail does come in a ripe coconut (insert picture here). Our afternoon snorkeling was too shallow because we went too early. Also it was grey and rainy. I changed the voice of the Pirate with the Scarf into that of a Southerner, because my version of Scottish and my version of Pirate are too similar.
It poured that night, poured and poured, and we did crossword puzzles in a New Idea that someone else had haphazzardly started but really sucked at. I finished the Jackie Collins and started some terrible vampire novel that’s set in New Orleans but isn’t by Anne Rice. We finished the pirates book, although it turns out I needed Karen to tell me how it finished (Zopiclone makes me forgetful, but I always remember to take my Lexapro and my Levothyroxine in the mornings.