When volunteers gather a wild story or two will always pop up. Living on your own in a foreign culture creates a unique and fun setting for everyday happenings. I believe its a disservice to not share a few of my favorites. The Samoan bard has arrived and he has stories to share.
Within the first two weeks at site, and not much to do until the school year began, a group of us decided to go swimming at a local waterfall on the island. It would be the third time I traveled on my own at site and I was down for seeing my friends I was missing already. I got on my districts bus and was happy to see I would get a window seat, as I had already learned that my bus would always be full and constantly late. Anyways, as the bus began to fill up everyone avoided the new palagi and sat elsewhere. At one point the bus stopped and I heard everyone start to whisper. I turned and saw a panting, extremely pregnant woman get on the bus. Everyone seemed uncomfortable with it, and of course the seat next to me was the last one open.
I had to be at the ferry by 10am. I live an hour and a half or a 2 hours by bus to the wharf. but if I want to take the scenic route, there’s this bus that goes the long way around the island and it takes around 3 hours. I’ve made the ferry taking this bus before so I decided to take it. the whole time, the bus is basically empty, so I grabbed a window seat at the front of the bus and threw my headphones in and listened to some music for the ride. It was beautiful. The sun flickered through coconut trees, the wind breathed a steady ocean breeze throughout the ride and I chatted with the supokako (bus errand guy) for a bit.I got to salelologa (the village with the wharf) at 9:55am and I realized I didn’t have any cash for the ferry ticket. I pulled the string to get off in front of the bank and sprinted to the ATM and grabbed a wad of cash and started walking towards the wharf, hoping to grab one of the many taxis that are usually cruising around town.
I’m still looking for a taxi. Most days, these guys are just around in abundance. They’re constantly sitting around asking if you need a taxi or slowing down next to you and asking. This morning, however, none were in sight. I was a little nervous at this point because I was starting to think I was going to miss this ferry and I’d be late for my meeting in Apia. I ran go a shop next to the bank and bought a donut to make change, looking behind me at the road so I wouldn’t miss a passing taxi.
I finally saw a taxi with about a dozen pine tree air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror. We locked eyes. He knew. I knew. I ran to him and practically jumped into his taxi–a potpourri of pine tree fragrances. He was wearing an aloha shirt and had beads in a little rat tail. His taxi was dense with the fragrance of vanilla, new car smell, Hawaiian breeze, and strawberry.
“Uafu, faamolemole! (Wharf, please!)”
“Ia. Okay. (Yeah. Okay.)”
Beads and I were driving leisurely to the wharf and he started asking me the basic questions like where am I from and where am I going. Then he put it together. He looked at the dash and sees the time. 10:04. He looked at me and asked if I’m trying to catch the 10am ferry. I nodded and laughed. he snapped his head back and yelled,
If this guy had NOS in his car, we would have been shooting flames on the pavement behind us. he sped past cars, buses, and trucks swerves into the wharf lot. I saw the ferry leaving the wharf as I slapped three tala into Bead’s hand while simultaneously jumping out of his taxi.
“Fa, sole! (See ya, man!)”
I sprinted to the ticket booth and the ferry workers see me and yell at me to hurry. So I had budgeted my round trip ferry fare and kept it in my bag, but in the rush of the moment, I threw my entire budgeted amount at the guy in the booth, which was double the price of a normal ticket. He saw I was flustered because I kept looking at the ferry leaving and I was clicking my fingers against the counter. He gave me change and a ticket and told me to hurry. I didn’t realize he shafted me out of 15 tala until later that day.
The ferry was now about 10 feet away from the dock and a group of Mormon missionaries are on the dock watching the ferry leave. I imagined a conversation in my head.
-Sorry, man. That sucks. You look so determined. So eager.
-But I’m here! I made it! I bought a ticket! I paid double!
-We don’t know what to tell you. So eager.
A ferry worker wearing bright yellow stood in the doorway of the ferry saw me and yelled,
“Lou ako! Lou ako! (your bag! your bag!)
Yellow was motioning for my backpack. He wanted me to jump. I had absolutely no time to think. I took my pack off and threw him my bag, my phone, and my wallet. For some reason, I was worried in that moment that my wallet and phone would fall out of my pocket and into the ocean during my jump.