I just jumped out of bed and buzzed around the house all morning, too excited to stay still for long. I had been wanting to hit the sand ever since I'd arrived. It had been overwhelmingly tantalizing, sometimes; you can see the breakers from the Civales front yard! When you drive down into the village, the smell of the ocean is everywhere, and shells and coral crunch underfoot. To be near something that good and not be able to enjoy it was, at times, next door to the rack and thumbscrews for me. But at last there had come a clearing in Hannah's schedule, so she was free for three hours in the morning to drive us to the shore.
Before we went, we made sure to slather up on the sunscreen. The day before, one of my more precocious pupils, Aga, had asked me, "Why do English people always have bumps and dark spots on their skin?" I did not want to give Aga any more reasons for dermatological inquiry by baking myself red! :) We dressed for the beach in Samoan style--the Samoan's don't wear Western-style swimwear. It's actually forbidden by the Council of Chiefs here in Asau. So we just wore ratty clothes over our swimwear.
We finally drove off for the beach--actually, for the hotel that owns the beach we wanted to use. This hotel is very nice by Samoan standards, but some of you might feel as if you'd stepped back a few decades if you stayed there! It's more like going to camp than staying at a hotel. However, I've heard that the food is excellent, and you can't quibble about the view. Outside the hotel, a dozen palogis were sitting in deck chairs on the veranda, sipping drinks. As we got closer, we could tell they were American from the accent. They looked amazingly touristy, with their hiking shorts and Hawaiian floral shirts. They stared at Hannah and me as we went by; they were probably wondering what on earth we were doing there. As Hannah talked to the lady behind the desk, I eavesdropped on the tourist's conversation. It's been so long since I've heard strangers speaking in English!
Normally, you get charged 15 taula (about $7) to swim on the beach. But, when Hannah mentioned that we were with the Baptist church and that we were friends of Miss Emi's, the lady waved us on with many smiles and without any charge. We walked out onto a balcony and down a steep stone ramp--there were so many loose stones I set off a miniature landslide on the path. And then we were on the beach. Bright blue water, so clear you could see every shell on the bottom; white sand sprinkled with shells and coral; tropical fish that darted away from you left and right; butterflies, orange and pink and yellow, fluttering over the water; black volcanic rocks nearby, covered with green vines and purple morning glories--it was all out of a movie set.
The water was warm, warmer than a pool. You could walk right in without having to wait to acclimate to the temperature. It was also fairly shallow--I walked out a dozen or more yards before the water got to my waist. It was just a perfect beach and a perfect day. I only wish Hannah and I could have stayed longer than two hours. We sat in the surf and talked, then walked out into the ocean as far as we dared. We discovered a starfish on the bottom, bright blue, just floating, waiting for some tourists to pick him up and take him home. Since neither of us are experts in the natural history of the starfish, we were a little hesitant to dive for him, but we at last overcame our fears and found that starfish don't sting--at least, these ones don't. We scoured the area, just in case he had a twin or something that came with him, but it seems that he was single.
After reluctantly getting out of the water and drying off, Hannah and I drove to a nearby store and ended our outing with chips and real Oreo cookies!
So, how does that sound? Think we spent the 4th in a good way? I just wish that you could have been there with us.