super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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A letter to Samoa’s “craterman”

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.

you've been warned.

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.

one of his two fales near the crater

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.

taro leaves in coconut cream, taro and fish caught the night before

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.

walking around the crater and trying not to fall through one of the cracks

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.

he's not kidding about the no rescue stuff.

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.

messages from past visitors

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.
Love,
Vera
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Hiking up to Robert Louis Stevenson’s tomb

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
 

We only had one day in Apia (the capital of Samoa, on Upolu island) before catching the ferry across to Savai’i so the list of things we could see there had to be very limited. On top of that list was seeing the house where Robert Louis Stevenson had lived, as well as the place where he was buried, on top of Mount Vaea.

With no time to waste, we landed in Samoa, picked up our rental car, dropped our bags at the hotel (which we chose partially due to its proximity to this particular attraction) and headed straight there. We didn’t make it into the house (now a museum) but accessed the bush track that leads up to his tomb through the museum grounds anyway.

It was an incredibly hot and humid day and our bodies, still very much used to winter, weren’t coping very well with it. The hike is not long but it is fairly steep so we were glad we had taken plenty of fluids to keep us going. You can choose the short and steep track or the long and supposedly easier one. We chose short and steep because, really, we just wanted to get up there and be done with the hiking part of it.

After a brief moment of panic, when we had to stop for me to regain my dignity and stop crying because I’d seen a big black lizard staring right at me (remembering it now still makes me a little shaky, if I’m honest), we started the steep climb.

Having what felt like a hundred mosquitoes choosing me as their dinner for the day on top of the hill meant that we were only there long enough to take a few photos and admire how lucky RLS is to be forever resting facing those views from the top of the hill (and he didn’t even have to climb it himself!). He loved Samoa and Samoa loved him back – and still does. The name Stevenson is everywhere, proving he’s still a very important part of Samoa’s life.

The day was cloudy and we even got some much welcome rain on our hike back down so I can only imagine how much more spectacular those views must be on a clear day. Not a bad resting spot, Robert Louis. Not bad at all.


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Throwing coconuts into blowholes

 

The Alofa’aga Blowholes in Savai’i are one of the coolest things to see in Samoa. The whole visit takes only a few minutes but the blowholes are pretty impressive, even on a calm day like the one when we visited, last Saturday.

I’m no expert on these things but the internet says these blowholes are among the most impressive in the world and who am I to doubt the internet, right? We didn’t have much time and had to make a short list of the shortlisted things to see in Samoa but I’m glad we included a visit to this place.

We visited the blowholes during my Saturday of doom – I was sick the entire day (and by sick I mean I felt like I had gone to Savai’i to spend my final day). It’s surprising I even remember seeing these, since I don’t actually remember everything from that day.

Still, I marveled at how high the water goes when it roars through the lava tubes and, most of all, I marveled at John’s braveness as the old Samoan villager threw coconuts into the blowhole, only to have them spat out in his direction just a second or two later. His timing was impeccable and he always moved to the right place, which makes me think he’s quite experienced at it.

The blowholes can be accessed through the village of Taga, in South Savai’i. You will pay a small access fee to one of the villagers and can then park very close to the blowholes.

We had the company of some village kids who no doubt see this phenomenon all the time but still stood near us while we watched it.


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a tropical island getaway got in the middle of everything else…

…and it was equal parts terrifying and divine. But mostly divine.

In any case, normal blogging should resume now. I’ve got a handful of posts I want to write about the three and a half days I spent exploring Samoa but, for now, I’ve got to save my words for NaNoWriMo, which I desperately need to catch up on. I haven’t written a single word for it in over a week (which, yes, is making me rethink the whole thing). I logged onto the website for the first time in days today and the little dashboard thing told me that, at this rate, I’ll be finishing my novel on January 13, 2012. Boy, do I have a crap load of writing to get done in the next few days!

I also didn’t run at all while I was in Samoa and had a pretty pathetic excuse for a run today – the final run before the half-marathon this saturday. I had the best intentions and took all my running gear with me to Samoa but sunday was the only day when I actually had free time to go for a run (after feeling sick as a dog on friday and saturday) and I was told jogging/running was not recommended on sundays as it is a rest day in Samoa. I’m not one to offend anyone’s costumes and beliefs (at least not intentionally) so the running clothes came back to Auckland untouched.

Stress levels? Pretty much back to really freaking high. I’m a lot less fit and a lot more unprepared for this half-marathon compared to the last one (and this is a very objective statement) so I can only count on the track and the weather and the running gods to help me out on the day.

And to think that it was just yesterday that I was taking the photo above…