Dear self-proclaimed “da craterman, world famous in Samoa”,
I’m sorry I have been so busy I haven’t sent you the postcard I promised to send you from New Zealand. I still have the piece of paper where you wrote your address for me and I intend to have a postcard flying your way soon. I guess it’ll arrive at your family home in the village in Savai’i and you will eventually receive it on Saturday when you come down from your hut up near the top of the crater to get ready for church on sunday. Either way, I hope you like it.
Thank you for inviting us into your family home and introducing us to your family. Thank you for offering that we stay with you or at least have a meal next time we visit your island. I’m not sure we will ever take you up on the offer but it was incredibly sweet of you to invite us.
I’m sorry I was so sick the day we met and couldn’t go up the crater with you. You were so excited that we had found you and wanted you to take us there. I would have made the effort of going on Saturday if you had said no to my Sunday alternative but, judging by how sick I was all day and how rough the road turned out to be, I’m really glad we didn’t. Still, I know how important going to church is to you and how Sunday is a day of rest for you and your community, which is why I’m even more grateful that you offered to do that.
I admit I was a bit worried when we picked you up from your family’s house in Savai’i in our rental 4wd and you put what looked like old dry fish in the boot of the car, along with a basket full of taro and coconuts. When you said “this is for our lunch, I’m taking lunch for us to eat at the top”, I was all like “hells to the no!”, thinking that would have to be the most unsanitary meal I had ever had. When you asked us to stop at the store so you could stock up on beer, I said to C. that there was no way in hell I was going to eat that. He was reticent as well. I mean, you have to understand, we’re just a couple of silly little westerners with very weak stomachs. When, after a few minutes at the top of the crater, we went to the hut where you live all week long and you started preparing the taro and getting the coconut milk on the taro leaves and separating the fish with your hands, I got a little nauseated. And then you offered it to me and my mum and dad raised me so well I had to try. And, god damn, it was so delicious. One of the best meals ever, hands down.
Your fale was only big enough for you and yet the three of us were there. I was amazed by the fact that you have a roof over your head but no walls. You have almost no possessions and yet you keep a book recording every single person you take up to the crater, as well as their nationality. You know how many countries have come to you. You told me you don’t mind the fact you’ve never left the island because you are lucky enough that the world comes to you. That was such a special thing to hear, considering how anxious I am to see as much of the world as I can. I should learn from you a little bit. I should learn from you a lot, actually.
You take such good care of the road up to the crater and you are always worried about making sure the track is in good condition for anyone who wants to visit. Well, you don’t have to worry. It’s a great track and the crater was favourite spot on the entire island. You said you spend your entire days working on it and I believe you. It looks amazing. Hard work pays off, I guess. Don’t listen to the ones you criticise or say it should look better (you mentioned a couple of occasions when that happened, remember?). It’s a freaking volcano you’re looking after, not the botanical gardens. If they complain again about how it should have more of this or less of that, feel free to use those Samoan words you taught me. They’re be more than appropriate.
I should learn to laugh as much as you do. I loved that you spent the entire drive up to your first fale telling stories and making jokes that weren’t even all that funny before proceeding to laughing like someone was tickling you really hard.
It was super adorable of you to get some ferns and make me a crown and say “There, now you’re the princess of the crater” before giving me a kiss on the cheek. I also saw how happy you were with the message I wrote in your book. I wonder if you’ve copied it into a piece of wood and picked a really nice spot on the road up to the crater for it, along with all the other messages people have left you over the years. One day, maybe I’ll see it for myself again.